INTERVIEW: Baby Jey

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski 

Baby Jey

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IT has been cool speaking with Baby Jey

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ARTWORK CREDIT: Molly Little

about their new single, Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come, and what its story is. I ask the guys what we can expect from their album, Someday Cowboy, and how they managed to complete the record in only two days!

I discover how Baby Jey formed and what sort of music they are inspired by; the upcoming artists we need to get behind and support; if there are going to be tour dates coming up – they each select a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

The week’s been great. We’re getting ready to drop the second single off the record this week so that’s exciting. It’s called U Don’t Have 2 Go Alone.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Sure! We’re Baby Jey; a Canadian band currently based in Edmonton. We’re getting ready to release a new record called Someday Cowboy on Maintenance Records on September 14.

Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come is your new single. Can you tell me how it came together and what inspired it?

When we wrote these songs, we were listening to all kinds of different stuff: lots of Country music from the '80s like Tanya Tucker, Keith Whitley and Johnny Lee; lots of Soft-Rock like America and Carole King, lots of Prince. I guess our first single - Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come - is a play on ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’. It’s a fun little tune about having a mirage in the desert.

Someday Cowboy is your upcoming record. What sort of themes inspired the songs that will feature?

Jeremy: There’s a certain feeling of nostalgia to a lot of the album’s lyrics - we reminisce about tobogganing as kids and dreaming about cowboys. It’s fitting that I was able to play the same piano that I first learned on.

Mitch Holtby is in the mix for your new record. How did you meet him?

Mitch started playing shows in Edmonton in 2007. That was long before any of us were even old enough to go to shows but, once we got older, we definitely started seeing him at shows. Mitch came out to one of our shows in the spring of 2017 and asked us to open for him later that year. He seemed like a good fit to work with because we knew we wanted to go for a poppier sound.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski

Is it true the record came together in two days?! Why did you decide to home-­record and lay it down so fast?

Jeremy: Mitch had been moving back and forth between Edmonton and Montreal. He had a bunch of his gear in Edmonton but no studio and no piano. We realized we could use the piano at my parents’ house and pay Mitch to build a temporary studio in their living room.

The band had played a bunch of shows leading up to the recording sessions, so we were able to just track the record live-­off­-the-­floor. Of course, we did do some synth and vocal overdubs after those sessions.

How did Baby Jey get together? When did you meet one another?

Jeremy: Both Dean and I had been active in other projects in the Edmonton music scene from 2012­-2015. Then, I left Edmonton to go to school in 2015 and a lot of my musical interests changed. When I came back, Dean and I started jamming. Then we went for lunch one day and I asked him if he wanted to start a band.

Is there more material coming next year? What might we see next?

Jeremy: We have at least another twenty songs written - so we definitely plan to keep recording and keep putting stuff out.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Haley Pukanski

Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We’re playing a send-off show in Edmonton on August 24th at the Kasbar in the basement of Yianni’s on Whyte Avenue. Then, the full record drops on September 14. By then, we’ll be in New York so we’re hoping to secure a New York show that week.

You have achieved a lot over the past year. What do want to tick off the to-­list before the end of this year?

Shoot a music video if possible!

If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Dean: Bryan Adams ­- Reckless

Classic Canadian album with timeless songwriting and dated drum sounds. ­

Jeremy: JT ­ - James Taylor

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PHOTO CREDIT: Mitch Holtby

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Not just yet: the best is yet to come (smiles).

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Paul McCartney.

Two bottles of sparkling water; one bottle of tequila; a bag of all dressed chips and a V.H.S. of the season recap of the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays season.

What advice would you give to artists coming through? ­

Hope for the best, expect the worst.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out? ­

Lovelet! Ghost Woman! Perpetuals!

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Ghost Woman

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind? ­

I think, for both of us, playing music actually helps us unwind!

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music ­ I will do that). ­

Dean: I Am In LoveJennifer Lara ­

Jeremy: Miami, My Amy ­ - Keith Whitley

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INTERVIEW: Petrie

INTERVIEW:

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Petrie

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THE incredible Petrie

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have been speaking with me about their new track, June, and its background. I ask what it was like working with JESS on the track and whether the summer-time sound hides something more anxious – I discover how Petrie got together and which artists inspire their sound.

I discover what Petrie are planning next and which rising artists we should look out for; whether there will be touring dates coming up; the advice current musicians should heed when starting their careers – the guys each select a song to end the interview with.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Fuzzy. Lots of admin; finished some demos; wrote a lot of poems.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We’re Petrie. One of our managers recently coined the term ‘credible Pop’ to describe us, which we like - lets the music do the talking. Have a listen. If I told you it was liquid Dubstep you wouldn’t listen, would you? It may be the most beautifully crafted thing you’ve ever heard but those darn labels can turn you off before you’ve even loaded the private SoundCloud link.

Tell me about the song, June. What started its creation?

We were in the studio with our dear friend Kosuke Kasza one evening when he hummed a tune, which we immediately turned into that cute guitar riff and then sort of quoted throughout the track. Up until that session, we hated making the instrumental first but his energy was so infectious we laid down a lot of the instruments and most of the melody that evening. He was practically bouncing off the walls…it was fantastic. After that, we recruited our hero/muse JESS to help us with the lyrics, which is when we really got stuck in.

It seems like there are doubts posing underneath the sun-kissed sounds. Was there anxiety and deep emotion in mind when the song was formulated?!

You better believe it. Ironically, there is nothing we dislike more than the notion of a ‘SUMMER BANGER’; so this song kinda poses as one - while the narrator essentially admits their experience of love is frivolous, completely situational and ready to collapse. Rather sweetly, I think, the love interest seems to totally agree.

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JESS pops up on the track. When did you start working together?

George, the conventionally attractive one, met JESS at college and then I properly met her studying the same course at uni. So, the stars aligned. She’s an incredible, honest lyricist and, holy hell, can she sing. I’d listen to her all damn day if she’d drop some freaking music (SOON! We’re actually mixing it right now. Hehehe). 

How did Petrie get together? Do you recall when it all sort of clicked?

We used to play in RAWWKK BANDDSS together before George heard Burn by Usher (laughs). Eventually, I moved from producer to all-round ‘band member’ when we started writing everything together. Now, neither of us can write anything on our own but we’re trying in case this ends miserably.

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The media and fans have shown a big response to your music. How does it make you feel getting that sort of feedback?!

HAHA. It’s reassuring that you think that...

Which artists are you influenced by? Who are the musicians who have made the biggest impact on the band?

Honestly? Joni Mitchell, Young Thug and Nirvana.

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We’re playing a headline show at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington on 20th September and we’re very excited. It’s gonna be our best one yet we’re sure of it.

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

We once got guest-list for a sick club night, turned up embarrassingly drunk and got swerved by Aminé. He just went and danced on his own. It was really weird.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Frank Ocean. Sorry to be obvious, but, yeah. Chips on the rider.

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Keep writing. You’re probably terrible right now and you will be for years (we’re still terrible, I think) but you’ll look back one day and think ‘damn that was fun’ and then you’ll start to delude yourself that those songs were good…it’s a trip.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Saint Torrente/PHOTO CREDIT: Noah Margaret

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Our elusive JESS - when she releases this damn tune. Saint Torrente makes incredible Avant-Garde, theatrical Pop and really kicked us up the butt, lyrically. Imogen writes VAST and gorgeous songs that tear our heart to shreds.

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IN THIS IMAGE: Imogen/IMAGE CREDITFionn Hutton

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

No.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Loz:  Honeycomb by Deafheaven

George: Margate by Sports Team 

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INTERVIEW: The Slumdogs

INTERVIEW:

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The Slumdogs

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I have been finding out about The Slumdogs

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and what inspired their latest track, Cut the Conversation Short. They tell me how they came together and started making music; what the music scene is like in Blackpool; if there are any gigs coming up – they highlight some new artists to watch.

I ask what sort of music they grew up around and whether they ever get time to chill; the advice they would give to artists emerging; which act they would support given the chance – the guys end the interview by selecting a song each.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

We’re all good! Been busy preparing for shows, releases and all that jazz.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We’re The Slumdogs; a raw Indie-Punk four-piece from sunny Blackpool; coming to a town near you.

How did The Slumdogs get together? When did it all start?

I (Bobby) knew Elliot previously from a band we were in and met Cam and Will through a band they were in a few years ago. Those bands fell apart and The Slumdogs was born.

Cut the Conversation Short is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind it?

Musically, we just wanted to write something that sounds explosive and you can jump to. The lyrics are somewhat of a social commentary on modern life - but without being political at all.

How did The Slumdogs hook up with Gary Powell’s 25 Hour Convenience Store?

We sent them our debut single (Nightmare) and invited them to a London show we had at Nambucca. The show went well and here we are!

Is there going to be more material from the band soon?

Yes. We’ve a single out on the 17th August and much more planned before the end of the year release-wise. Stay tuned.

What sort of music did you all grow up around? Who are your musical idols?

When it comes to songwriting; John Lennon is the main man. Lyrically, Bob Dylan is up there too. We all love Funk, Punk and anything that makes you move.

You are based between Blackpool and Leeds. I have not heard many bands come out of Blackpool. What is the scene like there now?

Blackpool is actually a lot better than people think! it just doesn’t get the media attention of a Manchester or Liverpool but there’s bands such as Strange Bones and Nana White Pepper, amongst others, who are doing really good things at the moment. Leeds is craz-good; a very D.I.Y. scene with incredible bands, venues and events in every corner.

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

Definitely. We have a big hometown show at Bootleg Social on 25th August with Proletariat and The Brookes. After that, there’ll be announcements about shows further afield. Keep an eye on our Facebook for details of where and when.

If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Bobby: John Lennon - Walls and Bridges

Cam: Queen - A Night at the Opera

Will: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ debut album (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)

Elliot: The Beatles - Abbey Road

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

When IDLES came to Blackpool, the energy in the room was insane. They sold out Bootleg Social. They’re a band that speaks about important topics and to have them sell out our local venue was inspiring.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

It would have to be The Rolling Stones, wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine they have a low budget for a rider… I’d be asking for new guitars, amps; champagne…the lot!

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Write constantly and get out there and meet people. Stay true to yourself and, most importantly, don’t be a ****!

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IN THIS PHOTO: BlackWaters/PHOTO CREDITFuture Nation Sounds 

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

BlackWaters, The Surrenders; Dream Wife, Calva Louise and IDLES.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Dream Wife

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

By going to the Pleasure Beach and eating Blackpool rock.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

W: Hey Heartbreaker by Dream Wife

E: Arms & Legs by Horsey

C: Arms of Pleonexia by Cabbage

B: L'Etat C'est Moi by The Blinders

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INTERVIEW: Natasha Hardy

INTERVIEW:

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Natasha Hardy

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THERE are some great Classical crossover artists emerging…

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that are breaking new ground and introducing people to a new type of sound. Natasha Hardy tells me about her latest track, Mi Ritiro, and what its inspiration is. She reveals how she got into music and whether Classical is coming into the mainstream more – she recommends a rising artist to look out for.

Hardy shares some favourite musical memories and tells me about her album, Lost in Love; where she sources inspiration for writing; what she is planning going forward – Hardy selects a few albums that are important to her.

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Hi Natasha. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. Very good thank you. I’ve been busy - getting ready to release my new single - but have managed to enjoy a bit of the lovely English summer we have been having…so, all good.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Hi there. My name is Natasha Hardy; I am a Classical crossover singer and I write my own songs. I sound like a cross between Enya, Sarah Brightman and Amy Moody from Evanescence - or so I have been told! I was once reviewed as being “Not quite classical” which is very true; it’s a perfect description and I actually use that at my tagline now!

Mi Ritiro is your new single. What can you reveal about its story and creation?

Mi Ritiro is a bitter-sweet love song that I wrote. It’s essentially the story about falling for someone and then realising that person is not who you thought they were and having to admit that to yourself. I wrote it in Italian as being classically trained some of my favourite arias that I sing are in Italian and the call to write in the original language of love (even though I am not fluent in Italian, I had some help with the correct grammar!) seemed appropriate.

I had written the lyrics and most of the melody when I teamed up with my good friend and wonderful pianist Stefano Marzanni. He helped write the harmony and arrange the piano part in a way that sounded classical yet simple. I wanted the song to sound like something between an aria from a modern opera and a song from a soundtrack of an old Italian movie. Once it was written, I worked closely with my amazing producer Tom E. Morrison, who worked tirelessly to bring my vision to life.  

Stefano leads the instrumentation with the beautiful original piano arrangement alongside the string section. On violin, I have award-winning violinist Dermot Crehan (Lord of the Rings, Andrea Bocelli, Annie Lennox; I am so blessed to have him on my track. Then I have Alice Sophie on cello, Alexander Verster on double bass; Graham Pike on brass and Tom E. Morrison playing keyboard. Oh, and myself as the vocalist of course. I am really pleased with the end result. Everyone worked really hard to give an amazing performance for me and Tom’s pristine production is the icing on the cake.  Graham actually played the trumpet part that you hear in one take. I was blown away when we were in the studio; I had goosebumps all over and knew instantly that would be the one to stay.

It is from the album, Lost in Love. Are there distinct themes and personal experiences you bring into the music?

Yes. I would say the album as a whole is based on the theme of love: wanting it, finding it or losing it. The album is a collection of self-penned love songs inspired by my passions, heartaches and the fairy-tale fantasies that falling in love can bring. All of the songs were written from personal experience on some level. 

As well as being a crossover artist, I am also blending different genres in my music. I tried to really capture my vocals with their vulnerable yet powerful quality to compliment the Celtic, operatic and orchestral elements. I have put my heart and soul into this album so I am hoping, with the cinematic styled arrangements and my heartfelt lyrics, people will connect to the songs.

