SITUATED in the suburbs of South London…
Paige Bea has been talking to me about the scene where she is and what inspired her latest single, Your Echo. The promising songwriter tells me what it was like being recognised by BBC Radio 1Xtra and where she heads in terms of gigs and material.
I ask her which albums have influenced her most and whether there are new artists we need to keep an eye out for; what advice she would give to artists coming through – Paige Bea reveals a special memory from her time in music.
Hi, Paige. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! I’m not too bad. It’s been very busy, thanks!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Of course. I’m Paige - Paige Bea, if we’re being formal - and I’m a singer-songwriter from the 'burbs of South London.
Your Echo is your latest cut. Can you tell me what the tale behind the song is?
Most of my songs are an amalgamation of myriad experiences, as opposed to one specific experience. I think I had the refrain in my head for a long time after getting fed up with someone for not caring enough about our relationship - and the verses just kind of spilled out in the studio. Songs about epic love are in the past: our generation is all about people flaking or ghosting, or thinking people and emotions are disposable.
Tell me about working in The Premises Studios and working with people like Jonjo Keefe, Teresa Origone and KINDER. How important were they regards your sound on Your Echo?
Oh, it was so great. I’d already worked with Leo (KINDER) kind of since the start of the whole Paige Bea project but I think with Jonjo’s slightly more edgy production style and Teresa’s incredible Jazz keys and synth skills, it just went to the next level. The whole thing was pretty spontaneous and felt natural.
We didn’t really go to the studio that day thinking we’d even make anything start to finish…and we managed to write the next two singles. So, yeah, it was a pretty good day.
How do you think it builds on Pick Up Your Heart? Are you looking ahead and planning other songs?
It’s an important step for me. I love Pick Up Your Heart; it was one of the first songs I wrote and thought, ok, that’s actually pretty good which is massive for me because, like, ninety-nine percent of creatives, I am my own worst critic. But, Your Echo is closer to where I think I want to be stylistically; I think it pushes towards a more unique sound.
You have gained support from, among other sources, BBC Radio 1Xtra. How important and encouraging is it getting that backing?
It’s hugely important because, as much as I will always sing and write music for myself no matter what, that kind of support keeps you believing that it’s not unrealistic to think you could pursue it as a full-time career one day, even though the whole thing is definitely baby steps.
What is the vibe like in South London right now? Is it a great place to make music in?
Yeah. I mean, there’s a crazy-cool Jazz scene going on in South East London, but I’m stuck out in the 'burbs of South West. I think the mundanity of suburbia is interesting in its own right: the routine, the uniformity; the ‘community’ that’s often just façade and I think it’s important for me as an artist to not pretend I’m from a more edgy, urban place because that’s not my background. I think people respond best to art when they can sense it’s completely authentic.
Have you always had a passion for music? Was there a moment that compelled you to write your own stuff and get into the industry?
Oh, definitely. I used to (just) sing questions at my mum instead of talking when I was a baby and, back when I lived in Camberwell when I was about four years old, I invited our entire neighbourhood to my flamenco show at our house. Luckily for my mum, no-one turned up.
But, I’ve always been very keen to perform for people, that’s for sure. I think, as soon as I graduated, I had that switch flick of being like, ok, I either write songs and pour myself into this one-hundred-and-ten percent or I go do something else.
That was about two years ago…
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
I don’t think I’ll be touring yet: I’m still very much in a creative hole just finishing up the E.P. but I want to put on my first headline show at the end of August/start of September. I’ve got a couple of fun support slots coming up. Come along!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I’d like to get to a point where I can see this being a viable full-time career but it’s extremely hard to get that kind of certainty in this kind of industry. So, I think I’d like to play a sold-out headline show, release my E.P. and (just) get more of a catalogue of work on the go. I want to be at the point where I say ‘look at what I’ve done’, not just look at where I’m going to go.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
It’s strange. Every new opportunity or good news about my songs I get ends up superseding the last. But, really, for me, my absolute favourite part of the whole process is when I go to the studio with nothing and get into a complete state of creative flow - and just end up writing melodies and lyrics in such a focused and almost subconscious way. You get to the end of the day having created something that didn’t exist before and that other people might enjoy and relate to. That’s, hands down, the best part.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Oh, god; I’m going to say the wrong thing for sure, but here goes…
Joni Mitchell – Blue
For the lyricism, for teaching me that songwriting doesn’t have to follow rules; for the heartbreak and the timelessness.
Jeff Buckley – Grace
It’s a little clichéd but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get that C.D. and literally run it into the ground when I was fourteen. I remember sitting so close to my stereo I was almost hugging it - and I’d hang off his every note.
James Blake – Overgrown
This was the only album I had in my stereo during my second year of uni. I went through a really rough break-up and it became my catharsis. Our Love Comes Back still makes me teary every time.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
If you keep telling people you’re an ‘aspiring artist’ or that you’d ‘like to be an artist’, it’s never going to happen. You have to tell people you are an artist; you just haven’t refined your art or got the break you need yet. You have to be certain that you are an artist to your core and you have to work at it all the time. This industry is not for the fainthearted: it’s a war of attrition.
IN THIS PHOTO: Bad Honey
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I’ve also just been listening to this guy called Bakar who has released a mixtape called Badkid – it’s the first music in a while that I’m really struggling to categorise.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sabiyha
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Not really! When I’m not in the studio or rehearsing, I’m probably at work or trying to find more work. London life is pretty unforgiving like that. I love to read, though. I’ve just finished reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History – and I’ve just started Han Kang’s The White Book, which is really moving.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Oh, wow! That’s a tough choice. I’m an incredible indecisive person. I’d make a crap D.J. Let’s go for the song I’m currently blasting out: it’s Night on Earth by Jerkcurb. His stuff is well worth checking out.
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