Songwriter

Fay Gauthier – Interview

Saturday 2nd December 2017

Known for films such as Independents’ Day and Against The Grain, Fay Gauthier is also a talented musician who has just released her full length studio album “Firehead.” Being continually influenced by other musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, the album is categorised as having a Pop vibe with flavours of Jazz, Blues and Spoken Word. Returning from hiatus, the new album reflects upon growing up and self acceptance. Speaking about her latest single from the release “Be What You Are,” Fay says that “You’ve got to learn to be able to shake off rejection without letting it kill your spirit… not everybody is going to “get” you. But I’ve reached the point where I’m okay with that because I’m happy doing my thing for no other reason than it’s my thing. And it’s taken a while to get there.” With much admiration I chat with Fay who tells me more about her journey.

Photo Credit: Mikel Healey

You have quite a background as a well-known actress, and have also been a musician for a number of years now, but what is it about music that made you decide to pursue it as a career? 

It’s the same impetus that drives me to want to act and write, the exploration of the creative process. The thing that’s so wonderful about music though, is that it’s a universal language, so it allows me to make a connection where the written or spoken word may not.

Your upcoming single “Be What You Are” was inspired by a conversation you had with a casting director. Could you tell me more about that?

Sure. I was in an acting class several years ago, and the teacher, who is a Casting Director, was expressing the importance of bringing our authentic selves to the characters we’re inhabiting, as opposed to drawing from some outside source. She literally said, “Be what you are people,” and it stuck, so I made it a song around it.  I think it’s sound advice for life in general.

What was the decision behind going on hiatus, and why did now feel like the right time to come back and put your next album out?

As acting became more of my priority, I set music aside. But I continued to write songs. Then, a couple years ago, I found myself really missing making music and wanting to put more out there. It was a feel thing, and I try to follow my instincts.

How do you feel you’ve developed as a musician over the years?

I feel like I’ve developed as a musician in concert with how I’ve developed as a person. I’m older and I’m more comfortable being myself as opposed to trying to be what someone else is looking for, so the music I’m making now reflects that.

Your album “Firehead” has been released for a few weeks now.  How have you found the response to the release so far?

It’s been great. We’ve had a good response on the college radio circuit. So we’ll try to expand on that now and get some live shows in and around LA to keep building on the momentum. 

How would you say the album compares to your previous material?

The subject material is a bit broader than that of my first CD, which was more about the drama and emotions that I experienced as a single person in my twenties. And the production on Firehead is more in line with my own musical sensibilities, since the Producers I worked with were really keen on collaboration.

The album takes us through your own journey of self-acceptance. How does it feel listening back knowing the songs represent certain periods in your life?

That’s an interesting question. I hadn’t really thought about it. It feels good. You know, I was driving between auditions today, reflecting on my life, almost in disbelief that I moved here fourteen years ago and how much has changed in that time. I live in a beautiful part of the world, met and married a wonderful man, and I’m doing what I love. Life is pretty darn good. And that’s kind of the same perspective I have about looking back at certain periods of my life.  There were rough patches, but all of it led to me being where I am and who I am right now. And I’m grateful for that. 

You mention about reaching a point in your life that realizing being different is fun and embracing that. Would you say you’ve faced struggles along the way, and at what moment did your perceptions change?

My struggles have been really benign in comparison to those of many people, and I’m very aware of how lucky I’ve been. But there have certainly been challenging phases in my life. Embracing and having fun with what makes me different happened gradually. It was a process no doubt assisted by these challenging phases and the introspection that got me through them, but also just from getting older and having more life experience. And I hope my perceptions continue to get challenged and change because that’s an essential part of being human.

Could you tell me about your writing process? Being a solo artist do you have anyone to bounce ideas from, and how do you know when a song is ready?

Well I usually just get inspired by something I read or a conversation. Sometimes in my car I’ll get a musical phrase in my head that sticks, and then I’ll build off of that when I get home. Otherwise I’ll sit at the keyboard and just play around a bit until an idea comes that I can run with. I usually bounce my ideas off my husband, but I like to have them pretty fully developed before I share them. As for when I know a song is ready, it’s just a sense.  But even if I think it’s ready, I’ll put it aside for a bit and then revisit it later just to make sure I still feel the same.

