The track, Midnight Train, is available via:
20th February, 2019
ON my Sunday review...
I step away from the mainstream and the bigger artists and look at an act that is rising and approaching the bigger leagues. On this occasion, I will speak about Freya Roy and her latest single, Midnight Train. I want to discuss female artists and their potential after International Women’s Day and the discussions we saw; artists based outside of the capital and, again, why ears should be more ambitious; styles like Neo-Soul and Jazz; taking a gap from music and recharging; receiving funding and using crowd-funding – I will end by talking about Roy and where she can head in the coming year. We have just celebrated International Women’s Day and, aside from sneering men wondering when they have their own special day – there is actually an International Men’s Day! – it was a good opportunity to talk about women in music and why we need to see change happen faster. I agree, as I keep mentioning, there is progression but I think there are fantastic women making great music not quite getting the same acclaim as their male peers. Freya Roy has been a little quieter than normal the past few years but look at the strength of her work and how she continues to press forward. She is a talented producer too and I think that is one area where we could focus. A lot of artists self-produce but we do not often have discussions about women as producers. The studios are still quite male-heavy and I think a lot of women are not being encouraged in. Maybe it is education and the fact we need to start at school-level; I know there are great female producers around who do not get the same focus as the men. In the case of Freya Roy, she is a fantastic artist and someone who is planning her next steps. It is hard to keep an eye on all artists and celebrate all the fantastic examples but there are so many male bands and solo artists who get pushed along and so many female artists overlooked.
It is a subject I raise quite a bit but I think that, following International Women’s Day, we need to take a look at how we judge women in music and whether there is enough improvement. From the stage to the studio; the radio through to the boardrooms – are we creating enough awareness and trying to redress imbalance? I don’t know but I feel like there is this crop of extraordinary female artists coming through that will take longer to get to festivals and headline stages because many promoters do not consider them. I think Freya Roy is the complete package and someone who is growing and blossoming. Maybe a few more photos would be cool… – she has a great style and look and could come up with a few neat concepts – and that would add to her terrific music. The photos out there are great but I know the visual side of music is important. Freya Roy, as I shall explore, has had a changeable few years and has taken a bit of a step back from the music industry. She is definitely back in force and I feel, very soon, she is an artist we need to talk about in very fond terms. I feel the style of music she is playing separates her from the pack. I do like Pop and Folk artists but it can be quite samey and there is not a lot of difference to be found – that is my impression. I do feel that, after International Women’s Day, we need to correct our visions and take more time to respect and appreciate the great female artists and those who make the music industry shine. I shall move from this subject but I feel it is important to mention it once more. One of the things that attracted me to the music of Freya Roy was the fact she is not based in London. I am always curious whether we give enough focus to those who are not in the capital.
Freya Roy is Norwich-based and many might feel there is not a lot going on outside of the capital. Norwich has The Waterfront and Karma Kafe and it is actually a city that gets overlooked. Maybe one would assume that Norfolk is a bit uncool but, in fact, Norwich is a very diverse and fascinating part of the U.K. I am not sure whether Roy will be moving to another part of the country in time but I think she is in a great place. If people like Stephen Fry rave about Norwich then it is good enough for me! I have not been myself but I know there is actually a rising music scene and a lot of great artists based there. I think Norwich is somewhere that promotes diverse music and true characters. Let’s Eat Grandma are the teenage duo who released their sophomore album, I’m All Ears, last year. They were overlooked for wayward and I feel they deserved a lot better. Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth are fantastic and create such buzzing, colourful and exceptional music. It is Pop but not like you have ever heard. Maybe there are few pressures living outside London and busy cities and artists are not as likely to be stifled and restricted. I feel the best music coming from London right now is Rap and Hip-Hop and, looking at somewhere like Norwich, there are different styles and genres being fused. I shall come to that a little bit later. What I wanted to discuss was artists based away from the major cities and how they are perceived. I stated (or speculated) Freya Roy might relocate but I feel there is no need. I do feel like there is this tendency, as I have talked about in the past, for artists to come to London or Manchester because they feel they are going to be ignored. Maybe that was the case a few years ago but the rise in digital blogs and websites means that there are networks and ears all over the place.