You are a Classical crossover artist. Do you think Classical music is coming into the mainstream more? Would you like to see Classical music come to the fore a bit more?!

Oh, yes. It’s definitely more mainstream than it ever has been I think with acts like Lindsey Stirling and 2 Cellos doing extremely well - who are also writing original material. With shows like the sold-out Classical Hacienda and the Blue Planet score winning awards, there is a real appetite for this genre.

I think, for it to come to the forefront even more, music should be a compulsory subject in school and there should be many more government-funded musical initiatives. I believe that Classical music is constantly evolving and growing as it blends with different genres and it would be great for upcoming artists to have affordable access to venues that have ready-made audiences to try out their ideas.

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How do you get inspiration for songs/ideas? How important are old films and recordings regarding your viewpoint/aesthetic?

I think my inspiration comes from a simple observation: I observe my thoughts and feelings and then zone into whichever emotion is dominant. The trigger can be from a photograph, a movie; from watching someone else that reminds me of something that I have been through or from something that I desire. I then keep a note of that and then the work begins - when I write a song about it.

With regards to my aesthetics, I think art and illustration are more important to me than film. I am definitely influenced by my favourite artists such as Vermeer, Degas; Cézanne, Klimt; illustrators Edmund Dulac, Susan Seddon Boulet and Arthur Rackham to name a few. However, I do love scrolling through YouTube watching old film operas, listening to old recordings of Opera singers and old recordings of traditional songs. A combination of all of the above is important as long as it inspires me to be creative. My viewpoint is always my own.

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Can you reveal which artists played a role in your early life? How did you get into the industry?

As a child, my parents used to play Harry Belafonte, Doris Day; Shirley Bassey, Simon & Garfunkel; The Shadows, Rod Stewart and Crystal Gayle. Yes, I know; pretty eclectic! It doesn’t end there though. I used to share a room with my older sister so I had to listen to all of her R&B music and I have two brothers who both play guitar: one plays electric and one plays acoustic. So, I was forced to listen to Joe Satriani and Cat Stevens simultaneously - which I think scarred me for life; that’s probably why you don’t hear any guitar in my music!

I had my first piano lessons at the age of nine and my music teacher introduced me to Chopin and Beethoven. But, when I discovered music for myself that I loved, I used to listen to Enya, Enigma; Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac; George Michael and Prince. It wasn’t really until my early-twenties that I discovered Classical music and Opera through taking classical singing lessons and that opened a whole new world for me. That’s when I fell in love with Puccini, Rachmaninov and Debussy.

I got into the industry because when I was younger I thought I wanted to be an actress, so I decided to take singing lessons to add a feather to my bow so to speak. Through my singing lessons, I discovered my true calling as singing just felt so good. I didn’t realise the amazing journey it would take me on and I am still discovering new things about myself every day.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I hope my album is well received, that my live performance dates get lined up and that I go on holiday as, since I started my album, it has pretty much taken over my life for the last two and a half years.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Hmm. I have so many! Can I have two?! My favourite recent memory is that of signing my first licensing agreement for one of my songs from my album to be on a film soundtrack. It features in the independent film titled Of Gods and Warriors featuring Terence Stamp. That was a dream come true and is a memory to treasure.

A much older memory; this is from when I used to sing a lot in the care community for people with Alzheimers’ disease. I remember singing to a gentleman with a severe case and I held his hand and looked into his eyes as I sang one particular song. As I was singing, he lifted his head and he came to life right in front of me. He had tears streaming down his face and when I had finished the song he just started talking about his wife during the War and how he used to take her to dances and how that was their favourite song. He hadn’t spoken to anyone for years and we (the staff and I) were all in tears. It’s such a beautiful feeling to be able to touch someone like that. That’s why I sing: because I want to touch souls.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

A Day Without Rain by Enya

She is one of my huge influences and it put me in a trance the first time I listened to it. I can still completely lose myself in her music.

Reverence by Faithless

Captivating. Reminds me of long nights of dancing and the power that music has on the body. It was also the first time I had really been touched by operatic music. The track, Drifting Away, opens with an excerpt of Margherita’s aria, L’altra notte in fondo al mare, from the opera Mefistofele; composed by Arrigo Boito. I think it also planted the seed that it is possible to cross different genres in a song if the production is good.

The film soundtrack to Betty Blue by Gabriel Yared – it brings back memories of great times with someone who is no longer with us. The music is just beautiful: fun, intense; delicate, heart-breaking.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

There are a few artists currently that I would love to have the honour to support but, if I had to choose just one, I would love to support Andrea Bocelli. Not only do I love his voice, but he is also such an amazing humanitarian - he does so much through his charitable foundation.

For a rider, hmmm; just a nice clean dressing room with a power point and full-length mirror; bottled water and bananas - lots of bananas! Not too green, not too spotty either!

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

Definitely. I am planning a tour in 2019. Dates are to be confirmed and will be announced on my website soon.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Practice, practice, practice!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Freya Ridings

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I haven’t had time to listen to loads of new music recently but I do love Freya Ridings. I love her voice and songs check out her song Ultraviolet. It’s gorgeous. Her newest single, Lost Without You, was featured in the Love Island U.K. T.V. series.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Music is part of my everyday life so to give my ears a rest I love to reconnect with nature. As I live in North London, one of my favourite places to go is Kenwood and Hampstead Heath with my beloved toy poodle and I love to go ice-skating when I get time. I also love a good movie and a pizza (Vegetarian Hot, please).

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).

Maria Callas - La Mamma Morta

Thank you for having me and thank you for asking such brilliant questions!

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INTERVIEW: Oriel Poole

INTERVIEW:

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Oriel Poole

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I have been speaking with Oriel Poole

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PHOTO CREDITGalen Oakes Photography

about her new single, Brighter, and filming its incredible video. She tells me about moving from the U.K. to the U.S. and what she wants to accomplish going forward. I ask which rising artists are worth a shout and what advice she would give to artists emerging.

Poole reveals what she does away from music and her favourite memory from her career so far; how she got into music and kindled that passion; what it was like working with Julio (the L.G.B.T.Q. advocate) on her current video – she ends the interview with a great song.

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Hi, Oriel. How are you? How has your week been?

Good, thanks.

For those new to your music, can you introduce yourself, please?

Bold, sensual and otherworldly. Genre-wise, I produce Trip-Hop; combining the sounds of R&B, Electronic; Soul and Experimental.

Brighter is your latest music video. Is there a personal story behind it? How did it come together?

The song is about recognizing my magic inside, the inner-flame, ready to expand into the world. It's the voice inside my head saying, ‘let me out, already!’.

From a visual standpoint, the director, S-hekh Shem Hetep, saw the hypnotic side of my music and me and used that to create a video that was both whimsical and seductive; highlighting my essence as an artist.

The music video seems like it was fun to film! Was it a good shoot? Did you have a lot of creative control regarding concept and theme?

The director took the lead on the creative concept for the video. Of course, I had my say; I also brought in friends such as Ostara who led up the styling and set dressing to support the overall vision. One of the most challenging parts for me in the process was allowing - having a creative background in production design I enjoy being hands-on and driving the creative process forward. But, in the making of this music video, it was important for me to focus on being solely the artist.

Did you enjoy working with L.G.B.T.Q. advocate Julio on the shoot?

Yes. Julio is amazing. Such a talented force - he really helped me come into my skin and portray the sensual woman that I am on camera.

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Brighter is from your E.P., Sunday. Are you looking ahead at more material – or will there be more material released from the current E.P.?

I have another music video coming soon (for Foothills). I’m taking classes and working on a single right now while I save in preparation for the writing of the second E.P. I’m also pitching to labels in an effort to receive additional resources and support of the second E.P.

How did you get into music? Which artists compelled you growing up?

Music has always been in my blood. It was a matter of waking up to the desire to pursue it. I have a rather eclectic taste in music. Some of my influences growing up include Pink Floyd, Kavinsky; Björk, Enya; Jamiroquai, Erykah Badu; Zero Seven and Talking Heads.

I believe you were born in Britain but moved to the U.S. Was there a reason behind the move?!

My parents wanted to move to America - not completely sure why -; possibly for a chance at a different life. I was eight-years-old. It was hard letting go of everything I knew and loved that age but the experience did shape my perspective and provided me with a broader vision of the world.

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Securing a label or investor - 100k to propel to the next level of my career so I can focus exclusively on the next E.P., continued education; new creative content (music videos!) and a national tour. I’m looking for a company or individual who sees my whole package and wants to help provide me with the resources to scale massively.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Lotus. That venue is legendary: an outdoor amphitheatre shaped by natural, red rock formations. It is an honour to have performed there.

Which albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense

Both albums changed the way I experienced music.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Based on my sound, I would be best-suited opening for Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean; Bonobo, Bob Moses; Rüfüs Du Sol, Tame Impala; Woodkid, Little Dragon; Anderson .Paak and STS9.

Rider? A candlelit dressing room and yerba mate, please.

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

None at the moment but I will keep you in the loop!

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I am breaking through so I can only speak from the perspective of my present experience. Success is a combination of talent and drive. If you have something people are responding to and you are committed to finding the way - doing whatever it takes to turn this passion into a career - then this is the path for you.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jamie Lidell/PHOTO CREDIT: Lindsey Rome

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

More recently, I have been really feeling Jamie Lidell, Nonku Phiri and Nao.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Nonku Phiri

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Yes. I find time to go unwind and feed my soul. I go out and dance, connect with friends; be active in my body, be in my joy. I also practice meditation and Theta Healing every day.

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).

Yes! Go check out Dear by Pete Philly

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INTERVIEW: Choze

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Choze

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WITH Nothing to Lose out there…

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I have been speaking with Choze about the track and what inspired it. He discusses his upcoming plans and the influence of Clapham. I ask him which rising artists we need to look out for and the albums that have been instrumental to him – he tells me what it was like working with Skolz on his latest song.

Choze reflects on the past year and how it affected Nothing to Lose; what advice he would give artists coming through; if there is going to be more material coming up; if he gets moments to unwind away from music – he selects a good song to end the interview with.

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Hi, Choze. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi. I’m good. My week HAS been like most weeks: very productive

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I go by the artist name ‘Choze’ and I’m an Alternative artist that has been on the scene for a few years now.

Nothing to Lose is your latest single. Can you talk about the origins and how the song came together?

It basically came together about a year – one when London was going through tragic moments. Whether we lost hundreds of people due to the Grenfell Tower fire or the increase of gun and knife violence or Brexit; I just felt that it was time to speak on a few touchy subjects. I was brain-fried by the disappointment I was seeing and I wanted to address it.

What was it like working with Skolz on the track? What did he bring to the track?

I feel, when I work with Skolz, he brings out the best in me. His sound has his own stamp on it which I easily became a fan when he first started to play me his material. Nothing to Lose was one of the tracks he played to me and, at that moment, I knew I was going to record something deep on that record. The beat was just calling and telling me what I should say. He brought the edge that I needed to enhance my lyrics even more which is why I’m happy with what we’ve created together.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

It seems like 2017 impacted you. Looking at all the horror that occurred – including Trump’s election and the Brexit result – how do you see the year? Do you think the world has lost some of its mind?!

Honestly, I feel we’re living in the last days but also I’ll have to get back to you with an answer. It’s just too deep to respond...plus, we’ll be here all week if I do (laughs). 

Is there going to be more material coming later in the year do you reckon?

100%! I’ve got two more records to put out then the mini-album which I’m excited to share with the masses. Very personal record to me

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

Kendrick Lamar, the Paul Institute; Skepta, Plan B and Mike Skinner. There are a few more but, roughly, these artists push me to write chapters after chapters. I feel they help my storytelling but push me to create my own style with it.

How influential were your experiences in Clapham, and the scenes you witnessed there, to you regarding your path into music?

Clapham can be very embracive and multicultural: it can also be very problematic and difficult to live which helps me write songs to explain my experiences growing up in neighbourhoods such as Clapham. But, honestly, how the area has developed over the years; I wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s what made me the artist I am today.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

To get a wider audience; to follow see and support what ‘Choze’ the brand has in store.  Plain and simple.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

My favourite memory is when I got a standing ovation to a packed crowd at Union Chapel in North London. That was a moment I’ll never forget. It made me feel that I’ve achieved my goal but motivated me to strive for more shows where I would work my best to receive more support from bigger crowds. It just made me a fiend for performance after that night.

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

I’ve got so many albums that are a big influence in my life but the three that comes to mind are Boy in da Corner by Dizzee Rascal; No More Idols by Chase & Status and 21 by Adele.

With Boy in da Corner; it was the album that described everything that was going on when I was in college/uni times. It made me believe that I could tell my story in my own narrative and believe that no one can take it away from because it’s MY TRUTH and nothing but MY TRUTH.

No More Idols showed me that you can collaborate with all different genres or artists but still make an album which people will say stood the test of time. It’s a classic.

21 was the most personal record for me. It’s showcasing a person’s emotions with no fabrication or dishonesty - which is why I believe Adele is the most important artist of our decade.  She put the transcript out to the music industry that ‘honest’ music always prevails no matter what.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I would love to support the Gorillaz - and my rider will be only water before the show and then a stiff Jack Daniels on the rocks after (laughs).

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PHOTO CREDIT: Josh Snaps

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

We’re just organising the dates as we speak. Go to my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for more info (@CHOZEofficial)

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Never compromise unless you honestly believe it’s beneficial to achieving your reality - not dream, reality! Also, never stop. This game can never be taken for granted. You fail when you quit, simple.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Shai Sevin

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Skolz, Shai Sevin, Lemzi; The Grime Violinist, the Paul Institute; Anjlee Desai, ObongjayarMax Stone; DOGZ OR GODZ. Few more but I’ll get back to you.