What do you get up to outside of music and acting; are there any hobbies in particular that you enjoy?

I love to get outdoors in nature where I can breathe some fresh air, so I’m a big fan of hiking. I also play some tennis. And right now I’m using an app to learn Spanish.

Connect with Fay Gauthier via her Website, Twitter and Instagram.

Tom Lumley – Interview

Tuesday 26th September 2017

Cambridge born Tom Lumley has just announced his next single “Just Like The Light” and being fortunate enough to have an advanced preview, Tom has instantly been added to my list of artists to watch out for.  This year has seen some great new music from up and coming artists, and I already know that we are going to be hearing a lot more from Tom over the coming months. It’s been an exciting year having already performed at a string of live dates, being picked up by BBC Introducing Cambridgeshire and winning Best Male Solo Artist at the NMG Awards; but Tom isn’t stopping there.  His next single “Just Like The Light” is due for release this week and he has further tour dates lined up to see the year through.  I couldn’t let such amazing talent pass me by so I caught up with Tom to find out how he’s feeling about his release and upcoming tour dates, and what we can also expect from him next.

Your next single “Just Like The Light” is due for release on the 28th September.  How are you feeling about getting your new music out there?

I’m very excited. It feels like it’s been a while since I released ‘Dream City’ and it feels like people really can’t wait to hear it.

What’s the single about?

The singles about the type of people that will soon turn on your friendship and stab you in the back to be part of a more popular group of people.

How does the single compare to previous material on your debut EP “Dream City,” and how would you say you’ve grown as a musician? 

I’d definitely say it’s another step up. I don’t really know how to explain how but it just feels like as a band we’re moving forward all the time.

Congratulations on winning Best Male Solo Artist at the NMG Awards!  How was the event, and what did winning the award mean to you?

Thank you! It was an amazing night. The event has grown and grown, the likes of Mallory Knox, Lonely The Brave and John Kennedy were involved this year in handing out awards. Best Male Solo is an award I’ve always wanted to win but to be honest never thought I would. It’s such a hard category so to be chosen by a judging panel made up of well respected industry professionals is mad.

Could you tell me about your writing process?  Being a solo artist do you have anyone to bounce ideas from, and how do you know when a song is ready?

I start my songs off on my own with an acoustic guitar. I tend to get them to a point where I feel happy then pitch them to my guitarist Jake Day. He’ll help with changing a few bits then we demo them in his studio.

You’ve been picked up by BBC Introducing Cambridgeshire, which is fantastic.  How does it feel hearing your music on the radio?

It still feels weird. It’s just nice to know people are liking my music enough to want to play it. BBC Introducing Cambridgeshire have been so supportive of me and I really can’t thank Tom Simkins enough for that.

Are you looking to release your next EP or album in the near future?

At the moment I’m going to stick with singles. I have a locker full of songs but I don’t want to rush it and just chuck them out there. I’m going to try and keep building the fan base whilst releasing singles until I think it’s the right time for an album.

How are you enjoying being on the road and touring? You’ve got a jam-packed tour schedule for the rest of the year.

We’ve just had a month and a bit off after festival season which to be honest has been horrible. We all felt we needed a little break but I’ve hated it, I just love being on stage. It has been nice to get a lot of writing done and add some songs to the live show though. We can’t wait to get back on the road.

Who has been your favourite band or artist to tour with so far?

We haven’t necessarily done a whole tour with one band yet so I can’t really say. Playing shows with The Hunna was mad though, they’re top lads. We tend to play a lot of shows and festivals with a good mate of mine Oscar Corney, so we always have a good laugh with him.

If you were given the opportunity to perform in the BBC Live Lounge, which song would you cover and why?

Oooo hard question. I’d want to do something completely different to my music and try make it my own. I’d probably go for a Britney Spears or Girls Aloud song to be honest, change it up a bit.

