The Equality State: Getting It (Almost) There…

The Equality State

Pilot episode

(29 minutes):


Wy-om-ing, London

(Why I’m In London)

Main Characters:

Dan Bush (Tall, long-ish hair; model looks- smarter attire; fashionable casual look): A handsome and respectable doctor (based in Hackney), he lives in Shoreditch-with his girlfriend, Holly. A 29-year-old, he has plans for bigger things- including marriage. After becoming engaged to Holly (in the first episode) he begins to panic; wondering where his life is going- until he meets Stefan (an old acquaintance he knew from a while ago) – but can’t picture why/how. Dan’s day is spent tending to awkward/odd patients; receiving affections from a female colleague- and preparing for his forthcoming wedding.

Stefan Buckley (short, bearded; brunette- casual clothing): A 36-year-old layabout (obsessed with Thom Yorke), he sits about his flat- he shares with his girlfriend, Kate. Having just fallen pregnant, Stefan needs to step up; improve his ways- become a man (or get distracted by a cocky pigeon). When he starts to feel ill, he visits Dan- and receives some crushing news. Determined to improve his life, he puts together a Bucket list- which he and Dan begin. Stefan lives in Soho with Kate- the two find it hard making rent; under scrutiny from their landlord.

Holly Mercury (red hair, athletic; tattoos- cross between Cheryl Cole and Angelina Jolie; chic dress style): Holly is a young P.C. (24): she is always in trouble; prone to breaking rules- and being inappropriate. Having been on a final warning, after a Halloween party, Holly breaks the rules- letting a criminal drive her home in a police car. Her superiors kick her out: infuriated by her constant controversy. With a wedding coming up, she needs to make plans; get money- aware she does not have a good reputation. After a meeting with Kate- who she used to know at school, the two get together; by accident create a money-making gem. Holly’s future is thrown into turmoil.

Kate Fagen (black, slim; green eyes; short- ‘90s-style casual wear; jeans and T-shirt look- very striking too): A young mum-to-be, Kate (25) is living on the edge: desperate to make ends meet, she spends her days as a Jehovah’s Witness: trying to convert the people of south and east London. After having doors shut in her face; odd encounters- and a musical number, Conversion- the future looks bleak- until she meets Kate. Having to provide for her unborn- who she decided to keep; after a hard decision- and things look on the up.


The pilot focuses on two different couples in their 20s, who come together; during Hallowe’en of 2016.  Their coming together will have a huge effect on each other; that will change their lives and cause huge waves.

Kate Fagen is a Jehovah’s Witness; she is down on her luck and a mother-to-be.  She has just learned she is pregnant and tries to balance her daily life, coping with it.  She goes door-to-door in east London; trying to spread ‘the good word’.  The local citizens are not so accepting, and as she meets some weird and wonderful people, she starts to doubt herself.  As the sun rises over east London, Alice and her ‘colleagues’ try to change people’s minds; before a huge song-and-dance number- mixing Thriller and Billie Jean together with classic musical elements- breaks out: D.E.N.I.A.L.  As a hard morning drags on, Kate returns to her Soho apartment she shares with her boyfriend.

The boyfriend in question is a one Stefan Buckley.  He has recently been fired as a teacher, and spends his days obsessed with Radiohead; smoking, drinking and preparing for an upcoming court case: a harassment charge made by Thom Yorke.  The two sit down and discuss the future possibility of becoming parents (after an unfortunate announcement; where Kate gets morning sickness in an unfortunate location); both knowing that they do not have the money or security- or stability- to be able to handle it.  They weight up their lives, and recollect how and why Stefan got fired: both aware that they need to change their lives.

Over in Camden, P.C. Holly Mercury is on the beat- and on a crime scene.  She is a controversial and ‘bent’ police officer, and has been in trouble constantly.  From drag racing The Red Cross; wrongful arrests, parking in disabled spaces and tampering with murder scenes, her boss is fuming.  Holly arrests some ‘freedom-hating terrorists’; lays down the law and not strictly playing by the rules- not realising they are Hasidic Jews.  When they complain, she tells them to ‘tell someone who cares’; as there is a smash cut to her Chief Inspector’s office; as a stack of complaints and written warnings are piled on the desk.  She is given one last chance, and told she is on very thin ice.  In her spare time, she models for Crimson Electric: a London model agency that is filled with the most disreputable opportunists and odd assignments you could imagine.

In a local hospital, her high-flying and dashing boyfriend Dan Bush is experiencing a typical day.  In the clinic he is dealing with some strange and depraved patients, whilst dealing with the advances of a gorgeous co-worker; as well as fending off a tyrannical boss- who is rather violent and angry.  In his spare time, he looks after his sick and cantankerous parents (two 80-year-olds).  After a rough month, he catches a quick break at his flat; located opposite a kebab shop in Camden- Madonna’s Kebabs (run by Madonna herself; although she tells everyone she is a look-alike).  He meets Natalie there, as the two discuss a recent event: Dan proposing the previous night.  With Holly’s job at risk and pressures in Dan’s life; Dan starts to feel the strain; as Holly makes lavish- and very unusual plans!  As they prepare for the evening’s Hallowe’en party, the day ticks on…

Kate deals with the effects of morning sickness; choosing inconvenient and embarrassing places to fall ill.  The day continues, and the four prepare for the evening.  As the guests arrive in various costumes, Kate’s niece is round as they have to babysit her.  She is a very ‘mature’ and strange 4-year-old and causes all ends of issues; not helped by Stefan teaching her how to smoke.  The party swings on, as each of the couples confide in each other; and their various doubts.

As the morning arrives, the four go separate ways.  Kate is left to clear up the mess and carnage of the night before; before having to go onto the streets, in a desperate attempt to bring the word of Jehovah to Elephant and Castle and Hackney.  Dan has a nightmare morning as his colleague makes a pass, and his fellow doctors tease him about settling down.  Holly is fired for letting a drunk meth-head drive her home after the party- in a police car.  Holly has her badge, car and clothes stolen, and is now out of a job, being pursued by angry criminals, with the Met. Police angrily demanding the return of the stolen assets.  Stefan spends his morning trying to invent the perfect hangover cure; looking for a new job, as well as being embroiled in a battle with a neighbour- with disastrous consequences.

The two boys meet up at a local bar- Homme’s; they discuss their situations and both feel trapped.  They are making plans for the future when Stefan gets a phone call with terrible news- he may only have 8 months to live.

The two girls meet at an Australian bar in Soho.  With Holly fired and Kate dislocated and lost, they both feel a change is needed.  After both drink a well-known cocktail; Holly still has drugs- taken from a local gang.  After dropping them in the cocktail; she accidentally takes a sip.  The effects start to take a hold; leaving her sedate and ecstatic- a bizarre and brilliant animated sequence takes place (mixing Fantasia, stop motion, The Beatles and live action).  As the girls make their way home on the tube, they see the depression of London life; the inequality as well as the beauty and fascination.  As Holly finishes her day, arriving at the door of a chavy couple, Kate calls.  Suddenly a master plan is struck, and the girls strike upon a way out of their problems.

Stefan and Dan have a heart-to-heart and asses the news.  Stefan decides that he has been a disappointment to Kate, and decides to make a list; a sort of Bucket List, where he will do as much as possible- as well as achieve as many goals as possible.

The girls realise that Holly has stumbled upon an addictive and potent invention.  The two set up premises in the empty basement of the kebab shop (opposite Holly and Dan’s flat), and come up with a name: Butterfly Kiss.  The bottle design is stunning: it depicts a multi-coloured butterfly spreading its wings; there is a lipstick kiss in the middle (created by the girls kissing the bottle)- the drink itself is a green liquid.  They recruit a group of followers who are all socially different.  It refers to the effect the cocktail has where everyone- rich or poor- is levelled and equaled: everyone feels the same.  It also refers to Wyoming, a U.S. state which is mountainous and sparsely-populated- the first state of America to give women the vote.  It seems like a metaphor for their business, and how they customers will blend into London life.

As the police close in on Holly and Dan’s flat and the walls close in, Holly still uses her pull and power as a police officer to round up customers and make money and connections.  Stefan and Dan begin a list of 30 ‘to-dos’ or tasks; starting with number 1- host a charity concert for Cancer Research.  The two forget about work and life.  Dan does not mention that his colleague made a pass, as well as his doubts about the wedding; Stefan does not let Kate know about his illness.  Meanwhile neither girls mention their business venture, as well as Holly’s firing, and Kate’s doubts about motherhood.

The boys look through London- to recruit musicians.  In a series of short vignettes, the two meet the perfect line-up:

They find Dave Grohl making hoax calls- he gets tired of being thought of (of) Rock’s ‘nice guy’- and has a seedy and dark private life- he also hosts an underground horse fighting ring.  In exchange (for not calling the police) Dave is in- and agrees to drum for the night.

The boys find Muse at a local bar- with Stefan arguing with Matt Bellamy (the two have a heated debate about bubble-wrap.  Matt assures the boys that Muse aren’t as wacky as the media make them out to be- until he pulls out a dead crow in a jar and sniffs it.  The band agrees to halt work on the new album- about the plight of the British library system- to gig for the cause.

After that, the lads stumble upon Ellie Goulding.  She is singing to injured children- that she has injured/run over.  After Dan gets into a debate- he thinks she is Rita Ora (Ellie resents this until she explains they do share a her-and-her toilet).  Ellie does the gig as part of community service.

After this, the boys go to Florence Welch’s house.  Finding her in the middle of a drinking binge- she is addicted to Scottish Olive Oil- if you drink it in the night it makes you blind- she has to kick the habit.  Her flat is strewn with empty bottles; she has a clear problem.  Florence has also acquired quite a few cats and is spiraling out of control.  The boys want to help and ask her to perform.

Before their big score, the boys find Thom Yorke- this sparks a huge physical fight between Thom and Stefan.  When it calms down Thom explains he is in the middle of a marketing scam: marketing Creep-related productions.  Thom is involved in an underground merchandise/fraud ring with local gangsters (The South Kensington gangsters aren’t as violent as they are cruel- Thom explains his famous-looking eye was caused by him being slapped by a wedge of imported Caribou cheese.  Fearing the gang will ‘glaze his nipples’- (or as Thom explains “just the tip of a disturbing, yet strangely arousing, regime of brutality”), he is still mad at Stefan- until Stefan saves him (after a box of peacock feathers falls towards him- and instead takes out the cast of Made in Chelsea).  Thom feels indebted and agrees to take part.

Just before the boys call it quits, they pass a protest- outside a shop called Plant & Page.  It is emblazed in neon letters; the building is painted (in the style of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy album cover).  The protestors are in force- except for the odd few who seem to be at the wrong rally- and we pan inside the shop.  Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have set up a gardening shop- the two wear gardener’s clothes.  The two realise they have messed up- and blame each other- so Plant wails on Page- slamming his head against the stairway (to Hell).  Page responds by sticking a hose up Plant’s posterior- his trousers fall down (revealing a staggering mid-section) – until they are interrupted.  With the two still bickering- and revealing a few disturbing and unheard of rumours- they feel they need to get back into music- for one night only.  They only wish John Paul Jones could be with them- until Dan reveals he is still alive (Plant and Page hide a series of photos and plans that reveal where John Paul is/what they have done).  It seems everything is primed…

In the closing scenes, Kate and Stefan talk about the future, and possible abortion.  Outside an inappropriately-named abortion clinic, as the rain lashes; the two realises that they want to stay together and need a future to hold onto.  Knowing that each of their lives will be very different and turbulent, they continue as they are: making sure neither knows of each other’s fate.  Natalie and Dan spend the night together; neither revealing truths, but promising to stick together.  When the following night comes around, Kate and Holly are in the basement, surrounded by acolytes.  In homage to Fight Club, Kate gives a speech; the mantra of the club and society:

The vile men that take the head of the world,

Break the mind and kill our kind

The women who break the mould will never ask

For an even mind

In spite of light the sun goes down

The world’s true nature is revealed

The poor are blinder, the rich control

The average are crushed under foot

The right to vote, the equality state

Every human on a level plain

In the openness of the midnight hour

We are all the same

Whilst mere mortals tell us they see some

And only remember a few

We feel everything

When eyes of the fools are closed and their idle dreams dance

We will rule- and they will hear us call

As the conclusion plays out, the girls find that they are being pursued.  Kate has her colleagues, as well as some of her ‘faithful’ chasing her; angry at her betrayal and revaluation; as Holly finds that her flat is taken over by the police; keen to find her, as some disgruntled criminals also close in.  Stefan has illness and fatherhood to think about (Thom Yorke drops the court case after Stefan saves his life), as Dan’s colleague announces her intentions- leaving each pair with much to ponder.  The screen splits as each of the couples go separate ways.  Stefan and Dan watch the concert unfold; and have a last heart-to-heart.  Stefan persuades Florence to sing (to his unborn child) over the phone, in a touching scene- with Florence doing it under one special condition.  Kate and Holly have a huge queue of customers, as word spreads.  As the siren’s flash across the street and the flat is turned over, the girls both join hands and smile; realising that London will be changed, and that their lives will never be the same again.  Dan and Stefan’s concert- from a coffee bar in Shoreditch- goes into the night; as the specially-composed song unites all the musicians- playing to an intimate crowd (the track, Candy Shop Blues- a stomping Blues-Rock number- unites each musician).  Mirroring the first scene- in tribute of Memento- Stefan pulls his car outside a local tattoo parlour.  There is mystery to why he is there (he has a note in hand with various information- he will tattoo onto himself); what is going to happen- setting up another cliffhanger, there is narration (from Stefan), as he delivers the line: “Now… where were we?” as there is an instant cut to the closing credits- as Radiohead’s National Anthem plays (it merges from the performed song near the end).

Notes and ideas:

Because there have been so few- good or successful- U.K. animated comedies, it is high time there was an attempt.  At the moment, there are few comedies- from Britain- I watch- there is a bit of a dip at present.  I want to write something with a U.S. sensibility; inspired by the likes of The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park, it will a very modern look to it- the same style of animation as The Simpsons (without the yellow people), and feature a great and varied cast.  I have an idea for the main cast- two boys, two girls- and hopefully they will be in.  The pilot will hopefully wet appetites for a full series.  With cliffhangers and plot twists, the idea is to leave people wanting more- both A-story arcs have huge longevity and potential for growth.  The series will see the girls with the power- transposing gender roles and making them the dominant duo.  Parodying and (with) affection referencing Breaking Bad, the girls go all across London- and the U.K.- and get in all sort of adventures and scrapes.  The boys go all across the world and bond; experiencing and achieving huge things.  The reality of home life and reality never is far from the door; each couple comes together and keeps their other lives separate.  In time, I hope to employ celebrity voices for episodes, but want to make sure the pilot gets made and received.  If there is not an animation company in the U.K., it may be a case of going to the U.S. – or raising a Kickstarter campaign and getting it made privately.

The important aspect is the comedy.  Inspired by classic Simpsons episodes- Lisa on Ice, Homer Badman, Marge vs. The Monorail, You Only Move Twice etc. – the aim is to have as many jokes per page- mix in fight scenes, chases; classic one-liners, emotional punch and plenty of visual jokes.  Gorgeous animation, superb voice acting, and parodies (the opening episode would parody Made in Chelsea- where the cast get run down; Orange is the New Black- the dynamic of the series comes through with Holly and Kate, as they set up their business- in their orange jump-suits.  Breaking Bad is the main parody/inspiration; Fight Club, Memento and The Royale Family are all in there.

Desired Cast:

                                                   – Kate Fagen, Additional Voices

Emilia Clarke- Holly Mercury, Additional Voices

Matt Berry- Stefan Buckley, Additional Voices

-Dan Bush, Additional Voices

Additional Voices:

Robert Plant- Himself

Jimmy Page- Himself

Kelly Reilly- Police Chief

Stephen Fry- Dan’s Dad

Muse- Themselves

Thom Yorke- Himself

Ellie Goulding- Herself

Jameela Jamil- Sophie

Dave Grohl- Himself

Florence Welch- Herself

Desired Soundtrack:

Metal & Dust- London Grammar

Electricity– The Avalanches

Wake Up Boo– The Boo Radleys

Freazy– Wolf Alice

The National Anthem- Radiohead



Feature: Music’s Unsung Heroes- Part One


Music’s Unsung Heroes- Part One




WITH musicians getting a lot of credit- and being at the forefront of attention- I was keen to highlight those behind the scenes: the managers, labels (photographers and venues) that promote new music; work tirelessly- to get great music to you


Emily Walding- Label Manager with Acid Jazz Records

Hi Emily. For those who are unfamiliar with yourself: give us a short introduction/what you do.

I’m a record label manager at Acid Jazz Records in London.  I take music and turn it into a record you see on shelves basically!

