The Life and Rise of a Modern-Day Music Icon.
Purchase Jen Armstrong’s E.P., 60, via:
Having just returned from a brief tour of the U.S., Armstrong is a determined talent with an incredible future ahead of her. I investigate her musical background; plans for the rest of 2014; her heroes and idols- as well as the city where “you can be writing and playing every night of the week“.
THIS week, has been pretty interesting, all things considered.
In terms of real-world news, there is a Malaysian plane somewhere in the world- seemingly impossible to find. The weather is starting to reflect something akin to spring; and there seems to be a genial calm that has spread amongst most people. In music terms, I have had a busy and exciting weekend. Yesterday I reviewed the wonderful E.P., Some Day, by Leeds-based artist Annie Drury. I have reviewed many female solo stars in my two-or-so years of writing my blog, and yet I find myself constantly surprised by the quality of some artists. It is the female lone stars whom are causing the greatest hope and excitement in me at this moment. Drury’s four-track E.P. was awash with wit and emotion; nuance and mystery; wonderful vocals and compositions- coupled with sharp and thought-out lyrics. It is not everyday that one experiences such a solid and incredible set of songs, and yet I am finding more and more artists whom are capable of such a standard. Drury is a witty and loveable blonde, whom has the potential to melt your heart- as well as silence your tongue. That configuration of personality components is something I am encountering quite a bit of music terms. I have previously reviewed songs by the wonderful Lydia Baylis; an artist whom is piecing together an intriguing career path; Alison Levi is a new artist whom will be a common and familiar name in years to come- between them they are setting London and the south alight. Today, I am surveying another wonderful blonde female- well, technically pink-haired! I shall introduce you to the fabulous Jen Armstrong, anon, but for now, I shall conclude my point. Yesterday (during my Annie Drury review), I prophesied that new music will be a genre that has the capacity to- and should be all rights- supersede and overthrow the hegemony of mainstream artists. There are a few bands and solo stars (in the mainstream) whom offer consistent quality- yet it seems that the biggest movements are coming from sapling talent. Kylie Minogue has just unveiled her nth album; a set that has been met with lukewarm reception and common criticism- embarrassing lyrics on sex; poor vocals and tonnes of filler material. She is an artists I respected in the ’80s (Yes, I’m THAT old); but is someone whom has declined seriously in my estimation. There are too many lipid and unambitious albums; too few great and solid acts capable of longevity- it seems there is a market demand for brand-new and hungry talent to come through and proffer with abandon. I have surveyed many an act (and solo star) I feel will be dominating airplay and column inches (of the music press) in years to come, and today, I can add a name very much near the top of that list…
My first exposure to Jen Armstrong was through Abi Uttley- one half of Yorkshire duo Issimo. I have reviewed the work of this two-piece a few times, and am always blown away by how authoritative and confident their music is. Combining witty two-hander dialogues with tender songs on the inequalities and anachronism of love, Marc Otway and Abi Utley are going to be permanent fixtures on the live scene before too long. When I consider Armstrong, I have confidence that we have in our midst a ready-made and genuine superstar. There is no hyperbole when I say that she has the ability and potential to rival some of the all-time greats- she has the ambition and work rate that you do not see in many artists. Over th last 24 hours alone, Armstrong has posted a couple of cover versions (both pretty damn amusing in their scope and delivery); talked of upcoming gig- as well as hinted at some potentially big future movements. There seems to be breathlessness to her focus, and our heroine is in love with music and what she can contribute to the medium- something that should be applauded. I shall get more into Jen Armstrong The Musician soon, but one facet impresses me about her presentation: her online portfolio. Before I had witnessed a note from her wonderful voice, I was investigating her social media portals. In a recent feature, Armstrong explained how social media allows fans to become involved with music (of their idols and musicians of choice). I have seen too many acts with a slender and meagre online representation, and many run the risk of being overlooked and given short attention. Armstrong can not be excused of negating this golden rule and boasts an impressive and eye-catching official site. Her biography is presented in the form of a recipe; vocal and instrumental components are presented in the form of ingredients- the finished product is our Yorkshire heroine. As well as a multitude of information and news from Armstrong, it is a comprehensive and impressive site- one that keeps you fascinated and amused in equal measures. Away from this, her Facebook and Twitter sites are constantly updated, and her music is readily-available on several different sites. Armstrong clearly has a lot of respect for her fans and understands the importance of directly connecting them with her music- a consideration which has seen her fan base rise and stay very loyal. Once one becomes enraptured in her social media and online pages, you become entranced by the woman behind the music.