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IN THIS PHOTO: The Grime Violinist

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I still read books or watch inspirational docs to keep me motivated. I need those tools because I listen to music way too much - so they’re my ‘chill out’ sessions.

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).

Jai Pauljasmine (demo). It’s still the greatest record I swear (laughs)

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INTERVIEW: Miranda Arieh

INTERVIEW:

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Miranda Arieh

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MY attention turns to Miranda Arieh

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who has been talking about her latest single, Impossible. I speak with the Leeds-based artist about her upbringing; she reveals what we can expect from her upcoming album, Ferine; whether, as a champion of women’s rights, there is a change happening in music regarding gender inequality.

Arieh speaks about her tough youth and how she has managed to use music as a tool for improvement and personal growth; whether there are going to be tour dates coming up; some great artists we all need to investigate – she selects some albums that are especially important to her.

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Hi, Miranda. How are you? How has your week been?

Great, thank you! I've played two gorgeous shows this weekend and got a festival coming up this coming one, so feelin’ content! 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I'm Miranda Arieh; a singer-songwriter from Leeds!

 

Impossible is your new single. Can you talk about its background and story?

I wrote Impossible, essentially, about my adoration for songwriting and the comfort that it brings me; in this situation, it was helping with my letting go of things I could not change in the past and staying mindful. No matter what I'm going through, I can always turn to writing a song in order to express myself and help me “settle down in an old sweet song”.

I wrote it after a conversation one night with a female sex worker who was also saying how music helped her stay mindful (but for her listening to it). She's the woman I'm talking about in the song- she was an incredibly powerful and inspiring woman. I was going through a really tough patch, emotionally, at the time and dealing with feelings of intense regret. I went straight home and wrote impossible. It really helped. 

Your music tackles women's rights and mental-health concerns. Is it important to you to ensure changes come in society and we address these problems?! 

Absolutely! I think that music is a fantastic place to do this. Music is a language that crosses all borders.

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Do you think there are changes regarding gender equality? How do you feel, as a woman in music, about the current imbalance?!

Gender inequality in the music industry has started to be highlighted in the mainstream which is brilliant and has given birth to many great campaigns and schemes such as Both Sides Now, Women Make Music and Loud Women etc. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Google the writer of many modern-day Pop songs fronted/sung by a woman and you find the songwriter is a man. It's not enough to just have the women singing the song if they're managed by a man, written for by a man and told what to wear by a man…I wanna hear women's voices and what they have to say.

I also wanna hear older women's voices. Ageism needs to be tackled in the media mainstream for women. Men's lines are defined and even, maybe, increased on the cover of a magazine and he is seen to ripen with age like a fine wine whereas women's lines are bleached and ironed and filtered out. There is a huge fear of age in this society and it is poured out and fed through music and media mainstream. I wanna see age; I wanna hear age and I wanna have more older women role models in the music industry mainstream.

Ageing is the one thing that we are all guaranteed to do it would be nice to see more older women coming through the market. I saw Patti Smith a couple of months ago. She's in her seventies and was PHENOMENAL, ridiculously good. However, it's very sad to think that, in the modern day, if she released her songs now as an EMERGING musician starting out at this age she may go ignored or unheard due to her age/looks. This needs to change. 

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Ferine is your forthcoming album. What sort of themes and stories inspired the music on the record? What was it like making the album? 

Wow. So many different topics and themes and emotions. I tend to write from feeling rather than thought. Themes are as varied and range from empowerment to the end of the world; to ageism, being silenced/speaking out as a woman; mental illness, letting go of regret and creating a false self…! Whereas some songs - such as the first track on the album, Hold On - is a story I wrote about talking to an invented lover in a bunker in a trench of a battlefield surrounded by incoming troops…it starts with stripped-back, emotive solo piano and ends with a samba outro...! We have a real range on there.

I adored the process of recording it and building up the tracks with instruments; so many different and varied instruments used - it's a real Chamber-Pop field day.

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How did you get into music? Which artists compelled you growing up?

I always wrote songs from being a tiny girl on our piano in our house. I taught myself. Although, my mum was a concert pianist so I heard her play which defo had an impact. I first picked up a guitar when sectioned into an adolescent psychiatric unit as a teen. It was there I really got into 'proper' songwriting and lyric-writing. I had been self-harming and overdosing a lot and was in a dreadful trauma state emotionally, so I felt like I had found some real therapy finally in writing songs. Artists that influenced me are No Doubt, Nirvana; Hole, the Pixies; Symposium, Bob Dylan; Joanna Newsom and loads of '90s chart Pop.

I was also into loads of Punk bands growing up such as NOFX, Pennywise; Lagwagon and Less Than Jake. System of a Down certainly had an influence even though they're a Heavy-Metal band! The way Serj Tankian uses his voice always resonated deeply with me - the sheer theatrics in it. I used to listen to them on-repeat. I was a right mosher. I even had a huge, heavy black chain hanging off my baggy, rain-soaked jeans...

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018? 

I would like to be even closer to making my music fully sustainable and be doing even more of what I love the most

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Winning the People's Choice Award at the Leeds Music Video Awards for the second year in a row was pretty special and emotional. I think it was a point where I woke up and felt so supported and encouraged and realised people must be really enjoying what I do with my videos, which is such a wonderful feeling to give enjoyment to people through what I love creating the most.

It was a HUGE turning point for me to push the boundaries further with my music videos and put my all into them. They are my fave thing to make. I adore the writing of the songs, I adore the recording of the songs; I adore the performing live of the songs but then the music video is just the icing on the cake for me: I get to perform the song I wrote and recorded and now act the part of the character I wrote it as and really experiment with visuals (and reinvention of myself as an artist each and every time).

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For me, it feels like it’s a vessel to bring my song to life and communicate it to the world. I just love doing it more than anything. I get such a high from filming music videos. I'm just in my element! I've worked with such a beautiful team on my last few. I feel so grateful to them all for helping me bring the vision and song to life. I am also so grateful to all the people who are continuing to support and encourage me with what I love to do. After what feels like a lifetime of negative self-talk and anxiety, it has sincerely meant the world to me.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

PixiesBossanova

Got me through all my rough times such as that first night in Leeds safehouse after running away from home; the first night in foster care; the first night in an adolescent mental hospital at fourteen.

Joanna NewsomYs

It got me through the first stages of labour with my daughter! I was very young and very afraid and it soothed me a lot! I really respect her songwriting - her lyrics are absolute weaving genius. 

No Doubt - No Doubt

Another classic for me growing up. It meant a lot to me as it reminds me of good times where I was heavily getting into music and playing bass and started getting obsessed with writing songs. Gwen Stefani is so hugely talented vocally. It's insane.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I'd support Patti Smith. She's an absolute legend and my rider would consist of loads of vegan food including chips, cake, falafel and a nice coffee. I don't drink alcohol anymore or take drugs as they just used to affect my mental-health too much so nowt head-mashing. I'd be up wild all night on the chips and adrenaline instead. Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

An album will be released later this year and we will be doing a debut full band launch show in Leeds to go with it so look out for that! So excited to recreate the album live as I'm currently performing solo but it's gonna be a whole new world performing with my band 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through? 

Be yourself. Never see anything or anyone as competition. Competition stifles creativity. Compare yourself to no one and let go of the fear of other people's judgements. Life's too short to worry about what other people think of you. Have integrity but don't be afraid to take risks. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pariss Elektra

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I love so many I have decided to choose only local Leeds female artists for this one! Pariss Elektra (I've chosen one of her tracks for you to play below); all my Sisterhood Music Collective consisting of Fran Wyburn, Astraluna and Fuzzy Jones. My Pink Moon secret gigs house show collective consisting of Jenni Noyes, Keeper of Bees and LeeSun. Also, I’m currently loving Muriel & Blazquez, Park Fires and Kelly Boyle. All of the above are wonderful, independent local female artists!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Jenni Noyes

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind? 

Well. I unwind by chilling WITH music! I love songwriting to unwind. I love writing lyrics and writing new riffs. I play more piano than guitar nowadays. I also love to meditate and I've been drawing a lot recently too. I adore listening to non-fiction audiobooks and talks to learn more about healing and self-development. My fave authors are Eckhart Tolle, Gabrielle Bernstein; Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra; Pema Chodron and Kristin Neff. I have learnt SO MUCH over the past couple of years since I discovered audiobooks!

I also love spending time with my wonderful daughter Robin who is eleven. She's an amazing person and turning into the most fabulous young woman. Also, my friends and partner Tom. He's a songwriter too and we've started writing music together recently. We started a lil project called Cair Paravel and we've just started recording also. 

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). 

Ooh; this is such a difficult choice but I'd like to choose Pariss Elektra. The track I'd like to choose is called Awake and it is off her First Love E.P. She's a brilliant local independent artist. I love her music as it's so conscious; incredible vibe and she is truly a force of nature live. A huge, huge talent. 

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INTERVIEW: Caiti Baker

INTERVIEW:

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Caiti Baker

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THE brilliant Caiti Baker has been discussing…

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her album, ZINC, and the sort of themes that inspired it. Although it is not released in the U.K. until 24th August, it has been getting great reception in Australia. Baker talks about that and where she heads now in terms of material and touring.

I ask her what it is like writing ZINC with chronic fatigue syndrome; how she got into songwriting to start with; the albums that are most important to her; some upcoming artists to look out for; whether she gets time to unwind away from music – Baker ends the interview with a fantastic song.

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Hi, Caiti. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m great, thank you! My week has been fun and hectic. The Darwin Festival is currently on and I’m also moving house. So, I’m doing a lot of socialising, seeing shows at the festival and packing up a house!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Caiti Baker. I’m a singer, songwriter and performer. I’m from Darwin (NT), Australia and I’m either at home writing and recording music or touring the country!

The album, ZINC, is out on 24th August (in the U.K.). Can you talk about the sort of themes that inspired the record?

Having had chronic fatigue syndrome and bipolar disorder for six years, I was either in a state of inflammation (depressed, manic or moody) or I was asleep. I wasn’t ‘absorbing’ life. For those six years, I don’t remember a whole lot – I didn’t feel like me. So, in healing these conditions, I was essentially having a rebirth and that’s a songwriting gold mine! A lot of what I wrote about on ZINC was inspired by finding my identity and all the aspects of life; love and conflict that come along with that. 

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I believe you were battling chronic fatigue syndrome before and during its creation. What sort of impact did that have on your mindset and output?!

I healed myself halfway through the writing process for ZINC. So, as mentioned before, I was writing a lot about identity, love; conflict and the experience of transitioning from one state of existence to another. It was therapeutic and cathartic to be able to create art out of a challenging and troubling situation, so I’d say the experience on a whole was positive.

I also find that sometimes I write with my subconscious. Songs will pour out that don’t make much sense until a much later time. There’ll be a moment when it hits me and something settles - an inner-calmness, like I’ve solved something internally and my brain has just caught up. There are a few songs on the album where that was the case!

ZINC has been out in Australia a little while – gaining great reviews. Is it a relief to know something you have worked hard on has hit a chord and resonated?!

Absolutely! Even if I wasn’t fortunate enough to have the support to get my music out there, I’d still be creating. So, just knowing that there are people out there discovering my music every day and being affected by it in one way or another is a combination of many emotions (!): happiness, humility and excitement. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming but it’s all positive! I love reading reviews and hearing the interpretations of the songs; it’s interesting to me. 

Which artists have been most influential to you? Who do you count as idols?

I was fortunate to be born (because of and) into a household of music. Blues music, to be more specific! I have so many influences because of my upbringing so I’ll keep the list as short as possible! Big Mama Thornton, Ray Charles; Little Walter, Etta James; Aretha Franklin, Sweet Honey in the Rock; Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland…Aaliyah, Fiona Apple; Missy Elliott, Timbaland; The Neptunes, Lauryn Hill; Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan; Erykah Badu, Jill Scott; Leela James, TLC; SWV, Destiny’s Child; Wyclef Jean, Brandy; Faith Evans…the list goes on and on!

I see idols in a lot of different people for different reasons. For their sheer powerhouse abilities, Beyoncé is an idol. For their singing, songwriting and arrangement skills, I count Fiona Apple and Frank Ocean as Idols… 

How did you get into songwriting? Was there a moment you knew that is what you had to do?!

Just being surrounded by music and having that genetic ability - I think it was predetermined that I’d be a writer, singer and performer. I don’t remember the moment it started; I just remember doing it. My dad got a digital 8-track recorder when I was twelve and he couldn’t work out how to use it, so I did. I started recording what I had written then. That’s how I began stacking vocal harmonies and writing over Hip-Hop instrumentals. 

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I’m gonna have a bunch of new songs written, recorded and produced by the end of 2018! I’ll have completed a national tour, released two more songs (the last of the songs from the Zinc chapter) and play a few festivals.  

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I’m lucky to have so many; I wouldn’t know where to start! Playing WOMADelaide (a renowned World music festival) in 2017 and the Byron Bay Bluesfest this year have been two incredible experiences that I’ll never forget! Touring with and supporting the late Dr G Yunupingu on a national tour was special and unforgettable. I’d say that releasing new music into the world and hearing people’s reactions is one of my favourite things.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)? 

This is just straight-up-difficult so I’m gonna have to make it easier for myself! I get immersed in albums for the entire experience and I become obsessed. So, I can listen to one album every day, a number of times for days, weeks and months on end - it depends on what’s going on in my life at the time. So, life experiences and emotions get attached to albums and therefore have a significant impact on me. I’m gonna give you a list of ten!

Aretha Franklin - Queen of Soul: The Very Best Of Aretha Franklin

Twenty-four songs of Aretha Greatness. Collectively, her sound, dynamic; instrumentation and arrangements are timeless and have been a massive influence on me.

