The Firelight Opera – Interview

Thursday 25th May 2017

May is turning out to be a great month for new releases so far this year, and my latest discovery are Northern alt-rockers The Firelight Opera and their latest single ‘Alive’, which is taken from their forthcoming album ‘Communication Breakdown’.  What initially piqued my interest was that the band contains not one, but four vocalists.  Sounds like a bunch of very talented guys don’t you think?  Me too, and I’m already excited for the album release to hear more.  I caught a moment with the band to find out about The Firelight Opera and how they’re feeling about the release of their album.  Oh, and make sure you give ‘Alive’ a listen (link below), I promise you won’t be disappointed…

Hello! Please could you tell me a bit more about yourselves and how The Firelight Opera formed?

We are Chris Pettitt, Dan Foster, Lee Hardy, Ben Craigs and Kyle Martin. We’re an alternative/rock band from Sunderland which formed in the summer of 2012. We hit it off with songwriting and vocal harmonies instantly!

How did you come up with the name for the band and were there any other contenders?

The Firelight Opera came from a night of jamming and singing round a campfire. Also, like an opera we tell stories through our music. The lyrics are always deep and meaningful.

When did you all start playing music and have you been in bands previously?

We’ve all been playing music since school. We all performed in bands before The Firelight Opera was born. Chris, Lee and Kyle were gigging together since school but under a different name. Dan performed in another band and also did solo stuff and Ben also performed in bands.

What is your writing process as a band? How do you come together to create the final track and where do you take your inspiration from?

Generally, Lee and Dan write most of the lyrics and melodies then the whole band gets together and everyone puts their input in to bring the song to life. It works well.

Your album ‘Communication Breakdown’ is released on the 29th May. How are you feeling about the release and what can we expect from it?

We’re really excited for people to hear it! It’s got a bit of everything on it from huge rock anthems to stripped back acoustic tracks. All of the tracks have infectious melodies and catchy guitar riffs and there are plenty of vocal harmonies on there!

Are there tracks in particular that you’re most excited about getting out there?

At the moment we can’t pick a favourite. We were really excited to get ‘Alive’ out but we’re going to struggle to choose the second single. It’s a good problem to be faced with though so we’re not complaining!

With there being four vocalists in the band, how do you decide on who sings each part of a song and do you all get to take the lead on different tracks?

Having four vocals to play with makes songwriting really interesting! Chris and Dan have the biggest voices so they take most of the main vocals but Lee and Ben chip in here and there.

Who did you work with on the video for your single ‘Alive’ and who came up with the idea behind the story?

We worked with a local company in South Shields called Unified Media. Lee wrote the story/concept for the video and worked closely with the guys at Unified Media to bring it to its fullest potential. They were dedicated and worked relentlessly to make it work. We’d like to thank them along with Harry and Martin for their incredible performances.

What’s next for the band and will you be taking the album on tour?

This is something we’re currently looking into and hope to do soon. We’re excited to take our music further afield.

Finally, if you were invited to perform on the BBC Live Lounge, which song would you cover and why?

It would have to be House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. Chris has a huge voice and sings it better than the original (in our opinion, of course!).

Connect with The Firelight Opera via their Website, Twitter and Facebook.

Chey – Interview

Thursday 18th May 2017

Hailing from South Wales, Chey is an outstanding singer/songwriter who has been on the music scene for many years.  From performing at charity gigs in her hometown to working with artists and producers from around the world, Chey is ready to really push things further and make a career out of her music.  Her latest single ‘She’s Got You’ has quickly picked up interest, and rightly so; it’s a soulful and heartfelt track with a stunning video to match.  I was completely taken in by Chey upon first listen so I had to take the opportunity to find out more – I’m certainly itching for an EP release and can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Please could you tell me about yourself, where it all started and how you came to be a singer/songwriter?