Before I examine Jen Armstrong myself, a little biography on our heroine: “Born in a village home to more sheep than people, Jen Armstrong didn’t have the most competitive of starts. This gave her a shock when, moving to Leeds to study a degree in pop music she realised that actually, she wasn’t the only person who could write songs and sing them well. Luckily, she has developed a unique pop / rock style with catchy, tongue in cheek lyrics coupled with a beautifully powerful vocal which gives her the edge over the usual pop songwriters. Jen finished in the top 6 in her year at Leeds College of Music, being number 1 in performance, and followed this with a MA in Music Performance. Jen has written and worked with acclaimed producer and arranger Dr Richard Niles. She has also collaborated with Mark Walker (Westlife, Kelly Rowland, Five). Having recently played Shepherds Bush Empire supporting British singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot, and Wolverhampton Civic Hall supporting the likes of The Vaccines and The Horrors, Jen is now branching out in to the world – she has visited LA to write and perform throughout 2012, and wrote in Scandinavia August 2012 with various writing teams. Jen released her debut EP on 8th June 2012, with a launch in Leeds which was a storming success. Her new EP was released September 8th, launching in style with a tour with Caffé Nero. She supported Billy Ocean at Grassington Festival, and Jools Holland at Cornbury Festival over the summer. Recent successes include winning ‘Rock the House’ at the House of Commons in London, being nominated for the HMMA Awards in Hollywood with her song ‘Chemistry’ off the EP ‘Cyber Girl,’ and signing an endorsement deal with Nord”. In pure form, our heroine is a beguiling prospect indeed. With salmon-coloured hair, she stands out from most people you will see. As a human, she is one of the most phenomenally beautiful women I have even seen, and is stunning to behold. When you hear the artist speak (in interviews or online videos) she comes across as a friendly, amusing and fascinating artist- someone whom wants to connect whoelly to her fans. There is a cheeky humour which runs through her songs, and it is framed by our heroine’s powerful and superb voice. On her Facebook page, Armstrong gives a distillation of her past, present and style: “British singer-songwriter Jen Armstrong has been writing and performing music since the age of 12. She has developed a unique pop / rock style with catchy, tongue in cheek lyrics“. On her official site, Armstrong gives us the ingredients which go into making our star: “1x breathtakingly powerful and beautiful voice; 10 x years as a professional singer-songwriter; An uncountable number of live shows; A Large amount of talent and drive; 1 x love and passion for pop music; 1 x life of classical music; A (large) handful of hit songs; 1 x tablespoonful of multi-talent; A pinch of stubbornness and inability to quit; 1 x 3-piece hot, sexy (and talented) session band“. As well as displaying some native humour, it goes to show how long and hard Armstrong has been performing- and why so many tongues are wagging at the moment. Her beguiling beauty is an irreverence in musical terms- her appeal and majesty comes from her unique personality and striking talents. It is qualities- good ones- like stubbornness that have contributed to Armstrong’s trajectory, and our heroine is not someone who is ever likely to quit or slow down; so in love with music as she is. When I interviewed Armstrong, I was curious to know what music was striking her ear at an early age; what sounds were heard in the family household. She explained: “I grew up listening to and playing lots of classical music. I played in orchestras and quartets and sung in choirs – I think that made a massive difference to the artist I am today. I properly started taking notice of pop music when I was around 11, and I was obsessed with Hanson and Savage Garden for quite a while! They inspired me to write pop songs, and form a band with my sister!“. That mixture of ’90s pop music, combined with classical elements is a juxtaposition and mixture that made me smile; Armstrong was introduced to a wide range and diversity of music from a young age- something that has been extrapolated and integrated into her current movements. Aside from aforementioned U.S. and Australian acts, Armstrong stated that “(My) mum and dad brought me up on ABBA, Queen, The Who, the Beatles and many more – we were always dancing around our living room music blasting away“. It is that combination of inter-generational acts, as well as modern examples which struck my mind. I find that many young artists take too much influence from of-the-moment music and fail to investigate and herald talents from decades past. I am always fearful that the classic and legendary acts are being forgotten about, and I would hate to see the day where the likes of The Beatles and Queen were relegated to the annals of history- and collect dust. Artists such as Armstrong understand the importance of these acts, and- by tying them together with newer influence- ensuring their sounds and sensations are kept alive. Through her cover versions