You are label manager with (Acid Jazz Records) – based out of East London. It sounds like my dream job. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part is definitely seeing the whole process through from start to finish.  From hearing early mixes from a band or artist when they’re in the studio, to talking about what the album might be called and might look like; to actually making it, hearing it (and then sending it out into shops and going and holding it).  I really like finding albums I’ve worked on in HMV or indie music stores

Label managers and promoters tend to be ‘under the radar’- not getting the credit they deserve. With the tendency to push people towards music- rather than management/music journalism- should we be doing more to promote label management/journalism etc.?

Honestly I think not.  I think you do those jobs for the love of the job, rather than for acknowledgement. As long as the artists you work for know your name and know you’re working hard for them, that’s enough.  I think the only time that it may be beneficial for a manager or journalist to be in the public eye is if it’s within the best interest of the artist, as opposed for personal gain.  However, it’s always nice to be acknowledged!  I really enjoy it when people find me online and tell me how much they like the records Acid Jazz makes.  It’s nice to have that fan-connection.

You also do D.J./radio work (part-time). Music is a clear passion of yours. When did that begin? Which musicians/albums have been most important to you (growing up and currently)?

My love for music probably began aged 6?  I used to make my own radio shows on my cassette player pretending to be a D.J . I think when I first saw The Spice Girls I knew I wanted to be involved in music. Even as a 6-year- old kid I thought it was crazy how much their faces were on EVERYTHING.  When I got a little older I got into Busted because they played guitars and I thought that was cool.  I bought a guitar and stole some of my brother’s records (Green Day, Blink, Staind etc.).  I’d talk about music all the time.  I drove everyone nuts with it in my household.  I was obsessed with writing it, reading it, learning about it.  When I left school I signed up to study music and I guess here we are J  Looking back on it now I had no idea that those albums shaped me in any way.  But I guess they did!

For people (like me) wanting to embark upon a job in management and promotion, what advice would you give- with regards to starting out; the right people to contact?

Contact.  EVERYONE.  Literally anyone.  But you can’t expect a handout.  I found people will be more receptive if you’re willing to offer your hours in exchange for gaining some experience.  It won’t happen overnight.  It took me 20 years to get from my cassette player in my room to the label office!!  Never give up though.  You may find that you end up working in the industry but in a completely different department than you wanted.  But that’s totally okay too!

You are based around Surrey/London. What do you think of the music scene (here); how has it changed the last few years?

I think Surrey has a great scene.  The Boileroom has some really good people working there at the moment who are bringing some great people to Surrey!  As for London, it’s London isn’t it?  It’s a tough scene there and generally a lot easier to be involved with- if you know people in it or if you live in London.  It’s not the be all and end all; it’s just that a lot of labels are based there.  The north is JUST as important as the south I feel.  So many great bands come out of the North.

With that in mind: which new bands/acts would you recommend?

I usually hear about “new” artists or bands through A&Rs or through friends.  At the moment I’m enjoying a band called The Jacques.  Summer indie rock vibes.

Acid Jazz Records represents- among other- Matt Berry (to my mind the funniest human on earth). What is he like as a person? What attracts you- and the label- to his particular type of music?

Matt was actually with Acid Jazz before I was: he’s been on A.J. for several years now and has released 4 albums with some more on the way!  There’s a good photo of Matt and Eddie (Acid Jazz Managing Director) floating around with Acid Jazz (holding a toy gun to Matt’s head whilst he looks scared signing his contract).  I think that accurately sums up the relationship between artist and label!   As for what he’s like as a person?  I’ve only ever known him through Acid Jazz, I’m not too familiar with the world of acting but I know he’s a busy man!  And he still finds time to record albums, play shows and stop by to the office.  He just won a B.A.F.T.A. so I feel pretty up for gaining him the musical equivalent.   Matt said I should have called him a “fluky wanka“.  His words, not mine!   Maybe include that as a nice little extra 😉

You seem to be keeping busy- with music and your jobs. What does the rest of the year hold in store for you?

I’ve got a couple of albums coming out this year that I’ve really worked harrrrrd on.  I’m excited for those.  We have this 7″ demo coming out too which I’m not allowed to announce yet but it’s GOOD! Other than that there are tours, gigs, more releases.

Finally- as you work so hard, you get to choose any song (I’ll play here): name it.

Come As You Are by Nirvana because I’m listening to it now.


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Diane Sherwood- Manager for The Updraft Imperative

For readers of this feature: tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

The concise answer would be – “an English woman living in Scotland promoting a band in Australia for free- trying to hold down a day job to pay the bills.”

The Updraft Imperative are taking up a lot of your time. As a manager, how much of a demand is it looking after a band?

The band themselves are pretty low maintenance.  Apart from Josh.  He’s the diva of the band and is very demanding.   I’m kidding.  They are all very low maintenance and hugely supportive and appreciative of the work I do.  Which means it doesn’t really feel like work (don’t tell them!)   One of the many things I love about being part of T.U.I. is the relationship we all have with each other.  There is a huge amount of trust between us all.  I’m very much empowered to make decisions and I know that the boys will always have my back – which is both reassuring and encouraging and in turn makes it less demanding…  there is also a lot of ‘band banter’.  No-one escapes the ribbing, but Muz does seem to cop more than his fair share for some reason.

In addition to (the stresses/hard work) there must be a lot of goods.  What are the most rewarding things (about managing a band)?

Nothing beats the feeling I get when an email pops in my inbox with news of a new station playing us, an interview offer or a blog/review.  It can be frustrating at times – because for each of those great emails, there will have undoubtedly been a hundred or more emails or phone calls made- but getting that one response makes it all worthwhile.  Knowing that I’m helping to share the music that I’m passionate about with new audiences is why I do what I do.  I touched on the relationship I have with the boys earlier, and that’s a massively rewarding part of what I do.  Knowing that every minute I spend working to promote them is appreciated is reward in itself.

For those looking to go into the sector- and manage an artist- what advice would you give- with regards making the biggest impact?

I’m no expert, but there are a couple of thoughts I can share.   Possibly the most important thing is don’t stop being a fan.  If you love what you are ‘selling’ your passion shows through and you are more likely to bring others on board with your enthusiasm.  You have to believe in what you are promoting.  Being a fan you know what it’s like to be captivated by a band and their music and you can relate to those who support them.  Fans are the key to any bands success and being one you know that better than anyone. Never forget that you are in a privileged position.  The second tip is to develop a thick skin – but don’t completely desensitise yourself. Y ou will get a hundred times more knockbacks than successes, and a thousand times more non responses.  It can get demoralising, and persistence can sometimes pay off however; this is where it’s important not to desensitise completely.  Going at it like a bull at a gate will undoubtedly get you noticed – but for all the wrong reasons. You have to remember that you are representing a band now. Your actions don’t just reflect on you anymore.  Remembering your manners- seems such a simple thing- but it goes a very long way.  It’s really hard – but don’t take the knockbacks or bad reviews personally.  Remember what a boring place the world would be if we all liked the same things.  You just need to keep searching out the (better 😉 people like you who do love the band you love – and you’ll need your energy to do that, so don’t let the negative Nellies sap that from you!

You are based in Scotland (in West Lothian): what is the music scene like there; are there a lot of up-and-coming acts/bands?

It seems to be pretty healthy.  There are a host of pubs and clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow giving bands a platform to share their music with the masses.  Although between work and the band I have very little time to get out and support them I’m ashamed to say!  One particular band I do know to look out for is Edinburgh 5-piece, The Indos. They have been doing great things with the support of Scottish label Twin City Records- and I’m sure they have a bright future ahead of them.

You were involved with The Bedroom Hour- who have sadly disbanded. One of my favourite bands (of the last few years), what first attracted you to them/their music?

The first thing that attracted me to their music?  It’s the thing that still gets me today – the intro to Shadow Boxer!  T.B.H. will always have a massive place in my heart.  It’s because of them that I am here doing what I’m doing.  They had (blind) faith in me, and gave me a fantastic opportunity to develop the skills I have today.  I’m as devastated as you that as a band that they are no more, but I am incredibly proud of what we achieved together (when I managed them) and the friendships that we have.  We had the most amazing time and I have many, MANY incredible memories of the T.B.H. days – and it was all thanks to a chance encounter on Twitter…!

Which bands/musicians/albums have meant most to you- either growing up or at the moment?

Well I wouldn’t have started what I’m doing if it weren’t for T.B.H., and I wouldn’t still be doing it of it weren’t for T.U.I.!  Both have been massive influences on me for very different reasons.  I often wonder how different my life would have been without them…which then makes me extremely grateful that I’ll never have to find out!   There isn’t really a single band that has meant most to me growing up.  I have pretty diverse taste when it comes to music.  I’ll listen to pretty much anything, but if the words and the voice touch me – I’m in!   I have some killer ‘guilty pleasures’ though which I’m not prepared to share – not even with you Sam!

Of all the new acts (coming through) in new music: which/who are impressing you most?

I haven’t listened to anything new for a while…although there’s something reassuringly familiar about This Modern Hope….

You have a busy 2015/’16 ahead: what do the coming months hold for you (and The Updraft Imperative)?

Can you believe it’s almost a year since you reviewed Chair?  I can still feel the elation I had when I first read it – which was eclipsed only by the boys’ responses when they read it!  That review and the airplay from some U.K. stations was the catalyst for things taking off- in the way that they have for T.U.I.  We have achieved so much in the last 12 months, but learnt a lot also.  I know that we can (and will) achieve a whole lot more in the coming 12 months, and that really excites me.  I’ve been making the most of a little ‘downtime’ recently, because in just over a week’s time-  the boys are going back into the studio. That pretty much kicks off ‘crazy time’ for me which will include single releases, more recording, a new album, booking venues, arranging reviews and…oh yeah…going to Australia for a month to promote the album!  BRING…IT…ON!!

Managers are often unsung/away from the spotlight- yet work incredibly hard and long. Great acts and bands could not exist without them. In that spirit, name any song you like (and I will play it here).

Jeeze Sam that’s a toughie!  I feel like I’m neglecting a child by just picking one..!!  However.  It seems right that I pick this one because without it so much wouldn’t have happened – including meeting you!  Shadow Boxer by the bedroom hour it is then.

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Emma Townend- Editor, Bleachandcologne

Hi Emma.  For those new and uninitiated- to you and your work- give us an introduction/bit about what you do 

Hi, I’m Emma and I write about indie music. Cringey intro aside, I’ve always loved finding new bands and wanted a way to introduce others to them. There are so many passionate musicians out there making great music that deserves to be heard, so I started a website to review and showcase them.

Your blog (bleachandcologne) is one of the best up-and-coming sites- dedicated to finding/promoting the best new acts.  Music blogs are on the rise: what motivated you to set one up?

Thanks! I’d always wanted to be a music journalist but life got in the way and my dream remained just that. Then one day I was listening to an album by Talk To Angels – a side project by Embrace’s Mickey Dale. It inspired me to write a review of it, which he loved,  and set off the spark in my brain that led to me launching bleachandcologne (named after a line in a Talk To Angels song) to give lesser-known bands exposure to a wider audience.

With the proliferation of bands/acts coming through, how easy/hard is it finding great acts; does it make it harder finding genuinely great acts? 

It can be tough sometimes – there are so many bands around, inevitably there will be a few who are clearly talented but want to be just like someone else or have a cocky attitude that turns people off. But every so often you find an act who gives you a goosebumpy (sic.) shiver and you know it’s all been worth it.

Which musicians/bands inspired you growing up?

I was a teenager in the mid-90s when Britpop exploded, I still love listening to it now – bands like Embrace, Ash, Shed Seven, Rialto, Mansun, The Verve and Sleeper.

There are a lot of great musicians about at the moment.  Who are the ‘ones to watch’?   

Off the top of my head: The Sherlocks, IC1s, No Hot Ashes and October Drift are all rising fast. Watch out for Mouses too, they’re a North-East duo with a really in-your-face, catchy sound.

What does the rest of the year hold for Bleachandcologne?

I’ve had some time off (as I recently relocated from Teesside to Somerset), so the next couple of months will be spent writing reviews and improving the site to bring more news – the site’s Twitter account @bleachncologne will link up to reach a (hopefully) global audience.  I’ll also be looking for unsigned bands to review in the South West.

In terms of blogging/music journalism, what is the most rewarding aspect of your job? 

When I’ve been to an outstanding gig it’s a joy to write about it.  I like to focus on performance and find off-the-wall observations to add a bit of interest.  If I can read it back and smile I know it’s ready to publish.  Plus, getting messages of appreciation from the band and their fans is always nice!

If you could create your own ‘dream festival line-up’- acts past or present- who would be on it?

How much space have you got?! Embrace, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Royal Blood, The Sherlocks, IC1s, Mouses, Serinette; The Struts, Glass Caves, Carnabells, Marsicans, Darlia, The Twisted Dolls, Polkadodge; Puppet Rebellion, Allusondrugs, Shoot The Poet, Bi:Lingual, Be Quiet Shout Loud and The Purnells.  For starters!

With more people becoming musicians (as opposed to journalists and reviewers) should we be encouraging more to go into journalism- promoting acts rather than being one?

That’s such a good question….and almost impossible to answer!  Both crafts need each other to thrive. With so many social media outlets these days it’s easy for someone to start a blog and gain an audience, personally I’d encourage these writers to push themselves to greater heights since they’ve had the courage and desire to start the ball rolling themselves.  I think you should follow your heart and your ability equally – some have a knack for writing, others have a killer voice.  So I would say play to your strengths, look at what’s already out there and decide what you love the most – then take a deep breath and do it.

Finally, and as you do such great work: name any song (and I will play it here). 

After much deliberation – He Loves Cilia by Talk To Angels please.  Without it, I’d still be daydreaming of being a music reviewer.

Follow (Bleachandcologne):


David Durant- D.J./New Music Promoter

Hi David. For those new to you/unfamiliar: can you tell us about yourself and what you do?

I am a lover of music. From as early as I can remember I fell in love with music and I soon discovered that I got the most pleasure from music by sharing the songs that I liked with other people by recording them on cassette tape. I especially liked it when they responded to my music choice with favourable comments or requests for more tapes.

This love affair continues to this day when instead of making mixtapes or compilations, I present a weekly two hour show on Brooklands Radio entitled Under The Radar Live Sessions, which shines the spotlight on independent emerging musicians of all nationalities and all genres. The essence of the show is to find and discover outstanding independent emerging musicians and showcase their music. All the tracks I play are chosen because they have an undefinable quality which makes my heart beat faster. Essentially, if a track or an artist moves me, I will give it some airplay. Simple as that.

As part of Brooklands Radio, you have seen some incredible talent: which artists/interviews have been most memorable?

Yes indeed, every week I hear incredible talent in recorded form and also in person when some of the artists I ‘discover’ accept my invitation to come to our studios for a chat and a live session. I have been presenting the show for almost eight years and of course there have been some outstanding sessions and interviews, as well as some not so outstanding sessions and interviews and everything in between.

I would prefer not to single out specific artists or sessions because it would suggest that I am favouring some over others, so I would like to say that every session has been special and memorable in some way. I would also like to suggest that readers judge for themselves by checking out these sessions on or where you will find a collection of most of the shows I have hosted since 2008.

D.J.s often get overlooked- when it comes to launching new music- but you have helped a lot of young acts coming through. How does that make you feel (seeing them do so well)?

I get mixed emotions, mostly happy ones of course on two fronts: the first, a genuine sense of happiness that they have finally been recognised, also happy that in a very small way I was part of that success by giving them airplay and the opportunity to be interviewed on radio and play a live session, often for the first time.

I also feel sad and sometimes irritated when I am asked to take down a video or review I did because their new management company wants to create a new image or because their old songs and the way they presented themselves do not fit with their new branding. It’s like denying that those sessions ever happened and quite frankly I feel insulted! It is precisely those lo-tech sessions and raw performances that have brought those artists success so why hide it?

In addition to helping new acts, what is the most rewarding part of your job?

Discovering new music and new artists. I love it when I press play on a track or a video and after the first few bars the hairs at the back of my neck stand on end! Likewise when I go

to a gig or a music festival and I discover a band or an artist I have never met before and their music is fresh, original and exciting!

You have just returned from Glastonbury. What was the experience like?

Glastonbury is a music lovers’ paradise with every single genre of music represented in one form or another. It is a magical event where you can find the unexpected if you bother to look around. It is also very much full-on with music, entertainment and food going on virtually 24/7 during the festival. It was particularly special for us because we were part of the Green Futures Festival Radio crew, broadcasting from the famous Toad Hall in the Green Futures Field which celebrated its 25th anniversary at Glastonbury this year.

For those wanting to follow your footsteps: what advice would you offer them?

Don’t be lazy… go and discover and find the music, don’t ask artists to send you music because you will soon be swamped with endless CDs, emails and download links, and you’ll soon learn that the vast majority of the tracks may not be to your liking or anyone else for that matter! Use social media, blogs and the Internet in general to look for new artists, and also go to gigs and open mic evenings and if you find an artist or a piece of music that moves you, make contact and write about it or if you have the facilities, make a podcast or a playlist and then use social media to promote it.