Connect with Tom Lumley via his Facebook and Twitter.

Sally Caitlin – Interview

Tuesday 19th September 2017

Rising electronic pop star Sally Caitlin hails from Manchester and has just released her single “Déjà Vu” from her second EP “Experiments.” The EP was written through personal experiences of a relationship breakdown; something which comes natural to many songwriters and is easily relatable to their listeners.  Sally has been writing music since she was 15 years old and knew following her graduation that she wanted to pursue music as a career.  She already has her first self-produced track lined up for 2018, as well as her next album release in the pipe line. “Experiments” is available now so I catch up with Sally to hear about the reactions so far.

For those who are just discovering you please could you tell me a bit more about yourself, where it all started, and what made you decide to pursue music as a career?

I’m a singer-songwriter from Manchester who makes electronic pop music with a bit of an edge. I’ve been writing songs since I was about 15 years old and recording for about four years now. I released my first single, Stuck In Limbo, in 2012 and have recently released my second EP, Experiments. I’ve always loved singing and song-writing but it wasn’t until my graduation from university that I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career, as I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else!

How are you finding the response to your music so far?

So far the response to my music has been great in general! I’ve been supported by a lot of blogs and local radio stations and I get many lovely comments on social media when I share material online. I love speaking to fans after my gigs too! I’m still learning and finding myself as a musician, so even the negative comments can be really useful from a constructive point of view. I’m lucky that most of the time I hear from people who love my music though!

You mentioned that your single “Déjà Vu” was born out of frustrations of being naïve and being played for a fool.  How does it feel listening back knowing the song represents a certain period in your life?

It’s quite a satisfying feeling to listen to a song and know that you used your pain to create something positive. For me, listening to my tracks reminds me of where I was in the past, so there is a nostalgia there, but also of how much I’ve grown. There is no better feeling than listening to a song about someone breaking your heart and knowing that you don’t care anymore!

Who did you work with on the video for the single, and how did it feel seeing it complete?

I worked with an amazing production company in Manchester, called Cosmic Joke. They were so fun to work with and had tonnes of really playful and creative ideas, so the whole process was a ball. Seeing the finished video for me is always nerve-wracking as I’m not a natural on camera, but I’m very happy with the final result.

Are you able to tell me more about your EP “Experiments?” What inspirations have you drawn upon, and how have they encouraged you?

With Experiments, I used people and experiences from my own life to influence my writing. I wanted to tell a story through the EP about a character meeting someone, getting into a relationship and then that relationship breaking down due to it being toxic from the start. Each song draws from situations I have found myself in, but not all from one relationship. It’s almost like a collage of my mistakes! In terms of production, I wanted to make a pop EP that had touches of other genres in it and a good amount of variation. In particular, I was influenced by commercial drum ‘n’ bass, tropical house and electronic artists like Chainsmokers and Cheat Codes.

How easy was it to select the final tracks for your EP, and were there any tracks that didn’t make the cut?

It was actually pretty easy to select the tracks as I knew how I wanted to tell a story. I wrote Take It All and You Are My Weakness first and then worked backwards through the narrative. There was only a couple of songs I wrote in that period that I decided wouldn’t fit on the EP, just as they didn’t have the right lyrical content.

Could you tell me about your writing process?  Being a solo artist do you have anyone to bounce ideas from, or do you just know when a song is ready?

I tend to come up with song ideas at really random times, so I record a quick idea on my phone and then work it out fully at the piano later. After that I look at a few reference tracks for production style and start putting down ideas on my iPad. At the moment I work with ‘The Producers’ in Mansfield to finish my tracks but I’m currently studying production, so in the future I would like to do it all myself. As I have been writing for a long time now, I tend to know when a song is ready. My confidence in song-writing has grown enough over the years that I trust my own vision and judgement.

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

It’s definitely not an easy industry to be in as everyone ‘makes it’ in different ways and there is no clear path to follow. The best advice I have been given is not to race ahead and try and do everything at once. I’m trying to pace myself these days and not put too much pressure on myself, as I do burn the candle at both ends sometimes. The key for me is staying organised and knowing what your immediate goals are, and ignoring the big picture most of the time.