and original work, Armstrong has managed to mix in both ’60s and ’70s classic elements with contemporary wonder. When I interviewed Armstrong, I was keen to find out which singers and vocalists have inspired her; which stars have been enforced her ambitions. Armstrong stated: “I still see Gavin Degraw as one of the best vocalists out there right now. Freddie Mercury will always be on top. And Eva Cassidy could absolutely do no wrong in my eyes.” Although I am relatively unfamiliar with Degraw’s music, I share a huge admiration of Mercury and Cassidy. Mercury is my favourite singer of all-time, and in the way that Armstrong’s vocals are filled with force, passion and conviction, you can hear some influence from the late Queen frontman. Eva Cassidy is the singer that came clearest to mind when hearing Armstrong. Although Cassidy largely covered other songs, she gave each a transformative genius to each- due to her haunting and divine voice. Our heroine has a similar beauty and potency to her delivery, and during cuts from Cyber Girl, 60– as well as her cover versions- I was put in mind of some of Cassidy’s Songbird and Live At Blues Alley moments. I will go onto explain and investigate our Yorkshire heroine’s recent steps shortly, but time needs to be dedicated to her impressive and multitudinous past work. Over the last few years, Armstrong has produced a great body of work; variegated and filled with quality- the testament of a hungry young woman whom wants enduring and evergreen success. One of the reasons why Armstrong’s previous work has been celebrated and caused seduction is out heroine’s multi-talented approach. Our star is a talented musician whom incorporates piano and guitar into her performances- each instrumental in her music. Armstrong has a small band and performs with other players, yet by being a skilled instrumentalist, she ensures continual touring and output- as she can sing and play she does not have to wait for musicians and can produce as many songs and gigs as she wants. When I caught up with Armstrong she explained that learning instruments was vital as “it helps writing and performing in so many ways“.
Our young star has been very busy lately, yet looking back, I am always impressed by how much she has already recorded. If you check out her work on iTunes (link is at the foot of this feature), you can investigate and see just what Armstrong has produced. Her Cybergirl E.P. was choked full of effusive and delightful music; the title track is a sweet and memorable take on boy-meets-girl- backed with a memorable and humorous music video. That E.P. was released back in June of 2012, and along with Tero Potila, Armstrong crafted a strong and striking- highlighted a unique and down-to-earth personality. The E.P. demonstrated the vocal and musical strengths of Armstrong, but also demonstrated a great talent for original and diverse lyrics. The title cut spoke of: “I’m a cyber girl/And I’ll rock your world/Be my cyber king/Let the download begin/It’s a cyber place/We come from hyperspace/Take me I’m your cyber girl“. Three months later, Armstrong released the Not That Kind of Girl E.P. Although the lyrical themes had shifted from her previous release, the vocal mesmeric and compositional cores were all in tact- and in full force. The cut, Mr. Loser looked at the embers of a broken relationship, with our heroine stating to her (anonymous) sweetheart: “You gave me promises and they all fell through/You said I love spending time with you…”. The track was filled with cutting and witty lines (“I’m not a toy, just fun for a boy, go home and play with yourself” rank amongst the finest). It was a triumphant three-track E.P., and showcased the strong and diverse voice our heroine has- as well as the chameleon-like songwriting ability she has. In the two years since then, Armstrong has been restlessly producing (fine) work. The December 2012 single This Time was another bold and confident song from our heroine, and filled with intrigue and striking imagery. If you look at Armstrong’s YouTube page (see the link at the bottom of the feature) you get a sense of what a range- both of voice and influence- our heroine has. The likes of Taylor Swift, Rhianna and Gavin DeGraw (the latter was a particular memorable performance of Candy, alongside Mike Attinger). In the course of Armstrong’s, the likes of The Eagles, Muse, Ben Folds, Elton John and Flo Rida have been given a working over- each cover imbued with a sense of personality and nuance that the original did not contain. I shall give a mini-review of Armstrong’s current E.P. later, yet our heroine has produced some terrific originals over the past months. New Year’s Resolution is a fun and upbeat song; our star looking at all the goals she has set herself: all of which appear to be broken. The gym is out of the questions and “Running shoes/Are still brand new“. Our heroine surveys various scenes, and wittily investigates some short-lived New Year’s resolve: “Sarah next door tried to stick her promise out/She lasted roughly 7 days or there abouts/I caught her with, the biscuit tin“. Armstrong is a master of fun and humorous songs; tableaux that look at the quirky side of life and love- backed