Swanky Clifton members-only bar The Square opened its doors for this intimate gig showcasing songwriting talent from across the southwest
Regular readers of the Songwriting magazine app will remember that a few issues ago we profiled Funnel Music, a management/marketing company based here in sunny Bristol that aims to give a leg-up to talented young musicians. Which, of course, is what Songwriting is all about too… so it seemed only right and proper that we should join forces with them for the latest in our series of Songwriting Live events.
There were four artists playing for us tonight: Danielle Celeste, Jasper Storey, James Humphrys and Zak Christie. Zak was up first: armed only with an acoustic guitar he treated us to his songs Lies, It’s Never Felt Like This, Stay Close To Me and Nothing To Say, plus a cover of the Ray Charles classic Georgia On My Mind. If you’re a fan of contemporary singer-songwriters in the Ed Sheeran/Tom Odell/Passenger vein, then check Zak out if you get the chance – you won’t regret it, we promise you.
Next up was James Humphreys, accompanied by a fellow guitar-slinger known simply as Charlie. They opened with the indie-folk number Closer, then moved on to the slightly rockier Coming Back (taken from James’s new EP) and Plastic Gold. The pair then veered back into folky pastures with Need To Know before ending with the new EP’s title track For Another, a more upbeat affair with an almost pop-punk/emo feel.
After the first two acts had performed, in traditional Songwriting Live style it was time to get them back up on stage to answer questions from the audience. We discussed their sources of inspiration and musical influences, whether they tend to write lyrics or music first (both answering “music” to that one), and whether they were of the “I write when inspiration strikes” or “I sit down and make myself write, even if I don’t feel like it” school of thought – both agreeing that sometimes you do have to make yourself do it, but that at other times if the inspiration isn’t flowing it’s better to walk away for a while. We were also intrigued by the interplay between James and Charlie’s guitars, with James explaining that he writes with a loop pedal a lot of the time and so layering up parts comes naturally.
After a short break, Danielle Celeste took to the stage, opening with the plaintive What If I’m Right?, “a song about not knowing how someone feels about you”. That was followed by I’m Only Human and Two, after which Danielle dropped the pace with the gentler Gambling Type. Can’t Say No followed, a country-tinged affair on which she really let her voice rip, before Danielle closed with another gentler number, Wildflower, which had echoes of Joni Mitchell and a nice drone-y two-chord guitar riff.
Jasper Storey was the last artist to perform. He gave us the vaguely jazz/swing-inflected It’s All On Us, a track you could imagine Bruno Mars singing, followed by the more bluesy I Don’t Wanna Die and the languid, contemplative Take Off Your Shoes.
With the clock ticking, it was then decided to crack straight on with the second Q&A session. We heard about Danielle’s recent trip to Nashville – “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe how quickly they write, over there… you’d book a co-writing session and it was like, ‘Do you want the 9 o’clock or the 12 o’clock?.” Again, influences and inspirations were discussed, along with the merits of co-writing vs writing solo and the eternal “music or lyrics first?” question. Jasper answered “always music” to the latter, while Danielle said, “Concept first! I’ll know what the song’s about, and that’ll help me find the right chords”.
Jasper then picked up his guitar again to play us out with three final numbers: the Jack Johnson-ish Me Plus You, the melancholy Monday Morning Jumper and finally the sprightly Dreaming Awake, “a song about paracetamol” (aren’t they all?).
Our thanks to Funnel Music and all the artists involved for making this most interesting and entertaining of evenings happen! And if you fancy check out some more up-and-coming young artists and finding out more about their songwriting methods, then the next Funnel Music/Songwriting Live event is once more at The Square Club, Clifton Triangle, Bristol on Wednesday 5 April. Entry is free, and doors open 8pm.