Social media is expanding and developing. How vital a role does it play (in terms of promoting/helping musicians)?

Musicians are pioneers of promoting themselves through social media so I think it plays an essential role in providing a necessary and valuable platform for finding new fans and engaging with people who may ultimately become superfans.

Crucially, Social Media has brought artists and fans closer together and for the first time fans are able to interact with artists in ways which would seem impossible 15 years ago.

Of all the new musicians coming through, who/which would you particularly recommend?

This is a very hard question to answer as there are many many new independent artists who are worthy of a mention, but in no particular order of preference, here is my list of five who, in my humble opinion have reached the top of their game without the backing of a major label:

  1. a) Carrie Haber
  2. b) The Portraits
  3. c) Jo Harman
  4. d) Orlando Seale and the Swell
  5. e) August and After

What does the rest of the year hold for you and Brooklands Radio- any exciting forthcoming bands/developments?

The rest of the year will be more of the same! Discovering new artists and new tunes every week and sharing these discoveries with our listeners and followers. There are a few festivals and gigs we are very much looking forward to attending, and of course we may well be hosting our very own showcase, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Finally, as you work so hard, I’ll play any song for you- name it.

Well, that’s very kind of you! Please play Magic of the Sun by Marcus Valance. No particular reason, it was the first song that came to mind. Beautifully sung, expertly produced and it kind of fits in with the warm sunny weather we have been enjoying this week.

Follow David:


Interview: Mi’das






London-based Soul-Pop singer Mi’das has had a busy year- including the release of his E.P. Stronger– and has more to stay.  After a hard start in life- including busking the streets- the Brighton-originated star is primed for the big-time: I caught up with him to see what his plans were (and gain an insight into his music process)


Hi Mi’das.  For those new to your music, can you give us a break-down (style and influences)?

Hi! I love all things soulful: that covers a lot of bases and not just soul.  It includes classic influences like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway (and more up to date people) like John Mayer and Emily King.

What current musicians are influencing you/catching your eye?

U.K.-based; I’d definitely have to say Nate Williams and Shakka.

London is creating some diverse and unique artists- surpassing a lot of the U.K.  What do you attribute this to?

I think the U.K. is an amazing creative hub and the home of so much influential music; and especially in London that gets concentrated and drives people to raise their game.

Your E.P. Stronger is unveiled: what influenced your writing process?  What sort of themes and subjects can people expect?

I’d call the Stronger E.P. a “searching” E.P.  It has themes about working out what to do with the life you’re given (and how to spend it).  It’s a snap shot of my 20s and deals with themes I’m sure a lot of people come across at this age.

Music is about expression and personalisation; release and catharsis.  Your music comes across as soulful and peace-inspired.  What you say you are a calm and relaxed person (in general)?

Yes in general I am on the outside; on the inside there’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on, but everyone always says of me that I’m laid back which sometimes surprises me!  Ha.

You have an eventful past- including time busking the streets.  The realities (of that life must have been harsh).  What did you learn from your time busking?

Humility: it’s easy once you start getting a bit of success- even in my own small way- to start talking down to people or being disrespectful- but that time for me planted my feet firmly on the ground and I don’t want that to change.

Having performed alongside some tremendous artists, what have you learnt from them (about the music business)?

I’ve definitely learned different things from each of them.  It might be a specific performance thing- or how they deal with press or even the best of them- how they deal with the people they work with!

I see a lot of young musicians stifled by financial issues; balked by music’s pressure: what would you say to them; so they can remain strong and focused?

Start small and try to make sure you pay the bills first!  It’s easy to get carried away on spending lots of money on promo materials and recording/mixing (and mastering)- but you don’t need to spend lots of money on those things as much anymore (at least not if you have a clear vision and are willing to learn at every turn).

If you could choose your ideal festival line-up- say five-six artists- who would be there?

Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Foy Vance; John Mayer, Brian Mcknight and er….Taylor Swift, ha.

Finally: having had a busy 2015, what does (the rest of this year) hold for you?  Any plans for 2016?

I’m currently working on an album (which is due for release in November time) which is keeping me busy- and also have a headline tour around October in the planning.  Plenty to keep busy with.




Follow Mi’das:







Mi’das’s E.P. (Stronger) is available at:

Track Review: Dominique- Don’t









Don’t is available at:

May, 2015




I am always on the look-out for a terrific singer/songwriter…

Someone who spikes the imagination; offers something different- distinguishes themselves from the pack.  In a busy music world, it is harder (to set yourself aside); stay in the imagination- what with the choice available.  Being U.K.-based I tend to focus on home-grown stars: those acts that play around the capital; they tend to form (the majority of) my reviews- or else acts based in the north.  It is great to discover something ‘foreign’- an act we may not have heard of; someone who could be playing the U.K.  Dominique is based out of the U.S.- she hails from New York- and has been garnering a lot of attention- kudos has been paid to her unique voice and style of music; her vibrancy and nuance- all vital qualities in today’s scene.  U.S. music tends to go under the wire (over here); our reviewers are focused on British acts- we miss out on a lot of great music.  America is producing some of the world’s best (new) music; some of the most alive sounds- that we all should be aware of.  Ever since reviewing Arianna and the Rose- another terrific female songwriter based in N.Y. – I have been keen to return- to see what the state has to offer.  When it comes to female singer-songwriters, there is a quality imbalance: there are some terrific and brilliant examples; a lot that lack any real distinction and killer punch.  It is so easy to become complacent and ordinary: write with the minimum of thought and effort; in the hope that will seduce listeners- it is an attitude that still pervades.  The (female singers) that get into your mind are those that set the bar higher: go out of their way to up the game; create something quite special- earn their plaudits and praise.  The U.K. is in a little bit of trouble: we have a lot of great female songwriters; the newer breed tend to fare better (than established acts) – offering more in the way of urgency and diversity.  The U.S. music scene is providing a lot of inspiration: some great Electro.-Pop acts; stunning Soul singers- a collection of terrific artists.  When it comes to young artists- in the case of Dominique- maturity and distinction are important pillars- and few actually achieve this.  It is all very well talking about personal issues; your own life and real emotions- when they come off as juvenile and bare-minimum, you risk alienating listeners (from the start).  It is a hard balance to get right: be relatable and real, yet display maturity and (age beyond your years) – if you get this right, then you are onto a winning formula.  It is essential- not just for female songwriters- to stick to this; set a good example- and inspire the new generation coming through.

Dominique is a good example (of the point that I am making): someone who is tender in years- yet has that inventiveness and mature edge; capable of speaking to all generations.  Despite her beauty and captivating sound, she is a serious proposition- an artist that has the potential to go far.  In the marketplace- with so many solo acts emerging weekly- it is hard predicting who will fail (and which will succeed).  The early signs (from Dominique) are encouraging; get out of your mind images of a singing nun- here is a talent bold and fresh; vibrant and engaging- who will stay in the mind (long after the music stops).  Having similar-sounding artists in the U.K., it would be good to see Dominique come to London: play some of the top venues; get tongues wagging this side of the pond- and see the crowds over here.  The early stages are always the most exciting: that first taste of what is to come; what is on offer- a chance to hear an artist taking their first steps.  Before I continue, a little bit (about Dominique):

“Set to bubbling sun-warped electronics in the verse and a wordless cascading fuzz of a chorus courtesy of co-producer ZeniF, it progresses with the playful bounce of electropop but with a slightly harsher, more abrasive side to it.” – The 405

“Dominique sure seems to be another example of why females are killing the electro-pop game.” – UQ Music

Following the success of her debut single “It’s Only You” which has been championed by many indie blogs and bigger publications such as V Magazine, Wonderland, producer Steve Anderson (Kylie, Leona Lewis, Take That), and even added to H&M’s European playlist, with spins on Amazing Radio and KX93.5’s We Found New Music show, 22 year old Electro-pop artist Dominique returns with her latest single “Don’t” produced by herself and co-producer Zenif. Dominique was recently named as ‘International Artist of The Month’ on new music platform Tradiio and reached #1 in both their Global and Pop charts. Having recently featured on a track with Moon Regiment and recently releasing an exclusive unheard track called “Life & Death” with Tradiio, the latest offering is a combination of pulsating synths and pop-driven melodies.

Of the track, she says “Don’t was written to express my thoughts on the somewhat common expectation for women to be the paradoxical combination of being a “bad bitch” and a “nun” (chaste). In other words, very sexual but with a scarce sexual history. Rather than expressing these thoughts in a more serious way, I tried to keep a playful, teasing kind of attitude, while ZeniF pulled through with a killer drop to really set the tone of the song.”

Without hearing a word, you can tell Dominique is different: a sassy and brave artist; someone with grit and passion- in addition to melody and constraint.  Too many Pop artists- less common among Electro.-Pop artists- are concerned with being ‘popular’ and ‘likeable’- in their mind that translate to being beige and predictable.  Key issues need addressing- within music- and so risks need to be taken.  Dominique is playful and urgent; never coming across as offensive or divisive- someone who is sending out a clear message; addressing important subjects (making sure it is presented in a memorable and original way).  It seems New York is producing some of the most cutting and distinguished Electro.-Pop: matching (U.K. artists) such as FKA twigs for sheer memorability and prowess.  Dominique may be a new name (to many of us here in the U.K.) yet she is gaining pace (in the U.S.)- her latest single is her strongest effort; the best material to date- great omens with regards a forthcoming E.P.

Scratching, distorted electronics herald in the track: a mixture of psychotic mice and a dangerous night; mystery and build-up; fever and twilight- the song wastes no time in getting to work.  Don’t has an instant push and punch; no tender foreplay- Dominique (technically spelled Dom!n!que) lets the composition do the talking.  Building from a dizzy beat, the vocals begin wordless and hypnotic: our heroine is caught in the web of electronics; scatting and fragmented- lost in a sea of emotion and pressure; you can sense a tangible ache- something quite relatable and emotive.  Propelled by a punchy percussive slam- that is evenly-timed and pugnacious- Dominique’s voice gets under way: starting sweet and assured, her message comes into effect- she will not be messed around.  Her man/subject- anti-hero or a wannabe lover- is being given short-shrift: our girl is not that type of woman; not someone that will be devalued and objectified- those ‘perfect’ women are left to fantasy (and imagination).  The man in question has an ideal of a “perfect world”- something antiquated and rather infantile- where his women come cartoon-like (and submissive) and inequality reigns.  Our heroine wants to get things straight: the real world does not operate like that; women who (fit that crude ideal) are not representative (of most women) – and not something to aspire to.  Backed by a simple beat; a subtle sonic swirl- the vocal is allowed full authority.  Not demanding and finger-pointing; spiked or angry- that combination of sweet-natured vocals (and striking lyrics) is a memorable juxtaposition.  Dominique is playful and teasing; slinky and seductive- complete with teeth and a strong soul.  Laying down some truth- our lead lets it known she has “history”; had her fair share of man-dogs- a dose of reality is in the frame.  Whoever this bowser is- a man with a ‘50s view of womanhood- is being given (a metaphorical) nut-kick; he needs to know his place- and understand the truth about life/sexuality.  Refusing to be dictated or controlled, Dominique almost struts into the lyrics; the confidence and delivery is impeccably stirring; brilliantly executed- you are caught under her spell.  Not wanting to be defined or categorised, Dominique is laying down the law: hold off and don’t get your hopes up; show her some respect.  When desorbing the song, the author explains it thus:  “Don’t was written to express my thoughts on the somewhat common expectation for women to be the paradoxical combination of being a “bad bitch” and a “nun” (chaste).  In other words, very sexual but with a scarce sexual history.  Rather than expressing these thoughts in a more serious way, I tried to keep a playful, teasing kind of attitude (while ZeniF pulled through with a killer drop to really set the tone of the song).”  You get that sense throughout: the anti-hero wants a demon in the sack, yet someone who is sexless to the point of virginity.  There is this view- in society and in the minds of many a-man- that their woman needs to be submissive and sexually-available, yet a blank canvas (and rather bland).  In addition to being paradoxical, it is somewhat offensive- there are seldom these expectations when the gender roles are reversed.  Her own woman and human, Dominique is rational and to-the-point: things do not work that way; you get who you get- and should not expect such ridiculous attributes/demands.  The chorus is the most urgent and stand-out moment: the combination of the beat and electronics; layered vocals and distortion- a whirl of power and emotion; force and passion- something stirring and pulsating.  Not overbearing or over-layered, the chorus catches you by surprise: it is a twisting and snaking viper; a cooing and entrancing Siren- something that splits, divides (and whips) the heart and mind.  The vibe (of the chorus) reminds me of FKA twigs-cum-Sia.  A mass of discordant strands and entwined snatches, you get wrapped up in: the heaviness and insistency is a head-rush that is hard to overlook.  Both beach-ready and festival-uniting, it is a sun-kissed-via-nighttime-tryst sort of thing- a blend that is alcoholic and caffeinated.  Jumping (and half-complete vocal snatches) fizz and percolate: you can practically feel the sweat drip; the floor vibrates and buzzes- it is a symphonic see-saw that carries the listener away.  As the song progresses- and passes its half-way marker- it develops and gains ground (you are comfortable with the sound and sensations; anxious to hear what comes next).  Dominique keeps her tongue sharp- and her eyes glistening- as her tongue twists and teases.  The man is being kept at bay; perhaps given some harsh truths- our heroine will not be defined and belittled; made to fill his fantasies.  Whilst contemporaries would bite and attack- perhaps augmenting the beat (to represent a gut-punch)- Dominique shows control and intelligence- her alluring vocal shouts louder than any beat; much more effective than (needlessly overbearing) notes and slams.  Thanks to some excellent production values- along with beats, ZeniF adds a huge amount of majesty and weight- the song is crystal-clear and concise; never losing any prowess along the way- every note is allowed space to breathe and impress.  What is particularly stand-out- along with the lyrics and vocals- is the composition.  Adding words, drama and movement, it never stops working: emphasising and bolstering, there are myriad shades and colours- it is a positive fusion of chemicals and elements (that make the track such a destructive force).  Perhaps the exclamation points (in Dom!n!que) are no accident: here is a girl that stands out hugely; her messages bold and unmissable- a young woman who knows what she wants; keen not to be demined/controlled.  The final seconds are heartbeats; ticks and tocks that bring the song to rest- and speak volumes.  Don’t is a one-worded rally-cry: a message (to women out there) that clichés and stereotypes should be dispensed; outmoded ideals are stupid- things need to change.  We all know men with that same mindset: they want their women red-hot and ready; unspoiled and just-for-them- a contradiction and juxtaposition (that is both unreal and outdated).  Fierce and strong-willed; proud and rousing: Don’t is an anthem for young women; a sign for change- above all, a hell of a tune.  Dominique has penned a terrific Electro.-Pop tune that not only is impossible to forget- it establishes her as one of the finest young acts coming through. In a genre- that is growing in popularity- few of her peers possess such confidence and quality- future releases will be much-anticipated and in-demand.  Having few songs under her belt, the New York resident will grow and develop: when her E.P. is completed it will be a proper chance for attention (a fully-fledged work that shows what she is about).  For those looking for a wonderful new act; for a sensational song; a stunning possibility- look no further than Don’t (and its author).

The rest of 2015 promising much for the young singer- a chance to go to Paris (mooted for this summer) to work on her E.P.  With her brand across social media- and accruing a mass of devoted followers- the New Yorker is set to be a name to watch.  Female artists (are ahead of their male peers) when it comes to Electro.-Pop: it is a genre seemingly tailor-made for them.  Able to express sexuality and expectations- through a pulsating and bedazzling medium- Dominique has concocted a potent blend: a song that can unite Pop traditionalists- with its melody and nuanced sound- and enflame Electro. lovers- with its heavy beats and exceptional production.  It brings me to a final point- well, two actually- regarding new music.  Too many artists- especially from this country- come in too week/placid: either the Pop is too watered-down and vague; harder sounds too aimless and one-dimensional- finding a Midas intersection is the key (to early success) and catchment.  Critics have heard enough mediocrity: the world needs artists who come in hard and strong; dare to take risks- and make a name for themselves.  Dominique has made an excellent start: in a genre- and city for that matter- with players lining up, she has crafted something quite unique: ubiquitous quality with a very distinct individuality (music that is very much hers and hers alone).  Whilst contemporaries tend to stray towards existing acts (when it comes to their sound), you’d be hard-pressed comparing the young singer- the 22-year-old surely cannot fail.  Having reviewed acts like Laurel, Ivy and Gold- and other Electro.-Pop acts- Dominique may be the best yet- it is the voice that is queen.  Imbued with vitality and urgency; a very personal (and native) voice, it is hard to ignore: her forthcoming releases are sure to match/better Don’t.  For now, we have the track: an example of what she has to offer; what is on her mind- its messages are those we should all listen to.  Issues like sexuality and expectation; societal judgements and misconceptions are often suggested: few artists tackle them full-on.  By taking an issue- that is seen as taboo by some- and not only doing so intelligently- but with plenty of Pop melody and playfulness- the young artists has pulled off a mean feat.  I cannot wait for the E.P./future: it will be exciting to see and hear what comes next- whether the same issues will be explored; if Dominique decides to focus on love and relationships etc.  With the weather- struggling to decide what season it want to portray- we all need a head-rush; a dollop of sunshine- something hot yet pleasingly cooling (music that gets the feet tapping and the voice ringing).  Don’t is no forbidding kick; it is not a track that pushes you away: it is a song that is designed to be appreciated (and heard by all).  With that in mind, do not overlook this U.S. star: we will hear a lot more from her (in years to come).  With wisdom, intellect and passion- that belies her youth- she is no ingénue singer: she is a strong woman with a clear mindset.  In a sea of misdirected ambitions; murky and indeterminate clarity- it is refreshing to discover something pure and defined.  There is only one thing left to do: put the single on, turn up the volume…

AND let it do its thing.