I come from a small Welsh village in South Wales and I started singing at a very young age. One of my earliest memories was aged 5, in a Christmas Carol service in a local church where I sang “little donkey”, I felt quite at home on a stage even back then. About fifteen years ago I started writing songs by putting my feelings and experiences down on paper and then putting them to music. Recently I’ve been working with artists from all around the world, I love to collaborate with other songwriters, there’s something quite magical about two people from different corners of the world coming together to make something special.

Your voice is simply wonderful. When did you realise you could sing and wanted to make something of it?

Oh thank you! I’ve been singing as far back as I can remember, singing has always been a big part of my life, it’s something I really enjoy and I’m very passionate about too! I’ve always wanted to make a career out of music but sometimes life just happens and dreams are put on hold. I’m ready to make it happen and show the world my music.

What’s your writing process and how do you draw upon your inspirations?

Usually during the writing process the music comes first, well most of the time, and inspiration comes sometimes in the most unusual places, inspiration is anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes I can be in the studio for hours just catching up and having a good old chat with my producer and nothing happens. Then other times I can go in and he plays a chord and we write a song within an hour, that’s why I love music, it’s so unpredictable!

How do you know when a song is finished and is there anyone you can bounce ideas off to give you any advice?

Even when you think a song is finished there’s always something you can do to make it better. After a studio session I like to live with the track for a week or so to really feel the song, I play it to all my close friends and family to see what they think and then I go back to my producer and we bounce ideas off of each other to see if we can make it better.

Your latest single ‘She’s Got You’ has been released for a couple of weeks now. How are you finding the response so far?

She’s Got You was released on 27th April and was premiered in the Huff Post. So far the response to the new single has been amazing, it’s had over 41,000 streams on Spotify and I’m so grateful for all the support that I’ve had with it. I’ve also just released a club mix which is available to stream and download now on all digital platforms. There’s also a really cool lyric video to go with it, which you can check out on my YouTube channel now!

It comes across very expressive and personal as though it has been written from the heart. Have you drawn upon personal experiences?

When expressing a song the words and music must have passion and sincerity, even though this song isn’t from a personal experience I try and place myself in the moment and express how I would feel telling the story. People need to relate to the song and the best way to do that is to mean every word and sing it from the heart.

How did you come up with the idea with the video for the track, and how did it feel seeing it finished? It compliments the song really well.

First of all I got in touch with the guys from Video Ink, myself and the creative director then had a long conversation about the song and the meaning behind the song and how we could tie that into the video. We came up with the idea of contemporary dancers, which I really loved. All the choreography and shooting was done in one day, I think this brought out the best in the dancers and really allowed them to feel the song and just dance with the emotions they felt at that time, which I thought worked really well.

What’s next for you and have you been working on an EP or album release?

I’m back in the studio now working on new music and new ideas, and maybe an album release very soon!

Can we look forward to any tour dates? It would be great to catch you performing live.

There will definitely be tour dates coming soon, you can keep up to date with the latest news and performances on my social media.

Finally, what other artists are you listening to at the moment and do you have any recommendations?

I listen to lots of genres and lots of artists but my favourite at the moment is Rag and Bone Man, his voice is pure velvet.

Connect with Chey via her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Seasonal – Interview

Wednesday 17th May 2017

If you imagine the sounds of New Found Glory and mix that up with emotionally charged lyrics from the likes of Yellowcard then you get Surry’s own pop-rock offering, Seasonal.  Their debut EP ‘Bloom’ is due for release on the 19th May and it’s quite simply a breath of fresh air.  Going in to the studio with the intention of only recording one song, but finding themselves inspired to complete the EP after hearing the final mix; what we’re presented with is a personal, honest and sincere release and I find that very refreshing.  I take a moment to chat with Seasonal who give me an insight in to how the band and EP came together.

For those who are just discovering you please could you tell me a bit more about yourselves?  Have you been in bands previously, and what has driven you to form Seasonal?