by her striking voice. I cannot do full justice to her cannon of originals and covers, but would implore you to head to YouTube and seek them out. Covers of works by Keane and Arctic Monkeys mingle alongside brilliant originals. Bullet was a track recorded during a live performance, and put me in mind of some of Eva Cassidy’s finest work. Armstrong presents a delicate and entrancing vocal performance over elliptical piano, and shows our heroine in tender and considered mood. Running Shoes again wears a serious face, and is instilled with maturity and openness. Our heroine goes from downbeat (“I’m taking off this stupid smile/It’s been a lie for such a long time“) to escape (“You don’t get to know if I’m doing okay/I’m running from you, I’m getting away“) all the way to anxiety (“I once was brave, I stood my ground/But now these faces stare me down“). Songs such as this, as well as This Time, go to show another side to our heroine: a more tender and vulnerable aspect. It is merit-worthy that Armstrong is as skilled and authoritative singing of fractured love and sadness, as she is with upbeat and anthemic snippets of modern life. The E.P. Pink Christmas was a set of carol covers, given a unique spin by Armstrong; that was released last Christmas, and was another feather in our heroine’s cap- it has been a hectic and productive last couple of years. During 2012 and 2013, Armstrong was settled in the U.K, and drawing influence, not only from her idols and past, but her home in Yorkshire and scenes of British life. The end of last year and the beginning of this year saw fresh scenes and sights, which have influenced our young star…
The past six-or-so months has seen a lot of change and activity for Armstrong, and has seen an E.P. release (60), as well as a string of gigs in the U.K.- as well as a whole host of new cover versions. Perhaps the most exciting period for our heroine occurred a few weeks ago when she visited the U.S. In her online videos You’ve Been Pinked, Armstrong updates her fans through a series of travelogues and diary entries: that chart her exploits and activities. In the latest instalment, Armstrong has published her U.S. adventures. It is evident that our heroine had a ball, and got to play her music in some rather illustrious venues. During her Californian leg of the trip, Armstrong played in The Viper Room and House of Blues; across Hollywood and L.A.- entrancing U.S. audiences with her incredible music and personality. New ideas (for songs) were percolated and realised and she gained fresh influence and inspiration amidst the busy Californian streets and locales. When I asked her about what the U.S. experience was like, she told me: “The U.S. is a very different place for sure. Because I’m English (and have pink hair!) I always get a good reception, you have to somehow make yourself different from the other thousands and thousands of artists and performers out there. I’m not saying I’m different, but I try”. With her pink hair and individual style, Armstrong managed to stand out from the myriad wave of performers whom ply their trade night in, night out. It is likely that- finance depending- she will be returning to the good ol’ U.S.A. very soon, as the reception she received was incredible. If the varying and diverse city scenes of L.A. struck a chord with our heroine, another city managed not only to strike a chord, but win her heart: Nashville. The Tennessee safe haven is a place Armstrong felt at home with; a city preferable to the likes of L.A. It is the natural home for a lot of musicians, including Jack White whom state that the variety and proliferation of live music inspires their minds. Armstrong summed the home of Country music up like this: “Nashville was incredible – every bar has live music and is packed out a lot of the time. That doesn’t happen in many other places in the world… You can be writing and playing every night of the week. I just loved it and il be back soon! It’s all about music there”. As well as meeting some wonderful and great people, it is clear that the city has compelled Armstrong to write and write- new songs have come out of that period. One such song (written with Steve Hacker) called You And Me Time has a feel good and upbeat sound with Country and Pop edges. Whilst performing in Nashville venues such as The Row, Armstrong not only got the chance to experience a new culture and landscape, but test her material out on a unfamiliar audience. Drawing inspiration from local musicians and the live music scene, our heroine not only got her creative juices flowing, but fell in love with the city- I am sure that an album or E.P. will be recorded over there some time during her career. It seems that the sojourn in the U.S. has given Armstrong a new creative lease and food for thought. The different audiences and scenes will perhaps shape her future sounds, and it will be exciting to see. Whether there will be Country or Blues elements in upcoming releases or U.S.-themed mandates is unsure- an intriguing proposition. She is back on home turf now and performing to local audiences; there will be new material being produced eminently, yet I will introduce you to Armstrong last E.P. release.