What have you got planned next, and where do you hope your music will take you?

I have a collaboration that should be out before the end of this year, which is very exciting, along with my first self-produced track in early 2018. After that I will be promoting my album, Chemistry, which follows on from the Experiments EP. I have gigs booked in Manchester and London in the coming months, so I’m looking forward to performing live as much as possible. I’m hoping music will take me all around the world and that I can share my stories with as many people as possible. I can’t think of anything better than a crowd of people singing my lyrics back to me!

Finally, what do you get up to outside of music, are there any particular hobbies that you enjoy?

I’ve always loved sport, so I try and keep active as much as possible. Mostly I play tennis and golf, which I know is a little unusual! I also love to read when I get time, as I find it helps me wind down!

Connect with Sally Caitlin via her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Lloyd Llewellyn – Interview

Wednesday 6th September 2017

What I enjoy most about music is discovery; you know that feeling you get when you listen to something for the first time and instantly connect with it.  That’s how I felt with Lloyd Lewellyn, I was completely taken by his soulful vocals and the maturity to his sound; it’s hard to believe that “Long Way Down” is his debut release.  After being picked up from his demos on SoundCloud by a publishing company, Lloyd spent time out in LA showcasing his material, but decided it was too early and wanted to spend more time understanding how to achieve what he truly wanted from music.  Speaking with Lloyd I found out what has driven him to music, how it feels to finally be putting himself out there, and what we can expect from his upcoming headlining show.

Hello! Please could you tell me about yourself, where it all started and at what point you decided to make a career out of music?

Hi! So my name is Lloyd Llewellyn. I’m from a town in South Wales called Barry but lived in London for the past 19 years! Music started from day one. All my family are huge music fans and there was no way I could escape Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Doors being my father’s son. My mum always had the Motown artists playing mixed in with some Nat King Cole, which led to the first album I bought… Guns N’ Roses – The Spaghetti Incident!

My brother and I after we were leggin’ it about to Meat Loaf and Aerosmith started to find artists from all different genres from Oasis to Common, and Bob Dylan to Bon Iver and Daughter. Justin Vernon for me is my favourite modern day talent, the man has far too much talent for one person! I’ve always listened to all different styles of music depending on my mood.

I don’t think there was a moment when I thought I’m doing this and that’s it. I did some gigs and started writing and it just spiralled from there. One gig at a time and it started to be something I did more and more and then slowly it’s changing from something that I’m doing to something I would love to make a full-time career out of.

I’m intrigued to find out more about your grandfather and how he inspires you. Is he a musician too, and has he introduced you to certain artists?

Yeah, pap introduced me to music that I still adore and can’t stop listening to today. Artists like BB King, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and Charles Brown. He was a musician and the guitar that I play is his. It’s a beautiful Gibson Les Paul Deluxe from the 70s. I can remember him annoying my nan and the neighbours with it for years! I would say that he was the start of me falling in love with music. He was the only teacher I’ve ever had and gave me what I think was a real educating in his craft.

You have previously been given the opportunity to work with a music publishing company, but decided that it was too early to sign a deal. What were your thoughts back then?

Firstly, I was so flattered and blown away that someone liked what I was trying to do! It was a real whirlwind because I try to put as much of me into writing and every line is thought about. I also write all the music so I can convey the emotion and message how I would like to do so. Basically I’m stubborn and felt that although they were a fantastic publishers and more importantly to me, good people, I didn’t want the work I had put in to be taken and changed into something I wasn’t trying to achieve. As well as that, I had a lot of learning to do as I wasn’t achieving what I wanted. In short, I think if I want to achieve the things I want to in music I had a lot more work and understanding to have before signing something.

Why do you feel that now is the right time to really put yourself out there?

Because this song I have had for a couple years and it’s a very pure representation of what I’m about musically. Also to be honest it’s about bloody time too!

Your single “Long Way Down” is your debut single. How are you feeling about the release, and what has been the response to your music so far?