I do think the mainstream media needs to do more and have a look at the rich and stunning music being made all around the U.K. Freya Roy is someone who will definitely be in the minds of many pretty soon and I kind of like the fact she is in Norwich and not in London. That is not to say she is not welcome here: I feel her career and sound could be taken to heart by the people of the capital. What I mean is she has a different landscape and scene around her. I do feel like it is hard to shine in cities that are packed and, even though there are loads of great venues, there is so much competition that it can be daunting. Instead, being based in a city that is not quite as ram-packed might be a bonus. Consider the fact areas like Norwich are producing great new acts and they have a variety of venues to support those coming through. Maybe there are not that many classic acts we associate with Norwich but the new breed such as Freya Roy and Let’s Eat Grandma suggests there is plenty of unique talent to be discovered. I think we need to be a bit more ambitious with our tastes and look beyond the obvious. It is tricky to get a handle on all the great music around – one of the burdens of the modern age and streaming culture – but the East of England does not get as much love as it deserves. I can sense a change and, as I say, there are a lot of new blogs where writers can report from all over the U.K. and bring the world these awesome acts. Let’s have a look at Freya Roy and her last few years. I will talk about genres and the style she plays but I wanted to look at how she has come back into music and where she will go.
After a five-year hiatus from music, Freya Roy is stepping back into music with the crowd-funded album, AHLKE, and has a new track out. Roy has been honing her craft and working on her music through the years. Even though she actually has another single coming soon, I wanted to look at Midnight Train and what it is all about. As Freya Roy says herself; it has been a bit of an odd time in many ways:
“I was always creating new music but I felt that there was still more I could do to everything I made. I needed the time to experiment and develop my writing and thankfully being in the college-bubble enabled me to safely create and do just that. I decided to take down all my previous releases and start afresh as an artist. I was lucky enough to be tutored by Abstract Orchestra’s musical director, Rob Mitchell, and he gave me the space to really explore the hip-hop and contemporary R&B elements of my sound, whilst maintaining a strong focus on melody and jazz harmony. During the very beginning of this journey, I did, however, experience trauma to my wrist and had to take time out from studying, playing and everything in between. So for a good few years, I pretty much went silent on the music front and people thought I had given up on the idea. I am back on track now, but unfortunately, I have had to take a step away from the physical intensities of jazz guitar training, putting my energy into other creative spots such as my production and my label, FCR Music. It’s not until now that I have found a balance between all of these things, whilst still feeling creatively fulfilled, enabling myself to move towards getting this whole album project off the ground – something I didn’t think would be possible a few years ago. I really do think this whole process has been nurturing and has played a huge role in shaping and developing my sound and as an artist”. Those quotes are from her press release and, why I do not usually copy them into reviews, it was essential to tell her story and get word from her mouth directly.
Now that she is back, we can see the sort of music coming through and its fantastic blends. I am more used to reviewing genres like Pop and Alternative but it is great to discover something that has some Soul and Jazz elements. There is a sort of Pop breeze in Midnight Train but a sense of freedom and expression you do not get in Pop. Listening to Freya Roy sing and her voice is more nimble and breathy; it has such power and it reminds me of the great artists of Neo-Soul. You do not hear it too often in the mainstream and maybe that is a good reason why we should look at cities like Norwich and ask whether the best out there are from outside of London. I do love Jazz and Neo-Soul because there is that sublime balance of textures. It is hard to describe but I love the fact artists such as Freya Roy paint these incredible pictures and do so in such a dreamy and calming way. There is power to be found but the music has this relaxing effect and gets right into the bones. I do feel like a lot of Pop either has too much force and is over-produced or it lacks any real soul and depth. With Freya Roy, you get someone who can translate into the forefront of music and be a success but has this more diverse and appealing blend. I love what she is doing and cannot wait to hear her album. It is wonderful hearing this great artist growing and producing music this way. I am not sure what Roy’s influences are but I get a hint of the Neo-Soul legends but, really, it is her own voice that bursts through. I do wonder whether the mainstream is a bit rigid and we are not exposing genres like Neo-Soul. Perhaps this is what is commercial right now and Pop is what sells. I do think there is a lot more nuance and brilliance to be found in other areas of music. Freya Roy is an example of a young artist who can write songs that, lyrically, are quite similar to a lot of what is around already but deliver it in a very original and enticing way.