I have mentioned previous releases such as Pink Christmas, Not That Kind of Girl and Cybergirl, yet it is 60 which is currently causing a lot of excitement. Released back in November of last year, it is a collection of four songs that move on from past releases, whilst retaining Armstrong’s distinct cores and trademarks. Stay With Me begins with a gorgeous and rolling piano line, before our heroine steps to the mic. Recounting a romance where “he was 22/And she was three years older“, the lyrics- as we come to expect from Armstrong- are sharp and humorous. Although there is some introspection and sadness within the tale, our heroine’s powerful and emotive voice does not wallow; instead infusing potency and invigoration. By the time the chorus arrives, Armstrong’s voice rises and intones sweetly as she implores; “Stay with me/’til the end of time“. It is a track that speaks (to an unnamed beau) to stay with our heroine; until they grow old together. In so much that there is humour and light-hearted edges to the song, it is an honest love song and a sensitive coda- wrapped in tender piano lines and sweeping moments. Armstrong’s voice has elements of modern-day U.S. idols of Pop and Soul, but is unmistakably hers throughout. By the final stages we are introduced to some vocative strings and wordless vocals- adding extra weight to the atmosphere. The entire track displays the key elements of our heroine’s talent: terrific compositions and lyrics; strong and incredible vocal range, as well as a memorable chorus. Like Drury yesterday, Armstrong pens a chorus that is effectively simple and memorable; her voice ranges from hugely evocative to tenderly sweet- the result is a terrific lead-off song that will stick around in the memory (9.5/10.0). The second track, Mr. Laid Back shows our heroine in provocative, humorous and upbeat mood. Whereas the opening track was more inward-thinking and emotional, here the sound is fun and frivolous. Early lyrics talk of “Rum truffles/Snooping on the computer“. Pointing the finger at a figure who wears a suit to work “every day“, has a wife, responsibilities and a busy life; yet is not deterred of phased at all. Whether the song is talking of a particular figure in Armstrong’s life I am unsure, yet it is someone whom compels her. This figure, whom wears his walking boots, eats “cream with custard/On top of ice cream” and sits watching action movies sounds like an intriguing fella. Again, the chorus has a catchy and memorable sound to it, and is something you will singing along to, without knowing about it. It is such an upbeat and fun song, that it will put a smile on your face, and compel you to imagine various scenes and scenarios- picturing what the central figure looks like. The hero of the tale is loving his life on his terms, and likes things the way they are; he knows what’s good and “what is shit“, which- according to our heroine- “suits him just fine“. (9.4/10.0). The title track is third off the block, and begins life with a spiritedly and jumping acoustic guitar strum. Our heroine looks at a man who is, unsurprisingly, 60, yet she wouldn’t put him “a day past 50“. It is the celebration of a man who is reaching old age; our heroine asks the song’s focus if has made the best choices in life; know where he is going, and “Did you pick the right career?” With wordless coos and cheery abandon I cannot help but look at the E.P.’s cover, when investigating the song. The hunchback homunculus that looks at you looks like… well pretty much anyone’s grandfather, yet is someone whom perhaps is “more immune to the effects of beer and wine“. In the way that northern acts like The Beautiful South were masters of witty and sardonic tales of modern life; odd figures and the reality of reality, here Armstrong has a ball investigating a man whom switches on Match of the Day; yet has made some mistakes throughout his years. Once again it is a song