Aaliyah - One in a Million

Aaliyah revolutionised R&B with Missy Elliott and Timbaland. I love every track on this album. I still think it’s a classic.

Angel Haze - Back to the Woods

This album is potent, dynamic; full of soul and will not age. Angel Haze (A.K.A. Roes) is an amazing rapper and Incredible singer. She’s an inspiring artist to me.

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Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

This album has a lot of emotion attached to it for me as I was obsessed with it over an interesting time during my fatigue. I don’t remember much but I’ll listen to this album and I’m taken back to places I was when I was obsessed with it and I’ll start to remember things. It’s just a beautifully written body of work.

Jay Rock - Redemption

The latest album I’ve been obsessing over. It’s just a strong Hip-Hop album that knocks and he’s one of my favourite rappers who is amazingly musical and creative in every project he creates.

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Missy ElliottSupa Dupa Fly

It’s hard to fault Missy. Her debut studio album, created with her equally groundbreaking collaborator Timbaland; Supa Dupa Fly just hit me in the soul as a kid. I loved everything about this album and it’s been a very big influence on my sound.

Rihanna Anti

This album is just a straight-up banger. Great R&B, Soul and Pop songs produced amazingly and executed incredibly by Rihanna. I love every song on this album.

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Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine

Fiona is unapologetic, wild; thrilling and bold. Her voice is liquid gold and her songs are so interesting. I love the production and arrangements on this album. 

Run the JewelsRTJ3

I love everything these guys do but I smashed RTJ3 in 2017. I spent a big chunk of time listening to this album and being energised by it on so many levels. El P’s production is wild; Killa Mike is one of my favourite rappers and I love what they both stand for. 

Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough?

What a wonderful experience this album is. Sonically and emotionally, it melts right through me. 

That’s ten! But, I can add three Jay-Z albums, two Kendrick Lamar albums; an Irma Thomas album, Redman and Method Man; Rah Digga, Solange; Beyoncé, TLC, Leela James; Anthony Hamilton…the list goes on and on and on and on!

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Oh, this is tough! Wow. I’d love to support Jacob Banks. As for (hospitality?) rider - I’d be ok with what I tend to have – what my band likes to drink, some food; white towels, gum…I don’t need much!

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Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

I am doing a National Australian Tour in September/October. Dates are on my website.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Be you. Don’t be a jerk. Follow your gut instincts; understand your own and your band’s expectations and surround yourself with good people.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Emily Wurramara

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Alice Skye, Emily Wurramara; Stevie Jean (I’m taking her on tour with me!), Serina Pech and Tasman Keith.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Jean/PHOTO CREDIT: Elle Wickens

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Nope! Haha. It’s a 24/7 life but I love it. Periodically, I’ll take a trip to the mountains; turn the Internet off and reset everything. I’ll be doing that again in late October. To unwind on a daily basis…I watch comedy, listen to podcasts and immerse myself in good T.V. I love going out for a dance, too. That’s a good way to unwind…or down to one of the beaches to walk in the sand.

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). 

Aw; this is so tough! Ummmm. Let’s go with Criminal by Fiona Apple!

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Follow Caiti Baker

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INTERVIEW: Ella Hooper

INTERVIEW:

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 Ella Hooper

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I have been chatting with the fabulous Ella Hooper

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about her new track, To the Bone, and what its story is. She reveals whether there is more material coming up; how solo life compares to being part of Killing Heidi; which artists inspire her – Hooper reveals how she is feeling about heading to the BIGSOUND Festival this year.

I ask the songwriter which artists and albums are important to her; if there are new artists we need to keep an eye out for; what her favourite career memory is; what she hopes to achieve before the end of this year – she ends the interview by selecting a classic cut.

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Hi, Ella. How are you? How has your week been?

Great thanks, love. Busy, busy, BUSY but I can handle it. As long as it's creative, I love it. Just don't ask me to do my tax - which, I actually have to do soon. But, I'm ignoring that and having a ball bringing this new single out instead!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

Hellooooo! I'm a frontwoman, singer-songwriter; media person, lover of smart, well-made Pop and Rock and, actually, any and all other genres (I have made a Country record) and I'm embarking on (another) new phase where I fully step into my solo artist potential after years in bands (some very successful) and I'm feeling AMAZING about it. 

To the Bone is your new single. Can you talk about the background of the song?

Well, for me it's a bit of a battle cry; the war being with myself (always!), trying to gee myself up to break away from or break down old structures and limitations that no longer serve…to step up and out into the world in a different way. A more empowered way. Even if less people 'like' you, who cares? Don't they say it's better to be respected than liked? That's how I'm feeling. Time to ruffle some feathers. 

Is there more material coming later in the year? What are you working on?

Yes! I have two more tracks finished and ready to go. They're slightly rockier, with more distinct guitars -and two more bubbling up after that. I'll try and get another single out before years-end and then we will see! I can't wait to release this new material. It feels like my best work, but singers always say that don't we?

How does life creating as a solo artist compare to being part of Killing Heidi?

It's brilliant for the responsibility and creative freedom it brings. Making decisions on your own is very liberating but can, at times, be challenging. No one to bounce off to make the final call: it's all on you, all the time! Eek. I miss the camaraderie of a band at times, but it seems that forms pretty quickly in my backing bands too. Before you know it, it feels like a band and people are farting and burping in the van...ahhh, lovely. 

I am really enjoying having both acts active at the moment; it's like the best of both worlds. My teen self revels in K.H.'s high-contrast Pop-Rock simplicity and my adult self feels fully expressed through (I think) the more complex songwriting and themes of my solo stuff. 

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Are you still involved with Killing Heidi? What have you brought from your career there to life as a solo artist?

Yes! We are doing some reunion shows here and there that have been going amazingly well. It's a nice treat to bring it back after so many years on ice and be able to sell out shows and play big festivals with a band you broke up ten years ago. Crazy. It's definitely influenced my want for a more kinetic, rambunctious solo set.

The Killing Heidi energy is so good for getting the crowd going; the new Ella Hooper solo stuff doesn't sound like Killing Heidi but it does have a strong back-beat; slightly higher B.P.M. and aim to get the floor full and party started. Still angsty after all these years! 

I believe you are heading to the 2018 BIGSOUND Festival. How does that rank alongside your career highlights?!

It'll be good. Not sure if it will rank as a highlight but maybe more of a new beginning? It's something I've wanted to do as sometimes my career feels quite back to front. I'm keen to treat this next release as though I'm a new artist, hence doing showcases.  They've booked me some bloody massive rooms though, so obviously my reputation precedes me (haha).

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Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

It's the classics, I hate to say! Beatles, Bob Dylan; Joni Mitchell, Neil Young. Then I came of age in the '90s and it was Smashing Pumpkins, Hole; Veruca Salt, Nirvana and then onto Liz Phair, Ryan Adams and PJ Harvey.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I'd love to put another single out, make a super-high production value live clip and finish recording the rest of the material for this 'batch'. Also, secure some OS travel plans for the New Year! I'm coming! Basically, prep for world domination next year. Haha. 

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I've had some wild ones. Getting a birthday cake onstage at the Big Day Out (massive festival in Aus.). It was my seventeenth birthday, our song was number one in the charts and I was inviting Coldplay and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to my birthday party. What a trip. The funny thing is I totally dropped the ball and didn't tell them exactly where the party was and apparently they were looking all around Melbourne for it that night. You become fast friends on these tours. 

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Bob Dylan - Another Side of Bob Dylan

I use this album to calm me down and take me back to childhood when it's all too much sometimes.

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

Because I fell in love with intelligent Rock music to it.

Then it's a toss up between any Nina Simone, Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and Blue by Joni Mitchell

Because they all made genius-level albums by the bucket-load. HELP! 

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Ladyhawke - and I would be a great fit I reckon. Her recent album, Wild Things, was really uplifting and I think that's brave and cool. We both love those '70s and '80s references too.

I'd have coconut water as always on the rider. The good stuff, not from concentrate. 

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Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

No dates to reveal as yet, but I’m hoping to lock some in soon. Stay tuned. I love touring. I'm made for it. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Protect your individuality. Your 'quirk' is what gives you an edge. 

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Gena Rose Bruce/PHOTO CREDITRhea Caldwell Photography

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes! Gena Rose Bruce, Hannah Cameron; Alice Skye and Clio Renner are superb singer-songwriters coming up in Melbourne. For Rock bands, Miss Destiny and Tyrannamen are killing it. 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Hannah Cameron

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I get a bit! Not enough. I head to my hometown (a tiny little country town hours from the city) and hang with my mum or my old friends who have farms there now.

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).

Stand Back by Stevie Nicks. What a banger. 

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Follow Ella Hooper

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INTERVIEW: Benjamin Shaw

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDIT: Aisha Latosski  

Benjamin Shaw

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THE fantastic Benjamin Shaw

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has been talking with me about his upcoming album, Megadead (out 31st August), and what sort of themes influenced it. I ask about his connection with Melbourne and how his current work differs to his earlier stuff. Shaw recommends some upcoming artists to look out for and what he hopes to achieve going forward.

I ask the songwriter which three albums mean the most to him; what got him into songwriter in the first place; the advice he would give to artists coming through; which musician he would like to tour with giving the choice – he ends the interview with a cool song.

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Hi, Benjamin. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello! I am ok. This week has not been bad so far. I’ve been happily putting off jobs and commitments and it’s definitely going to catch up with me and make my future weeks an almighty nightmare...but, right now? Delightful.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Ben and I make often sad and consistently difficult-to-enjoy Pop songs. I try to make them sound good, honestly, I do, but my attention span undermines me every time.

Is it true you were ‘accidentally’ born in Canada and raised in Blackpool?! you are now in Melbourne. How is one ‘accidentally’ born in Canada and then ends up in Australia?!

Yes, all true. It wasn’t so much of an accident: I think I just say things like that to make me sound more interesting. My mum was living in Canada at the time (what up, Edmonton?); I think my dad was from there or something - I don’t know, nobody talks about it - and then just ended up moving back to her hometown Blackpool in the U.K. Melbourne comes into it through my partner, Aisha. She is from Melbourne and, after a decade of living in London, we figured it was time to move back to Melbourne and try and recover our health.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Aisha Latosski

Is Melbourne a great space for you to create and find inspiration?

Melbourne’s always been kind to me. I lived here for a year back in, like, 2005 and made so many friends and had the greatest time. Currently, I’ve been able to work just three days a week at my day job here, so I have much more time to devote to my ART. I’ve never found inspiration too hard - I am constantly anxious and/or sad, so material is never far away, but finding the energy, love and time to do anything with it was always a problem. So, having more time to myself, physically and mentally, has been honestly incredible.

Megadead is your forthcoming album. Can you tell me about some of the themes and ideas that influenced the songs? Do you have a standout cut?

Like most of my albums, the themes are sadness, stress and hating your job and colleagues. All the classics. I just can’t seem to shake them. I hope, one day, to not have any of these things clogging up my head, so I can just relax and paint some dandelions or something - but they’re always there ready to push down on my chest at any moment.

I really like the track, Terrible Feelings! - for obvious reasons, I guess.

I can hear developments and new additions since your debut album, There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet. Do you think you have developed as a songwriter?

I don’t know. There are certainly big differences to Cabernet, but I’m not sure whether it’s progression or regression. I used to pen actual songs with middle eights and choruses and all that but, for the last few years, it’s been mostly repetitions and patterns. I think I got pretty embarrassed about being a ‘singer-songwriter’ for the longest time (rightfully so), so I purposely shied away from writing anything resembling an actual song.

But, as I hurtle through my years (at the fastest speed, O.M.G.) I think I’m beginning to see the fun in it again. Songs can be fun. There’s even a chorus in one of these new ones - only one, mind you. Let’s not go crazy.

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Do you count yourself as a bold songwriter? It seems, when listening to your work, you love to explore unchartered territory and take risks. Where does that come from?!

I don’t feel bold. I constantly feel like I’m just treading water and that all my albums sound exactly the same, but I think that’s probably what keeps me going. Like: ‘Oh sh*t, what if that was my last album; you can’t end on that!’ And, I don’t know, I really like trying to come up with atmospheres that match the song (or the other way around), so that often involves throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Some of it is bold, but a lot of it is just blind panic.

Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

I’d been writing songs in various bands for years, but in the early-'00s, it was that New York Anti-Folk scene that really opened things up for me. The Moldy Peaches, Jeffrey Lewis and Ben Kweller especially made me feel like: ‘You know those stupid songs you love to make up that nobody else likes? There are other people out there that do them too’. It totally gave me the confidence and passion to keep going. These days, I’m well into Camp Cope, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Charlie Louvin. All the Cs.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Aisha Latosski

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Oh, man; 2018 is already gone. Forget it. Let’s do something in 2019 instead. This year, though, I’d like to go back and see my family for a week or two, buy a new fridge-freezer and learn how to make a decent sauerkraut. I got this.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

There have been plenty of ups and downs but there were a couple of nights in 2009 where I was part of the supergroup ‘Tapegun’. Paul from the band Nervus who now runs the LP Cafe and record store in Watford; Neil from Broken Shoulder who now runs Kirigirisu Recordings in Tokyo and me, Ben, who now runs... away from his problems. I’d never played with other people before and actually felt a connection and I’ll never forget it.

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Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Sha Sha by Ben Kweller

Not only is it a great Pop album, but it also kinda kick-started my adult creative life. Despite always being super-into art and music, I’d dropped out of uni and a Fine Art degree because I wasn’t fine enough, I guess. Oh, and the drinking too much, bad health and generally just feeling sh*t about myself which, now looking back, I can see was obviously a depression.

I loved this album Sha Sha and somehow stumbled onto the Ben Kweller message board on his website and things began to pick up. I met tons of cool people from all over the globe and it really opened me up to the world and my own passions. I definitely would not be sitting here writing this right now if not for B.K. and his early-'00s message board.