Hi! We are Seasonal, just four mates who love making music. Matt, Alex T and Max have all played in a few bands together over recent years, and after jamming together as a 3 piece for a bit, Alex C jumped in to complete the line up as it is. We all always enjoy playing music live with friends whether it’s with the intention of making a band or not. With Seasonal, we jammed as the 4 of us for a couple months, and really liked the direction our music was taking. We decided to write for an EP and here we are!

Your debut EP ‘Bloom’ is due for release on the 19th May. How are you feeling about the release?

We are really happy with how this record sounds. We think it’s got an individual sound and there’s something in there for a lot of people so definitely give it all a spin.

How easy was it to select the final 5 tracks for the EP, and did you write any songs that didn’t make the cut?

We wrote quite a few tracks before we even got to the kind of sound we had originally envisaged. Listening back to demo’s from the practice rooms and home recordings, the tracks changed and grew through the whole process. We had scrapped a few ideas, but once we had the base for the 5 tracks we just worked on them.

Listening through the EP the lyrics are very honest and at times emotional. You’ve mentioned they’ve been written through personal experiences. How does it feel listening back knowing the songs represent a certain period in your life?

Lyrically, we didn’t want to write about anything too generic without it meaning something to ourselves, so we kept the content quite personal. There are some very emotional topics like ‘Homeward’ which is about losing a close friend, so these tracks do hold a place in our hearts. It wasn’t really what everyone else sings about for us, it was the stories we wanted to tell, and we think this has given the delivery of the vocals a truly genuine powerful presence.

Who are your biggest musical influences? How have they encouraged you and helped to develop your sound?

We are massive fans of a lot of older bands like Jimmy Eat World and Taking Back Sunday, as well as more current bands like Transit, Have Mercy and A Will Away. If you’re familiar with these bands you can definitely hear the influence they have had on our songwriting, and if you haven’t heard any of these bands, give them a chance.

How do you feel you have developed as a band since forming in 2016, and why is now the right time to release your EP?

We only started playing as the four of us in February/March time, so we did jump in to recording the record pretty quickly. We finished the record in late November 2016, and thought we would hold on to it for a couple months just while the madness of Christmas and new year passed. We showed it about to a few people and considered how best to put it out. The songs are fairly upbeat on the whole so we did want to release it in the summer, and decided on mid May. Whether its the right time is another thing, but we definitely had no reason to hold on to it any longer.

Who did you work with for the video on your lead single ‘Certainty’ and how did it feel seeing it complete?

We chose to work with a close friend of Matt’s for the video. Jon Fraser is a professional photographer who did our original promotional shots. He expressed interest into getting into videography also and had heard the track and really wanted to work with us on it. This is actually his first project, but you can see from the video, the shots all look amazing and we are stoked with the outcome. It’s always exciting to see your first video as a band. There’s a second video coming very soon so keep your eyes peeled!

Being in the early stages of your music career how are you finding the process? You’ve decided to self-release your EP; are you doing other things outside the band to help fund your music?

The process itself is enjoyable. It’s always going to be frustrating trying to get your foot in the door, but if you’re not putting the effort in it shows. So we just keep working on the band and producing content and booking shows. We all have careers as well during the week, so we do like to keep ourselves busy, but wouldn’t be able to have this record if we didn’t!

Are you managing your own social media accounts, and how important is it for you to connect with fans this way?

Yes we manage all our own social media accounts. It is vitally important to keep in touch with anyone who is showing your band interest at this stage. If people are not willing to share your music and show their friends just because you haven’t responded to them, that’s not a risk we’re willing to take. Every like and share does count, its just how the business is. It’s early days but we are very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in keeping anyone interested up to date with us.

What’s next for Seasonal and where do you hope your music will take you?

We’re just looking to develop our live profile and arrange a tour at the moment and make sure the release of the record goes smoothly. We’ve got a second video for another track on the EP coming shortly after the release so there’s something fresh to keep your eyes out for. We’ve got a few shows coming up also so do check out our socials to keep up to date with these.