I would love to say, “oh, it will be great and I believe in it and I can’t wait for people to hear it!”, but really the only way to put it is, “I am absolutely shitting myself!”. I think that any artists’ first release is probably the most important as it sets a tone for more music to come. Saying that there have been some great moments through BBC Introducing getting played on BBC Wales and BBC Radio 6 was a real high point for me.

What other instruments do you play, and are you the one playing them in “Long Way Down?”

I play the guitar and piano mainly but my new obsession is the banjo! On “Long Way Down”, I’m playing them both and also the Hammond organ which is definitely my favourite addition to a lot of my songs. I roped in a great friend of mine, Charles Frayer to play the bass. I continue to abuse his friendship for his ridiculous talent not just in the bass but also on the piano and general musical knowledge.

Could you tell me about your writing process, and how you know when a song is ready? Being a solo artist do you have anyone you can bounce ideas from?

I do a lot of my writing outside walking my completely insane but perfect dog Mollie! Battersea Park seems to be my favourite. I think for most artists, it’s very difficult to know when it’s ready because you are constantly trying to make it better. Whether it’s changing lyrics or instrumentation, it takes someone else to tell me to stop and leave it. I work a lot with a great engineer and good friend Ganesh Singaram, who really helps me and is always there to tell me when I’m going insane or when I’m making some sense. He is also the engineer on “Long Way Down”, so he was an integral part of the recording and the song as a whole.

Are you looking to release an EP or album in the near future?

I would love the opportunity to release more and more and more so I’m hoping that the single does well and that enables me to do more!

How are you feeling about your first headline show at Notting Hill Arts Club on the 12th September, and are there any tracks in particular that you’re looking forward to performing?

I have terrible nerves! So before any gig I am a bit of a mess… When playing without the band, it’s not unusual for me to sing verses the wrong way round and or have to go round the intro a couple times because I’ve forgotten words! Having said that, I can’t wait to get up there and play with a full band and enjoy my first ever headline. I’m very excited, not gonna lie!

The song I am opening with is a song called “Selfish Skin”. At the moment, it’s my favourite and I think got a really festival feel as it’s coming to the end of summer I’m trying to hold onto any sunshine I can get! Also I’ve never played that live so the excitement of that one is probably the most!

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

My manager will kill me for this (sorry Olly!), but it has to be Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way”. I love that song and always belt it out in the shower, the car, or wherever no one else is. I would do that one because it’s not a song a lot of people know unless you’re an Aretha fan and it’s a big powerful song vocally, which the style in my writing doesn’t really allow me to do vocally. I would love to cover that one.

Connect with Lloyd Llewellyn via his Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Chris Blackwood – Interview

Friday 18th August 2017

Fresh off the back of his debut album release, I spent time chatting with Chris Blackwood about his music career so far, and what has encouraged him to push forward with a career in music.  Upon first listen I was taken aback by the amount of sheer talent Chris has, and it’s aparent that growing up listening to the likes of Oasis and Bob Dylan has played a big part in how his songwriting has been influenced.  The debut self-titled album is a concept album that tells a tail through the different stages of life; starting with birth, then moving in to the confusing middle years, and finishing with a bitter ending.  After playing in and around Manchester, Chris is now stepping out and ready for national recognition.

Hello! Please could you tell me about how it all started for you? Has there been anyone in particular that has inspired you to take the step in to music, and at what point did you know you wanted to make a career out of it?

The first real connection to music I felt was seeing the “Supersonic” video by Oasis on TV. I was only twelve, but it blew me away. The music really connected to me, and I spent the next four years devouring indie rock music. Then when I was seventeen I discovered Bob Dylan and that blew my mind again. This time with words and lyrics. It was at this point I knew I had to make a career out of it. I had been writing songs ever since I started learning guitar was I was twelve, but Dylan made me write different kinds of songs. Songs that matter.

Your single “The Quiet Elude” is the first release from your debut album. How are you finding the response to your music so far?

