Tabloids miss the point at Brit Awards 2018

February 24, 2018 in News

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa’s record number of nominations was not the focus of tabloid attention at the 2018 Brit Awards. Credit: Justin Higuchi

The 2018 Brit Awards was eventful and inspiring for many reasons, but some media outlets’ coverage causes outrage among fans

Wednesday night marked the 38th Brit Awards ceremony. It should have been a night to celebrate diversity in music, with fans waiting with bated breath to see which artists would triumph. With Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran nominated for five awards each, and the likes of Jessie Ware, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, and Stormzy having success in 2017, the tension levels where high. And the awards show didn’t disappoint.

However, the next morning the front pages of the newspapers weren’t celebrating the success of female artists, or the much-improved diversity of the Brit Awards. They didn’t focus on Dua Lipa’s speech calling for “more women on these stages and more women winning awards,” or the fact she received more nominations than any other female in Brits history.

Neither did they focus on Stormzy being the first black artist in 26 years to win British Album Of The Year. Even his rousing, emotional speech calling out the Prime Minister Theresa May and her lack of action over the Grenfell disaster didn’t make a dent to the front pages.

It was the so-called “hilarious” incident involving Este Haim, the bassist from the band Haim, videobombing Cheryl and Liam Payne while the pair were being interviewed by host Jack Whitehall which most of the tabloids picked up on.

The coverage caused people to vent their anger towards some newspapers on social media. The lack of diversity within print media, and the content produced by journalists, has been controversial for a long time. Articles written by Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are perhaps among the most controversial in recent times.

In 2016, The Guardian newspaper reported the findings of a survey which stated that British journalism is 94% white and 55% male. Whether this is a contributing factor is up for contention. There is also the claim that certain newspapers and editors are biased towards political parties. And the feeling that occasionally the British print media misreports important issues is strong.
People believe racism and bigotry is fuelling agendas. The newspapers will claim that they cover stories that will sell more copies; clickbait rules internet journalism, are the papers competing in the same way?

This was a big night for the British music industry to prove itself to fans that it was a level platform for everyone. But the event has been overshadowed for the wrong reasons.

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Money’ by Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue

February 20, 2018 in News

Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue

Today’s exclusive is from the brilliantly funky, Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue

We’re bringing you a funky track that bobs and throbs. It’ll have you tapping your toes long after it’s finished

Today you lucky people are graced by a song that’s crisp, infectious, and oh so funky. It comes courtesy of Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue, AKA Eric ‘Doc’ Mendelsohn of Ghost Beach. Are you ready for the funk? Because it’s being brought to you.

The track is titled Money and of it Mendelsohn says: “Money is a song about a parallel universe where I’m rich.”

He’s been compared to Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. Are those nods accurate? We’re not going to tell you. Listen below and let Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue answer for himself…

Like that? Then head over to Pink Flamingo Rhythm Revue’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ​Soundcloud, and website to find out more.

Interview: Bill Nelson

February 20, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson: “Of course, nonsense can make great sense too in the right setting.”

Including his work in Be-Bop Deluxe, this uncompromising English songwriter has remained true to his vision throughout his long career

It’s hard to succinctly summarise the career of Bill Nelson, such is the prodigious nature of his output. Famous as the innovative guitarist, vocalist and chief songwriter of 70s art rock group, Be-Bop Deluxe, Nelson had already released his first solo album, 1971’s Northern Dream, before forming his most renowned band. Best known for the single Ships In The Night, the group disbanded after producing five studio albums of innovative and forward-looking music.

Up next came Red Noise and the influential release Sound-on-Sound in 1979. Its severe sound, helped along by a healthy dose of synth, was another stylistic shift from Nelson – further hinting at the experimental and restless nature of his writing.

Nelson’s solo career has seen him form his own record label, produce albums by other artists and maintain his own relentless pace. With so many albums to his name, his back catalogue might seem impregnable to those not yet familiar with his work. We’d recommend the mature pop of the 1983 album Chimera or 2003’s Whimsy, which proved that his mastery of the guitar was alive and well, as good places to start. But wherever you begin, your next destination will likely confound as it takes a sharp turn.

Of specific interest to us today is the remastered and expanded version of the double album Chance Encounters In The Garden Of Lights and Songs For Ghosts, an album of vocal pieces that came out last year. Really though, these are just entry points to gain us access to this uncompromisingly creative artist…


Have you enjoyed the process of remastering and rereleasing so much of your old work?