synonymous with a catchy chorus- in fact the entire song lodges into your brain. You cannot help but root for the hero and be swept up in the song’s infectious spirit. It is rare to laugh along to music, yet here you elicit chuckles throughout. The way tender and sweet vocals score lyrics about the inequities and delirium of old age is charming and brilliant. By the end, our heroine says it best: “You’re not tipsy/Now that you’re 60“. (9.8/10.0). The E.P.’s swansong, Look up to You, follows suit from the opening track. Romantic and soft piano score a romantic tale, where a sweetheart is told: “you have to let go“. Armstrong is in impassioned and seductive mood as a tender and compelling vocal speaks of a figure whom is “Everything to me“. The song reveals new light as the chorus comes into view. Speaking of someone whom is up there “between the stars” it becomes a song to a lost loved one- adding sentimentality and raw emotion to proceedings. Armstrong makes a promise to her departed subject to do them proud; be a huge success and fight on. She clearly admires the figure and looks up to them; as she looks back on her life our heroine pays tribute to an inspirational person. Providing thanks, Armstrong produces one of her best vocal performances of the set: it is both beautiful and powerful at the same time. The backing is effective yet restrained, allowing our heroine the spotlight. Having followed on from such an upbeat and funny track, it is a (pleasant) shock to witness this song. It demonstrates just how effectively and seamlessly Armstrong can change direction- and do so with conviction and authority. As the final piano notes end the E.P., you cannot help but be impressed. (9.7/10.0). Overall it is a brilliant work, and something everyone should grab a hold of. Over the course of a quartet of songs, our heroine looks at the funny side to old age; a laid back anti-hero; a promise to a departed relative- as well as tender pleas in love. You never know what is coming next, and are surprised and won over with each track. As well as a brilliant set of lyrics and compositions, it is Armstrong’s voice that stands out. Hugely evocative and convincing throughout, she matches the sheer beauty of the likes of Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy and the like; yet has a power and set if lungs that rank her alongside some of her idols and heroes. I came away from listening to 60 hugely excited at what could be coming. She seems to become more confident with each new release, so it will be fascinating to see what our heroine comes up with next.
When it comes to the future, I quizzed Armstrong whether we will see a new E.P. or album in the next few months. She stated: “I’ll always release things but my debut album will be very special and a big deal for me so that will take some time”. Armstrong is always moving and working, so there is always new material afoot. Most artists take months to write an E.P.; release it and then offer nothing new for a year or so. It seems that there are few as hard-working as Armstrong, whom is always finding new songs to cover, and new songs to write. In the last couple of days, a couple of brilliantly strange (and funny) covers have come to light; there is talk of new songs for the future- but for now there will be some more gigs. I know how much the fan’s love means to Armstrong, and in turn she offers so much music and direct connection that you are very much in her world. Between her Facebook page and official site, she lets her fans into her life and keeps them involved with every step. Over the last couple of years, our heroine has released more material than her contemporaries do in twice that time; so I hope she will allow herself some time to relax and reflect. Although, knowing how much music means to her, there is going to be ambitions to return to the U.S.; new venues to play and new covers and originals to conquer.