I shall move on from that subject because I will talk about it more when reviewing Midnight Train. There has been this hiatus and it is good to see Freya Roy back. She was definitely not wasting her time away and has been busy crafting and working on the next steps. She raised over a grand through crowd-finding and was one of twenty artists to receive support and round-two funding from the MOBO’s Help Musicians Fund. Although she is based in Norwich – she marks her current location, on social media, as Suffolk so might have moved since – she has spent time in Leeds’ thriving Jazz scene and got involved with what is happening in Yorkshire. She releases her album under the independent label, FCR Music, and it is one she founded in 2012. The idea of the label was to create awareness and highlight women and minorities. This is impressive to see and I would like to see more artists set up labels for this reason. Maybe there are some out there but Roy has just released, for International Woman’s Day, the documentary, FCR Music Presents: Women & the Creative Industry. It is impressive to see a young artist with that business mind and somebody who has set up this great label. It will help expose and promote great artists that might not otherwise get such a platform. It will be interesting to see how it progresses and whether it brings other artists onto the roster. The fact Roy’s upcoming album has been crowd-funded and received support brings me to that issue of finance. I think it is really tough in music and can be difficult getting something off of the ground. Consider the fact you might need to hire musicians and the studio; there is a lot of work that needs to be done and, before long, you have quite a big bill. I think many are being put off from recording albums because of the sheer cost and realities.
Roy releases the album in April and there is another single in the next couple of weeks – keep an eye out for that. I do feel like music is becoming more expensive, even though there is more technology and the potential to be D.I.Y. Even if you record at home, there are still costs involved and it is quite hard to record something quite cheaply. I have seen cases of crowd-funding and artists getting that boost and I think it is a wonderful thing. Some say artists should fund themselves and not rely on crowd-funding but I disagree. If people are happy to back an artist and help get an album to fruition then it is a very positive thing and can bring people together. It is clear Roy has backing and fans behind her and is getting nods from bigger names in the industry. She has worked hard on her music and, whether she is based now – whether she is in Suffolk, Norfolk or just down the road from me! – she has produced something truly special. We have Midnight Train out here now but lots is coming in the next month. I am excited to see where she can head and what her album will contain. She has learnt a lot from Jazz musicians and immersed herself in that scene. You can tell her musical upbringing was exceptional and I guess she would have been raised on some truly diverse artists. You can hear a curiosity in what she does and how her music connects with people. It is hard to stand out from the pack in modern music and it can be tricky remaining. That is just the reality of things. I have seen a lot of great artists fade but that will not be the case with Freya Roy. She has spent a long time working on AHLKE and I will be curious to see what the other tracks on the record sound like. Let us move onto Midnight Train and get to grips with its meanings and shades.
There is a lot of activity and energy in the opening moments of Midnight Train. We hear some percussion clatter – almost like a hollow tree being hit – and there is this great balance of sounds. Things are never too heavy and intense but we get this nice sense of dance and movement. I like how artists operate in Jazz and Neo-Soul because you get something truly different. There is a groove and locomotive thrill that opens the eyes and makes you curious where the song is head. The heroine comes to the microphone and talks about being awake in the middle of the night. One wonders what keeps her awake. Maybe there is this restlessness that is plaguing her mind but she is awake and it is too dark to see the time. Her heartbeat keeps her alive and awake and that is something that gets to me. Maybe there are anxieties around her mind and she is being troubled by something. Rather than a literal image of a train, I get the sense the heroine is wrestling with doubts or she has someone on her mind. Roy is backed by that hollow percussion sound and her beautiful voice paints images in the mind. I have heard a lot of great singers the past few months but there is something in Freya Roy that stands aside. She has a way of delivering words that gets under the skin. Again, it is hard to explain but I love her voice and how it makes one feel. Roy talks about something being one-hundred miles wide and I wonder if there is this image of a gulf or piece of geography. It is great there is this oblique nature where you are not quite sure if we are seeing a physical movement and the heroine on a train or whether she uses these images to talk about emotions and struggles. The midnight train is about the pass by and, whatever your perceptions, it is definitely an arresting song.