“It’s been nice to see my old Cocteau Records catalogue getting reissued, and the reviews have been good, but, to be honest, I haven’t been involved in the remastering of them, I’ve left that to Esoteric Records and they’ve done a very nice job of it. But in a couple of cases, I didn’t feel that a remastering would improve things, some albums sounded just fine as they were, so those ones were left alone.”

Why did you feel that now was the correct time for these projects?

“I don’t know if there’s a ‘correct’ time for reissuing albums, other than some years need to have passed since their original release. I was approached by Esoteric with a view to licensing the albums from me. It seemed like a good idea, especially as there were quite a number of them and I didn’t really have the time to deal with reissuing them myself. I’m always looking to the future and find it difficult to focus too much on past work, so it was good that someone was willing to take on the catalogue and do it justice. I did get involved with aspects of the packaging, along with writing new sleeve notes.

“One of the initial projects that we undertook was a massive career overview, a box set of 8 CDs with various examples of my recordings over the years. Its title was The Practice Of Everyday Life and it was intended as a celebration of 40 years of my work. I was more directly involved with that. The packaging for the project was very, very special. I sourced lots of rare photos and memorabilia from my archives which were put into a book that came with the package. I’m very proud of the way it turned out, it looks absolutely stunning.”

You’ve said Chance Encounters In The Garden Of Lights is perhaps the “most personal and yet least demonstrative” of all your music. Why do you think that is?

“It was my most personal statement, at that time, but of course, as time moves on so does your personality to some degree. We change and develop our ideas and so on. So it might not be seen as my most personal album today, there have been several ‘most personal’ albums since then. Nevertheless, back when I recorded it, it was personal in that it was inspired by my study of various esoteric philosophies, occult and alchemic texts, Gnosticism and mysticism of various kinds. I’d become involved with Rosicrucian Lodges, fringe areas of Freemasonry, Martinism and more.

“Looking back on it now, I’d become deeply passionate about that kind of subject matter, but now it’s simply been absorbed into the unconscious fabric of things that have inspired me over the years, along with lots of other stuff. It certainly helped shape my sensibilities in one way or another, but it’s only one aspect of who I am. I wouldn’t say it defines my work. But there’s a certain pre-occupation with dreams, memory and the nature of time, which is probably the most persistent thread running through it these days.

“As for Chance Encounters… being the least demonstrative of my work, I think I said that because it doesn’t try to seduce the listener with technical flummery. It’s has quite a stripped back, minimalist approach. The tracks are all relatively short, single thoughts simply stated, lasting just long enough for the main idea to be conveyed without fuss. You could say that they’re like Haikus in musical form.”

Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson: “We can only make the music that feels authentic to us, speaks to our own peculiar sensibilities.”

Does that suggest you tend to shy away from the personal in your writing?

“No, not at all. One concern I have is that I can’t escape writing from a personal perspective. I do sometimes invent totally fictitious scenarios for some songs, with imaginary protagonists, but not often. Even when the lyrics may seem non-linear or surreal, there is inevitably something of the personal in them. Perhaps for some artists, and for me in particular, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. It doesn’t have to be a literal and obvious reference to personal experience, sometimes you embark on the songwriting process with exactly the opposite effect in mind, but somehow, when all’s done, the song still manages to say something about who you are, what you care about, what sort of person you might be. And sometimes you don’t discover, or make that connection until sometime after you’ve moved on and are able to hear the song with fresh ears.”

Are there any threads that tie together all of these projects? Do similar themes often present themselves to you?

“Subconsciously, probably, yes. I don’t know how many songs I’ve recorded since recording my first album back in 1970, Northern Dream. I’ve lost track of the number of albums I’ve released and it’s not something I think about often or calculate in any way. It’s just a continuous fountain of thought committed to tape or digital media. They’re like diary entries.

“The themes are sort of fragmented but at the same time whole, complete, just one long song. Perhaps someone else could better identify the various threads and maybe identify the overall theme but I’ve long given up any attempt to rationalise the creative impulse and just try to let it be. But as I said, dreams, memory and time tend to form regular subject matter. Everything I’ve ever been interested in finds its way into my work; art, literature, film, poetry, love, life, all the usual stuff!”

Did working on the reissues have an impact on the creation of Songs For Ghosts?