Connect with Seasonal via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This Party – Interview

Tuesday 16th May 2017

Brighton is a town that’s known for its thriving music scene, so when This Party landed in my mailbox with their single ‘Lover’ taken from their debut EP, also titled ‘Lover’, I was keen to talk to the band and find out more about how they’ve managed to get everyone so excited.  Having already been picked up by Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing South with their catchy indie-pop vibes, I’m already praying for those long summer days that we know are just waiting to push through the clouds; and it’s certain to lift your spirits too.  I speak with Lead Singer, Matt Macneill, who gives me an insight into how it all started for the band and the direction they’re hoping to take.

Hello! Could you tell me a bit more about your “chance encounter” at the Smiths tribute gig that lead you to forming the band?  What made you decide to start This Party and was this the first time you all met?

Sure, a couple of us had previously been in a band together and were looking to start something new. Incidentally we bumped into each other at a Smiths tribute night were we met the other two, one was the drummer in the tribute act, the other was being the Morrissey. All four of us were introduced and not long after we began playing music together.

Your music is released through your own independent record label called ‘Moscow Let’s Go’.  What was the decision behind setting up a record label and how did it come about?

I think we just wanted a platform with which to release our future records. Something with our own brand on it that we could experiment with and grow ourselves.

Have you worked with any other artists on your label?

No, it’s really in its infancy (we’re currently on record number 2) but we plan to in the future. With each release we do we’re sort of ‘ironing out the creases’ if you see what I mean, but when the time is right we’ll go for it.

Already being championed by the likes of Steve Lamacq and the BBC Introducing platform must have been a great boost for you.  How are you finding the response to your music so far?

It’s fair to say the BBC have been really supportive. We found ourselves getting airplay and doing a live session on BBC Introducing South only a couple of months after getting started and they’ve been great ever since. Generally we’re delighted with the response but we’re still refining our sound all the time. With each record we put out we feel we’re getting closer to where we want to be.

Your debut EP is due for release on the 15th May.  What can we expect from it?

It’s an upbeat ‘rough round the edges’ energetic record. The EP wasn’t actually originally planned. After a really positive studio session we decided to record three of the tracks right then and there on the day so there’s a certain spontaneity to the record. There’s an excitement of playing something brand new that hopefully comes through.

How did you find the process of putting the EP together; did you face any challenges and how did you overcome them?

Three of the tracks were really quick easy and incredibly natural. However, one of them was re-recorded and rearranged differently to try and get the feel right. It’s not always your best songs that work better in the studio. There’s a random nature to it all. Some songs take an entirely new approach to record them, others just work perfectly as they are.

Which tracks are you most excited about?

I think the answer would be different for each of us so I couldn’t say one way or the other. We love them all for different reasons. They capture the stories and emotions we were going through at the time.

What is your writing process as a band and how do you all come together to create the final track?

I (Matt) usually come up with the basic tune and arrangement of the song before passing it on to Hal, Marcus and Tom to put their signature sounds on it.

Being in the early stages of your music career, how are you finding the whole process and have you been given any lasting advice?

‘Turning heads’ – that’s what we call it when your music makes a real emotional connection with people who have never heard you before. It’s the best feeling in the world and makes all the work worthwhile. As for advice, that’s one thing we’re always out the look out for. The best advice I’ve heard is to just to keep on writing, even if you write something terrible. If you ever completely stop then it becomes near impossible to start again so keep going until you get something great.

Connect with This Party via Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.

Hollowstar – Interview

Tuesday 16th May 2017

If its premium riff-age and high energy performances that you’re after then look no further than Cambridge rockers Hollowstar.  Their aim is simple; to release some of the finest rock and roll that has ever been heard.  Being fortunate enough to grab an advanced copy of their debut EP ‘Some Things Matter’ I can confirm that it falls nothing short of packing a punch, and they’re clearly living up to their status of being hailed as one of the finest unsigned rock bands in the area. Exciting times are on the horizon for Hollowstar so I caught a moment to find out more about the band, their latest release and what to expect from their upcoming tour.