From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (Live) by Nirvana

Like all gawky small-town teenagers in the ‘90s, Nirvana kinda changed everything. I’d have been thirteen or fourteen-years-old when this came out and as someone who was previously super-into Bon Jovi and, for some reason, Motörhead. I became obsessed with them overnight and deep-dived. The cliché is real - Nirvana absolutely were the gateway into Punk and Hardcore; art and left-wing progressive politics - all which left a permanent imprint on my psyche.

We Love the City by Hefner

I have a nice memory of sitting on my childhood bedroom floor at my mum’s house in Lancashire when I was about twenty, having just come home from some probably dreadful night at the local pub; eyes half-closed listening to this album. Imagining the chaotic London city life it portrayed, the romance in the weird fuc*ed-up characters and relationships and just how far away it all seemed.

Somehow, years later after finally moving to London, I became friends with Hefner guitarist Jack Hayter through the magic of MySpace and then later even supported singer Darren Hayman live. I have had zero success in all of this music business, but stuff like this is still super-freaking-cool.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Oh, sh*t. Sod it, Neil Young. Reach for stars, eh!

As for the rider, can I get some fruit, some Kettle Chips - and I guess I’m gonna need some red wine if I’m gonna be playing with my old pal Neil.

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

It’s unlikely. I haven’t played live in a few years. But, there’s a night down the road from me that puts on weird, unlistenable acts every week; so I wouldn’t mind putting my name down for that one day. But, then should you really sh*t where you eat? I’m not sure. I’d like to get back on the horse one day, though.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I don’t know. It feels like it’s getting harder and harder to even survive, let alone make art too. Especially, for people from working-class and minority backgrounds. Just try and keep healthy I guess. Be kind. Punch up. Express yourself in whatever way your life, budget or circumstances allow and keep uploading stuff to the Internet, whatever the fu*k it is - Bandcamp, SoundCloud; Instagram or just tweeting the fu*k out of your day (not Facebook, though…never Facebook).

None of us will ever make a living from art, but it makes you feel better and finding someone else that is creating CONTENT that you connect with can get you through a sh*tty day. So, if only for each other, we need to keep going.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Pool Kids

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Yes! So Many. I love that new Pool Kids album. The Ophelias, Leather Towel; LEVELZ, Nipped in the Bud; anything by Camp Cope, Divide and Dissolve and, damn it, I really like that Mathew Lee Cothran album too.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Camp Cope

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I try to chill as much as I can. Anxiety is a daily torment, so it can be a real sh*t-show, but I have been trying to get into meditation more and I can feel that it really helps - I’m just not very patient with it. Really partial to a bit of CBD oil too. It’s not legal in Australia (surprise) but we’ve found an American webstore then sends it in the post all discreetly with fake customs labels and all that, so that is way cool. Lovely stuff. Also; going for walks is cool. Australia can be (definitely is) super-conservative politically but the nature is incredible. The creeks, the animals and birds are so beautiful. So easy to fall for and it really takes the edge off.

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).

Divide and Dissolve - Resistance

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INTERVIEW: Ace of Wands

INTERVIEW:

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PHOTO CREDITBecca Lemir

Ace of Wands

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I have featured Ace of Wands before…

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PHOTO CREDITBecca Lemir

but there is something ever-evolving and fascinating about them that compels repeated investigation. I have been finding out about their latest track, 10,000 Feet, and what its story is; whether there will be another track coming very soon – they talk about their formation and which artists are an inspiration to them.

I wanted to know how important Toronto is to the band and whether they are touring; if we will see them in the U.K. soon; what advice they would offer artists coming through – they recommend a couple of promising artists to check out.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Things have been great over here! I’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks, which actually feels kind of crazy given how much stuff I have on the go…

How are you taking to the heat at the moment? Is it encouraging songwriting and creativity?

The heat has been so crazy. I work outside as a gardener when I’m not playing music and the heat can be oppressive and exhausting. But, I am still writing songs so I can still be functional creatively. Toronto had a major rainfall this week that caused flooding in a lot of the city. Our rehearsal space was under a foot of water, which has wreaked some havoc in our lives. Luckily, we share the space with some wonderful bands and everyone leapt into action to save gear and start the massive clean-up.

10,000 Feet is your new single. Can you explain the story behind the song?

10,000 Feet was written last year after I got back from a tour across Canada in the dead of winter. I had never travelled west in Canada before and it was pretty shocking to me to fully realize the Toronto bubble that I live in. A lot of Canada is incredibly isolated. There are so many tiny communities with hours of empty highway separating them, living through the harshest conditions of winter I have ever experienced. The tour made me appreciate the ways in which a finding community can be crucial.

When I got back from the tour, this was the first song I wrote for what has now become the full realization of Ace of Wands. It tries to capture that loneliness I felt and the bonds you make with people to try and escape it, even for a little while.

I believe the song, and its digital download, is accompanied by an 8” balsa wood glider. Your previous song, Grown from Good, came with wildflower seeds and a glass full of soil! What is the reason behind these initiatives? Is it to get the listener to appreciate the physical and connect with the earth?

I am really interested in creating music that can be immersive and interactive for the listener. While I have always been drawn to Rock and Pop music in my writing, I find that more often than not unusual performance elements and merchandise seem to be more reserved for avant-garde or experimental artists. This method of music distribution is an attempt to engage with our audiences in a much more tactile and playful way than just selling a C.D.

When we talk about music, and the practice of creating, we use the word ‘play’ - I play violin, I play guitar etc. Thinking of the use of this verb (which is very specific to music and not other art forms) inspired me to come up with a method of distribution that encourages ‘play’ while at the same time listening to our music. The balsa gliders will be laser-etched with a design inspired by the tarot card we are named after and will come with an accompanying download card. I am always interested in creating art that can be used again and again, rather than just put on a shelf or sent to the landfill.

I believe 10,000 Feet is part of a trilogy. Can you talk about that and what the third song might be about?

Yes. We are releasing a third E.P. this fall, along with a video to complete the trilogy. I have stockpiled so many songs since starting to write for this project and the lead single one is certainly one of the oldest of those. The song is called Lioness and is probably our loudest and most aggressive song; heavily inspired by Sleater-Kinney - one of my favourite bands of all time. It continues the theme of spiritual transformation that weaves through 10,000 Feet and Grown from Good.

There is also a current of rage that runs through the song; an emotion I am afraid of in others and in myself. I wanted to try to get in touch with this emotion and think it will be a good contrast to the more contemplative first two singles. The video will also introduce the third member of A.O.W., our drummer Jody.

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How did Ace of Wands come together? Do you remember what bonded the band?

The three of us have all been gigging musicians for our whole adult lives but didn’t cross paths until recently. While the Toronto scene is relatively small and interconnected, it’s amazing the number of factors that can keep people apart - genre, age and neighbourhood etc. We found each other playing on tour and in bands around town and the bond was instant. Anna and Jody represent two of the deepest friend connections I am lucky enough to have. It’s a special thing to collaborate with people who present no judgement, are compassionate and committed and interested in all the experimentation I want to do. 

In terms of older music; who do you count as influences and idols?

I would say my biggest musical idol has to be PJ Harvey. She is a goddess of Rock and Roll and art as far as I am concerned. I saw her play in Toronto last year and immediately set all of my professional and artistic goals for the future. Too inspiring for words. 

Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We are playing in London/ON and Toronto/ON on August 17/18 to release our new E.P. with more dates in the autumn. We were also accepted as Musicians in Residence at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta this December. This will be an incredible experience. We get to work with musical mentors and other visiting residents for what is basically a two-week songwriting session in the mountains. It is so humbling to be asked to take part! Hopefully, we will play shows in Edmonton and Calgary when we are out west. 

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Might you come to the U.K. soon? Do you like British music?

I would love to take A.O.W. to the U.K. I am really impressed by all the great music coming out of the U.K. and feel like we could fit in well with the scene there. Artists like Nadine Shah, Goat Girl; Marika Hackman, The Staves; Fat White Family and Temples are all really resonating with me right now.

How important are Toronto and its people regarding the way you write and design your music?

Toronto is a very special place to make music, but it has its challenges. The cost of living has gone up so much in recent years that it is hard for musicians and artists to create all that they want while needing to work; pay rent etc. But, the community is really resilient. There have been a number of venues that have either closed or changed hands over the last decade and it has become harder and harder to book shows.

However, there are a few really supportive venues who are interested in live music as a viable business model. For our own part, we wanted to facilitate creating a D.I.Y. space for music with the primary goal of breaking down some of the genre barriers that keep the different scenes in Toronto apart. It’s called Songs of Wands Live and it is a concert series with rotating locations, creating a safe and intimate environment for musical experimentation.

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PHOTO CREDITBecca Lemir

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I played in a band for many years called Rival Boys and one of my favourite memories from that is playing at a summer camp for the councillor’s end-of-season party. I guess they had become huge fans of the music as they worked at the camp that year. We were a surprise for them and I will always remember the school bus of screaming teenagers that pulled up before our set. I felt like I was in the Spice Girls or something. 

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

I would love to go on tour with Metronomy. They all seem like the nicest bunch; their music and live show is all I aspire to one day. Truly amazing.

On the rider, I think having a travelling masseuse would be ideal! Gotta get the shoulders loose before the gig. 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I guess just try to keep faith in your own art and do what feels right and authentic for you. Whatever that is, even if people don’t like it. If you like it, that’s all that matters...I’m working on this one daily!

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 IN THIS PHOTO: L CON

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

From Canada, definitely check out L CON. She is an amazing songwriter and producer. I am also a huge fan of Happy Axe from Australia - a violinist making strange and beautiful sounds.

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Happy Axe/PHOTO CREDIT: Briana Davis

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I have a very full schedule - which is how I seem to like it. Ha. But, when I am feeling particularly burn-out, my favourite thing is to go camping, have a swim; read a book and make a fire. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Thank you, Sam! Here’s my pick:

Viper Fish - Goat Girl

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Follow Ace of Wands

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INTERVIEW: Haley Blais

INTERVIEW:

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Haley Blais

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IT has been cool speaking with…

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Haley Blais as she tells me about her new single, Seventeen, and how it came together. I ask her about her musical tastes and what sort of music she is into; whether her new E.P., Let Yourself Go, is her most confident work – she highlights a rising artist to check out.

Blais tells me reveals three albums that mean a lot to her; if there are going to be gigs coming up; what the music scene is like in Canada right now; the advice she would give to artists coming through  - she ends the interview by selecting a cool song.

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Hi, Haley. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi! I’m well. I’ve been learning the bass all week and haven’t left the house - so I feel like a productive hermit.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m Haley Blais; a musician from Vancouver, BC. I play in a band with my four beautiful sons, singing songs about my life.

Seventeen is your new single. What was it like putting it together?

I knew I wanted the video for it to be sentimental and nostalgic, but kind of put it on the backburner while we were busy with touring etc. So, when I had some downtime and was looking through tour footage, I realized it worked perfectly to portray the message behind the song; that I’m where I’ve always wanted to be.

It recalls, as you say, a rather average and unspectacular time of life. Do you feel you were rather boring as a youth? Are you measuring yourself against unrealistic standards?!

I might be. I’m not saying I’m regretful at all: I guess hindsight is 20/20, as they say. 

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Let Yourself Go is your new E.P. What sort of themes inspired the music? Is it a natural case of the cocooned caterpillar of Late Bloomer coming out as a confident butterfly?

Exactly! I like to think it’s inspired by who one becomes once they’ve bloomed.

Which artists compelled you growing up? What sort of music were you raised on?

I was, 100%, raised on Dad Rock. When I was old enough to start appreciating music and curating my own taste, I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and Folk music. 

You are a Canadian artist. How do you think the music of the nation differs from that of the U.S., for instance? Do you think Canada gets the attention it deserves?!

Oh, man; I’m not sure I can speak for the entirety of the music of the nation but I can say that some of my favourite musicians of all time are Canadian. Andy Shauf, for instance, is a songwriter I really admire - but he’s definitely underrated compared to the pedestal he’s on in my mind. Is that because of his geography? Maybe! And that would be dumb!

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What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

The completion of my first L.P.

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

The tour, by far…

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)? 

The Bearer of Bad News by Andy Shauf

It’s just a perfect album start to finish.

Clap Your Hands Say YeahClap Your Hands Say Yeah

Because it reminds me of my brother.

Either Songs from the Big Chair by Tears for Fears or Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Because the 1980s call to me.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Angel Olsen; red wine, chips and salsa. Those are the first things that came to my head and I agree with myself.

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

I’m playing a few dates in the fall. Sept. 8th at SKOOKUM Festival in Vancouver; Sept. 14th at Rifflandia in Victoria and Oct. 26th at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver (opening for Peach Pit).

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Practice, play show; practice, post dog pics on Instagram (lots of pics).

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IN THIS PHOTO: Hatchie/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Wall

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

There’s a new artist, Hatchie, from Australia that I discovered at the beginning of this year and she’s fantastic. Cocteau Twin- meets-Sheryl Crow.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I work from home and most of my band is in other bands themselves so, right now, it’s definitely easy to have some time to chill. I’m very into cooking right now! Meals are usually my favourite part of the day, but lately even more so…and it’s very therapeutic. 

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).

Bad Guy - Hatchie!

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INTERVIEW: MUFFIN

INTERVIEW:

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MUFFIN

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THIS week kicks off…

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with a chat with Matt of MUFFIN. He discusses their new song, swim.float.drown, and whether the song came together quite naturally. He reveals whether there might be more material coming later; what Leeds is like as a centre and source of inspiration; what advice he would give artists coming through – he selects some upcoming talent to look out for.