“I don’t think so. Every album occurs in its own space and time. It depends on how mindless or mindful the artist is at the point of creation. And some songs begin from an empty mind point of view and others from a more considered impulse. And by ‘mindless’ I don’t really mean unintelligent. ‘No mind’ can be a greater starting point than a mind full of nonsense. But that’s just my Zen Buddhist tendencies coming out, so feel free to ignore them…Of course, nonsense can make great sense too in the right setting! Context is everything.

How restrictive was it having to write for vocals alone?

“Lyrics, inevitably after writing so many songs, become problematic. What to sing about? What to say that hasn’t already been said? There’s always the option of falling back on the stereotypical love and relationships route of course. I don’t know…it’s not as if I’ve never written tender love songs, but it’s possible to approach such things from a different angle, a sort of system of codes, or in a symbolic sense. On the other hand, direct, clear statements of romantic sentiments can be very powerful.”

“Some of my favourite classic songs from a long parade of music history deal wonderfully with ordinary sentiments and I melt when I hear them, whether it’s Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, etc. or Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Burt Bacharach and hundreds of others.

“Despite my admiration for such talents I have to accept I’m trapped in my own particular bubble with whatever my voice and limitations are. We can only make the music that feels authentic to us, speaks to our own peculiar sensibilities. What anyone else asks of us shouldn’t, in my opinion, trouble the true artist. Music that is purely made to suit a certain preconception of what an audience wants, or for a particular marketplace, might be cleverly constructed but it is more a construction rather than something organic and unconscious. But I accept that not everyone will see it that way. In a sense, there’s no absolute right or wrong in this, it’s just my way of dealing with things.”

Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson: “The adventure goes on, there’s no choice, no reverse gear, no rear view mirror, just the road stretching ahead.”

From the outside, your output looks incredibly prolific, are you someone who is constantly creating or do you ever hit a brick wall / need a break?

“I write and record constantly. As I mentioned, it’s like making an entry in a diary, perhaps coupled with painting a picture. It’s a daily, ongoing activity but never feels like work, even though it’s sometimes troublesome or difficult. It’s simply what I do. I love doing it, it brings a deep sense of satisfaction and helps enlighten and fulfil me. Writing music and lyrics has brought so much aesthetic awareness into my life and I’m blessed to have been able to do it for so long, especially with the relative freedom to operate outside of the narrower, more commercial confines of the music industry.

“I’m lucky in that I’ve not yet hit a brick wall, though the possibility of that might well arise, but I seem to have more ideas percolating than I have time to realise them. But, who knows…maybe one day I’ll run out of steam, but not for a long time yet I hope!”

Where do you turn to when in need of inspiration?

“To different things at different times. Depends on the mood of the moment. It’s an emotional response, tempered by an intellectual one in some ways. It can be worries and concerns, melancholy, sadness, nostalgia, love and romance, past and present. It can be ironic things, retro-futurism, surrealist ploys, dreams, darkness and light, the search for meaning, existentialist stuff. It’s all up for grabs. No shame, no second guessing. As one of my heroes, Jack Kerouac, said, ‘First thought, best thought.’ Or, as another hero, Jean Cocteau said, ‘Cultivate what others criticise you for, it is you…’ To be yourself and damn the torpedoes is a way of finding your originality and discovering an authentic sense of self.”

What were the most important songwriting lessons you learnt during your time with both Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise?

“It feels like an eternity ago now, but paradoxically, like only yesterday. I don’t know, sometimes it feels a bit of a millstone around my neck, other times I’m deeply grateful for the start that those projects gave to my career. I guess I’m ambivalent about it. I hear those recordings and marvel at how young and naive I was, and yet how fearless. It’s what it is, or rather what it was, marks in the sand, signposts along the way. But the adventure goes on, there’s no choice, no reverse gear, no rear view mirror, just the road stretching ahead.”

On a similar theme, did running your own label allow you to explore writing in a way that wasn’t previously possible?

“It allowed a certain amount of freedom. I don’t remember, when I first began Cocteau Records, whether I had any overriding commercial considerations or not. Probably not as I’ve never really approached my ‘career’ as a career. I’ve stumbled from one thing to another with no great intention of achieving anything beyond making the music I heard in my head. I don’t know, does that stand for something? Does creative stubbornness count for much in today’s world? Who knows!?”