I was thinking more about emotional unrest and being kept awake by something troubling. There is this sense of being lost or needing answers but the midnight train in question might be answers and a sense of safety. The heroine, as she says, carries these colours of happiness and they are kept with her; she carries them with dignity and I get the feeling the midnight train is less an expression of doubt and just a general waking feeling. I would love to know the exact origins of the song but I hear a sense of heart and hope in her voice and that changes my perception. A beautiful and velvet-smooth incorporation of horns – apologies as I do not know the name of the trumpet player – adds this sort of dreamy and entrancing quality and adds new layers to the song. Many Pop songs might add processed beats and too much force but here we get a relaxed and very well-composed song. You have this rather sleepy feel but there is definitely passion and potency coming from Freya Roy’s voice. There is a solo from the brass; a clattering beat coming through and some soothing electronics. It is a rich blend and, coming in are some subtle guitar strings. It is a wonderful cocktail that adds as a pause and transition. As I hear the brilliant composition and all the colours entwine, I wonder whether this feeling that keeps her away is a sense that bad things are exiting and there is more positivity coming through. Things are passing by – that becomes a mantra – and you feel like there is this evolution from the darker days and struggles to something more hopeful. Maybe I have completely misread but one hears Midnight Train and, after some initial doubts, there is this uplift and movement. I love everything about the song but it is the way the composition and vocals mingle to create this sumptuous, evocative and exceptional song. The lyrics are brought to life fully and there is room for interpretation. I feel, if other songs on AHLKE are like Midnight Train, it will be an album you definitely do not want to miss out on! It is great to have Freya Roy back and I hope lots and lots of people get to see her perform live very soon. She is one of those artists who does things her own way and can create the sort of music nobody else is. Keep your eyes out for this very talented, exciting and fresh artist. I will be sure to follow her progress and see how far she can go. I know Freya Roy has a very bright future ahead of her.
Freya Roy is, as I have said a few times, going to launch the AHLKE and she will have tour dates as well. Keep an eye on her social media channels but she has dates confirmed in Leeds, Sheffield; Manchester and Suffolk and it will be a chance for people around the country to hear her music. I think the Leeds and Manchester dates, especially, will be cool but it is great see gets to take her new material on the road. She will be touring solo and with a band and it will be intriguing to see how the two different sets sound. To conclude the tour, Roy has a headline set at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters on 23rd May and it will be a big chance for possible labels and backers to see her in the flesh. It is definitely a very exciting and busy time – coming from a bit of a hiatus, I bet Freya Roy is pleased to be back and active! She has spent time crafting her album and I would recommend people try and catch her on the road if you can! I love her sound and it will be interesting to see the differences between her playing solo and what a band brings to the table. In any case, there are many reasons to back Roy and what she is doing right now. Here is a wonderful young artist who has her own label and is always looking to help other musicians. She has a very determined, ambitious and compassionate mind and that sort of blends into her music. So rich and rewarding is the listening experience that you will come back time and time again to get that sweet hit. I shall end things in a bit but keep a look out for new Freya Roy news and go and get her album when it comes out in April. She is hitting the road – so you might catch her there – and I wonder where she will head next. It is clear she is back with us and determined to make music on a more regular basis. Maybe there will be tour dates further afield or she might need some time to recharge before embarking on any new quests. Get behind this great artist and witness music that can get into the brain and...
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