Could you tell me about the band and how you all came together? It’s a question often asked, but your already established sound strikes me and I wonder how Hollowstar emerged.

With three of us previously working in a band together for most of our teenage years, whilst Tom worked on projects of his own, the foundations were already there when we decided to unite to create Hollowstar.

What would you say makes you stand out as a band?

Two guitarists that any band would love to have just one of!

You’ve just released your single ‘Holding It Together’, which is a story behind the everyday battles people face. Was this written through personal experiences, and do you feel this can help with the writing process?

Yes, it was written about one of the band members personal battles through depression and definitely, we feel writing about subjects you can relate to helps as we like to tell a story with our songs.

How long have you been working on your debut EP ‘Some Things Matter’ and how are you feeling about the release?

Some of the songs are a few years old and some are a little newer. We actually recorded 15 when we went into the studio and carefully selected these for our debut EP; we’re really excited to get it out there!!!

How would you sum up the EP and what can be expected from it?

A modern take on classic rock with bold guitar riffs, a strong drumbeat and storytelling throughout.

What’s your writing process as a band and how do you come together to create the final track? 

We often find ourselves coming to practise with ideas and then just end up jamming them out… the one’s that stick, often turn into the start of a new song!

With a mission of wanting to release some of the finest rock and roll ever heard, which of your tracks do you feel is the closest to that? 

It’s a close call but I think we’d have to go with ‘Guilty’, we love the riffs and feel it’s a true balls to the wall rock song!

If you could pick a song by any artist (past or present) that you could say you wish you had written, what would it be and why? 

One Day Remains, Alter Bridge – to have written this song would be one hell of an achievement, purely because every single instrument in this song is being played to it’s full potential; fast beats and riffs, soaring vocals and incredible song structure!

How are you feeling about your upcoming tour, and are there any tracks from the new release that you’re most excited about performing? 

We’re really excited to hit the road. The best thing about the tour is that we’re going out there to play the EP in full!

What about venues, are there any in particular you’re looking forward to visiting to support your release? 

We always look forward to the hometown show and the final nights when we get to let our hair down a bit. We’re excited about playing a few new venues during our tour so it’s another good excuse to meet new people!

Connect with Hollowstar via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Little Steven – Soulfire

Sunday 14th May 2017

Track Listing:

1. Soulfire
2. I’m Coming Back
3. Blues Is My Business
4. I Saw The Light
5. Some Things Just Don’t Change
6. Love On The Wrong Side of Town
7. The City Weeps Tonight
8. Down and Out In New York City
9. Standing In The Line of Fire
10. Saint Valentines Day
11. I Don’t Want To Go Home
12. Ride The Night Away

In my house we always pen ‘Classic Rock Sundays’ in to our weekly routine where we listen to nothing but classic rock for the whole day.  It’s the one day of the week we can always guarantee to be in the house and having the opportunity to listen to music from dawn ’til dusk.  I have always been a big rock music enthusiast, but when I met my other half quickly realised how lacking my knowledge was of classic rock.  Sure I knew my AC/DC from my Def Leppard to my Deep Purple, but there were still many gaps to fill.  So with every Sunday that passes I’m certain to add something new to my collection.

So when I was given the new release from Little Steven to review I was very excited.  I started playing it and from the other side of the room I hear a voice “that sounds like Bruce Springsteen”.  And sure enough here I am being educated about another extremely important artist, with such a huge repertoire and back catalogue.  Whilst he’s not busy touring with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Little Steven is here with his first solo release in almost 2 decades, ‘Soulfire’ which is due for release on the 19th May, and the album features a personal collection of tracks that have been revisted from the length of his career.