Fantastic. People understand it which is the main thing. It’s short, simple and effective, which is perfect for a first single from an album. My main worry was that it doesn’t really reflect the album’s sound, but I chose the song as it would be the neatest transition between the acoustic EP’s and the fully fledged full band album.

Who did you work with for the accompanying video for the single, and where did the shoot take place?

I worked with Gaz Davies, who is a fantastic filmmaker. We shot the music video above a jazz bar in Stephenson’s Square, Manchester. It was this cool little photography studio. We got rid of all the backdrops and just kept the room looking bare, as I thought that’d match the aesthetic of the song. We got it all filmed in three hours! A short amount of time that reflect the brevity of the song. Gaz is also filming the album release show on 2nd September.

Could you tell me about your writing process, and how you know when a song is ready? Is there anyone who you can bounce ideas around with?

Songs come from nowhere. Most of the time I’ll have an idea that pops into my head and I’ll run to my guitar to pick it out. Normally I’ll figure the rest out in less than half an hour and the song is done. You can’t just sit down and write. The labour will show. It needs to be natural and unforced to make it seem organic and real.

I always write songs by myself, apart from my single “Unwinds,” which was written with James Fewkes. There is also a song on SoundCloud called “Slipstream,” which was written with Rob Jones. But apart from this I write them all by myself.

What can we expect from your upcoming self-titled album, and how did you find the process of putting it together?

Oh it’s a journey definitely. Everything’s very carefully placed. It’s been a few years in the making in my mind, and it took about eight months to record. It was relatively easy to record because I had all the parts already figured out from years of playing them. The hardest I’d say to get right were the instrumentals. I’ve never done an instrumental track before, never mind three. I wanted to get these to not seem out of place with the rest of the tracks.

What has drawn you to create a concept album, and do any of the tracks draw upon personal experiences?

Every release I do has some kind of concept. Maybe that was inspired by listening to Pink Floyd and The Beatles when I was younger. The two acoustic EP’s had individual concepts, and these were differentiated with each other. Dark and light. This album is like chapter one of a wider concept I’m planning.

All these tracks draw from personal experiences. The problem with this is that it needs to be broad enough to fit into everyone else’s personal experiences. But I believe everyone feels these things when they’re growing up, so I’d like to think the concept is universal. But I don’t force it either. A concept should never get in the way of good songs, then it gets too pretentious. People can find their own meaning in the tracklisting, that is the best way to listen to this album.

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

Pink Floyd and The Beatles as I said earlier are my inspiration for concept-driven music. Apart from that I’m heavily inspired for this album by Elliott Smith and Pavement. Also Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines, two bands I listened to a lot of when I was a teenager.

I used influences as a device on this album. The first half is inspired by the indie rock I listened to when I was a teenager, the second half inspired by Bob Dylan, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine.

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

The only lasting advice I’ve been given is that a career in this industry doesn’t last. That’s why you’ve got to give it your all while you’ve still got it. That’s why I’ve decided to release everything myself. I don’t want to wait for a record company to come along for me to record the music I want. I worked for an entire summer to afford the recording costs of this album. You’ve got to do it yourself. Don’t rely on anyone else.

How are you feeling about your album release show and are there any tracks in particular that you’re most excited about performing live?

Very excited, first time I’ve played with a full band. It’s at a little placed called Aatma, not far from where we filmed the music video. The support acts are fantastic as well. Mystic Rose, The Prions and Scott Lloyd.

I’m looking forward to playing it all to be honest. You can get so much sound out of four people rather than one acoustic guitar. A much more fully-formed sound. But if it’d have to be one track, I’d be “Faraway.” The outro will be fantastic live, and I’m looking forward to how people react to it.

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

I’m really liking Sonic Youth at the moment. I’d like to incorporate more noise rock elements into my music. I’ve added partly noise/shoegaze elements to the outro of “Faraway,” but I’d love to investigate more.

Also I’m loving Can. Krautrock is something I’d love to explore further. I did a twenty minute version of my song “Whirlwind” a while back and I’d love to release it if the opportunity arose.