The boys each choose an album that means a lot to them; Matt talks about touring and future plans; what he does to unwind away from music – the band pick a track each to end the interview with.

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Hi, Matt. How are you? How has your week been?          

Matt: Pretty good thanks, Sam! We’ve just come off the back of playing Neverworld festival down in Kent with the likes of Tom Grennan, Yonaka; Bastille etc. and have announced another couple of shows in Bournemouth and Tunbridge Wells for the end of August.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Ok. So; we’re a hybrid of Alt-Rock, Grunge and Punk mixed with gin and ginger hair - ‘MUFFIN’ for short.

What can you reveal about the new single, swim.float.drown? How did that come together

Most of how we write is as a five-piece, all together in a practice room. Someone will come in with a riff or a pre-chorus, etc. - and swim.float.drown was no different in that aspect. We wanted to develop the sound from the direction we were heading in our debut E.P. and we think we’ve managed to capture that.

It sounds like you are in confident mood right now. Did swim.float.drown come together quite quickly and naturally?

Not really, no! We had the verse-chorus structure nailed down pretty quickly, but then we were stumped for a while about where we wanted it to lead. Then Jamie (guitar) came in with this monster riff and it just fit pretty perfectly.

Do you all share the same taste in music? Who were the artists you all grew up around?

We all have crossovers in our music tastes which was definitely a leading factor in what brought us together as a band. But, to say that we all had the same music taste would be far from that. Individually, our music tastes span from Electronic music, noughties Indie; '70s Punk, right the way through to Metal. For me, I was raised on a diet of Green Day, Oasis, Madness and a bit of Motörhead.

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Leeds is your hometown. What is the music scene like there? Do you think the city gets the credit it deserves?

Leeds is busy. There are so many venues, so many bands and so many different things always going on. It can be your best friend or a problem child. In a place like Leeds, you have to stand out to stand a chance, so I guess that’s what we’re trying to achieve there.

Might we see more from the band later this year/next? What are you working on right now

Now, it’s all about getting as many gigs under our belt by the end of the year - and, hopefully, before 2019 we’ll have another release out. We’ve got four or five booked in the diary already and that number is looking like it’ll grow in the coming weeks.

Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

Bournemouth and Tunbridge Wells over the August Bank Holiday and then we’ve got plans for Leeds, Manchester; Hull, Glasgow and Newcastle and hopefully a few more in October/November time. There may be a short tour in the offing in December too but no promises!

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If you each had to select an album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?

Matt: I’d have to go with A Black Mile to the Surface by Manchester Orchestra

Because I cannot think of another album that I’d prefer to just sit and listen to front-to-back. It’s cinematic.

Jamie: Queen’s Greatest Hits for me

Listening to those tracks made me want to be a performer.

Jacob: Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd

It’s the album that inspired me in guitar technique and the love of solos.

Sam: For me, it’s I Had the Blues by Bombay Bicycle Club.

Barry: The StrokesIs This It

The best Indie album out there for me.

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Don’t be lazy. It sounds stupid, but genuinely, if you can be arsed to sit for a few hours compiling press releases, sending emails to promotors; to reviewers, to other bands; finding Spotify curators online, regularly interacting with people on and off social media; making time to play gigs all over the bloody country…that’s what makes the difference.

Obviously, you’ve gotta be good but it helps so much more if you’re good and right in someone’s face so they can find you. The more effort you put into the boring bits behind the scenes, especially when you’re like us and totally independent, the better the gigs will be and the better the opportunities you will get.

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IN THIS PHOTO: OTHERKIN/PHOTO CREDITJake Haseldine

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

The list would be endless and it’d end up in an argument if you forced us to give a list we all agreed on…but there’s a few that stick out. OTHERKIN, Avalanche Party; Fizzy Blood, Youth Killed It; Generation, LION and Yonaka (this list will go on and on as well…).

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 IN THIS PHOTO: YONAKA/PHOTO CREDIT: Ryan Saradjola

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

The pub.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Matt: Fairweather Friends - Queens of the Stone Age

Jacob: Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-IX) - Pink Floyd

Sam: Raus! NARCS

Barry: Mirror KissesThe Cribs

Jamie: You Can Get It If You Really WantJimmy Cliff

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INTERVIEW: Maria Muller

INTERVIEW:

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Maria Muller

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THERE are few artists…

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who have been through a tougher time than Maria Muller. She opens up about the gamble she took to become a singer and how loss in her family affected her. Muller talks about future material and artists that mean a lot to her; a musician she recommends we follow and watch out for – she chooses three albums that are important to her.

Muller discusses her latest single, Lost, and what its story is; if there is more material coming down the line; advice she would give any songwriters coming through; how she chills away from music – Muller reveals how she unwinds away from music.

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Hi, Maria. How are you? How has your week been?

Hello. It has been a glorious summer and I am very well, thank you.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I am a singer-songwriter living in the U.K. I was born in the Philippines and am now a citizen of Switzerland. I started out my training as a Classical singer. I loved the opera but found that my true calling was in writing songs. I write the melodies and lyrics to all my songs.

Lost is your new single. Can you reveal the story behind the song?

It was a very tough time in my life and my marriage was suffering for it. There was a need for more open communication and privacy. We weathered the storm, after a brief separation, and we are stronger together.

I believe you sold your possessions and took a big gamble to become a singer. Was there a distinct point in life where you had reached a crossroads and needed to take that gamble?

I started the journey of my love for music quite late in my life and, after having lost my two sisters who passed tragically, I questioned life and how to live it. I felt it was a tribute to Sandra and Carmencita to live my life to the fullest. Their lives were cut short and it taught me how not to take life for granted. It was a risk to sell all I owned, as I lived a very comfortable life. Yet, the calling in my soul could not be ignored.

It is a decade since you made that move. Looking back, are you happy you made that decision and dedicated yourself to music?

It has not been easy as the music industry has always been focused on the youth. But, I do not regret the choice I made. I may have less than what I had, but I do have a better sense of who I am and what my life and music is about. Money cannot buy self-worth: the courage to venture into unknown territory does. You learn just how much strength you have inside you.

No one can take that away.

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Is there more material coming later in the year? What are you working on?

Yes. There is a new track called Que Se Vaya (Tell Him Go) which I am working on with a producer from the United States. It will be released by Warner Music Singapore.

Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen; Bob Dylan, Neil Hannon; George Michael and Elton John.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I hope to be able to release Que Se Vaya and continue to write songs for film tracks as well.

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

I was living in Barcelona when George Michael performed live. I waited for that performance for months and managed to get a ticket. His performance and stage presence was electric. 

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Joni Mitchell’s Blue; Leonard Cohen’s The Essential Leonard Cohen and The Divine Comedy - Loose Canon (Live in Europe 2016-2017).

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

It would take a great deal of promotion and, ideally, a big label to support a new artist. One needs a network of professionals to organise live performances and publicity. It’s a long process and it takes passion.

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Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

Warner Music Singapore will have to organise a tour. However, I am working on live performances in local spots in Bath (as it is close to home).

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

I would say - know who you are and own it. Don’t try sounding like someone else as that gig is already taken. Then, network, network, network and take deep breaths to soldier on.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Joan Armatrading

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

My favourite at the moment is not a new artist but she has reinvented herself. Please do listen to Joan Armatrading’s new album, Not Too Far Away.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I am going on a three-day silent retreat in a Buddhist retreat centre in Yeovil this weekend. Three days of silence and meditation. For a quick ‘cheer-me-up’ in the summer, I jumped into the River Avon near our home in Bradford on Avon. Nothing like cool water to clear the mind and cheer the soul.

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).

Thank you for playing A Lady of a Certain Age by The Divine Comedy

INTERVIEW: Stratz

INTERVIEW:

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Stratz

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IT is time to talk with Stratz

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as he discusses the story behind his new single, Likkle More. I was eager to know where he goes from here and which artists have inspired him; the upcoming acts we should all keep an eye out for – he tells me whether touring is going to be a possibility.

I learn how much of his parents’ culture and background he brings to the music; what he wants to achieve before the end of the year; if he gets time to chill outside of music – he provides some useful advice for artists emerging.

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Hi, Stratz. How are you? How has your week been? 

Hi. I'm fine, thank you. Been juggling work and music for a while so it's pretty exhausting, however rewarding, to know it is progressing. 

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I am a new artist based in North London with the intentions of creating meaningful, somewhat emotive music. The song Likkle More, which is my interpretation of giving and doing so with pure intentions, was created to remind people we can all share something, anything; even a simple smile. The lyrics are spoken from things I see day to day and how I feel about them.  

Likkle More is your new single. What is the story behind the track?

I take influence from Jamaica and Nigeria, as they are my parents’ origins and homes, and it is simple nature to share with your brothers and your immediate family. So, I used the term ‘likkle more’ as we carry these actions over from the homeland and into the current world we live in, which I'll describe as a problem. 

What was it like bringing the track to life in the studio? Who is the female voice we hear on the song?

So. The initial track was recorded using an instrumental I found on YouTube and, when I laid lyrics onto this backing track, it was really good. But, to progress to a beat tailored to fit around me and the singer created a wonderful feeling of achievement - and going that extra mile to make authentic original music.

The female singer is a phenomenal artist from Portsmouth called Amba Tremain (shout out to Amba)  who I met via the studio - and they thought she'd be a good voice to help push out my message (and it couldn't have been a better choice). 

Is there going to be more material next year? How far ahead are you looking?

Yes. I'll make more before the end of the year if it is possible. Ha. I sort of do it as I can at the moment; however, as part of a contractual agreement, I can confirm one more song is definitely in the making and I'll release more info on that song as I make progress on it. We are going with a more Dance-type of sound so should be fun to create and record. 

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Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

From a young age, I always heard lyrics before beats so, if I can relate to the meaning made from the song, then I'd like it. Vybz Kartel, a Jamaican artist is one of the best artists regarding making good, current lyrics in my opinion. This is because he does not filter what he wants to say: he will deliver his message and you'll hear exactly that.

When it comes to U.K. music, I'd listen to Tinchy Stryder as his lyrics are good at creating a story so I follow and this is a powerful tool. My sister, Kid Wondr, makes music and is progressing rapidly. I listen to her words and it creates a story; this inspires me to be able to do the same with my words. 

How much of your roots do you bring to music? Do you take from African and Caribbean sounds?

Sound-wise, probably not a lot given I have a strong English accent. Ha.  But, mentality and culture-wise, I learnt from my mum and family members; therefore, I would say I have a different opinion on things and therefore write lyrics accordingly - my lingo definitely gives away my influence though, e.g. likkle more. 

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

Another song, hopefully, but I don't want to rush it and potentially create a bad song. So, the biggest achievement would  be to have more knowledge of the industry; more clothing available for sale; more performances - and then next year will hold the bigger goals. 

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Pretty early in my career to have a favourite memory but the last year has been pretty full-on with decisions and choices. I'd say the highlight so far has been getting the opportunity to perform at the Southsea beach cafe which was an eye-opener for how it'll be when I perform properly at bigger stages etc. 

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)? 

Funny enough, I've never really downloaded an album, as I like individual songs, so if we are talking about three songs I enjoy to listen to I'd say Solo Dance by Martin Jensen; Vybz Kartel’s Have a Little More and Merital Family - On and On. Solo Dance is what I'd call a pick-up song as it would make anyone want to dance - and I like the fact it promotes individuality. Vybz Kartel often talks about giving, as I've replicated in my song, and this was the biggest influence for my track. When I lost my friend a few years back, I often listened to Merital Family’s song On and On, which talks about lost souls etc. 

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

If I was to be offered the opportunity to support an artist on stage, it would have to be someone who could relate to my style and I could reciprocate - someone like Tinchy Stryder. I think my flow would be a match to his in a good constructive way and he sorta has the vibe I want to create when performing.

When it comes to my green room, I could only ever have my day one friend. Haha. So, I'd love to one day to see artists I've grown up with such as Kid Wondr, Baller Gen etc. to share my champagne in my green room.

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Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

I don't think a tour is due any time soon. Ha. However, I am doing a track at Portsmouth's Victorious Festival.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Very cliché, but be yourself and do what you feel brings you to life - and, hopefully, that mood will rub off on all listeners.

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Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

I have had the pleasure of meeting Joe Burger, an upcoming artist based in Portsmouth. He has a very fresh touch to Rap music and I will be glad to feature with him on a future track. Also; my cousin Baller Gen from North London is making his way up the industry. My sister, Kid Wondr (from London), is a brilliant lyricist. All are positive influences around me and very supportive.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

When I'm not making music, I'm at work so chilling is very rare. So, when I do get time to chill, I'm usually catching up with mates and family.

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).

A tune I would like to hear would be Martin Jensen - Solo Dance. Happy one. Haha. 

Thank you for your time!

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INTERVIEW: Indigo Face

INTERVIEW:

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Indigo Face

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I have been getting to know Indigo Face

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and their great new single, The Seed. I discover what the song is about and whether we might see more material down the track. They talk to me about their roots and bringing different sounds/nationalities to the fold; if the stage is where they all feel happiest – they recommend new talent to watch.

I discover whether Indigo Face are touring and which artists they are inspired by; if they have anything left to accomplish this year; what advice they would give musicians coming through – they each end the interview by selecting a song.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi! We’re very good, thanks! Our week has been quite busy: we’ve been rehearsing for our gig at Jazzgir and had a photoshoot for our next single!

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

We are Indigo Face; Alternative-Pop band based in London. With our songs, we like exploring the spiritual and earthly sides of the human being and society in all its weirdness and contradictions. 

Can you reveal how Indigo Face found one another? When did you start making music together?

We all met at uni four years ago. We studied at BIMM London and became friends pretty much straight away. Mary (lead singer) had some songs she wanted to work on so she started working with Max (producer, keyboardist and guitarist). Ray (bassist) and Andrea (drummer) joined the band as soon as the songs were ready to play live. 