“I’ve always been very thematic with my work, very conceptual. I need a big picture, I can’t just do a collection of songs, that doesn’t work for me. In this case the concept became me. Who am I? I’m kind of my own genre at this point. So I tried to pick material that when you add it all up, really represented me. So there are a couple of covers, a couple of new songs, and some of what I feel are the best songs I’ve written and co-written over the years. This record is me doing me.”

Back in February Little Steven announced via social media that a new album was coming, and sure enough he released his first track from the album ‘Saint Valentines Day’ which was originally written for Nancy Sinatra.  Unfortunately the session never came off and the track became a hit for The Cocktail Slippers, and now we’re presented with his own take on the track where a horn line has been added to give it more of a soul feel.  This was a huge hit for The Cocktail Slippers, but I have to say I’m really enjoying this version just that little bit more.

If you’re a fan of the work that Steven Van Zandt has done with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes then you’re in for a treat as there are a handful of tracks that you should recognise. Heading back to 1977 with LP ‘This Time It’s For Real’ he has taken the successful Motown track ‘Some Things Just Don’t Change’ which he wrote alongside David Ruffin with The Temptations in mind, and taken a turn from the deep soulfulness of the original and given it a more rock and roll vibe. ‘Love On The Wrong Side Of Town’ was co-written with Bruce Springsteen, and being such a definative song was more of a challenge to add his own personal spin.  He did after all write, arrange and produce the original version (I do love that piano intro) but he’s been able to find opportunities to change it up slightly.

Alongside the recognisable tracks there are also unheard songs such as ‘I Saw The Light’ which was half written for Richie Sambora & Orianthi, but the next time they met Richie had already written a further 40 songs so this one went unfinished.  That was until now when Steven decided to finish the song for himself.  Also, ‘The City Weeps Tonight’ was going to be the first song on his first solo album but has remained three-quarters finished all these years until now.

Speaking about his solo career, Steven explains “I felt a bit guilty about having walked away from Little Steven the artist. I left that part of myself behind and I shouldn’t have done that. I let the material down by not continuing to perform it, I betrayed the work and I want to fix that. I didn’t give up on the material – there was a lot of other factors – but I do have a sense of wanting some redemption for it.”

Music discovery for me isn’t just about finding emerging artists, but being introduced to music that has been around for a very long time and becoming aquainted with it.  So whilst Little Steven is currently on his own musical journey I am pleased to have found him along the way, because not only do I now have something to introduce my husband to on ‘Classic Rock Sundays’ but ‘Soulfire’ has provided me with a plethora of music from a key era, which includes not only Little Steven himself but the raft of artists he has also worked with.

Connect with Little Steven via his Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Halflives Announce Their First UK Headline Tour

Tuesday 9th May 2017

Following the success of their debut album ‘Empty Rooms’ which was released last month, Halflives have just announced a handful of live dates for their UK headline tour in July.  Being fortunate enough to review the album ahead of its release in April, I was completely taken in by Linda’s vocals and the amount of emotion that was portrayed through out the album, and I found it to be very captivating.  This is certainly true of tracks such as ‘Echo’ and ‘Burn’ which are really catchy and I remember thinking how easy it was to imagine these being performed and sounding great live.  And what’s even better is with Halflives announcing their headlining tour, I no longer need to imagine and can now experience it first hand.

So, if like me you’re always on the lookout for something new to tantalise your ear buds then I would recommend giving Halflives a spin.  From the first listen it was guaranteed to be on repeat, and in actual fact it was the only album I listened to for 3 days straight.

UK Headline Tour:

11th July – Glasgow, Bloc
12th July – Nottingham, The Maze
13th July – Peterborough, Met Bar
14th July – Bridgwater, Cobblestones
15th July – Whitchurch, Percy’s

UK Tour with Courage My Love:

31st May – Southampton, Talking Heads
1st June – Bristol, The Exchange
2nd June – Bridgwater, Cobblestones
3rd June – London, Camden Rocks Festival
4th June – Manchester, Rebellion

Connect with Halflives via their Website, Facebook and Twitter.