Connect with Chris Blackwood via his Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Riva Taylor – Interview

Wednesday 16th August 2017

Following the release of her poweful single “Deeper Than Us” in July; which was co-written with Jamie Hartman, who also co-wrote the stunning Rag n’ Bone Man track “Human,” it’s clear that songstress Riva Taylor is in good hands and that we are in for something special from her upcoming album which is due for release in the coming months. So for now whilst the release is under wraps, I was interested to find out more about Riva and her fruitful background.  Being the youngest singer at the age of 12 to ever sign to EMI has certainly put her in good stead; she has since collaborated with many known artists and producers, spent time travelling, touring, and gained herself a degree in History during it all to boot.  Intrigued by Riva I caught a moment to find out more about her story.

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

How long do you have!? In a nutshell – I started as a kid on the West End stage. I just loved singing and performing and did it as much as I could, whenever I could! It led to a few TV appearances as a kid and being signed to EMI Records. I always wrote songs for fun, but only in my 20’s did I begin to collaborate with songwriters and record my own music.  With age and experience there’s so much more to write about, I’m loving it!

When did you realise you could sing and wanted to make something of it?

I probably answered that above! Its something I’ve always done but I made an active decision to pursue a career as a singer as an adult. After I took a break from the industry between 18 and 22 to go to university.    

You have a great story to tell, starting with being the youngest singer to sign to EMI at just 12 years old. How was the experience for you being so young, and how do you feel it has shaped you as an artist today?

Those years have definitely shaped the way I approach my career, the people I work with and my love of exploring new places. I was very fortunate to have been given opportunities to travel and promote my music in all sorts of fun places like Japan and Finland. I also met some wonderful people who I am still in touch with and have been helpful over the years while I have been shaping this last album. One of the most valuable things I learned is that nothing is given, surround yourself with positive influencers and take your destiny into your own hands!

Following this you went to University to study History. How did you juggle this with your music commitments?

I didn’t. It was the first time in my life that I committed myself full time to education, no juggling or putting my pen down to jump on a plane! Of course I missed it and involved myself whenever I could (after the novelty of vodka shots and reading 5 books a week wore thin!) – gigging, theatre and the odd recording session. But music took a backseat, and I needed time to regroup and work out what I wanted from life… a question a lot of 18 year olds ask for sure!

For your dissertation you focused on the exploitation of black US rhythm and blues musicians.  What encouraged you to research in to this, and what was it that interested you about this topic?

I had begun to specialise in US Civil Rights History and minority groups in the US and read a book on the subject. I knew I wanted to research the subject in more detail, PLUS – I got to listen to loads of awesome music! Music is written at the happiest times, and the saddest times and the struggle faced by African Americans in the US at the time was often voiced through their music. It also shaped the rock n roll style of some of the best loved white artists at the time like the Beatles and Elvis and should be celebrated.

You’ve recently released your first single ‘Deeper Than Us’ from your upcoming album. How are you finding the response so far?

Had a fantastic response so far. The remixes have charted and been played by Pete Tong on Radio 1 and by Tiesto. Its given me opportunities to perform it live too – which is when I’m my happiest! Excited to see where things take me next.

The track was co-written with Jamie Hartman. How was the experience? Did you already have a narrative in mind when you wrote the track, or is this something Jamie helped you to develop?

Jamie was fab to work with! We had no idea what we were going to write when we began, but when you write a really important thing is being a little transparent and honest about what you’re going through. So Deeper was definitely a product of two people putting their heads together and stemmed from the fact I felt self actualised and positive at that moment in time!  

What can we expect from your new album, and how does it compare to your previous material?  Are there any notable differences or developments?

It’s very different. I’m vocally different, its darker, it has more edge and its a product of from my own experiences. It’s ‘Deeper’ (excuse the pun!) and that’s all I’m giving you!

How would you describe your music?

Epic, womanly pop.