The Seed is your new release. What is the story behind the song?

The Seed is a song about family and how important it is to let go of toxic dynamics in order to learn how to love unconditionally. Letting go can feel as if we were “waiting in the dark” for someone to switch the light back on, as we sing in the chorus. We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously though, so we decided to make the song up-tempo and lively enough for people to dance!

Your music seems to draw from all the colours and sides of London; a bit of Funk in there! Do you ensure, when writing music, to put as many different elements and sounds together?

Yes - and it is quite inevitable for us as we come from very different countries. Max is from France; Ray from Switzerland and Mary and Andrea are from Italy, so we all grew up listening to very different music. Our different musical backgrounds merge into our music and, on top of that, we also bring the colors of London (which is home to all of us four). 

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Might we see an E.P. or album next year would you say?

Yes. We might release an E.P. We have enough songs for an album, actually, but we’ll see what our fans prefer! 

Which artists are you influenced by? Who are the musicians who have made the biggest impact on the band?

Eurythmics, Christine & the Queens; Highasakite, Björk; Sigrid and Everything Everything. The artists that had the biggest impact are probably Christine & the Queens, Highasakite and AlunaGeorge. 

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

Sure! We are playing on 8th September at the Bassment in Chelmsford and we’ll have a Sofar Sound session on 19th September (secret location).

We are also thinking of going on tour outside U.K. so…stay tuned! 

Is the stage the place you all feel happiest? How do you feel performing to a crowd and hearing that reaction?!

Absolutely. There is nothing like performing live. Our audience is the best: we love seeing them dancing with us and listening carefully when the songs we play are a bit slower and more intimate. 

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You have achieved a lot over the past year. What do want to tick off the do-list before the end of this year?

We think we might have already ticked it off! Last April, we won a competition called 1M Europe and flew to Rome to play The Seed at the Primo Maggio Festival in front of sixty-five-thousand people. It was unbelievable! Without a doubt, our best experience so far.

Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

For us all, it was playing at the Primo Maggio Festival in Rome and being on Italian national T.V. 

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

We’d love to support artists like Christine & the Queens and Highasakite as we’re playing similar music and we’re also using a similar sonic approach with our live band. 

For our rider, we’d want healthy food only: no meat; mineral water and a bottle of good wine to celebrate every now and then (smiles). 

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Don’t give up. We know it sounds cliché, but anything can happen at any time…you just need to work hard and never ever give up. Always remember that nobody can take your artistry and your passion away from you, so keep the faith! 

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IN THIS PHOTO: Andrea Di Giovanni

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Andrea Di Giovanni, Rumours and Native Dancer

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 IN THIS PHOTO: Rumours

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

We like going to art exhibitions, watching movies and...eating loads of good food (smiles). Nothing beats a good dinner with friends. 

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Mary: Camille - Lasso

Max: The War on Drugs - Strangest Thing

Ray: Vulfpeck - Daddy, He Got a Tesla

Andrea: Anomalie & Rob Araujo - Hang Glide

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INTERVIEW: Isak Danielson

INTERVIEW:

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Isak Danielson

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THE first interview of this weekend…

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is with the fantastic Isak Danielson. I have been speaking with him about the new single, Always, and what its story is. The songwriter reveals whether there is going to be more material coming; how he gets that arresting and incredible voice; what it feels like getting big press plaudit and attention – he selects a new artist to watch.

I ask Danielson which artists have been instrumental regarding his music; the three albums he holds dearest; whether there are going to be tour dates; if he gets time to chill away from his career – he chooses a Beatles classic to end the interview with.

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Hi, Isak. How are you? How has your week been?

I’m very well, thanks. It’s been good; on my way back home from Stockholm at the moment - where I’ve been finishing some final details on the album and rehearsing with my band.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

My music comes from my heart so, lyrically and production-wise, depends on what I’m feeling at the time I made the record. The genre is Soul/Pop. I think the best way to explain it is that it’s mood music: if you’re in the right mood for my kind of music it fits well.

Always is your new single. What is the story behind the track?

It’s about a beautiful girl who got my attention but didn’t give me any back. Sadness is what inspires me the most and, if you listen to the song, it may seem happy but the story is quite sad. 

Your voice has a very deep and arresting quality! Did that come naturally? Do you have to work hard on your voice?!

Thank you! I don’t work hard on my voice. I think I’ve been inspired by many great singers and tried to copy and then ended up with a mix...if that makes any sense? 

Is there going to be more material next year? How far ahead are you looking?

I like to live in the now, so I don't look too far into the future - but, there is a third single coming in September and an album in October. I also have about four new songs for the second album.

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You have gained a lot of success so far. Do all the plaudits and great reviews give you the drive to keep going and know that your work is resonating?!

It does! But, I have a big ego that needs to be fed and I’m never happy about things for too long, so I always need something new and something bigger. Hehe. So, most of the plaudits and reviews brush off quite quickly. 

Who are the artists that inspire you and led you to get into songwriting?

When it comes to songwriting, I’m inspired by Amy Winehouse, Sia; Diane Warren and Sam Smith to name a few.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

To release my debut album and be proud of it; that the people who will hear will be inspired and listen to the lyrics on every song. I also hope to meet some of the people from social media who have supported and inspired me to make the album. 

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Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Hard question. I think singing to Leona Lewis and hearing her tell me she loved me has definitely stuck. 

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)? 

Little Girl BlueNina Simone

Because Nina Simone is a big inspiration and to me someone who has made history in more ways than just her music.

The Best Of  - Monica Zetterlund

Monica Zetterlund was a Swedish Jazz singer and, after hearing her song Sakta Vi Går Genom Stan, it was the first time I knew I wanted to sing.                                       

These Streets - Paolo Nutini

This is just one of my favourite albums; not one bad song. Also, I have great memories with this album. 

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

A dream would be to go on tour with Adele.

My rider would be loads of vegan food, fruit; vegetables and champagne (smiles).

Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?

I am playing two shows in Sweden in August - Gothenburg and Stockholm. I’m also coming to L.A. in October where I will do a showcase (also in New York after that). 

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

To stay true to what you like and what you feel but also let yourself be inspired by the people around you. You also have to believe in yourself to a 100%; that you’re the best at what you do and never give up!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Léon/PHOTO CREDIT: Sandra Viktoria Thorsso

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Léon is a girl from Sweden who is doing well. If you haven’t heard I think you should definitely check her out.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I spend time with my dogs and chickens. I also live close to the ocean. Nature really calms me down, so that's a good thing. I don’t think I ever unwind 100%, though... (Smiles).

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).

Play Blackbird by The Beatles. Love that song!

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INTERVIEW: We Are the Way for the Cosmos to Know Itself

INTERVIEW:

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We Are the Way for the Cosmos to Know Itself

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GIVEN their band name…

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I had to ask We Are the Way for the Cosmos to Know Itself where that stems from and whether there is a backstory! The Danish group talk about their formation and latest single, Out of Doubt. I ask what we can expect from their upcoming E.P. and what the music scene is like in Denmark.

The band recommends some new artists to watch and tell me what they hope to achieve before the end of the year; whether there are gigs coming up; how they unwind away from music – they provide some pithy, but wise, advice for artists coming through.

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Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?

Julie: Hello (smiles). We are feeling pretty good. Right now, we are in our tour-car on the way to the other end of Denmark where we will play a show tonight. Our week has been busy but great! A few days ago, we recorded a live video for our next single, Out of Doubt, and the other days we have been working on some new tracks for 2019.

It has been insanely hot in Denmark this week so we have been working in bikini and shorts in the studio and gone swimming as much as possible in Roskilde Fjord, which is very close to the little farm-house where we live and make music.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Mads: We are a Danish three-piece who make Electronic-Indie-Pop with a lush and cosmic feel. We are inspired by the sound of various '80s and '90s bands. At the moment, we try to mix these nostalgic vibes with more modern productions. Hopefully, creating music with a sense of nostalgia but still with a fresh and modern vibe.

Can I ask how We Are the Way for the Cosmos to Know Itself came together? Is there a story behind that name?

Julie: Martin and Mads met in primary school and has been playing together in numerous projects during the years and then they met me a couple of years ago and first then magic happened. Haha. Well, I guess you can say that we knew that we were a good team when we wrote our first track together in 2013 so we just kept on working together since then.

Mads: When starting the band, we realized we had all discovered Carl Sagan and his retro documentary series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, sometime during physics classes in high-school and that we shared a fascination for the epic and 'over the top' mood that Carl created in the series. So, we decided to name our band after a quote from the series. The quote, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself”, describes perfectly the epic and lush sound that we strive to create.

Out of Doubt is your latest track. What is the story behind the song?

Julie: Out of Doubt is the second single from an E.P. that will be out in October. The lyrics were written during the early morning where I took time to sit down and watch the sunrise while I wrote down all the things I was thinking of at that time; reflecting on where I was going with life. Moments like these are very important to me and I guess that a lot of people, including myself, forget to sometimes take time to stop and reflect on things in these times - where every moment tends to get filled with to-dos and impressions from So-Mes.

It is from your upcoming E.P. In terms of themes and stories; what sort of things do you explore?

Out of Doubt is, like the rest of E.P, exploring the retrospective and nostalgic. We wanted the songs to be the kind of music that brings back memories and that you put on when you feel the need to be a little reflective. The songs are about relations between different people - both the ones you still love and fight for and the ones you had to let go.

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Do you recall the music you grew up around? Which artists inspired you to get into music?

Mads: Growing up in musical homes, I think all the three of us got exposed to a lot of quality Pop music such as ABBA, Kate Bush; Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and soundtracks from movies like Top Gun and Dirty Dancing. But, from a very early age, Martin and I became interested in playing music ourselves and started enjoying more experimental music.

Eventually, in high-school, we started exploring Electronic acts such as Aphex Twin, Autechre; Seefeel and μ-Zig. Right now, I think we are trying to find a sort of middle ground between lots of the sounds and experiments from our high-school time and the simple basic chord structures and melodies from Pop music. Currently, we are listening to a lot of more modern Synth-Pop such as Shura, Chvrches and I Break Horses.

Is there a pretty eclectic music scene in Denmark? How do you think the country stands out and differs from the likes of the U.K., for instance?

One thing I really like about the music scene in Denmark is that there are a lot of indie bands that focuses a lot on melodies and songwriting - not just creating a unique production around their music. There is a good tradition for basic songwriting. That leads to a lot of quality Indie-Pop music coming from Denmark.

On the other hand, Denmark is a really small country and there is only one national music radio which has a lot of power - and they basically control who gets a career in music. That is a bit discouraging at times.

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What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?

We hope to have a great release of our upcoming singles and E.P. and play some great shows.

Do you think there will be touring dates? Where can we see you perform?

We are playing a tour in Denmark in October and November. Hopefully, we will play a tour in Germany in February as well.

Will you come to the U.K. and play this year or next?

Julie: We would love to - we just don’t have a booker in the U.K. yet.

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Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Mads: We played at Roskilde Festival back in 2014 here in Denmark. That was huge for us. Being a Dane, it is one of those festivals you always wanted to be playing.

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Julie: Tough question. If we could choose anything…we would love to support Kate Bush and have a backstage area made out of liquorice.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Mads: Have fun. Buy lots of synths.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Yangze/PHOTO CREDITAndreas Skou Albertsen

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

There is a lot of new good Danish music at the moment. To name a few: Yangze creates beautiful Alternative-Pop music. Molina makes awesome, retro synth vibes on her latest single, Hey Kids.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Molina

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Apart from swimming in the fjord near our house at night time, we like to eat liquorice; drink craft beer and watch sci-fi movies.

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Mads: Molina (ft. Late Verlane) - Hey Kids

Julie: Yangze - U & Me

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INTERVIEW: Russell Swallow

INTERVIEW:

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 Russell Swallow

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RUSSELL Swallow has been speaking with me…

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about his awesome single, North London Girl, and how it came together. His brilliant E.P., My Lover, Her Lover and Me, is out and I wanted to ask which artists Swallow draws from; how it feels getting a lot of radio attention and great press – he recommends some artists worth a follow.

I ask the songwriter about splitting his time between Berlin and London and whether that contributes to his sonic direction; if he gets time to unwind; the three albums that mean the most to him – he ends the interview by selecting a great song.  

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Hi, Russell. How are you? How has your week been?

Hi, Sam. It’s been an eventful time. I’ve been playing festivals in Hannover and Berlin and I was fortunate to work with one of my favourite contemporary artists, Ry-X, at Sacred Ground Festival. Since then, I’ve been working on new material for my next E.P. and recording a live video for my latest single, North London Girl.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?

I’m an English singer-songwriter from the Folk and Indie scene - and I use German influences, Electronic influences to add atmosphere, ambience and drama to my music. I grew up in the quiet and solitude of the Suffolk countryside, but was steadily drawn deeper into cities and their perpetual rhythm; now living between London and Berlin. My music draws on each of these places - taking inspiration from daily life, tensions and release.

North London Girl is your latest single. Is there a personal story/history to the song?

I tend to write from personal experience but N.L.G. is one of the most autobiographical and direct songs I’ve written - as direct as heartbreak can be. Still, it’s not morbid: I think it carries a certain naive innocence.

It was a breakup that inspired me to write N.L.G. and, in fact, it was the first solo song I wrote since my duo band Swallow and the Wolf. It was the beginning of bringing music back into focus at the centre of my life and starting from scratch to create a new palette of sound was a uniquely refreshing experience. Working with producer Gavin Hammond, every choice of sound and direction we took was a first step - like exploring a new Country.

Since your last E.P., you have gained a lot of love from radio stations. How does this make you feel?!