Lastly, do you have any songwriting ambitions that you still hope to achieve?

“I’d love to be able to compose for a live orchestra, even though I don’t read or write music. I’ve approximated this on some of my albums using keyboards to replicate the sounds of a symphony orchestra, but to have someone translate those ideas into charts for a real orchestra to play would be wonderful.

“But, all such fantasies aside, my ongoing ambition is to make an album where I can truly say, ‘That’s it, I’m done.’ But, I’m a long way off that yet!”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


To find out more about all of Bill’s latest projects, head to billnelson.com

‘Hearts Of Glass’ by Beth Nielsen Chapman (Album)

February 19, 2018 in Music Reviews

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Beth Nielsen Chapman: a songwriter behind hits for artists like Faith Hill

The country singer-songwriter returns with an album of new and old material, all lifted by the sparse and inviting production

Beth Nielsen Chapman 'Hearts Of Glass' album coverDespite the fact that she’s now onto her 13th studio album, some will always consider Beth Nielsen Chapman as a songwriter behind hits for artists like Faith Hill. If 1997’s Sand And Water didn’t convince you that she is a worthy artist in her own right then it’s a battle that will never be won. Those with a little more sense will welcome the release of Hearts Of Glass, an album of new and reworked songs all either written or co-written by Chapman.

From the very start there’s clarity about both the production and her voice which pushes the vocals to the front. Come To Me is an enticing opening, its jigging rhythm makes Chapman’s beckoning even more appealing. The narrative on new tracks like Epitaph For Love and You’re Still My Valentine can’t be escaped. The lyrics of both will strike a chord with those who know of the loss she has experienced in her personal life.

Of the old material, Sam Ashworth’s minimalistic production helps to left them out of their previous surroundings. Songs like Rage On Rage and Life Holds On benefit from this approach, revealing the truth and stories within the words. It’s an approach that worked for Lori McKenna on her fantastic 2016 album The Bird And The Rifle and though Chapman’s creations aren’t quite up to that standard, they still resonate. In this way Hearts Of Glass is another example of both Chapman’s songwriting ability and her appeal as an artist.

Verdict: Old and new find clarity together

Duncan Haskell

Classic Of The Week: Swervedriver

February 18, 2018 in News

Swervedriver

“You’ve been away for so long. You can’t ask why”

If, like us, you adore shoegaze then this week’s classic is going to be a real treat for your ears

Shoegaze wasn’t all about My Bloody Valentine in the early 90s. Among the genre’s very finest exponents, and operating at the rockier end of the spectrum, was Oxford’s Swervedriver.

Duel is taken from their stunning sophomore LP, Mezcal Head. If you’ve not heard either then you’re in for a real treat. If you have, then listen below for blissful nostalgia.


Classic Of The Week Playlist


Will ear training apps make you a better songwriter?

February 17, 2018 in Gear, News

Will ear training apps make you a better songwriter?

APPetite for chord construction. Credit: AJEL

It seems some songwriters have forgotten their craft. But will this app improve your skills? The evidence might surprise you

EarProg is the latest app that trains users to recognise chord progressions. According to the app’s developer, Leverkuhn Apps, EarProg will improve a musician’s songwriting, improvisation and performance ability. But is this kind of app necessary for becoming a great songwriter, or is it all a gimmick?

Before the invention of the internet, many guitarists had to learn to play by ear. This involved spending time next to a record player, guitar in hand, while trying to work out a song’s chord progression. We know John Lennon did this and he is still a celebrated songwriter today. However, with the internet came tablature websites; vast libraries of notation can now be accessed instantly, removing the need to learn songs by ear.

However, the advantages of being able to identify chord progressions is clear. It means musicians can enter a room and start playing along with a song they didn’t previously know how to play. This ability also allows songwriters to translate ideas from head to page more effectively.

In the mid-20th century, the Japanese musician Shinichi Suzuki developed the Suzuki method. The method aims to teach children instruments from a young age. Suzuki saw how quickly children were able to learn their native language. So, he created a learning environment for music that was like learning linguistics, which involves listening and repeating. It’s an idea that has been modernised in the form of an app. And it’s proving popular with beginners and professionals alike.

EarProg is the latest ear training app on the market. It features over 60 chord progressions, split into three sections: Standard, Four Chords, and Minor. The app is available on iPhone or iPad and is priced at £0.99.

