Songwriting Live @ Century, London (28 January 2016)
Our regular London showcase returned in January, with a plush new venue, five up-and-coming live acts – and Katie Melua!
Thursday 28 January saw the return of Songwriting Live in London, which had been on hiatus for a while due to the closure of the previous venue, The Water Rats in King’s Cross. Now relocated to super-swanky private members’ club Century on Shaftesbury Avenue, the evening once again saw Songwriting teaming up with Featured Artists Coalition and Success Express Music to present an evening of musical education and entertainment.
The venue might have changed, but the format for the evening remains the same: a guest speaker and Q&A session hosted by FAC and Success Express, followed by a live showcase hosted by Success Express and ourselves. Our guest speaker this time out was none other than Katie Melua, who has recently joined the board at Featured Artists Coalition.
Katie took questions from the floor regarding (among other things) the early days of her career, her songwriting routine, how ageism affects female recording artists, how she juggles the many demands made on her time, and the strangest places she’s played – the latter question inspired by a 2006 gig at an underwater oil-drilling platform in the North Sea that earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Other topics included the changes that inevitably happen to a singer’s voice as they age, how to cope with times when you’re feeling dispirited or demotivated, and whether young artists are better off, these days, seeking a record deal or going the independent route.
She also shared with us a tip for avoiding colds, and the resultant deleterious effects on the voice: apparently gargling hourly with a 50-50 mix of hot water and naturally matured apple cider vinegar is the way ahead!
After Katie’s talk and Q&A, it was time for the first of our five performers to take the stage. Getting the ball rolling were Echo Wants Her Voice Back, who had also played at the very first Songwriting Live in London, exactly 364 days previously! Last time out we made comparisons to PJ Harvey, Bjork and Lorde; this time our notes make reference to Kate Bush and Florence & The Machine, but you get the general idea. Fronted by Eleni Skarpari, Echo WHVB treated us to four tracks: Lizard, Absurd, Flow and one whose title we didn’t catch that Eleni described simply as “a song about a missing heart.”
Next to the mic were Posters, a new two-piece consisting of St Ives, Cambridgeshire-based singer-songwriter Tom Copson and bassist Tim Steers. Gentle, acoustic pop sitting somewhere between Paul Simon and Ed Sheeran is Posters’ stock-in-trade, as was soon clear from opener Lessons. Wherever came next, a song about leaving your home town, followed by High Hopes, a heartfelt ballad told from the point of view of someone thinking about committing suicide but abandoning the idea when they find someone on the same ledge (whether Tom has read Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down remains unclear!). Afraid To Fall, a more uptempo number, saw Tom reaching for his Suzuki Omnichord portable synth, before Posters’ set came to an end with Brave Man, a brand new song reminiscent of an acoustic Blur.
After a short interval, it was the turn of another ‘returning’ artist, Jesse Gamage, who’d played for us at the Water Rats back in April. Jesse, who performs with an acoustic guitar, a looping pedal and one hell of a soul voice, opened with the fragile, haunting Turbulence, before shifting pace dramatically with Proud, a strident, anthemic number about life in the inner city that gave Jesse a change to show off not just his impressive flow as a rapper, but also some mournful, Gilmour-esque guitar squall! Another more thoughtful number followed, with the seemingly unlikely title of YOLO. But “people get that phrase wrong,” explained Jesse. “For me it’s not about being irresponsible, it’s that you’ve only got one chance at this life, so do the right thing.” Jesse then finished his set with the epic, spacey Nebula.
Our penultimate act for the evening was Leo Stone, a young acoustic singer-songwriter from Hull, who was performing backed by a mandolin player and female backing singer. Leo opened with the gentle, folky Star-Filled Skies, following it up with the similarly styled Strangers. A cascading, fingerpicked intro then took us into Barriers, a song about overcoming obstacles in life which, Tom informed us, the trio had played together for the first time only the day before. Then came the Simon & Garfunkel-ish Don’t Tell Everyone So, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek song about a relationship where the two partners’ financial situations are wildly different, before Leo picked up the pace for two rockier, more rousing numbers entitled Goodbye and Home.
Sadly, just as the final act In Hoodies took to the stage, Songwriting had to depart for the last carriage home, lest we turned into pumpkins. So all we can tell you is that the band – a four-piece for tonight’s performance, though their Facebook pictures show six members – are essentially a vehicle for Turkish singer-songwriter Murat Mrt Serkin, that this was their first ever London gig, and that they opened with a blues-y rock number that may or may not have been entitled It’s What I Feel. We’d have loved to stay and find out more, but sadly time, tide and the 11.30pm to Bristol Temple Meads wait for no man!
All told, it was a most enjoyable evening, and our thanks go as ever to Lorraine Solomons at Success Express for making it happen, to FAC’s Paul Pacifico for his impeccable hosting, and to all the musicians who came along and played. Keep ’em peeled for details of the next Songwriting Live, coming soon!