Megan Dixon Hood
THE scarcity of female artists I am sent for consideration…
makes people like Megan Dixon Hood very precious. I am excited by a voice filled with soul and power. I speak with the young songwriter about her music and the new track, Alias Grace. She discusses future plans and whether there is an E.P. coming up. I find out what it is like being supported by a legend such as Sir Terry Wogan; being backed by BBC Radio 2 – and playing some up-and-coming, prestigious festivals.
I ask Megan Dixon Hood whether her new material, in her own opinion, is a progression from older work; the musicians/sounds she was raised on; how important it is getting her music out to the people – and how she will end a busy 2017.
Hi, Megan. How are you? How has your week been?
I'm very well, thank you. I've just celebrated my birthday - so it's been a great week!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
As a singer-songwriter, my writing tends to lean to a darker movement; with a focus on strong lyrical content wrapped in an ethereal sound.
Alias Grace is your latest track. Can you tell me about the song and the story behind it?
My songwriting is often influenced by literature and folklore - and this specific song was inspired by the novel Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
The song is written from the perspective of Grace Marks - who is accused of murder as a young woman and is imprisoned most of her life. It’s suggested that she did not actually commit the murder, yet rumours spread quickly and she is soon aware that she is seen as some kind of beast - despite her natural beauty and mild manners. The nation is torn as to whether she really did commit the crime. The tone of the song is actually quite sarcastic in the way that she invites the listener to ‘step into’ her skin to see for themselves what her life is really like and then make judgements.
I suppose it makes you think about judging someone without really knowing the truth.
You have played Rock the Farm and gained support from BBC Radio 2. Has that been a real support and drive for you?
Any radio support is a recognition of the sound I'm creating - and it’s a real encouragement for new artists like me to get that support and it’s something I'm very grateful for. Its similar to festivals such as Rock the Farm. Having these opportunities helps me reach a wider audience - which is something I always appreciate.
Early Morning Riser, released in 2014, was your debut single. Looking back at that time; how do you think you have developed as an artist? Is it quite scary seeing how far you have come?
I've developed massively, I think - mostly in confidence, both from a performance point of view (getting on stage can be nerve-wracking) but also in my ability to write. I want to keep experimenting further, lyrically and also sonically - and I'm lucky that the band I have surrounding me enable exploring sound so much fun. It is scary, in some ways, seeing how quickly time has passed. Seeing how I've developed excites me and a belief to push musical boundaries even further gives me inspiration for future projects.
That song was praised by (the late) Sir Terry Wogan! Is that a career highlight?
Definitely! To have listened to him on the radio as a young child, and all the people that admired him - especially for me as he was someone who often supported new musicians - it was a privilege to have him play my song. Bit of a surreal moment!
Another highlight, too, was when I was asked to support Rag'n'Bone Man in Manchester a couple of years ago. Definitely another magical experience.
Can we expect some new material next year? Is there going to be an E.P. or album?
You certainly can! There will be an E.P. following Alias Grace in the New Year - and I'm really excited to share what we've been working on.
Cheshire is where you were born; you are a Manchester graduate and have gained popularity from local crowds. Is the North of England one of the best places to make music? What is the scene like there?
I personally think it is.
I feel like my music properly began whilst I was in Manchester and I think the city really helped with that. There are some fantastic venues, big and small, and there's a lot of hardworking and creative people surrounding that. It's an inspiring place to be. Stoke-on-Trent also has a really good up-and-coming music scene with a wonderful community who really put the effort in to support local music. I live right in the middle of these cities so I essentially have the best of both worlds!
Can you tell me the artists and music you fell for at a young age? Which artists did you take to heart?
It's quite funny. I remember, as a young child, my sister and I were really into Avril Lavigne and Destiny's Child! But my dad always had music playing like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell; David Bowie, Pink Floyd - so I was always hearing a variety of music. In my early teens though I remember quite clearly falling in love with Laura Marling and she changed how I listened to music.
She's still an inspiration today...
I know you have a new track out but are looking ahead to 2018? Do you have ambitions unfiled? Any venues you’d particularly like to play?
As I mentioned earlier; I have the new E.P. coming out in early-2018; so that's something I'll be really focusing on. I'd also really like to put a bit of a tour together and go out on the road with the band - as we always have so much fun at shows. Venue-wise; I'd love to play the Royal Albert Hall and, of course, like every musician...I'd love to play Glastonbury!
Maybe 2018 is a little early for that but, either way, they're definitely on my bucket-list!
IN THIS PHOTO: RUNAH
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Oooh, good question! If you want to be enticed by something magical and mystical I would recommend RUNAH. She has some really beautiful songs and poetry. Also, a local band near me: Nixon Tate & the Honey Club have some cracking songs! Both Runah and Nixon (and the band) are lovely people, too.
I also came across a band online recently called MarthaGunn. I think they're Brighton-based - and I really like what they're doing at the moment.
IN THIS PHOTO: MarthaGunn/PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Glashier
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
This is really hard to answer! Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can is definitely on there. As I said; she was really the first songwriter I connected with - and I would sit and listen to that album and read the lyrics alongside. She probably was the reason I started songwriting.
Angus and Julia Stone are a brother-sister duo from Australia. I don’t know what it is about them but I love every album they’ve released: there's something really hypnotic about their sound. I saw them play recently in Manchester and it was a brilliant show. I left feeling really inspired. They also remind me of my sister as we're both massive fans - so we always go and watch them together. Their recent album, Snow, is really chilled. I love it!
Dry the River's first album, Shallow Beds, really inspires me with the lyrical content; clever harmonies and unique melodies. I find I often revisit this album when I need some songwriting motivation. I'm really gutted the band are no longer together.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Ah. That's a tough one, as I still feel like I'm learning so much myself but maybe that's part of the advice: to soak up and learn as much as possible about the industry; get networking and into the creative side of it. I've found making friends with people in the industry is good, too, as it’s a great community to be part of.
Music really does bring people together. I think staying true to your own sound and style is imperative to your progression and own success.
What tour dates do you have approaching? Where can we see you play?
I have nothing confirmed yet - but I will be back to playing shows in the New Year. Hopefully, a tour, too. So…keep your eyes and ears peeled!
How important is it getting your music out to the people? Is the stage somewhere you feel free and at your very best?
I think most musicians and writers would agree it's important to get your music out to people - as the feedback and response can definitely encourage and inspire you to keep going and write better music for yourself and listeners. The stage was once a place that terrified me, but now, I have created a whole world up on stage for myself - and it's become the best feeling ever!
I hope that, when people come to see us play, they feel the energy and excitement we have onstage.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I know. I can't believe how quickly it's come around! I'm hoping to find a bit of time to do some more writing over the festive period. I always try and spend time with the family so, hopefully, it'll be a relaxing and cosy break!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Mykonos by Fleet Foxes.
I saw them live recently and I fell in love with them even more - especially this song. I love it.
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