‘Stupid People/Happy Days’ by Moviestar (Album)

February 16, 2018 in Music Reviews

Moviestar

Moviestar: angry at the way the planet is being treated

There is a smattering of retro art rock amongst the zany, sci-fi punk brought to Earth by these interdimensional explorers

Moviestar 'Stupid People Happy Days' album coverThat’s right, interdimensional explorers. After travelling through a wormhole and arriving in Norway, Moviestar are angry at the way the planet is being treated. So, to convey their disgruntlement, the band have turned up the dial on the fuzz box and recorded some songs – and they’re pretty good, to say the least.

Stupid People is the first song on the album; following on from one of those intro tracks, as heard on 90s hip hop and 00s nu-metal albums. It’s got a biting guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on a Wire song. The lyric “there’s too much Botox” warns us of the destructive nature of vanity. It’s a whirlwind of a song that throws punches like a prize-fighter.

The next two songs, Chosen Ones and Fortune Teller, greatly differ from their predecessor. The latter is a feisty electro-grunge fusion, that sounds like it was written for a film score. While the former is a stripped back mission statement that floats along, gently sweeping up everything in its path. The other seven songs continue in the same vein, recycling the band’s electro, grunge, and art rock influences.

It’s easy to see why Moviestar has been compared to David Bowie, especially Ziggy Stardust, and Freddie Mercury. Two artists that once encapsulated people’s vision of the future, with shiny jumpsuits and androgynous features. Call them quirky, or call them oddities, but Moviestar bring a bit of fun to an angry world.

Verdict: There’s clear artistic direction, but the songs won’t be everyone’s flavour

Dave Chrzanowski

Revealing the winner of our Christmas Gift Guide competition

February 15, 2018 in Competitions, News

Eileen Quigley

Eileen Quigley: surrounded by her Songwriting Christmas Gift Guide prize haul

The lucky person who received all 10 products in our festive kit list was a very grateful, Scottish, budding singer-songwriter

It seems like a very long time ago now, but back in December we ran an online reader competition to win every item in our Songwriting Christmas Gift Guide. The list of 10 products included a Tibo Sphere 4 Bluetooth speaker worth £250, several effects pedals from TC-Electronic and Orange, a pair of AKG headphones, EZdrummer 2 software, and a couple of books (including a copy of our own paperback How I Wrote), as well as a guitar tuner, wall hanger and strings.

Before the end of the year, we randomly picked one winner to receive the entire gift guide, and we can now reveal that lucky person to be Eileen Quigley, a singer-songwriter in Wolverhampton.

“I was delighted to receive items from the gift list… They are awesome,” said Eileen. “I am recording my debut EP for release late spring. Thank you so much.”

Of Irish parents, Eileen Quigley was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow and spent her entire youth on the south side of the Scottish city. Eileen writes an eclectic range of songs, and although now living on the West Midlands, her forthcoming debut EP includes songs about her hometown. Jumpers For Goalposts is due for release May 2018.

Look out for Eileen’s new website coming soon (eileenquigley.com), but in the meantime you can listen to her music on her SoundCloud profile and follow her progress on Twitter.

EXCLUSIVE! ‘We Get High Together’ by NO ICE

February 13, 2018 in News

No Ice

Today’s exclusive is from the brilliant, NO ICE. Credit: Lena @ 21 Grams

Today we bring you a song by a delightful power-pop group. We’re sure that you’re going to absolutely love it

Today’s exclusive song is by power-pop group, NO ICE. Comprised of Jamie Frey (lead vox, guitar), Jesse Katz (drums), Gwynn Galitzer (vox), Sean Spada (keys, vox), Jordan Smith (bass), Sam Braverman (guitar) and John-Severin Napolillo (guitar).

The song they have for you is called We Get High Together and of the track, Frey has this to say: “This project was a collaboration with our good friend Joe Wakeman, who plays in the Brooklyn band Toyzanne, but is also an accomplished Auteur filmmaker. I loved his full-length film, They Read By Night. He loved our song We Get High Together, and he came up with the concept of his parents taking medicinal marijuana and watching Classic Movies starring nice. Chaplin is one of my great heroes and I had always wanted to do a tribute to him, and Joe came up with the insane Swashbuckler film for Jesse, Gwynn and Sam and the surreal, boring Cowboy film for Sean and Jordan.”