I am writing this feature, not just as a musical love note, but to highlight the kind of talent that is out there right now. There are few modern acts whom blow me away, but am coming across quite a few as of late. Armstrong ranks at the top of the list, due to the quality of her material- as well as the frequency in which she releases it. As a human, she comes across as witty, friendly, bubbly and filled with passion. I envy the lucky bastard that ends up with her, as she is annoyingly mesmeric, and someone I would kill to collaborate with. I know that London venues such as Ronnie Scott’s would kill to have her play there, so hope that she does venture down this way. As much as a man would be one of the luckiest alive to have her, more relevantly, the music world is lucky to have her. I asked Armstrong about new music; whether there were many artists she was compelled by. She went onto to explain it, thus: “I must confess not a lot of new artists blow me away – maybe I look in the wrong places. Most recently I heard a guy called Matt Giraud in Nashville. He was flipping phenomenal and I hope he makes a nice living from music because he’s so deserving. Hannah Rei is one of my favourite artists and writers, and my best Meghann Clancy is so talented and so awesome“. There are too many disposable acts and musicians on the scene. When I asked whether Armstrong liked reality shows or saw them as the way forward she explained that “they’re just tv entertainment shows. That’s their purpose and they do it well“. I guess the modern scene looks for quick fixes and the fly-by-night music examples; a lot of time great acts get buried amongst the clatter of reality stars. I have reviewed quite a few great new acts, but I am hopeful that more will come through. The mainstream artists and my favourite bands have their place,. yet it is always nice to hear something new. Perhaps Armstrong has the right idea: see far-off places and experience new people. Her travelogues in the U.S. have given her fresh impetus and allowed her to behold towns and bars that are filled with new fans and admirers. Similarly, the likes of Nashville have given up great talent and inspiration to her, and I have not seen anyone more excited by music and her own material than I have with Armstrong. When it comes to new artists, I pressed her as to whether she had any advice: “Learn an instrument. It helps writing and performing in so many ways. Network your ass off. It’s (unfortunately) mostly about who you know. Talent comes later”. There is a lot of truth to what she has said. Talent is paramount, yet networking and connecting via social media (and in music venues throughout the world) can be even more vital. I am beyond confident that the future will be Armstrong’s for the taking. She has the beauty, personality and raw talent to take the music world by storm, and there will venues and festivals lining up to sign her up. I know that local record labels such as Cuckoo Records house similar talent, and I am sure that- if she should choose- there would be a natural home for her there. In my role as a songwriter and reviewer I always look for inspiration not only in terms of great songs to hear, but artists whom inspire my own work. Just now, I have written some new lyrics after listening to Look up to You and 60– I won’t bore you with them! The songs I am putting together for my (five-track) E.P. tend to contain romance, raw edge and Queen-esque epics- but I have been lacking the humour and fun. Listening to Armstrong’s tales of fractured modern life and the curious figures she presents has compelled me to reassess my own writing. As well as lyrics, I am thinking of new songs; ideas of a differing nature and have fresh energy. Armstrong’s voice and professionalism is something I would absolute love to experience and be a part of, and there are few people in music I can say that about. I will leave you with a couple of points. The first one regards our talent as a whole. As much as I have gone on about how gorgeous and funny she is, my abiding point is this: she has a hell of a personality. Too many acts are lifeless and intangible and hide behind facades. There is a humanity and girl-next-door quality to Armstrong- she is someone who wants to welcome as many people to her world as possible. Her music, as well, possess the sort of range and layers you do not often find. Many acts get the voice or lyrics right- and are stagnant when it comes to range. Some do it the other way around, yet there is a paucity that get everything just-so. The combination of early influences, constant touring and an ambitious songbook has meant that Armstrong stands apart from her peers. Too many false idols exist in music, and for that reason, we should give more light and love to the likes of our heroine. My final point is perhaps a more whimsical one- yet a true one. Yesterday I reviewed a Yorkshire lass (from Keighley). Her E.P., Some Day was the best I have heard all year. Issimo are from Bradford-way and their music is amongst the finest and most memorable about. Having reviewed a lot of music from Cuckoo Records Electro-Swing artists from Leeds; multi-talented singers from Yorkshire and stupendous innovators from Hull and Sheffield have overwhelmed me somewhat. I love music from London, Liverpool, Manchester and beyond, yet find that there is less consistency- and the biggest and best from here do not rival Yorkshire’s finest. Skipton was recently voted as the best place in Britain to live, and is a place where Armstrong calls home. Perhaps it is not an accident that such as idyllic town has provided happiness and richness for our young heroine; she may be loathed to ever leave there. I am not sure why Yorkshire produces the best music around, yet it seems to be doing the county proud. I asked what she attribute this to, and she explained succinctly: “(They’re) the best people in the world. Simples“. Given what I have witnessed within her music, artistry and personality…
SHE may well be on to something.
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