Follow Dominique:






Girls Aloud! The Best (New Female) Acts: Part Two

Girls Aloud!


The Best (New Female) Acts:


Part 2.




IF one installment wasn’t enough…

here is the second installment!  It is always great discovering great (female) talent- here we have some distinct and wonderful acts.  From U.S. wonders to British lovelies; enjoy…


Lisa Marini

Your E.P From The Bedroom Den (released last year- ) was filled with colour, diversity and nuance: what are the secrets of your songwriting/creative process?

Thank you No real secret, I was aware that I wanted to express something from an honest place, so I took my time to find out where that was. I wrote the songs for my EP at a point when I had a better understanding of myself. Of course we are continuously growing – as I develop as a person, I hope the music will follow.

You are one of the most consistently optimistic and upbeat musicians. How would you say you stand out (from your music colleagues/peers)?

Ahh thank you.  There really are some incredible artists out there- I wouldn’t attempt to compete!  I just try to write music that’s authentic to me.  If you feel it with me, then what a blessing.

You have worked with the likes of Nina Gromniak and many different musicians: any music plans/collaborations ahead?

Nina has become one of my best friends and it’s always an honour to play with her!  Her feel is off the scale!! Hopefully there will be more- I love experimenting but I can’t help my spontaneity, so I couldn’t tell you with whom; or when or how just yet! Haha

You have a real passion for new countries and people: how important is it (when it comes to making music) to travel/play to different crowds?

Travel can be inspiring- even just being in transit, there’s something about movement that opens up ideas! Of course, learning about other ways of life helps to expand the mind and the heart.  I find that the more people I meet, the more I realise how similar we are- we all crave love and acceptance.  Being able to connect with people through my music is a real honour.

Lisa (and maybe an impossible question): What does music mean to you?

Music is like an extension of ourselves.  We use it to create a mood and often relate it to a person or an experience.  Music is like the soundtrack to our lives.  And as with any art it can be therapy, both for the creator and for those who appreciate it.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

All the great songwriters, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Nina Simone (and more recently Erykah Badu) and of course Miss Amy Winehouse.  I am sure there are many more that I have missed out- but those are what first come to mind.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

Melody Gardot.  It’s refreshing to hear an artist that has been allowed to develop.  Each one of her albums is so different, yet every song has been carefully crafted.  I have a huge amount of respect for her as a person and as a musician.  She has really lived through it. When she sings I believe every word she says.

There is gender inequality in society; do you think there is the same issue in music? If so, what do we need to do to change this?

I couldn’t imagine living in a country where I wasn’t permitted to express myself creatively.  I feel fortunate to live in a place where I have the freedom to do what I do.  Prejudice in any form comes from a lack of education; by that I don’t mean an academic education, but an emotional and spiritual education- we can only lead by example.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I think one of the most important things in life is to be honest.  It might sound simple, but in reality it can be hard.  It’s something I consider every day. Am I doing something for the right reasons?  Was that my opinion or someone else’s?  Do I really feel this emotion or is something else influencing me?  It’s often difficult to define, especially in a city where there are so many forces trying to pull us away from listening inwards.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song, either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood – name it…

Right now I am listening to Musical Genocide by Gregory Porter. The title says it all wink emoticon





Ariana & the Rose


Hi Ariana. For those in the U.K., can you tell us about your music: where you play; the sort of style/sound you play?

Sure, I’m from New York City and am the lead singer in my band Ariana & the Rose. The music is a melding of electronic and real instrumentation, creating a synth band sound.  We’ve played everywhere from festivals, like Brighton Pride to venues like Sheppard’s Bush- and anything in between.  It was really important to me to play this kind of electronic music with a full band live- so the audience can really feel it as opposed to having everything on track.

I know you are a hungry and busy artist; you love touring and (playing to all sorts of crowds). Any plans for new material/tours in the future?

Yes! I’ve just finished new music and will be putting it out ASAP as (well as) getting back out on stage. We’ve literally just put the live show together this week: I can’t wait to play the new material.  It’s a real growth from my last E.P., so I’m excited to share it with everyone and hear what they think.

It is always great learning (about a musician’s) favourite album/artists growing up: who/which have been most important to you?

I grew loving singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, but then also being obsessed with electro queens like Robyn and Goldfrapp.  So, I think I’ve ended up taking my favourite bits of all of them and using it in my own work.

Do you think the U.S. provides more opportunities (for new musicians) than anywhere else? How do the crowds/venues different?

I actually think the U.K. provides the best opportunities for new artists, which is why I came here to make music.  There are many more platforms here for emerging talent, from showcase nights to B.B.C. Radio 1 (Introducing)- I think audiences really value discovering new artists here.  I feel really grateful to have found that outlet in the UK.

The stresses of creativity and expectation can get to musicians. How do you unwind/clear your head?

I’m generally stressed all the time!  I love films that unwinds my mind very easily.  I need to get lost in other things.  Theater is a really big inspiration for me as well, I love seeing avant-garde theater.  There’s a big scene for that in New York, so I’m always on the lookout for it in other cities.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Jagged Little Pill is the album that made me want to become a musician.  The fearlessness that Alanis Morissette (has on that album really resonated) with me as a teenager.  More recently, I love FKA twigs. Her aesthetic and commitment to her artistry is so intriguing- and I think it’s so hard to maintain that mystery these days.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I love Betty Who, who I think is more well-known in the States (than she is in the U.K.).  Her live show just makes you fall in love with her, boundless energy.

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I think this issue affects women in every profession in different ways. In music; I think it’s mainly to do with the way the media cover women.  It’s about what she’s wearing and how toned she was last week compared to this week, the focus is shifting slowly though . I think we have to be persistent about the things we want to say and continue (to use the platforms like social media to get our voices out).  There’s immediacy to a platforms like Twitter or Facebook (that are reaching a wide audience) and helping to change how the media covers women in entertainment.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I would say confidence and knowing myself.  I’m a pretty self-reflective person, which I think you have to be if you want to write about your observations.  I think, for anyone, it’s about taking the time to get to know yourself and having confidence and belief in who you are.  I try not to define myself with other people’s words.  I really respect and admire people who truly go their own way.  Walking your own path, with integrity, is success to me.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

I’ve just got the new Foals track (What Went Down) on repeat.  It’s manic and ripping at the seams: listening to them is always a reminder of how amazing and immediate music can be.





Vanja James (Front-woman of Little Dove)


Hey Vanja.  There have been some changes/developments (with your band Little Dove).  Can you tell us about the future: new album/E.P./tour dates afoot? 

Hi Sam!  Little Dove is currently expanding into a 3-piece with traditional drums and bass.  I met a great drummer and bassist a while ago and they have a history working together in other projects.  Once we get a couple of live shows under our belt – we will probably start working on new material for a new record.  While Dylan isn’t playing the most recent live shows, I’m going to try to get him in the mix on the record – so it will be a little bit of familiarity, and a little bit of something new. 🙂

I know how much you love touring/seeing other cities: can London (and Europe) expect a visit (from Little Dove) in the future? 

I’m really *really* hoping to make it happen in the future, but to make it happen I’ve got some money saving to do.  2016 is probably worth shooting towards.

You are an incredible writer and artist.  What is it that compels/inspires your words?  Do relationships (and heartache) go into it- or do you prefer to detach from that (to an extent)?

Long car rides are the best for me.  Usually I’ll start singing in the car and come up with some melody ideas. Little Dove’s songs are unique in that they are a little more detached by the time I turn whatever personal feelings I have had/am having into a song. There are fewer “breakup- oriented” songs and more songs about things I see in mass media.  One of the songs we’ll probably bring into the mix is about an underground city of homeless people in Romania for example, while another new song is about the whole ISIS happenings.

I am fascinated by the U.S. music scene (and that of California).  It seems rich and vibrant: what is life like (for a musician/band) based in California?

California has been great to me.  L.A. has allowed me to really hone in on my craft and is a wonderful place for networking with some of the best people and the most talented.  The city moves quickly and stays up all night – which I love.  For some of my most favorite creative people (horn players, string players) I head to the Bay Area/San Francisco – which just has such a rich artistic history.  San Diego is my hometown and the music community is wonderful and has a great jazz scene, a great rock scene, and it’s a wonderful place for singer/songwriters.  I can go anywhere in the city to experience live music, and there’s a 95% chance of running into someone I know.

The music business- finding success and meaning- can be a stressful (and anxious rite of passage).  How do you deal with it (as a musician); do you think more support/guidance (needs to be given to) musicians starting out?

I’ll put it this way: The way to be successful as an artist/musician is not anything they teach you in your standard college classes.  Finding success (especially financially) as a musician, takes a versatility and drive that many musicians don’t have.  I keep tuned in to music business blogs and read articles about the changing trends in music. So many musicians are creating a name for themselves with Youtube and have had luck creating a more powerful audience on a digital level.  Beyond that – if you’re an indie – you can count on investing a hefty amount of money on things like digital marketing and radio promotions. The best advice I can give any musician is to have another steady source of income that works for you to support your music habit. I know one guy who says he is able to only take gigs he loves now – thanks to driving for Uber.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

I was raised on a steady diet of Disney Divas and divas in general – Aretha Franklin….Whitney Houston….Eisley and Aretha were a huge influences in helping me hone in on my voice and push my vocal range.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

New…hmmm….there’s a band in L.A. called Dead Sarah that I think is going places.  Lucius (based in N.Y.) is also a fave.   Otherwise on the whole, I don’t listen to too many female artists as I don’t want them influencing me.  So I stick with old rock bands and that keeps me happy.

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music?  If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I’d say when it comes to gender inequality – the music industry is about 10 years behind.  I’ve been fortunate in L.A. that only one person has ever done anything inappropriate – but in San Diego – people weren’t so well-behaved.  I believe that sexual harassment laws should apply anywhere – even if you aren’t working in a building with walls.  My advice is: Keep the sexual commentary to yourself – and don’t try to make out with somebody at random without their verbal consent first. (Seriously.)

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I’d say what defines me as a person (I’m human first – female second 😉 – is my need to do service for others.  I like to do nice things for people – I like to help people, and I’ve been that way since I was a teen.  In my songwriting – I always take care to write in a way that transcends gender – you won’t find many Little Dove songs making any gender references – they could easily be about a man or a woman. As a female – I feel that writing songs that way is important, since many people have this idea that females should write things that are “pretty” – I try to show that something can be aggressive and gritty and raw, but still be beautiful.

Most attractive qualities in people?  The ability to listen – and the ability to think things through.  Drive and passion are also huge – not everybody’s belly is burning with fire – but if you find people who have that – you can consider yourself lucky.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

I’m working on a jazz piano project (yes!) of all things with a friend of mine – we head into the studio next week and I look forward to having some new material to share.  We’re re-imagining Jazz versions of some of my favorite rock songs.  I’m pretty excited about it.

As far as Little Dove goes – I did a single a few months back with this awesome guitarist named Yogi Lonich.  The song is called Devil’s Breath. Devil’s Breath is a street drug in South America – and I saw a VICE documentary about it – and it inspired a song. It’s on our Bandcamp page. Check it out:






Bee is an indie-folk singer/songwriter living in London. She grew up in Guildford, where she spent her free time dancing, singing and acting, having attended Italia Conti, Guildford School of Acting and the Academy of Contemporary Music. While at university Bee took up the guitar and began writing her own music and performing. She has continued ever since; recently at venues such as The Bedford in Balham and Dingwalls in Camden. She competed in the regional finals of Open Mic UK, was featured on 96.4 Eagle Radio and in the Surrey Advertiser, Guildford Dragon and Southwest Londoner newspapers.

Bee believes that music is a way to understand or escape life. For her, it is her way of understanding and expressing it, and so lyrics and melody are used to connect with the audience. With such bright things ahead of this artist, she is one to watch.

You are from my ‘neck of the woods’ (Surrey): Are there enough opportunities (for songwriters/singers in Surrey) – what would you say to new artists coming through (to encourage them)?

Guildford is a great place for musicians.  It’s the home of the Academy of Contemporary Music which I attended when I was younger and plenty of venues which hold live music, such as The Boileroom (sic.).   I would say to new artists to grab every opportunity to perform – there’s no such thing as too much practise and I know I improve every time and it’s great to try out any new material in front of live audiences.  Music isn’t an easy avenue but we are all in it because we love it and to be able to share that is so powerful.

I love your new material (and cover versions). Any plans for an E.P. or album?

Yes! I’m planning my first E.P. at the moment so watch this space…

Your social media numbers are rising; you have played some awesome gigs (this year): what have been your highlights from 2015?

It’s been a fantastic year so far. My favourite gig was playing at the Bedford.  It’s such a iconic venue where some incredible artists have played and I was so proud to be one of them.  At the same time, the year is only half way through, and it keeps getting better.

I know you have a great range of influences and favourite artists. Which act/acts have meant most to you/inspired you to take up music?

I’ve always had a huge passion for music; it’s always played such a pivotal role in my life, and there are so many artists who have influenced me throughout my life, however, the reason I have chosen to pursue music isn’t because of a particular artist.  It is because of how happy it truly makes me and I love to be able to share it with other people.

Your songwriting seems to resonate and speak (to everyone). What influences your writing process: heartache and relationships; dreams and ambitions- what would you say characterises a Bee composition?

I write about what’s going on in my life at the time.  My songs are incredibly personal and a true expression of my thoughts and feelings.  A typical ‘Bee composition’ usually goes like this… I sit down with my guitar and start playing around with chords.  Suddenly something just ‘fits’.  The lyrics then fall out onto the page as if out of nowhere.  I usually then reflect on what I have written, figuring out what it means to me and so every time I write a song- it reveals something and helps me grow.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

One of my oldest loves is Carole King.  Her life and talent is so inspiring and have a huge admiration for her.  I would also hugely recommend the musical Beautiful and definitely to any aspiring songwriters.  Favourite female album still goes to KT Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope. There are such beautiful lyrics and emotions in so many of her songs.  My other favourite female artist has to be Ellie Goulding – she is a great role model to all her fans and writes incredible music.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I’m a huge fan of Lapsley and  Pheobe Ryan who are rising stars on the indie music scene – definitely give them a listen if you haven’t already!

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I have come across various people in the industry who have tried to take advantage on the basis of my being young and female; however, I don’t believe that it is any different in any other industry or sector anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately sexism is still a fact of life even in the 21st century and a topic that I am very passionate about.  I believe we are a long way off eradicating sexism and it’s necessary to keep raising awareness and standing up to the problem.  To all young girls entering the industry, it is crucial to keep your wits about you and don’t be scared to say no if something doesn’t feel right.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

There are certain aspects of femininity which I love: dressing up, painting my nails, going shopping; but in fact, I wouldn’t say I am defined by being a woman.  Actually, I would hope I am not defined by anything except my beliefs and values.  I believe I am constantly growing and developing and that we are also a part of everything around us.  I find the most attractive qualities are honesty, openness, integrity and most importantly, passion – that’s what keeps things interesting 😉

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

It’s Friday night and so there’s only 6 words I have for you: “Shake it like a Polaroid picture“…




Abi Utley (One Half of Issimo)


For you (and Issimo: the duo she fronts with Marc Otway) is keeping you busy: what is life/plans like for you guys? What is coming up?

At the moment we are extremely busy, we are very lucky, we have recently shot our fan-funded music video for our next single The Coldest Queen– which I produced and acted in.  I am in the process of editing it at the moment (but we are busting at the seams to show everyone).  Shortly after its release we will be putting our first ever E.P. out there- so we are also busy preparing for that.  Plus, gigging and writing new material…

As a singer/writer you err towards positive and uplifting music- intended to get people singing. Do you worry about the amount of negative/heartbroken music about, or is it a necessary side (of music)?

Personally I love heartbreak tunes. I have a broad taste in music and enjoy Etta James, Otis Redding and Amy Winehouse- when I am alone or in a certain mood.  However a lot of the time, as you know Sam, I teach Zumba: I am hearing world sounds of Salsa, Reggeaton, Merengue and Cumbia -and it ignites a passion for rhythm in me that makes it hard for me to stand still.  Marc is an excellent pop writer and arranger, and together we fuse (our interests and create music) that hopefully takes our audience on an uplifting adventure- and gets them moving too.

Hailing from Yorkshire- a county that houses the likes of Jen Armstrong- it seems conducive to great/original music. What is it (about the county) that produces incredible music/musicians?

Maybe it’s the milk from the Yorkshire cows?  Yorkshire folk are very lucky (to have The Leeds College of Music).  Although I didn’t study there, most of our musicians do or did: Marc did (as did Jen); the tutors are some of the best in their field (and the courses are intense).  I have been for the odd singing lesson and found it was the (best thing I ever did for my vocal health) and technique.

You have inspired a lot of singers/artists around the U.K. (believe me). What would you say to anyone coming through: advice on how to approach music/the business?

Hmmm, really?  Ha.  Well, I suppose, you have to be willing to work hard (that’s a given) and be very thick-skinned.

A lot of female singers have rather samey/predictable voices- yours seems very unique and stand-out. What music inspired you growing up; who are your idols?

Ha ha, may have already answered this.  I watch Etta James live videos (on Youtube) and wish I had her voice.  Growing up I was really in to Alicia Keys and Bonnie Tyler.  I suffered with nodules from the age of about 19 – and didn’t sing again till I was 26.  It took me a while to find my voice: singing lessons really helped.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys and Norah Jones- all got me through certain times in my life. Oh not forgetting Tina Turner!  I can watch her early stuff (in awe) and want to be her- an amazing woman who had to put up with a lot of sh*t (but still gave out-of-this-world performances)

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I love Steph Fraser: her voice is so soothing and her songs are ace.

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

Yes, we are getting there, though more girls are picking up instruments and becoming good at them. Inspiration and role models are needed at grass roots.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I like to think I have a decent sense of humour: I like to laugh and like people who make me laugh and who also like to laugh.  I find kindness, compassion and reason attractive qualities.  As for qualities I desire from others?  Patience- as I can be a bit forgetful and dopey!

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

Fans of ISSIMO: thanks you for being supportive and patient with us; sit tight it’s coming -‘The Adventures of ISSIMO’.  Hey, I am always saying check them out (but go and check out) The Cat Empire right now.  Try Still Young… turn it up full-blast and skank out- then buy the albums! xxxxxxxxx




Emily Kay


Hi Emily.  I have always loved your (very unique and distinct) voice: which artists/albums have inspired that?

I was definitely inspired by older Jazz and Soul artists: Billie Holiday, Etta James, Miles Davis; and then I discovered Lauryn Hill, John Legend, Erykah Badu.  I am definitely a ‘90s R&B music fan too; so Mary J. Blige .

There are a lot of (other) young, black (and Asian) artists coming through. How important do you (think it is) to have diversity in the music industry?

My inspirations are an example of why I feel music has no age limit.  Jill Scott, Angie Stone and Erykah Badu sing with such deep revelation (on love and relationships).  It’s about the lyrics and that’s all I care about.  You have a lot of young artists coming through that are releasing commercial music (to get you moving in the clubs).  However, within a week there is a new club hit out (and I’ve forgotten last week’s song).  It’s so important to have diversity in music.  It doesn’t matter what nationality you are but do you make ‘good’ music?!

Songs like Soldier and Hold Me Closely (released last year) were among my favourite (that year). Do you see a new E.P. or album on the horizon?

Oh thank you.  Soldier and Hold Me Closely were key releases.  It was important for me to express the progress of my music (and get people excited to hear more).  Soldier was intimate- some say slightly sad- but the lyrics are real and true to life.  Hold Me Closely was popular between both men and women, as it was sensual and pulled at your heart-strings.  Of course, I plan to release an album one-day soon- maybe even release another single; in the meantime, you just have to keep posted.

If you had to sum yourself up (to a new potential fan) or provide a lesser-known secret, what would that/those be?

Oh wow this is a hard question!  Well I’m quite a private person, so no lesser-known secrets ha-ha.  I would firstly (ask my potential fan) who are their inspirations, and then I can explain where I come from as an artist.  It’s important to express to your fans your story.  My story is a simple one.  I have been on the quest for real-love, but along the way I’ve been hurt so many times (but I never give up on love).

You are based out of London (and hail from Birmingham): how important is the city (to you as a musician) – does it inspire your creative processes?

London definitely helps artists/musicians get exposure, than I would if I still lived in Birmingham.  I love the London buzz.  There are so many live gigs and events (to help new artists) and give them a platform.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Mary J Blige – Share My World and My Life, Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, Emelie Sande – Our Version of Events

Any new female artists you would recommend?

Yes: Emelie Sande, Mary J Blige and Sade

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

Of course there is a gender inequality in society (as well as) the music industry.  If you look in the work-place: how many women are company directors?  In the music industry, if you look at the iTunes chart (and count how many women are represented) vs. men.  You have female musicians out there (like myself) playing instruments- and yet this is not reflected in current charts.  The days of Alicia Keys was enough it seems.  We need to see that real musicians still make the charts- that’s why I love Rudimental.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

Your character defines you. It is who you are.  What will people say about me tomorrow- if (God forbid) I died today? I have a bubbly character (and I’m very emotional) and deep at the same time.  I am a strong, black woman (with love for God and things that are ‘right’).  I dislike injustice and I feel the music industry is unequal.  It doesn’t represent society- where there are still sexy black female musicians out there with class and morals like the days of Lauryn Hill and India Irie, rather than black females with a big booty and great lyrics- consuming the commercial industry.  Life isn’t fair- I understand that- but as Dr. Maya Angelou says: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them”.  I continue in my lane- and those who relate to me- can follow my love and passion for music.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

This is a really good question. It would have to be the lyrics in Mary J. Blige’s – Be Happy.  Mary says “… How can I love somebody else if I can’t love myself enough to know when it’s time to let go?”/“I just wanna be so, so happy but the answer lies in me”/“I ask for the sign from the sweet Lord above I know the answer is in front of me..”  So my words of wisdom are: God first; love yourself and believe in (yourself).  You can do whatever you dreamed to do, don’t let anyone stop you.

Thanks Sam for all your love and support over the years. You support never goes un-noticed. Thank you  (Sam: had to keep that in- obviously) xx




Hannah Dorman


Your music is quite hard-hitting and Rock/Country-influenced.  What music/musicians do you particularly admire?  Who were your idols growing up?

I used to listen to a lot of Anastasia, Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne and Delta Goodrem.  My grandparents lived in Cornwall (which was a 5-hour journey).  We’d often visit, and during these long journeys we’d always have those artists’ albums playing.  I got to know every word, every ad-lib, and would belt them out at the age of 7 (or so).  Not that I really had much of a singing voice at the time… but I definitely had the drive and ambition!  Latterly, KT Tunstall, Kelly Clarkson and The Pretty Reckless (have played a big part in my music direction)- strong females solo artists!

You have gained a lot of great press/support (from fans especially).  Has social media played a big part in that?

Yes, definitely!  Social media has always been a huge part of my musical career and I love it.  I’m good at keeping in touch with my fans.  I’ve found it helps keep me grounded too.  When I talk to fans who have followed me since I was 15, it really helps motivate me when things feel like they’re going no where.  Knowing I have people all over the world who have followed me from the beginning and have continually supported me is amazing.  I also used Kickstarter to fund the recording of my last EP, I wouldn’t have been able to raise the money if it wasn’t for my relationship with my supporters over social media!  Some people go home and play games on their phones… I update my social media and spend time promoting myself, I get the same buzz and ‘obsession’ (if you like) as people do from games!

Few songwriters have your take on life/that unique voice.  What inspires/compels you most (as a songwriter)?

I write about stuff that’s happened to me.  You’ll find that (like at the moment) I haven’t written as much because I’m pretty happy!  But when this happens I go about writing in a different way.  For example, I wrote a song about moving house years ago- but everyone thought it was a love song, because I wrote about the life I spent there and my sadness of letting go.  You’ll find a lot of my songs are a play on words and aren’t always what they obviously sound like!  I do very well writing when I’m upset though, it’s like therapy!

It is clear you have a good bond (with your band-mates).  Are you guys brewing some new music (an album maybe?) for 2015/’16?

Yes, I’ve had a number of band line-ups, but these guys I’ve studied with at A.C.M., and they’re my friends as well as work mates.  We spent a lot of time together in the studio in May, and my stomach was aching from laughing so much.  Not only are they good guys, they’re great musicians and they get everything about the ‘Hannah Dorman’ brand- I couldn’t ask for more really!  I’m releasing something in Autumn… keep your eyes peeled.. !

If you, Hannah Dorman, could choose a perfect life, answer me this: perfect city/location?  Five albums you would take with you?  One person you (would take) with you?

City: London

5 albums: McFly Radio:ACTIVE, You Me At Six Sinners Never Sleep, Mallory Knox Asymmetry, KT Tunstall Tiger Suit, Kings Of Leon Come Around Sundown.

Person: I couldn’t choose! I have such a close group of friends and family.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

KT Tunstall, Kelly Clarkson, The Pretty Reckless, Anastasia, Avril Lavigne.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I haven’t listened to too many new female artists, but I’m intrigued by Tove Lo.  I’ve only listened to a couple of her songs on her album, mainly know her from her single Talking Body– but I think she’d be an interesting artist to follow over the next year or so!

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music?  If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I know there was the whole thing about the Reading and Leeds line up- when someone left only the bands with females in on the poster- there weren’t many at all.  But, there are many female pop artists around and not as many solo males (that aren’t singer songwriters like Tom Odell, James Bay etc).  Then again, there’s so many male bands, but there aren’t many female-fronted bands that don’t sound like Paramore, so it swings both ways.  So I guess there’s a spot in the market for a pop/rocky singer songwriter like me, a mixture of the two!

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

As a female artist, my music and persona is very honest, on stage, off stage, in videos or in person I’m who I am. I think that’s what defines me best… me! I think honesty and being yourself is the best quality anyone can have.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

I’ve had Shut Up And Dance stuck in my head all day, and it’s a cracking tune- such a pick-me-up when you’re feeling down!





Ruby Lane


What attracted you (to take up) Vintage-edged Pop- as opposed to more traditional Pop/Rock sounds?

I’ve been singing Jazz and Blues for over a decade so can’t help but incorporate influences from those into my music, which often gives it a vintage edge without meaning to.  But also, while I love those traditional pop sounds, I just love the extra sass that comes with a bit of retro!  Vintage is timeless, and always comes back round, so fingers-crossed my music will stand the test of time too…

Your music is designed to put smiles on faces; get feet tapping: with so many (contemporaries) erring towards introspective/emotional, what keeps you so upbeat/optimistic?

Introspection is all very well, and there are so many songwriters who do a great job of making honest, emotional music, but to be honest I feel a bit of an indulgent bastard if I dwell too much on that sort of stuff.  Optimism comes much more naturally to me in my life and music.  I believe that being ‘glass half-full’ is a choice and it’s definitely how I prefer to live my life.

Leeds is producing a huge amount (of unique and spectacular musicians). What is it (about the city) that encourages this trend?

Agreed – there’s so much talent here.  The music college has a lot to answer for – it turns out hundreds of talented graduates every year, and it’s testament to Leeds that it keeps lots of those graduates in the city; adding new talent into the mix so it’s never stagnant.

Which artists/acts in the modern scene inspire you- and are catching your ears?

Well I love a great Electro. singer sort of act, but also have a thing for ’60s-inspired bands.  I’m in the midst of a hardcore festival season, and this week I’ve been watching Future Islands, Blur, Temples and Teleman – all were awesome.  On my hit list for Glastonbury next week are Future Islands again (the front man is worth seeing twice), Father John Misty, Ibeyi, FKA twigs; Mr. Lionel Richie and of course George Clinton and Parliament, Funkadelic and the Family Stone.

Any plans for new material: a new album or E.P. for 2015?

An E.P. is in order for this year I think!  I’ve got a ton of songs ready to go which is exciting – I’ve never had songs to choose from before!  It will include the couple of songs already on YouTube as well as some fully finger-clicking full band songs, which have more of a ’50s twist.  It’ll be ready before my birthday in November if it kills me.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone inspired me so much.  I learned every lyric, every inflection, researched the back catalogue, and I never stopped being amazing by their talent.  More recently Amy Winehouse, Caro Emerald and Lianne La Havas get massive kudos from me for all they did to bring Jazz and/or Swing into the mainstream.  And Lianne just because I love her too much.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

Ibeyi are top of my list of recommendations.  They’re twins, French-Cuban, but they sing in a mixture of English and Yoruba, an old Nigerian language . It’s sort of Electro. meets Afro-Jazz, super chilled and interesting – love it.  Also, not so new now but anyone who hasn’t checked out Agnes Obel must do.  Especially live – her band of gorgeous string playing goddesses must be seen!

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

There’s definitely gender inequality in music.  It’s just an amplified version of the problems in wider society; women are sexualised and objectified, a pretty face to be looked at, and with expectations of how we should look, act, dress.  So we’re stuck with a problem: do we play the game and dress in the sexy way audiences expect to make sure we get ahead?  Or do we eschew the norm, cover up, and make a stand?  I’m not sure we’re ready for the latter but that’s what should happen, and we, the audience, need to be prepared to look past it and seek out the talent, not just the sexy women..

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

What I hope defines me are energy and good vibes!  In life and in music, or at least that’s what I’m going for… I love adventure and that’s what I look for in others – people who are full of energy, and general up-for-it-ness.  I also find an instant friend in anyone who loves cat gifs.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

It’s too hard to pick a favourite song but listen to Age by Lianne La Havas right now!  It’s so simple and has the straightforward, straight-talking narrative that I like – and is sassy as fuck.  And once you’re finished with that, put on Kiss Me Quick by yours truly.


Ruby is a singer-songwriter, lover of all things soul, jazz and blues, and vintage addict. She been singing for a couple of decades and writing music for at least one decade, performing as herself and also previously as one quarter of female barberpop group Scarlet Street.

Described once by BBC 6’s Tom Robinson as sounding like ‘a northern Lily Allen meets Ella’, she has shared stages with the likes of Ruby Turner, Mark Knopfler and the Sugababes. She trained at Leeds College of Music and frequently supports feminist and LGBTQ causes.

Ruby’s songs take inspiration from her misadventures in love and sex, are always finger clicking with an optional hint of sauce, with frequent winks and infrequent sentimentality.

A new E.P. is on its way in 2015







Track Review: Elena Ramona- Happy Song



Elena Ramona


Happy Song




Happy Song is available at:

18th May, 2015


IT is always great revisiting an artist …

who keeps producing stunning results.  Too many musicians/new acts (last a short time); the quality starts to drop- finding acts that evolve/improve is very rare (indeed).  Elena Ramona (has had a) busy 2015: some prestigious gigs; news songs- plans for a future record.  As this year propels into gear, Elena releases Happy Song: her most urgent and instant song to date- a tantilising glimpse (as to what) a future release could contain.

Beginning with a wordless vocal- a skyward paen- a spoken word snippet unfolds (strangely “lift going up” are the words uttered).  Knowing the background to the song- the pleasures of working life; the daily routine- (those words) makes more sense.  Adding a heavy (electronic) beat into the mix- an undertone of Dub-Step and Grime- the song mutates and develops; Elena’s voice snaps and cracks- almost providing a Rap-like delivery.  On the mic. she lets reality speak (“I’m 25/I’m still alive/Working that nine-to-five”) – almost seeing resigned to the fate (of the day job and all its pains.  There is a palpable sense (of wanting to break free); trying to fulfil her dreams- trapped inside a humdrum/undesirable life.  Backed by funk-laden vibes (and a bouncing, insatiable beat) Elena’s voice rides and rules: wracked by anxiety, our heroine wants to take a shot at stardom- break away from (the unhappiness) of the here-and-now.  Making the most of her lot, (Elena Ramona’s) Happy Song will get the customers (of her workplace) singing- whichever floor they are on; wherever they are.  I know how much Elena loves her colleagues and home; the work she puts in- she has a lot of fun/adventure (at her workplace).  Her ambitions and heart belong to music; she wants to make it her living- that ache and yearning comes through (in every note).  Propelled by the beat, Elena’s voice is sharp and gripping: every word (and line) hits the mark; her passion and talent lift the lyrics high (and makes you imagine her every move; happily tripping the shop floor; smiling and singing- lost in her daydreams).  The chorus is one of the most memorable (I have heard in a while): simple and unforgettable, it is sure to be a crowd-uniter: that which demands chanting; designed to get the masses singing- a pure and direct delight.  Elena Ramona’s quirkiness and personality comes out- her way with words and imagery; her subject matter; charming little vocal moments (giving the listener an insight into her working life).  Having reviewed her before- two E.P.s and other songs- she has grown and strengthen- her voice is stronger and more confident (than I have ever heard).  Happy Song is a triumph for Elena Ramona: incredible songwriting, a passionate vocal- a track that is hard to ignore.  This year has seen (the young artist) dream and perform; surprise and desire- it cannot be long until she is a household name.  If Happy Song is anything to go by, one thing is for sure…

IT is her time to shine.



Follow Elena Ramona:






The Good, the Bad, the (Very) Ugly.

The Good, the Bad, and the (Very Ugly).


THE past few weeks have been quite ‘eye-opening’…

As I type this my legs are below-functional (and in need of a rest); it has been humbling (and touching) to get some great feedback- after doing a run (albeit a long one).  I have been pleased by the donations; the outpourings and support- some great people (making me feel very good about myself).  That is one of the best things about life: there are some sweet and wonderful people; humans that have a lot to deal with- yet show nothing but politeness, caring and sweetness.  I am not an overly-cynical human: not someone who (thinks little) of everyone; tars the world with the same brush- I know there are some incredible people out there.  It is those (people) that make everything better; inspire average humans (to do great things) – deserve nothing but good.  Life is a learning curve: I have many faults/downsides- which I desperately want to neutralise and overcome.  I would like to think that my ‘good points’ compensate- and anything less-than-great is, at the very worst, a minor flaw.  Great people make everything more palatable: they give you a safety net; an open heart- if things get bad, they (are there) for you.  To all of those people- across Facebook and Twitter; who I know personally- I have nothing but praise and thanks- keep being who you are.  They/you are the reason I keep pushing: determined to (try to) do as much good as I can- and make (however small) changes in the world.  When it comes to mankind; there is a discernible flip-side.

Maybe it is geographical bad luck (I shall refrain from naming-and-shaming/bad-mouthing when I was born/work), but my heart has sunk: what the hell is wrong with people?  The ‘anonymous’ area/areas contain some great people: lovely souls with big hearts; some truly decent examples- the trouble is, they are dwindling in numbers.  What I am seeing (more and more) is something rather distressing: that sense of entitlement; the superiority complex- another term for utter stupidity; selfish lack of altruism; a shocking sense of arrogance and selfishness.  Aside from the not-specific-to-this-area idiocy- the insanely terrible drivers; the gormlessly pedestrians; the sheer lack of manners and common decency- there is something very specific (to where I am): people who feel superior (and have nothing to feel superior about).  London has a reputation for being cold and inhuman- such a vast city is going to feel impersonal and frenetic- yet there are terrific areas: great spots with tremendous people; London has many upsides (that justify its schoolboy issues).  When you live (in an area/town) with none of those benefits, then what is left?  I see (too many examples) of people providing snootiness/arrogance towards the needy- the times I have seen Big Issue sellers offered sarcasm has enraged me.  All the great people (who do great things) are being drowned out- by the growing masses of ignorant/unkind/plain unspectacular.  There is a ‘plus side’, I guess:

When my current job ends (in two weeks) – aside from some local bar work- there is motivation: get out of the (let’s face it, soul-crushing) office environment- do something TRULY worthwhile.  Being dedicated (read: obsessed) with music and charity, the dream would be this: split work between D.J.-ing and music publicity; setting up a charity (and working in the community) – some songwriting/recording among this.  London is the dream destination (to begin with), with a view of (in a few years) moving further north: perhaps spending some time in the U.S./Australia- spending time seeing new places.  Buildings and scenes do not define a community: people do.  If there is (ample but) uncaringness and stupidity, then you have to get away- after doing something proactive.  It is not well enough to just sit back (and accept the way things are).  Even if people don’t want to change their bad ways (and most do not), you have to try- drill some common humanity into them; stop them being so arrogant/despicable.  The world has enough issues/horrors in it (some man-made; others natural) that are suffocating us- from cancer and illness to gun violence and racism.  Human beings should be edifying the planet; tackling injustices and horror- thinking about the larger world.  People that think of others (and are socially conscious) are the best kind- not just contended to selfishness consider their own (rather beige and humdrum) selves.

The point of this blog (there is one: it is to thank the best of you) is evident: the very special/kind humans will rule out- those that (will be noted for nothing).  It is good there are options out there- countries and counties with masses of lovelies- and reasons to not give in: manners and humanity is VERY cool- not something that should be taken for granted.  To those people- I have seen being abusive/mind-numbing/horrendous (too many of you out there) – then get your act together: the world does not have room for (people like) you.  The point of life is to embrace the best; those that take the time out for others- and being spectacular.  Thanks to everyone- lately and historically- who have been there; supported things I do; given my impetus to keep going- and follow their examples and…

KEEP showing them (how it’s done) x

Girls Aloud! The Best (New Female) Acts

Girls Aloud!



The Best (New Female) Acts.





NORMALLY when I do a feature (on my website), there are some…

familiar faces.  It is true- those faces are coming back here- to be joined with new ones: celebrating (the great women) of new music.  A lot of new music (seems to balance male and female-led music) yet in the mainstream- there still seems to be a male majority.  When it comes to bands (and the band market) is is very much male-dominated: there are relatively few female-led bands.  In terms of (society as a whole) there is gender inequality- with regards pay and opportunities.  Music seems to be more open-armed: it is encouraging to see so many (new female acts) coming through.  To celebrate that, I caught up (with some special people); keen to see how they were progressing- and what they thought (with regards to equality in the music industry)…


Lydia Baylis


 You had an itinerant and fascinating childhood/upbringing: what kind/type of music featured (in your formative years); any all-time favourite artists/albums?

Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album!   (As well as lots of David Bowie).  My father was a big fan

A lot of songs/idea stem from heartbreak/personal crisis- you have always struck me as stronger and braver (than most contemporaries). How is life treating you at the moment? What themes/events are inspiring (you right now)?

I think songwriting is a way for me to exorcise heart-ache so I don’t have to live it- that is why my songs are full of it – so my life doesn’t have to be!  I am, by nature, a very happy person.

The (modern music scene) is seeing a rise in artists- solo and band-based. In tandem (with the growth of social media) do you see this as a good thing; have you experienced any problems/draw-backs?

I think obviously it makes it harder to be heard- to get the same platform – but overall art (and making it) should be for as many people as possible, by as many people as possible- so a widening can never overall be a bad thing.

What is next for you Lydia: is there new music forthcoming; album/E.P. plans?

Yes!  A new E.P. in July (which I am really excited about)

Having participated in Coffee House Sessions- performing in some unique and intimate coffee houses/cafes- how was those experiences? How does it differ (from bigger venues/events)?

More intimate surroundings can be more intimating, but more rewarding.  Certainly doing so many gigs in so few days was good for honing my live performance stills!


 Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Laura Marling, Florence Welch, Daughter; Joni Mitchell, Amie Mann

Any new female artists you would recommend?

Yes! Certainly Kaledia are amazing

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I think overall gender equality has not been reached – but the music industry is probably fairer than most… It seems there are as many successful female artists as there are male.  I think probably age is more of a barrier to entry for the music industry than gender

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

Humour and kindness are the most attractive qualities in others

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

Caught (on the new Florence + the Machine album)





Sarah Collins

 You have faced some hard times- including recovering from a brain tumour. What does the coming year hold for you?

I believe everyone has to deal with hard times at some point in their lives and it’s those hard times that make you a stronger person.  I now take every day as it comes, enjoy everything to the maximum (and never turn down opportunities that arise).  I go for it!  I’ve found that since I’ve started to think this way, great things come and happen so every day is a good day!

With some great gig requests coming up, are you looking to recruit a band? What qualities/players are you looking for?

The Northern Soul followers have been really supportive and amazing in accepting me (and complimenting me on my voice) and songs- and I love being introduced to new music and singing requests.  I have received a lot of gig enquiries for the U.K. and abroad and love singing with live musicians as it’s the best!  It’s great to share such a fantastic experience as singing and making music (that you love with friends and people) that are in it for the same reasons….the love of music! So yes, I’m in the process of putting together a N.S. band and have already received a lot of interest.

I love your cover versions- the range and amazing performances. Could you see a Sarah Collins album (covers or originals) in the pipeline?

I would love to put together a Sarah Collins album; probably of covers first (as I’ve received massive interest from my followers and subscribers who all want a copy)- so it will definitely happen at some point soon! I wouldn’t rule out originals either as that is what I would love to do also; obviously keeping the old skool N.S./Motown vibe.

Your musical tastes- and songs you tackle- span decades (and genres). What was your music upbringing like?

Since being a very small child, I have been surrounded by music.  Vinyls were always continually played in our house and music was a massive part of my upbringing.  Mainly Motown/Soul/Northern Soul as my dad was a Mod and owned a scooter. He grew up in pubs so managed to keep all of the records from the jukeboxes to add to his personal collection.  I have now inherited all of the vinyls from Mum and Dad which is awesome! I have performed as a youngster in musical theatre productions working with professional casts and performing at some of the best theatres.  As a child, you pick everything up so quickly so even though I haven’t had any lessons as such: I believe that having worked with professionals at such a young age was an excellent platform.  As I grew up I found myself in bands and being head hunted by other bands-therefore meeting and working with some excellent musicians and people, covering an array of genres of music.

Given your (tough last couple of years) you seem motivated and hungry: where do you see that (fire and ambition) taking you?

After giving birth to my beautiful little girl and feeling the happiest and healthiest ever and then, totally out of the blue (finding out the awful news about the huge brain tumour was such a trauma-, but whenever anything happens like that, you have to deal with it as you have no other option. I feel very lucky in lots of ways: yes I’m still not 100% yet (as the scarring from the removal of the tumour left me with epilepsy)- but I’m getting there now as it’s being controlled with medication. I’m still alive to see my beautiful children grow (and enjoy happy times with my friends and family).  I can talk, I’m not paralysed or blind- so many things to be grateful for.  A trauma like that makes you live your life totally differently.  I was never shy of going for things before but I would often go along with things (or go with the flow), and now if I feel I should do something, I go for it!  I’ve always sung from the heart but even more so now.  Music is my therapy and makes me feel so good!  If great things happen, then even better but I’m in a really great place at the moment.  I have my health which is a massive thing!

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Wow, so many female artists as I love an array of vocal styles (although mainly soulful and strong female artists) with so much emotion, so Gladys Knight, Randy Crawford, Diana Ross, Lulu, Tina Turner; Ella Fitzgerald and Ann Peebles (are up there), but I also love old country artists like Patsy Cline’s vocal- so a real span of various artists.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

For a really chilled-out pure vocal, I love Billie Marten….mesmerising!  I also enjoy Lucy Spraggen (for her unique sound and quirky lyrics).  I love her track Tea and Toast! I cannot have my morning toast with a cuppa without thinking of her song now! ;0)

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I really don’t think there is inequality really as we have so many strong women and whether you’re a woman or a man, if you work hard enough and have the drive to succeed, it will happen!

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I’m a very down-to-earth character and proper Yorkshire lass!  I now live every day as if it is my last so really go for it in life and feel the need to help, care and do good things for others.  That’s why it makes me feel so great (to hear that people are enjoying) me sharing my videos and voice.  I always sing from my heart and soul (as it is a way of me expressing my emotions and has really got me through some tough times!)  Soul music allows you to do that as the lyrics of some of the old songs are fabulous.  A lot of my followers have commented on how old skool my voice sounds- saying it’s like hearing the vocal styles from their NS.. and Soul days, and therefore, bringing back great memories.  I admire people who make the most of their lives, people who are caring, not selfish; people who treat people the same (whether from poorer or richer backgrounds).

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

The song I would choose would be You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by the fabulous Gladys Knight. Love the lyrics in that song! One of the lines is: “I guess you could say that I’ve been lucky“-  pretty much sums it up really!





Cherie Gears

You are based in Yorkshire- home to many great music acts.  What is it (about the county and people) that produces such fine (and diverse music)?

I was attracted to Leeds because of the Jazz course at Leeds College of Music.  I instantly fell in love with the city (and its passion for live music). Venues such as H.I.F.I. and The Wardrobe were where I spent most of my evenings (performing or listening to other acts).  I think live music is addictive and when you watch it, you get an urge to do it yourself.  I have never felt like I have to fit a mould (and I think that has been helped by the fact Yorkshire welcomes diversity).  From the West Indian festival in Chapeltown to the arts festival in Chapel Allerton- there is always something going on which suites all music-lovers.

I have followed your work- both Scarlet Street and Little Violet.  Both acts play ‘older’ styles of music (with a modern twist).  What compelled you to play Electro.-Swing/Barbershop-style music, as opposed to Pop or Rock?

I have always been fascinated with retro. music, fashion and way of life: the 1920s to 1950s always appeared so glamorous and stylish to me, so I think it was only natural I would carry aspects of it (into my own musical career and song writing).  I went to Leeds College of Music (to study Jazz), and whilst I was there I performed in all kinds of bands (from Reggae to Funk)- soon the lines between the genres started to merge for me.  I think it’s important to keep music fresh and not regurgitate the same sound over and over.  Although I love Jazz and Barbershop, I want to keep the styles developing.  Mixing old with new is so much more exciting for me as an artist and performer.

When I reviewed you (as Little Violet) I was bowled-over by your talent: can we expect some new Little Violet material (soon)?

Thank you very much.  I am constantly writing new material and I am very excited about how our music is developing.  It’s really hard as a singer to be patient and wait for things to fall into place (in regards to labels releasing new material) but I have to be just that.  I do honestly believe it will be worth the wait though.

 In addition to your projects (including Func on the Rocks) you seem to never stop working.  How important is music- and connecting with fans- to you?

Invaluable.  I honestly think I’d go crazy if I didn’t preform at least twice a week.   Sometimes I’ll have 6 gigs in a row and be totally wiped out- but as soon as I have a day off I get restless and I’m itching to be performing again.  I would class myself as quite a shy girl, but when I am on stage something changes inside me (and all I want to do is make the audience love the music as much as I do).  Hearing a crowd sing my lyrics (or watching them dance to my tunes) is an incredibly overwhelming feeling.  It really makes all the long hours writing, rehearsing and recording all worthwhile.

You are one of the most unique artists I know (your voice, sense of style; compositions and such) – a breath of fresh air.  What advice would you give to newcomers: those looking to separate themselves from the crowd?

Don’t try to please everyone, you can’t! As soon as you start creating music from passion and love you’ll feel liberated and write music much more exciting than if your just trying to ‘fit in’.  I think it’s important to listen to all kinds of music and be influenced from a range of styles (so you can pick different bits and pieces that you like and fuse them together to make something new).  I have never followed fashion, trends (or tried to become something other than myself).  Maybe that’s because I’m lazy; but I’d like to think it’s because I know what I like (and don’t need to be told what I like by the media).

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

I was brought up with all kinds of music from Frank Sinatra to Alice Cooper.  I went to bed listening to my cassette Walkman and obsessed over Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield.  At uni. I fell in love with Imogen Heap: her music and her style, and every time I watch her perform live I feel inspired.  Jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell’s improvisational skills helped me see there are no boundaries (or limits to what you can do with your voice).  Once you get rid of any inhibitions and just let yourself go, you will be amazed at your potential.  I found a mixed tape with a track called Could You Believe when I was 15 (and instantly fell in love with the voice I heard); I didn’t know if it was a man or a woman (and I didn’t care).  Sabina Scuibba’s voice will always make me melt and her album Meet Me in London is always on standby in my car.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

All of the above!  Iconic voices such as Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald will always have a place in my heart. The haunting sounds of Beth Rowley are definitely worth indulging in- and Lianne La Havas, who seems to be getting her foot in the door of mainstream listeners (is a fantastic song-writer).

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music?  If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

Unfortunately I think is a constant battle for equality in all aspects of society and the music industry.  Female artists are sold as ‘the whole package’.  We are encouraged to look a certain way in order to sell more record.  I think it’s important we keep it about the music and not about what gender we are.  Empowering woman have been challenging (the music industry for decades).  Nina Simone, Janice Joplin, Patti Smith to Adele and Amy Winehouse: to name a few have all showed the world that it’s not just about having a pretty face- raw talent and good music will always stand the test of time.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

Oww this is a hard one: I am a very sensitive and emotional woman, which probably helps me write songs (as I am always analysing how I feel).  I would say I am a woman driven by empathy for others; I love to take a look into other peoples worlds (and imagine how I would feel in their situation).  Being a lyricist is all about telling stories (and I like to use my personal experiences along) with my crazy imagination and what I observe from the outside world.  I love strong woman- unlike myself who is riddled with insecurities.  I have also lacked self-assurance (which has in someways always held me back from pursuing my dreams) whatever they may be.  I think most musicians or artists are their own worst enemy, always looking for reassurance.  I think the most attractive qualities in people are passion and contentment,-I know they are in some ways polar opposites but I find being in the presence of someone who is genially happy with their lives (but is still driven and excited by what they are doing) is very inspiring.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

My dad always used to sing this to me when I was little: unfortunately we lost him a few years back, so when I feel upset or need his advice, I sing this (and it makes me see things ain’t so bad after all)- 

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious, 
Life’s too mysterious
You work, 
You save,
You worry so
But you can’t take your dough 
When you go


Follow (Little Violet):



Jen Armstrong

You are enjoying (the many wonders) of Nashville right now: how are the people treating you; how does it differ (to the U.K.)?

Nashville people are so welcoming and friendly, at least that’s my impression so far!  You know when you catch someone’s eye and they look away awkwardly and pretend it never happened? Well here you actually get a smile back.  A smile!  Fancy that!  I mean Nashville and the U.K. are worlds apart.  Having said that, it reminds me so much more of home than L.A.  It’s a small little city, smaller roads, lots of trees – lots of green.  Yeah I like it here 🙂

In addition to Nashville, you have been playing L.A. (and not for the first time): could you see yourself residing (in the U.S.) full-time?

Maybe.  I need to be rich enough to fly my family over whenever I want if I were to live here full time.  No I’m not joking.

You have a wonderfully warm and unique voice- and talent- which you bring to every song. Your cover versions (and originals) are hugely impressive: do you think (the fact they are so memorable) stems from your uniqueness and distinct personality?

Well thank you very much!  Gosh I don’t know – I just do what I do.  If they are memorable it’s just good luck I guess – I just do what comes naturally, and I’m so happy people enjoy what I do.

If you could change anything about life- music, personal or otherwise- what would it be?

Hmm, tricky one.  I guess I’d be a whole lot more successful than I am right now!  That would be a good start at least…

There have been many originals (from you) too: will we be seeing a new Jen Armstrong E.P. /L.P. in 2015/’16? Could you see yourself being a band-leader very soon (are you currently looking to put together a group)?

Yes, yes and yes. My dream is to tour the world with a band, with a kick-ass album and merchandise.  I hope it becomes a reality- and sooner rather than later!

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Nerina Pallot.  Sara Bareilles.  Eva Cassidy.  Chaka.  Alicia Keys.  Avril Lavigne.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I’m terribly un-on the ball (with new artists). (But one) lady I recently heard was Trishes (from L.A.). That lady is talented indeed.

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

Who knows – to be honest, I feel like I’m constantly struggling trying to reach a near impossible goal – maybe gender inequality adds to the mix but there’s so many things wrong with the industry; it’s hard to know where to start!

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I feel like I bring a lot of passionate, drive and determination to the table.  Qualities that I believe to be important in everyone, not just women.  I like to make people laugh.  I try to be fair, common-sensical.  They’re all things I count as good qualities.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

Chariots of Fire.  Because I heard it twice today.  It’s epic.  It’s my soundtrack.  It’s your sound track. Be epic.






Mel Lampro

(Front-woman of Braver than Fiction)

I know you have had (an incredibly tough year) – Mel was diagnosed with cancer- and faced obstacles: how are you feeling at the moment?

A lot has been learned in the last twelve months, Sam. As a band, we have found ourselves pitched from the spotlight glare to semi-darkness and near-obscurity. Nothing has been concrete and everything has been overshadowed with some kind of stifling veil that we have done our best to tear through. Mel is getting there, we are getting there; obstacles, as they say, are there to be overcome.

Your alma mater (Braver than Fiction) are back in your life (following a brief hiatus): any plans for new music (from you guys)?

Musically, the rest of the band combined have been my rock and all the long while they have been working away; with or without their lead singer in situ. On the days that I could not make rehearsals then they practiced without me and, if they ran out of things to review then they created more things. Beautiful, musical things to which I later added word things and we are honing them right now, ready to take to the studio so yes – a revamped set with new music awaits.

You are one of the finest lyricist/singers I have ever encountered: what advice would you give to new songwriters/talent coming through?

Why thank you, Sam! It is a fine feeling for any artist to know that they have reached anyone at all. I am not quite sure I am wholly qualified to advise anyone on such a subjective area but, I would say that I have learned not to be fearful of any subject. My personal viewpoint on writing is that trying to structure creativity is nonsense; there are no rules except your own rules and, if someone gave you a rule book, burn it, then write a song about it.

Upon now reading this, jobbing songwriters (and pretty much anyone who makes a living out of any type of creative undertaking) will be throwing their aprons over their heads at this effrontery and pointing out that they make a generous subsistence out of such configurations (which I do not).  Granted, there are many articles written by thriving songwriters on what makes a ‘hit’ song and how one should be structured but I am not convinced that any pattern is a perfect, universal magic recipe for success.

That said, there is a kind of a pattern to the way Braver than Fiction works as a band but it is more organic than organized; we tend to sense our way through ideas and forms until we know it feels right. That is my second small piece of advice; sometimes, you know when something is wrong – be prepared to stop, erase and start over. Not all songwriting is the blessed, instantaneous flow of inspiration straight from your burning soul to your awaiting lips and fingers. In fact, very little of it is and you will ultimately write a lot of crap between ‘good’ songs. Just don’t give up – never, ever give up.

As far as singing itself is concerned, all I can do is repeat (in increasingly higher octaves) the advice of others that is given often and often ignored. Look after your voice; get a vocal coach and/or find exercises online and train your instrument well. Then you will hold the confidence to vocalize every emotion you have written for as long as you possibly can.

As a woman- in a band of men- do you think there needs to (be more diversity/mixed gender bands); are there too many male-led/all-male bands about

No, I think it is what it is and the notion of paying lip service to “l’art pour l’art” so that every conceivable diverse need is met seems diluting and pointless to me.

However, it is irritating when perceived female musicians are viewed as a novelty and/or a less-capable artist. Just like my peers, regardless of their gender variations, I am a musician so personally, it doesn’t matter to me if we have breasts, beards or both (or indeed, neither). Nevertheless, I have faced discrimination for being female but to be objective, I have faced discrimination for my social status, heritage, age, sexuality, appearance, spiritual beliefs and even for being a parent – all (but not exclusively) from the music industry. It isn’t just the music industry which needs to change, it is our wider societies in general but there is no reason why one of the pebbles that make the ripples on that pool cannot be from the music industry. The potential power and influence of music and the artists who perform it should not be dismissed.

 In addition to music, you are very socially conscious (and altruistic): is it important musicians set a good example; do people in general need to be less selfish?

It is important that everyone sets a good example (or at least the best that they can – goodness knows, I am not perfect) for themselves as well as others. We are becoming such a scattered society that the fundamentals are becoming lost in a sea of social snapshots and media titbits. Family is becoming shattered and community a wasteland.

The world does seem a selfish place to me, much of the time with the less-privileged being judged for their lack of assets and the more advantaged expected to bail them out by default. We should all be paying it forward if and where we can; if any of us are in a position to help one another then it does not matter on what scale that help manifests as it is all relative. What we are doing is creating tiny blessings for others because we can and trust me, there may be a time when we need such a kindness ourselves.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

If only you could see my music collection; Streisand to Amos, Holiday to Pink – its range spans maybe eighty years of recording history and almost every genre. I will always remain just a little in love with Stevie Nicks and in utter awe of Nina Simone, whilst Joan Jett and Patti Smith may very well have had quite a lot to do with the musician I am now. I still sometimes wallow in the nineties’ angst of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and occasionally throw myself about the place (although not so much recently, for obvious reasons) to a giant shot of Heart (especially “Crazy on You”).

At the moment, I am particularly enjoying the work of the multi-talented Charlotte Eriksson AKA The Glass Child; not only is she eloquent but she has the most excellent taste in hats. I am also a huge admirer of Gin Wigmore and I am ecstatic to witness some new material emerging from her recently.

All of these artists have had an impact on me for sure but that is just a snapshot; in reality, the list is too long and the reach too vast. Tomorrow I will have thought of many more artists I could add to that list and wish I had.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

It depends what you mean by new; new to me or you? New as in emerged in the last six months or established three years ago and working like a daemon ever since but only now coming to recognition? I’ll take a stab at couple of possibilities.

If anyone is not watching Wolf Alice very closely right now then they need their brain poking. Ellie Rowsell is amazing and any band with a strong Angela Carter reference has to be alright in my book!

There is a band here in Sheffield called Desert Motel Club who are not so ‘new’ (they formed in 2012) but they are probably new to many of your readers. Alice Davis, their lead vocalist is incredible and takes you on quite the retro adventure; check them out:

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

There is discrimination in general across all society; I do not think we will see that addressed in our lifetimes. What pervades the music industry is the same inability to accept others as equals regardless of [insert any list of sensed differences here] and as much as it confounds me, I am truly at a loss to offer neither explanation nor solution. I do think that if more people looked for fewer reasons to cite any difference in a negative light it might be a start.

Gender bias is definitely a recognised occurrence everywhere, not just within the music industry and, as illustrated in this article from The Guardian a couple of years back – alive and kicking, even the apparently cultivated echelons of our orchestral ranks.

Inequality needs a good kick in the pants.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

Biologically, nothing defines me as a woman more than being a mother (others may have different definitions, of course but to me, this is the most important and will never change). I am certain that the role has had a significant impact on the way that I write/play and what I write/sing about but I do not think that the two share a fully-symbiotic relationship.

I do not distinguish myself as a ‘female musician’ in a way that being female and a musician are in some way disparate. I am a musician; that is my vocation. I am a female; that is my sex. That is it.

Human beings are amazing and I neither desire not demand anything in nor from others. There are traits that are important to me, such as loyalty, serenity, compassion, tolerance, humour and honesty. They rarely co-exist immaculately within one creature so I tend not to socialise with as many unicorns as I would like; instead I am inclined to hang around with people equally as defective as myself.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

My mood at this time is bordering on chaotic and it has been for some considerable time. I have moments of the blackest despair and soaring hope but mainly – chaos. This has spilled over into everything I do and so of course, the band has been affected by this chaos, staining us all like the blood on Bluebeard’s key. But, every day I am getting stronger and every day we are closer to announcing our return so, one of the songs I have actually been playing over and over just recently is Hozier’s “Work Song” (for which the music video is breath-taking, by the way) because it sustains my belief that with the right support we can face anything.







You are working on (the) Great Gig in the Sky campaign ( at the moment. How has the response been so far?

The response to the live video has been great. Lots of people have seen it and commented on it. I am truly grateful for those who have contributed and those who have shared the video.

I caught (your video for) The Great Gig in the Sky (Pink Floyd cover). The vocal (and closeness) to the original was staggering- a truly spine-tingling performance. Does your love of (artists like Freddie Mercury and Lady Gaga) go into your vocals (and contribute to your immense vocal range)?

Yes of course. I guess having those influences makes me perform that way.  Although for that song, I went through the process of the meaning of the song (i.e., the process of death):  1) don’t want to die; 2) coming to terms with death; 3) succumbing to death, and ultimately, peace.

Two-part question: if you could name a fantasy band, who would (be in it)?  If you could only own three albums, which would you (opt for)?

– This is a hard question!!!! Too many great musicians to choose from: Brian May, Santana, Slash, Phil Collins……

Stripped, Prince: Greatest Hits, Queen (any!)

I have known you for a few years; you are always working: any plans for some down-time and rest; or plans for a new E.P./album?

No rest, no!! I haven’t even scraped the surface. I really want to make an album.  That’s the next thing.

There are very few great venues/opportunities (for musicians in Surrey). Could you see yourself relocating in the future- maybe London or the U.S. (or further afield)?

Yes definitely, I am not one to stay in one place.  U.S.A., London … wherever music takes me I will go.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Britney spears, Lady Gaga… Christina Aguilera in Stripped (as mentioned before); Stacie Orrico.

Any new female artists you would recommend?

I recommend checking out Kelly Erez

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

I think music is a great way of showing what you represent and who you are.  Lots of women have brought their concerns of gender inequality though music and have had an impact.  Ultimately I think we should all work towards a more equal world where we let go of our ego and give away a little of what we have.  Be it opening our minds to new ideas, new people, helping the less fortunate…  I just think the problem lies within our reasoning.  If we all change a little bit, the world will change a lot.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

I am independent and I have always known what I want.  I believe anyone, man or woman, can do what they dream of doing (with the right dose of determination and perseverance).
I admire people who are honest and driven.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

Keep Your Head Up – Andy Grammer.

Always makes me feel better!








You are still in your teens (Sophia is 18) and have achieved so much; songs like I’m Yours show such maturity:   is your upbringing/musical tastes the reason why?  

Haha… I’m such a serious soul! Well I guess I have grown up being surrounded by very diverse tastes in music and I like to listen to everything from classical to soul music.  So yes, this does influence my music I tend to write what I feel.  For me, the process of writing at the piano, usually in a darkened room- just creates the mood for this style and sound.

Based out of Liverpool, the city (obviously has a great) musical heritage: what is the music scene like in the city (in 2015)? 

Liverpool is alive with music: there always appears to be a major music festival or gig every week.  It is a great time to be making music in Liverpool.  There are also so many quality Open Mics to-  that encourage and support unsigned artists.  Liverpool truly is music city.

Your music mixes dark and deep beats; great Electro. Pop shades.  Can we expect a (new Sophia) album/E.P. soon? 

I think I am still working on my sound and really experimenting all the time.  As for a new E.P.?  Well I am writing and hoping to get back in the studio over the summer, so we’ll see how it all comes together.  I have also a few collaborations due to be out soon, so I am also looking forward to that.

A lot of young women/men will be looking up to you; inspired by your progression: what advice would you offer them? 

Be prepared to work hard.   It’s a really difficult profession to go into and break through and usually with very little financial support.  However, it is like all art, it takes time to develop your craft.   You have to enjoy what you are doing, and make the most of any opportunities you get.  Sometimes you can be performing in front of hundred (even thousands) of people- and other times just 10 or 20 in a bar.  It’s not how many people are there, it’s who is there.

 In a modern age- where social media is huge; competition is high- do you ever feel overwhelmed by (pressure to succeed)?   How do you cope with that? 

Coping with other people’s expectations can be a challenge, but I just focus on being me.  I’m not really into the whole social media side of things, not really into selfies and all of that, for me it’s just about the music.  As long as people keep listening and enjoying my music that is what’s important.  At the moment I am just in the middle of my A -Levels, and I am trying so much to focus on those until the end of June.

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you? 

From as young as I can remember I have always been inspired by Nina Simone, how unique her voice is and her sings often put to simple melodies carry such deep meanings.  As a female pianist/singer I love listening to Alicia Keys:  how her vocals compliment her piano arrangement is something I aspire to do.

Any new female artists you would recommend. 

I recently found a girl called Alessa Cara and her song Here has been stuck in my head for days.  She’s very R&B and chilled (with a great voice).

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music?   If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?  

Yes, there is some inequality in the music industry, but I think that is just a reflection of society as a whole.  What do we do about it?  Just keep pushing the bar upwards and don’t let it hold you back.

 Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it… 

Just keep listening to new music, songwriters depend on you the listener, you have the power to raise the profile of new artists, so if you hear something you like… don’t keep it to yourself J  Song: Sinnerman– Nina Simone.



(Being a new artist to many- here’s a bit about Sophia, in her own words):


Sophia Ben-Yousef has firmly established herself as one of the North West’s breakthrough artists and has already been hotly tipped by critics and industry figures alike. Performing with many established artists, such as KOF, JP Cooper, Matthew Perryman Jones, Bill Ryder Jones and MOBO award winners Esco Williams and Jahaziel. Summer 2014, she performed on all 4 days of Liverpool international Music Festival (LIMF) on different stages, including the ‘itsliverpool’ stage and was named as the ‘One to Watch’ 2014 LIMF and Getintothis – Liverpool Echo 2015. She has had many London performances, including Kensington Roof Gardens, Proud Camden, The Water Rats, The Bedford Live, and many more. Sophia has regular airplay and live sessions on BBC Introducing Merseyside and BBC Radio Lancashire, and a variety of radio stations in Europe and the US.  Sophia was invited to support JP Cooper on his Liverpool leg of his UK tour and Tentrehook in Manchester on his UK tour. She will be supporting Akala at STAR Festival at Preston Guild Hall in September.  Sophia is also very excited to be part of the LIMF Commission – ‘The Revolution will be live’ performing alongside Mos Def, The Christians, Azwad, Malik and the O.G.’s in August this year at St. Georges Hall, Liverpool.  Sophia’s song ‘I’m Yours’ listed in the Top 30 Tracks in Merseyside 2014.”






Nina Schofield


You have performed some amazing gigs lately- from Rotterdam to London.  Which venues/cities have been most memorable?

I recently had a wonderfully hectic few days performing in Holland and then rushing back to play a show at The Bedford in London – they were my favourite two gigs of recent.  In Holland I was supporting Dutch boyband Romeo, who are making a comeback- so it was really exciting to be part of something that meant so much to so many people (the band and fans over there included) and also to get to play to a brand new audience.  Then coming back to London and playing to a packed home crowd was an ace way to finish a few mental days’ worth of shows!

With so (many solo acts) coming through, what challenges do you face as an artist?  Are the growing numbers (of artists) good or bad (for the music scene)?

Everyone has something different to offer so I don’t think artists should see other artists as competition in that sense – If you have great music then someone out there is going to like it – I think the challenges lie in actually getting those people to hear your music.  So the right marketing and P.R. remains routed to ‘success’ in that respect.  I guess you have to look at it like any business and know that there will always be people coming up with bigger and better ideas (and you should use that as inspiration and motivation to keep bettering yourself and moving forward).

Your music is synonymous with upbeat and uplifting melodies/vocals (and is hugely effective).  Is your music tastes/personal happiness that has enforced this- or something else altogether?

Definitely my music tastes have had a huge impact on what I write.  I only want to write music that I would want to listen to myself, so when I write something I look for those chords and melodies that hit me in some way ( and grab me emotionally).

I know a lot of people (who are inspired by your music/artistry).  For those looking up to you; wanting to follow you: what advice/words could you offer?

That’s nice to hear!  Something that I try to live by with my life is ‘if it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it’ – obviously you have to apply this sensibly, but I think essentially, everyone just wants to be happy.  Choosing happiness in even mundane everyday tasks can have a significant impact on your life as a whole.  So choose happiness if you can, and don’t let age define you!

A musician’s life can be challenging/full-on:  what typifies a Nina Schofield day/week?

It’s so different from day to day and week to week, but I can take you through a recent few days that I had.  During the last week of May I had a writing session for another female artist, flew to Amsterdam and did a sound check (and show supporting Romeo along with Swedish artist Alex Alexander); went to Fun X Radio early the next morning (with them) and then flew back later that day- and went on to London to play The Bedford!  That was quite an exciting time but some weeks are much less interesting 🙂

Which female artists/albums- past or present- have inspired you?

Imogen Heap Speak for Yourself is one of my favourite ever albums (and I urge everyone to go and buy it)!  I also love anything by Delta Goodrem; Cornflake Girl by Tori Amos; Breathe Me by Sia- and Regina Spektor.

There is (gender inequality) in society; do you think there (is the same issue) in music? If so, what (do we need to) do to change this?

Absolutely there is – its predominately a male run industry but you still see a lot of female business women making it big – look at people like Madonna and Beyoncé (who have built empires out of their music).  The problem is that sex sells and females are still feeling the pressure to succumb to showing skin in order to ‘make it’.  I think there’s a massive difference between celebrating the female figure and some of the crazy sex imagery (that is out there at the moment).  I’ve heard so many stories of women being told that they won’t be signed- unless they sex up their image as well- which is really sad. Unfortunately I think it’s a big issue in society in general rather than just being limited to music; but if the artists can take the power back( by remaining true to themselves and building a fan base) that way- then perhaps we can start to shift people’s perspectives back to talent and not just image.  I’m actually seeing how a lot of people on social media are tired of it already which is encouraging.

What would you say defines you as a woman (and female musician); what qualities do you desire from others- what are the most attractive qualities in people?

Apart from the obvious (funny, kind and generous folk) …People who work hard for what they want, motivated and optimistic people- and those who aren’t afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake.  I also admire people who are open to all kinds of belief systems – those who are not completely rigid with their way of thinking and willing to listen to all opinions without judgement.

Finally: if you can offer some words to your fans; you get to pick any song (either your favourite or the one that suits your current mood) – name it…

I am in love with Carly Rae Jepson’s new song- so  I Really Like You would be my choice!  Puts me in a great mood and I hope it will for anyone reading!








Track Review: Crooked House Road- Mountain



Crooked House Road






Mountain is available at:



20th May, 2015




Crooked House Road cover art

The album Crooked House Road is available at:



THERE has been a lot rattling around my mind…

when it comes to the music industry.  I have been seeing a lot of (disappointing music): a lot of it stemming from the band market.  Muse releases their new album (Drones) on Monday: an album that by all accounts, is receiving tepid reviews.  Too much pretentious; little direction; weak lyrics- Muse not really taking things forward.  I worry about ‘mainstream bands’: acts who have been around the block; know what they are doing- know what their fans want.  Away from them, the (likes of) The Libertines and Radiohead (have albums ahead): I hope that these two acts- who are among my all-time favourites- do not disappoint.  I wonder whether ‘personal issues’/stresses cause qualitative issues: Matt Bellamy (having separated from wife Kate Hudson) has channeled his anger into the music- it seems flailing and directionless.  Others bands- around the mainstream- have experienced similar woes: letting their personal issues cloud their talent.  You can find much more quality (and dependability) among solo acts: no band-mates to squabble with; more focus on the actual music process- fewer relationship quibbles.  That may be a black-and-white overstatement- and not entirely true- but there is something in it: music (from solo acts) seems more electrifying and interesting; more promise and nuance- less disappointment, at least.  When we look at ‘new music’- bands and acts starting to peek through- there is more maturity: how often do you see new acts go through relationship heartache; have meltdowns and tantrums- the eye is clearly trained towards success/quality.  That said, issues like money (finding funds to launch music/continue a career), promotional stresses (and the amount of work that is needed) causes frictions: I have seen some great bands hit the rocks.  Diversity helps; solid friendships are vital; a single voice is crucial- each member working towards the same ideal.  Crooked House Road are different it seems: they have a boy-girl formation; close-knit bonds; no sense of unease or anger- they are a free-spirited and uplifting act (from Toronto).  Being in my position- and veritable cat-nip for Canadian musicians- I see a lot of the country (I seem especially popular around Ontario- for whatever mystical reason).  Before I go into more detail- give you the run-down on the band- let me (let them) introduce them:

Shaina Silver-Baird 
Mirian Kay
Tom Mifflin
Derek Gray
Darren Eedens
Josh Engel 
Gram Whitty

Crooked House Road is a Toronto-based indie-folk band that sets simple storytelling against lush harmonies and a bluesy backdrop to create an intimate live experience not to be missed.  Vocalist/violinist Shaina Silver-Baird formed Crooked House Road in 2013 as a vehicle to bring her lyrics and music to life. Mirian Kay (vocalist/guitarist) has been right by Shaina’s side onstage and through the songwriting process, and together they have collaborated with contributing artists including Tom Mifflin, Darren Eedens, Derek Gray, Gram Whitty and Josh Engel, among others.  Recently they have played alongside The Lovely Feathers (EMI) and Juno nominee Annabelle Chvostek. They are currently recording their first full length album with Grammy nominee and Juno winning producer Ken Whiteley.”

Shaina Silver-Baird (is C.H.R.’s) stunning lead: an immensely captivating woman; a stunning beauty- a wonderful musician.  Joining with her (musical brothers and sisters) Crooked House Road are a rare treat: their mix of Bluegrass-cum-Indie magic is insatiable.  With their debut (self-titled) album on the market- a phenomenal achievement; I shall touch more on it in the final stages of this review- the band are on the rise.  Silver-Baird’s (stunningly evocative and scenic) words lead the charge: her talented crew lends their colour and candour- the resultant music is breath-taking to behold.  The Toronto band- unlike most of their contemporaries- has a talent for cross-pollination: mixing genres and styles; fusing cultures and time periods.  From Bluegrass and Indie, the band traverses R ‘n’ B through African music: all propelled by soaring harmonies and ethereal sighs.  This year has been productive and fruitful (for the fledgling act): since they formed (back in 2013) the band have honed their sound; expanded their ambitions- their debut album is the summation of their promise and individuality.  One of the most arresting and stunning acts about; the guys are a serious force- the future will be very bright indeed.

For those of you (trying to compare Crooked House Road) with another: you have a hard time ahead.  Playing such unique music- and having a distinct projection- there are few that equal them.  In terms of country-man acts, you could check out The Be Good Tanyas- a Vancouver-based act (making Bluegrass music) of supreme confidence.  Both uplifting and divine, Crooked’ match their splendor and urgency.  Although not as ethereal (as Crooked House Road), The Be Good’ have some comparable threads: the superb harmonies; the personal-cum-everyman lyrics; the emotional compositions.  Elliott Brood- based out of Toronto- is a faster (and more frenetic) Bluegrass equivalent- who offers a mixture of Pop, Indie and Folk (into the bargain).  The Wailin’ Jennys (are probably the best) ‘sound-alike’ act: those who come closest to distilling Crooked House Road’s ethics and sounds.  The Winnipeg wonders are female-only songsters; brimming with insatiable harmonies- sparring Bluegrass traditions with modern Pop sounds.  Crooked House Road is part of (Canada’s growing) Bluegrass sect: a genre that is synonymous with beauty, power and potential.  Separating from the pack, Crooked’ outrank their peers: better harmonies (more stirring and striking); keener insights (more cutting and nuanced lyrics); stronger songs- that beg you to keep coming back for more.  It is not just Silver-Baird’s personality and strengths (many of them) that define the band: they are strongest when united and in-step; each member brings their own talents to the show.  To my mind, Fleet Foxes are the best comparisons: in terms of strength and quality.  The Washington Folk band- who has produced two phenomenal L.P.s- comes to my thoughts.  Their vocal harmonies- otherworldly and heaven-sent- sit with evocative lyrics (that look at nature, retreat; introspection and the larger world) – backed with some tremendous compositions.  Crooked House Road should be proud; I can see them producing their own Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes 2011 masterpiece).  Satisfying, self-assured (and hysterically beautiful), Fleet’ marry Bluegrass with Folk- music of the highest order.  Crooked House Road is in their infancy: putting their initial steps together; growing by the year- it will not be long until they challenge (the regent heights of Fleet Foxes).

The here and now is…well, here.  Mountain is causing a lot of commotion: reviewers (and press alike) are salivating with delights- fans love what they hear.  Having just completed (a stop-me-if-you-can rotation of Mykonos- Fleet Foxes at their best) I was captivated by Mountain– a song that boasts similar etherealness and divinity.  Starting life with languid and aching vocals- Silver-Baird stretches her voice; her healingly scent climbs into the atmosphere- “I scream to the mountain” she sings with pride.  Semi-operatic and huge; intimate and tender: the opening moments are a mixture of sensitivity and declaration.  Our heroine is in the open; giving her voice to the mountain- her thoughts leading the charge.  Past the 0:30 mark, her comrades come into the fray: blending their tones, the shivers begin- a delicious cocktail of male-female voices; a sweet harmony of bliss.  Filled with energetic rush- and a heady cognation of Folk/Bluegrass strings- the song kicks up a gear.   With our lead in pensive mood (“Can’t see no heaven’s gate”), the song comes back down- there is a terrific blend of fast and beautiful; refrained and focused- for some investigation.  Words paint pictures of spoke-grabbing, wind-blowin’ drama: our heroine has a way with words (few of her stablemates possess); painting images of yearning love and letting go- lyrics that can be interpreted differently (depending on your psyche).  Propelled with finger-picking guitar (an authentic representation of ‘traditional Bluegrass’ tones), the song breathes and runs- the momentum and passion never relents.  Amidst the soothing (and uplifting) vocals- that have some Doo-Wop/Swing qualities to them- the words start to resonate: both oblique and direct; poetic and personal- you start to imagine scenarios.  Silver-Baird looks at mortality and meaning; affirmation and redemption- “The sky laughed a mortal joke” and “The water creeps higher” are two of the most immediate (and memorable) lyrical images.  With her mind cast- and her soul being discarded and overlooked- our heroine changes her voice: it has a sense of sneer and dismissal; a go-with-the-flow feel- there is never an overly-anxious tone; nothing insincere or forced.  When delivering (latter-moment verses)- “The sea, the sun, the rock, the moon/I’m too young, it’s all too soon…”- Silver-Baird adds accent and urgency- you can tell these words resonate with her.  Just as you start to settle in, that rush comes back: the vocals climb (and elongate); the composition tangles and dances- our heroine lets her voice hit (a pin-sharp) high; the song’s most healingly moment.  When the chorus is repeated- what creeping; flames of fire; pushing back home- the band lead in unison: voices combine; the words are teed-up and vibrant.  Both catchy and impassioned, it is a terrific (and terrifically memorable) chorus: designed to get one singing along; moving their feet to the rhythm.  As the song concludes, the fervency never desists: the moment is over too soon- the song ends its campaign.

   Congratulations go to the entire band: each member is expert and intuitive; focused and passionate- which gives Mountain such strength and wonder.  Silver-Baird leads terrifically; the vocal is sensational and gripping- her words whip up all kinds of images (few songwriters can wield the pen in quite the same way).  With violin in hand, her colleagues add their own weight: the harmonies are electric and unforgettable; the strings (and beats) ready and ripe- the composition is filed with Bluegrass ache; Pop passion- with Folk romance thrown in.  Spectral and special, the band is tight and close: they clearly have a great respect for one another.  Mountain is a song that implores (the feet to move) and lifts the spirit: inventive and original, here is a unique band- that supersedes expectations and (the homogenised sounds of the scene).  The lead-off track from Crooked House Road- and a perfect introduction to their craft and sound- the song is a huge triumph.  Ken Whiteley- a Juno-winning, Grammy-nominated producer- helms the album: ensuring each song bristles with energy and light; gets straight into the pre-frontal cortex (and seduces every ear).  With Silver-Baird up top, the band is on a mission: one of the strongest (and most insatiable) acts about- they will be (relatively) anonymous no longer.  Mountain is a testament of collective will: that desire to have fun and inspire; motivate and compel listeners- whilst showing (their peers) what is possible.

I have been skeptical about (reviewing Canadian music): about 90% of all requests emanate her- being London-based I want to focus on homegrown/different music (not just that which hails from Canada).  Having imposed an embargo- or some rules at least- I am surveying a Canadian act (every 2-3 months).  I am glad Crooked House Road did not pass me by: it would have been a huge error to overlook them.  From Silver-Baird’s otherworldly beauty (her lyrics, instrumentation and vocals) to Mirian Kay’s intuitive support and talent- not overlooking the rest of the band who are stunning musicians/vocalists- and you have a serious proposition.  In the U.K. – when it comes to new bands at least- we do not have Our Very Own Crooked House Road: a mixed-gender group who play Bluegrass/Indie sounds; have stirring harmonies- do things the same way.  Sure, there are similar acts: yet none who are quite as mesmeric and memorable.  Perhaps it is our (different and particular) culture; maybe we are more predictable: I hope musicians (over here) look at a wonderful act- take their merits on board.  On that point, I want the band to come play here: London would love to house them; how could they resist their psychotropic spine-shiver?  Whether they (require some financing and fan demand) or prefer Canadian audiences, we shall see: their debut album is gathering some pace.  Their (self-titled) album is bound with wisdom, sensuality and storytelling: a concoction of true-to-life honesty; romantic desire; stunning highs.  Across the ten tracks- my highlights are Tell Me A Story, Racin’ and Mountain– you get a lot of diversity: new stories and scenes; plenty of wonder- the band amaze (across every track).  The band- and their leading heroine- seem at ease and relaxed: their music comes across effortless and instinctive- although tight and well-rehearsed.  Silver-Baird would feel at home in London: the mix of cultures (our capitlal is famed for) comes out in her words; the bustle and cosmopolitanism (of London’s clans and streets) reflects in the sounds: variegated and multi-national.  It is the strength and vitality that strikes hardest: that empowered kick that is impossible to ignore- a pavement-pounding slam that gets into your heart; into the brain (and never lets go).  Maybe I am being overly-romantic, but (Silver-Baird) has a way of speaking to the masses: writing words that represent the city-dwelling dreamer; the woods-loving naturalist- the honest and earnest lovers.  The entire band has a close bond (that defines their music); a real knowing and understanding- they blend with supreme confidence; that natural kinship- every note produces something quite amazing.  I shall end this review- alas I ramble once more- returning to my (original point): concerning band break-ups/stresses; that uncertain sense of quality and control- the capricious nature of the music-lover.  Canadian musicians are among the most fertile and distinct: refusing to settle with one sound; each city/town produces something particular- fair fewer homogenised acts roam here.  In tandem, there is greater ease and purposes: there are not the stresses and dramas (some of Britain’s elite suffer).  With all that considered, it is no surprise (Crooked House Road) sound like they are here for the long-stay: that is exactly what is going to happen.  La Muse malade are on their deathbed; their like-minded artists showing the strains: eyes and ears are looking elsewhere- to acts that can focus and surprise; have stronger thoughts and ideas for sure.  If you like Bluegrass music, then check out Crooked House Road: for those not initiated, then do not be afraid- there is so much more at work here.  From African sounds- through to swelling harmonies- the boys (and girls) cast their new wide- take everyone along with them.  I renew my plea to them: come over to London; play some of our best venues- take their music to the British public.  Canada has a great music scene, yet bigger opportunities lie further afield: the likes of the U.K. and U.S. house vast markets; new fan-bases- a whole world of potential.  With the music scene (over here at least) in need of a shake-up, the scene is set: the likes of Crooked House Road are much-needed.  Seek out their album; fall in love with Mountain– see (what all the hype) is really about.   With other acts/’real life’ occupying my time- for the next couple of months- I am departing Canada (putting their music at the back of my thoughts) but what a way to do it.  If new music displays this kind of adventure and difference, then one thing is for sure…

MANY upcoming acts will feel a lot less anxious; free to create something quite sensational.



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