It feels really good! I want to reach as many people as possible with my music, and radio support is an important part of that. I come from a generation where radio was one of the few powerful gateways where you could reach new listeners without needing a huge P.R. budget. I was a big fan of tuning into BBC Radio 6 Music late at night, to fall upon new sounds being shared.

I want to send some big love to Tom Robinson at BBC Radio 6 Music who was the first D.J. to play my music, and to everyone who continues to.

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You have spent a lot of time here and in Berlin. Does that country-splitting contribute to your sound? What are the main differences between the music of Berlin and London?

London has a very strong singer-songwriter scene, particularly on the Folk and Roots side. You can wander into a bar on most streets and find somebody strumming. Berlin has this too but, because of their club scene, they have a stronger Electronic aesthetic. They complement and inspire each other and it’s great to be able to move between the two and see them each develop.

I believe you spent twenty quid on a guitar in Suffolk during your teens! Is that the best purchase you have ever made?! What made you want to pick up a guitar?

When you’re a kid, everything is exploration, learning; making mistakes. Living in a small town felt like an isolated place to grow up, so to connect I could either pick up my bicycle to cycle to a friend’s house in the next town or pick up my guitar and get straight to the source.

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It seems you are inspired by classic songwriters and the likes of Jeff Buckley. Who do you count as idols?

Yes. The artists I respect most were pioneers in some way; fusing their influences to blend something new or exploring extremes of dynamics. Jeff using his voice like Nina Simone - as an instrument - coupling it with incredibly sophisticated guitar with song arrangements that still felt effortlessly natural. Or Nirvana’s sense of melody and power - taking Heavy Metal’s attack and power but adding huge Beatles-esque Pop melodies.

When I first heard Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon as a kid I was blown away. A seventy-minute piece of music that explores sound for sound’s sake; creating an environment you can get lost in and journey through.

Which artists did you follow when you were growing up?

All of the above, plus Grunge-rs Pearl Jam; Rock pioneers Radiohead and a great crafter of small stories with big melodies, The Lemonheads.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I just released my new E.P., My Lover, Her Lover and Me, on 3rd August and am playing some tour dates through Europe to support that: London, Norwich; Berlin, Zurich; Hannover, Cologne etc. I’m looking to travel to play house concerts and some street performances as well - if anyone wants to invite me into their home or recommend good streets to explore.

I’ve written a lot this past year - it’s been an eventful time, both for me personally and for Europeans. There’s work to be done to prepare for the next record, so I’ll be making some demos and jamming with my friends (and very talented artists in their own right) Kimberly Anne and Rhiannon Mair.

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Will there be any tour dates? Where can we see you play?

Yes. Check the website. I’ll be adding them in as we go.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

It brought home to me how lyrical music can be using simple sound, tones and melody. No lyrics but so much emotion, dynamics and excitement.

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

I bought this on C.D. from a charity shop in Colchester and stuck it on my stereo. My girlfriend at the time wanted to go out but I couldn’t leave the house until I’d heard the whole album. It was a revelation in terms of its scope, range of styles and sheer joyful abandon. You can really feel fun and danger in that record.

John Martyn - Solid Air

Simple instrumentation; raging and fragile. There’s so much heart and beauty in this album and it has songs that you can sing to your lover, to your family or to your friends.

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

That’s a really good...and hard question! I think it would be a tour with Radiohead, Ry-X and I. We’d perform John Martyn’s Solid Air album in its entirety with extended jams incorporating synths, samples and sounds captured and manipulated live on stage from our voices and instruments. We’d have a huge light show using just white beams and cast and play with huge shadows.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

Keep writing. Listen to the opinions of your trusted sources...but not as much as you listen to yourself. You’ll feel unsettled, challenged and not good enough sometimes, but don’t worry. That’s a natural part of the journey and, if you choose, then all of it will drive you forward.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Pancaldi/PHOTO CREDITCurious Rose Photography

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

For singer-songwriters, check out Kal Lavelle, Andy Johnson and Anna Pancaldi.

For more of a Pop bent, try Kimberly Anne or, for a Rock edge, Bryde and RUEN.

All unsigned artists with huge talent.

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IN THIS PHOTO: RUEN

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

I’m effectively self-employed, so I can choose my timing to a certain extent – though, it always feels like you’re not doing enough! But, I make time to do the things I love: to cook, eat and read. Then, I can I explore places for their architecture and museums as well. I’ve been travelling through France and Belgium these last few days, so I’m getting to do all of this!

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).

Thanks, Sam. It’s been good fun answering your questions. If you would, please play Sam Brookes' Crazy World and You

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INTERVIEW: Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete

INTERVIEW:

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Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete

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THERE is nothing ordinary and boring…

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when it comes to Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete! I have been speaking with Fergus from the group about their new single, Old Black Crow, and wondered where they head from here. I was keen to know how the band got together and whether, being based in the Pyrenees, there is an active music scene and source of inspiration.

Fergus recommends some upcoming artists and discusses whether there are any tour dates coming up; what their live set consists; the advice he would give to artists coming through – I discover why this past week or so has been especially eventful for the band!

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Hi. How are you? How has your week been?

We’re all pretty tired from a pretty intense and eventful week on the road. We left France with a great gig at a craft beer brewery then headed to Italy and Slovenia but, on the way, stopping for petrol we found we couldn’t turn the van off - even with the key out and batteries disconnected the engine kept running. It was meant to be a fourteen-hour journey but, with one thing and another, it ended up being seventeen-hour-straight without being able to cut the motor; no air conditioning, the whole band; double bass and a disable dog in an eight-seater minivan…after driving through the night, we had two gigs in Slovenia, one of which we got held up on the motorway for three hours in non-moving traffic, so arrived an hour after our sound-check.

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Then, we had three gigs at Floating Castle Festival in the south of Slovenia. It’s an amazing vibe there; a real melting pot of styles, cultures; World music, Classical; Rock, Jazz; abstract stuff, puppetry; poetry street shows and so on, all around a beautiful medieval castle in the forest. Leaving there, the alternator on the van gave up so we got towed off the motorway; had to find a replacement battery to get to where we are now while we wait to play at PUF festival in Koper near the sea.  We’re still alive and still talking to each other, so it’s good.

For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Well. It’s a mix of styles and influences: people have compared us to various acts like The Waterboys, Ronnie Lane (ex-Small Faces); Dexys Midnight Runners, Woody Guthrie; Bob Dylan and so on. There’s a big slice of Folk music from both sides of the Atlantic that form the basis of our songs but we try and bring in elements of World music, Swing; Jazz and Blues to create something unique and exciting with it all…then we are lucky enough to have three ladies who tap dance in the band, so we add that into the mix for good measure!

What can you tell me about the new single, Old Black Crow? How did it come together?

I had just read Conrad’s book, Nostromo, and I wanted to write something that captured the same kind of feeling I got from that book. It tells the story of a bunch of renegades making a getaway, but we don’t know what they did or why. I was listening to a lot to Dylan’s album, Desire, and some of my favorites of his songs take this format which isn’t the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus, bridge; verse-chorus, but just tell a story that continues to develop. So, I decided to not write a chorus or a hook, but just let it be a story which, perhaps, makes it an odd choice for a single but we really get a good reaction to it live and we tried to give it some swing, keep it upbeat and dancy so we hope it can grab some people’s attention!

Is there going to be more material coming later in the year? What are you working on?

Well. Old Black Crow is the first song we are putting out from the new album, which is nearing completion, and the band has been evolving during recent months and we’re trying to get some of the newest ideas into the arrangements of the songs we’re playing in our live set. The album will be pretty eclectic, including a Swedish-style Polska (a traditional dance tune), a couple of rootsy numbers; something I wrote inspired by travelling around the Balkans and playing with different time signatures and some other surprises. 

The last album, Ever the Forager, had a lot of Scottish and American Folk in the blend; banjos, fiddles and mandolins. This time, I’ve been working with three saxophones, writing and arranging for baritone, tenor and alto for our live show so there’s more brass, which is leading to a slightly harder, edged and jazzier sound, which I think suits the songs that we’re putting on this album.

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How did Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete find one another? You have a pretty eclectic line-up there!

Well. I had been travelling around Europe as a traditional one-man band, like Bert from Mary Poppins, and Gaia, who’s now my wife, and I came to a party in the South of France where I played…but we met so many cool people over one weekend we decided to stay forever! Gradually, we came across more and more people with the same or similar stories. There’s something about the region that makes people want to settle there; it’s like stepping backwards in time, out of the rat-race. It’s easier to create a simple way of life there that still fulfils all our needs. 

I guess it does seem like a huge coincidence that we all ended up living within a few miles of each other in the middle of nowhere and all have complementary skills and musical interests. Have to put it down to cosmic magic, I guess!

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Being based in Pyrenees (Southern France); what is the music scene like there? Is it quite an ideal and quiet spot to create and play?

The music scene is surprisingly vibrant; bearing in mind this is an area traditionally populated by small-scale subsistence farmers. In the last thirty years or so, more technology and farm machinery meant that lots of these kinds of areas became depopulated as kids of farm workers had to move to the cities and retrain to find work in industry instead of agriculture.

But, this also meant that lots of old farmhouses and small villages were abandoned so the artists moved in and, with the artists, the artisan cafés and market stalls started to grow; then the artists learn to use the land and develop their own communities and the area became rich in a new way. So, there’s a huge mix of people and nationalities here: people from every corner of the world seem to end up settling in this little huddle of ten or twelve little picturesque villages. That creates a great environment for many things, especially music; predominantly folky, rootsy and acoustic stuff, but not only. We have a couple of really nice small festivals - and people love to go out to see live music here.

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Does the fact you have a few different nationalities working in the band provide the music with greater variation and flexibility, would you say? Do you find the songs take in different sounds from around the world?

Definitely. This has been one of the main musical objectives for Nothing Concrete all along: to broaden my cultural horizons and learn from the people I work with and then try and bring that into the songs. In the world of Pop, Rock or other mainstream music, the sound, instrumentation and production values are fairly generic no matter where you go in the world...but the richness of musical styles when you start to look into traditional music cultures from different countries is mind-blowing. So, when you work with musicians that have these different cultural backgrounds, it’s inevitable that some of this comes out in the music.

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The more we travel as a band the more we learn from other musicians we meet en route, hence being in Slovenia right now. It’s a kind of gateway country between our Western European cultures and the musical traditions of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The more musicians we get to play with from different cultures the more we realise how much there is to learn. It makes you feel like you’re constantly just at the start of an amazing musical journey.

Which artists are you influenced by? Who are the musicians who have made the biggest impact on the band?  

Growing up, I listened to a lot of stuff my dad liked: Dylan, Tom Waits; Van Morrison, Paul Simon and, particularly, the Faces and Ronnie Lane. I still love that rough-and-ready feel; the sound of people having fun playing acoustic music together. Then, the Celtic stuff in the '80s, like Dexys Midnight Runners; The Waterboys and Hothouse Flowers were all doing the stuff I wanted to be doing. But, later I discovered a whole new world through the music from the Tony Gatlif film Latcho Drom. Watching that was a watershed moment; a must-see for anyone interested in music!

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Do you think there will be touring dates? Can we catch you play?

We have no U.K. dates in the diary at the moment: we’re continuing to tour in Europe until October this year and we have a number of dates in France but are planning to put together some dates for 2019. Watch this space. We always announce our tour dates on our Facebook page as soon as they’re confirmed.

What does your live set consist? Describe a typical Fergus McKay & Nothing Concrete gig…

It’s all about engaging with our public. We’re usually six on stage: three ladies, three guys. The songs are mostly upbeat with a Swing/Folk feel. Everything is very live; no technology except the P.A. system and lighting rig. We’ve brought a number of new elements into the show in recent times, including several tap dance and lindy-hop routines from the girls and, even, an appearance by Gromanich, our monster mascot! By the end, we usually aim to have everyone up on their feet dancing. I think it’s a pretty fun gig to go and see!

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Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?

Angie: Seeing Jeff Buckley live in a small, intimate venue. It was a life-changing moment, being around such musical passion and it made me reevaluate what was important to me.

Saskia: When I was a student, I had a quite high-up studio. The weather was perfect. I could sit in the sun and a song by Funkadelic played. Perfect bliss.

Gaia: My two children love a song from Boban Marković, an amazing trumpeter from Serbia. We regularly put it full volume in the house and dance like crazy. My mum and me used to do the same with quite bad Pop, Italian music and Dance in the living room whilst rolling on the floor.

Fergus: I left the U.K. in 2009 to play pubs and busk in the street, but ended up at a Folk/World music event called etno HISTeRIA, with sixty musicians from all over the world learning tunes and songs from all these places; arranging them for an ad hoc World music orchestra who played concerts all over the country. It was nine days or so that changed my life. Incredibly intense; not much sleep but a magical, emotional experience

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If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Van Morrison, almost certainly!

As for the rider...we’re pretty happy with some good, organic food (mainly vegetarian) and a beer or two - homebrew best!

What advice would you give to artists coming through?

Play lots and lots and lots of gigs, get out there and meet other musicians and learn from them; learn to live well with minimal income!

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IN THIS PHOTO: Old Salt

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Old Salt is a mix of Americana and World music with a fairly intercultural mix of musicians. Kate in the Kettle from Scotland; Tygroo from the Czech Republic are full-on Turbo-Folk with lots of brass; loads of attitude and an amazing live show.

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IN THIS PHOTO: Kate in the Kettle

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Music is always there but, sometimes, we’re using it to unwind. Sometimes it’s work, but home life is great; just hanging out with the kids in the garden, or camping in, the Pyrenees…or just reading a book!

Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Fergus: The Poacher - Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance

Angie: Natalie Merchant - Kind & Generous

Gaia: Pizzicarella mia (traditional southern Italian tune) – the version by Officina Zoè

Saskia: Maceo Parker - Children’s World

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