INTERVIEW WITH INDIE MUSIC RADAR - Autumn 2021
Tell me about your latest musical projects?
I recently put together a live version of our charity single ‘Be More Kind’ for the NMG awards, culminating in an appearance at the Apex Theatre in Bury St Edmunds which was a lot of fun. We got together a group of the nominees who sang parts from the original charity version.
I am also participating in a documentary being made about ‘Be More Kind’ which will hopefully be out this year.
After a run of singles, with one more to come this year, I am more than likely going to start work on an album. I have realised that I’m an artist who tends to stockpile songs and work to a theme and that a whole body of work just suits me best, despite perhaps not being the ‘industry norm’ these days. I value the work over the numbers or the strategy and I hope to bring that to fruition next year.
Tell us about your new single?
It was written in lockdown and inspired by the BBC Series of the same name. Although a personal story for me, I have used the characters in the series as inspiration as well and shaped a story out of the shared experiences.
I hope it has a positive message for coming out of lockdown too, with people reunited with loved ones and sticking by each other.
Why Normal People?
During the initial lockdown, I got involved in a big charity project for the NHS (as mentioned above), covering Frank Turner’s ‘Be More Kind’ but I found finding inspiration for writing initially quite tough. I was isolating alone and without the constant ebb and flow of life, playing gigs and meeting people, listening to their stories etc, I found it very hard to find motivation or inspiration. However, I did watch more TV than I ever have before and got really into the show ‘Normal People’. It seemed to mirror a situation in my own life and I thought it was beautifully written and produced. The BBC drama was absolutely stunning, and I had completely forgotten I had also read the book by Sally Rooney the previous year, so the story already seemed etched in my mind. I took a lot of visual inspiration from the show, the bleakness of rural Ireland and the relationship of the two characters really informed my sound. Fused with my own experiences, I came up with quite a simple song that hit the mark more instantly than some of my previous work.
Did you record it in lockdown?
I did. Initially, I did a demo and sat with that for a while. Like most songwriters, I listened to it over and over again, before settling on the fact that I thought it was a good song. That can often take a while. It’s the ones that stick with you or keep nudging you to finish them that usually end up being the best. This one kept pushing me to record it, so I took it to Stephen MacLachlan and asked him to produce it, based on my demo. We pretty much re-recorded everything, he added drums and a beautiful string section which we then had performed by real musicians and we were there. I managed to squeeze in a session in between the various lockdowns to do vocals/guitar/piano and it all came really nicely together.
Did it exceed your expectations?
Personally for me - yes! I think the whole thing came together so naturally, and with the amazing animated video by Bella Chipperfield, the whole piece has such a natural and organic feel to it - which is precisely what I go for as an artist. The single has received great support from BBC Essex, Cambridge 105 and the video was even played at the Apex Theatre in Bury St Edmunds before our recent performance there.
How do you see the music industry at the moment?
I think the music industry is at a real crossroads. I also believe it is mirroring society in many ways. You have the whole streaming debate with acts earning next to nothing on platforms such as Spotify and the legislation around musicians being paid more for their session work, and whilst I think that there are positive noises being made, it is going to be a long and slow process.
On the live side, I feel like there are real problems. You obviously have your major artists doing well from touring and merch etc, and then an area in between where some acts are also just about scraping by, but the money just does not seem to be there, or it’s there and it’s just not being distributed well.
The pandemic was a real opportunity for musicians to band together and demand better pay for their live and recorded work, but I feel like we may have missed that opportunity by not uniting. I speak to touring musicians every week who are now disillusioned with trekking around the country for a wage that barely pays their rent!
It also falls on promoters and booking agents to demand better deals for musicians from venues and businesses, some of whom definitely have the cash to spend. If we don’t stand up as musicians and demand better pay, we are never going to get it. Why take a £75 gig now? It will never get better if we continue to do this. Why not unite together, join unions, send e-mails and petitions and in 2-3 years we could all be earning more money. It sounds simple because it is…. but it’s vital we do something.
Do artists get a fair deal?
I don’t think they do currently no. For the sheer time and effort making music takes, the financial rewards can often be minimal without huge backing or a massive following. Most artists love it so they will always do it, and most of us are not asking to be living in penthouse apartments with expensive cars, but we would like to be fairly paid by streaming services, gig promoters and bookers. I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility, especially when you consider the amount of wasted money there is in the world.
What does music mean to you?
Music to me is a gift of freedom. Throughout my life, stemming from school days, I always found it quite hard to articulate my feelings or my point of view in everyday existence, and probably became a passenger through life until I discovered I could do this through music.
It is my mouthpiece, my therapy and my way of enjoying or making sense of situations that would otherwise be hard to understand.
Writing music for me is like watching a film. We so rarely actually live in a moment, and by that, I mean fully living and breathing in that moment, and sitting with it, so I think we need music and films to remind us of those moments.
My music is like a film depicting my life, and it often feels like I was never really in that moment until I write a song about it. Sometimes it feels like an out of body experience and I am writing about someone else’s life - when in fact it is invariably my own. I’ve often thought that I have missed being in the moment too many times, but perhaps it is my subconscious guiding me towards my songs instead. I don’t know if I’ll ever know!
Do you feel like music shapes your life, or your life shapes your music?
Absolutely both. I feel like it would be impossible to live the kind of life I live without music, and conversely, I wouldn’t get the kind of songs I write without those experiences, so it is intrinsically intertwined. Music has always been a huge part of my life and will continue to be so.
Any plans for new songs?
I am planning a couple of standalone singles in 2022 before reverting back to my favourite type and cracking on with a new album. I have come to realise that I am definitely more an artist who needs to have a body of work in the pipeline, and as I have said, I do tend to stockpile songs and then mould them together into a piece of work, often without knowing that I am doing so.
Maybe a tour?
This would be great, I’d love to tour the UK again and venture back into Europe now things are slowly opening up. I’ve missed it!
Yes! March 12th 2022 at the Blue Moon in Cambridge alongside Daniel Lumley, Dan Wilde and Harry Pane.
Tickets are available here: