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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