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

Imagine Dragons, Believer. Great band and I’m loving their new album…

Connect with Riva Taylor via her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Natalie Alexander – Interview

Tuesday 8th August 2017

Natalie Alexander is a Country songstress hailing from the beautiful Santa Cruz in California.  She has just arrived on the music scene with her debut single ‘Cruel’ and her self-titled EP, which brings us the promise of powerful music that evokes a range of emotion.  Armed with her guitar, Natalie is inspired by the likes of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift and hopes to continually evolve as an artist.

Speaking about her debut EP, Natalie says that “There are countless talented people in the world but what sets apart the best from the rest is artistry. I don’t know that I’m there yet but it’s going to be in the front of my mind as I continue to grow artistically. There’s a song on my EP for every kind of 2017 country fan.“

Listening to ‘Cruel’ it’s great to hear Natalie making something of her talents, and I hope this is the start of something glorious to come.  So as she steps out, I grab a moment with Natalie to discuss how it started and how it’s all going so far.

Photo Credit: Brandon Showers

You’ve recently found your love for song writing and playing guitar. Has there been anyone in particular that has inspired you to take the step in to music, and at what point did you know you wanted to make a career out of it?

Music was always a huge part of my life, but I think it came to a point where I realized it was what I wanted pursue, not just a hobby. That moment came my junior year of college. I had been taking voice lessons for fun and recorded myself singing over a karaoke track, just to track my progress. The producer of my EP ended up hearing it and called me saying he wanted to meet, and that’s really where it all began.

Your debut single ‘Cruel’ has just been released. How are you finding the response to your music so far?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s unbelievable. I’ve been contacted by so many people who love my music and are asking for things like signed photographs. When that happened the first time I was shocked! I’m so glad people are responding so well to “Cruel” and the other songs on my EP. It’s definitely motivation to keep creating music they want to listen to. 

Will there be a video release for the single?

We’ve been talking about a video for “Cruel.” While no formal plans have been made as of yet, it’s definitely a possibility here in the near future. That would be such a fun video to make.

Could you tell me about your writing process? Being a solo artist do you have anyone to bounce ideas from, or do you just know when a song is ready?

I’m still very new in the writing department, but it thus far has been a very private process. I like to keep a note on my phone of little things I hear or come up with, whether that be a short phrase or sometimes I’ll come up with a whole verse or chorus. I’ll then sing it into a voice memo on my phone and I can build off of it from there. I’m really looking forward to working with other writers on my own songs. The collaborative nature of music was something that drew me to it in the first place, so I’m looking forward to that next step.

What can we expect from your new EP, and how did you find the process of putting it together?

This EP happened very naturally. I knew almost from the second I heard those 4 songs that they were the ones I wanted on my EP. I think the songs I recorded are each unique and collectively they provide a taste of the different things I’m capable of. I hope there is a song on there for each type of country music fan and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop as an artist and experiment more with my sound and what I like to sing.  

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

Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are at the top of that list. I’ve always admired them both, my voice and style of singing has definitely been influenced heavily by Carrie, and Taylor Swift’s writing is next to none. Having people in the industry that I idolize gives me something to reach for which is crucial, I think, in my growth and development as an artist, so I thank them for that.

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

I’m loving it! It’s really fun and getting to create something for people to enjoy is incredibly rewarding. Probably the best advice I’ve received is to make music that I like, not what I think will sell. Being genuine is incredibly important to me and I think that’s really rule number one to being genuine as an artist.

What other instruments do you play? It sounds as though you have quite a musical family, and your love for music started at a young age, so I’m guessing you know how to play more than just the guitar.

I actually started playing the piano when I was 8, that was my first instrument. Guitar is something I’ve picked up more recently for songwriting and performing. My first music love was definitely the piano – it’s a beautiful instrument with such a rich sound and it’s so fun to play.

You’re passionate about protecting women, children and animals.  Are there any charities in particular that you advocate, and what has drawn you to these causes? 

When I was in high school I saw a number of my friends raising service dogs with Canine Companions for Independence. I think that is such an amazing cause. I love my two dogs and the joy they bring me, so what a beautiful gift you’re giving someone in need of a service dog!

Connect with Natalie Alexander via her Website, Instagram and iTunes.