They’ve been likened to Guided by Voices, The Replacements, and Big Star. Watch the NO ICE members feature in the Joe Wakeman directed video (which includes his films A Vernal Circumstance, The Sins of the Mad Lieutenant, and Bindle Stiff) below to see if you agree…

In 2016 they released their album Come On Feel The NO ICE. They’re working on a follow up to that LP which will be out later this year.

Like all that? Then you can find NO ICE on: Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, and YouTube.

‘See You Around’ by I’m With Her (Album)

February 12, 2018 in Music Reviews

I’m With Her. Pic: Lindsey Byrnes

I’m With Her: dazzling harmonies and a mastery of vocal phrasing. Pic: Lindsey Byrnes

These folk compositions are brought to life by an immensely talented triumvirate whose harmonies are up there with the best

I'm With Her 'See You Around' album coverI’m With Her are the trio of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, who having crossed paths for years, came together for an impromptu performance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival during the summer of 2014. That their official debut is only now being released hints at their many other commitments. If See You Around is anything to go by, they’re going to need to set more time aside for this project.

The title track sets the tone for what is to follow: dazzling harmonies and a mastery of vocal phrasing. Game To Lose ups the ante by showcasing a musical proficiency to match their voices. You can tell that the band cut most of the album live; it has a genuine sense of a captured moment to it. Particular highlights are the gently beautiful Wild One and the squelchy I-89.

The album closes with its only non-original composition: the unreleased Gillian Welch track Hundred Miles – one last chance for their voices to melt together. Whether with their vocals or their instrumental interplay, it’s clear that this dynamic allows each of the band’s members to thrive and bring out the best in each other. This is a debut to cherish.

Verdict: Masters at work

Duncan Haskell

Songs In The Key Of… Dominican Republic

February 11, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo: the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Pic: Jose Juan C/Wikimedia Commons

Santo Domingo-born singer-songwriter, formerly of super-group Gonzalez, Diego Mena takes us through a playlist of his country’s finest alt-rock artists

The Dominican Republic is not exactly known for its exquisite, first-rate crop of alternative music artists, and it should be. Music as a language in itself is the ultimate, boundless expression of the human essence and each and every one of the established and emerging creative forces listed here represent the Dominican ethos in an exotic, fun, intelligent, exciting neo mix of rhythms of worldwide appeal.

“The music of the end of last century is what is known in DR as the Alt Dom movement, and over the past few year it has experienced an exponential growth well worth paying attention to. Some of these great local non traditional talents have chosen to settle in other countries in the pursuit of global exposure and opportunities, and that only adds to the power of their craft and their message as true Dominican music rebels. After 14 years as a career musician in vibrant Santo Domingo, I find myself in Toronto for that very same reason.

“So here I give to you, in my view as a fellow singer-songwriter, in no particular order, the 10 best artists the Dominican Republic has to offer the world of indie rock music.”

To listen to the whole 10-track playlist in one go, check out the Songwriting Spotify Profile


LEONA – CAROLINA CAMACHO
“A mixture of Caribbean rhythms with Taino elements (Tainos were the native population of the island, still very palpable in the local folklore in every way). Delightfully innovative musical aesthetic filled with powerful African colors and flavour. Currently living in Mexico City, MX.”


RETUMBA – MULA
“Electronic trio, Dominican folklore meets beats and synthesizers. They have toured Colombia and Mexico with great success and are a staple and huge fan favorite on the Dominican festivals circuit.”


PLEGARIA – JONATAN PIÑA DULUC
“One third of former band El Trio, going solo in 2017 with Drip/Culebra, Jonatan surprises and breaks the mould with his organic and thoughtful instrumentation. A very interesting, innovative, experimental concept.”


PLÁTANO DE LA CIUDAD – EL GRAN PODER DE DIOSA
“A precise, perfect blend of folk, roots, ska, merengue and son (Cuban traditional music). A beautifully finished musical aesthetic and the definitive sound of what the new dominican music brand could end up sounding like worldwide in a not so distant future.”


SABANA DE LA MAR – ALEX FERREIRA Y EL FRENTE CARIBE
“One of the best known, beloved singer-songwriters of the new generation. Currently living in Spain, his work is applauded and recognised all over Latin America. His latest creative phase took him deep into the heart of the Dominican rural towns, to study and adopt the musical jewels hidden underneath and make them his own, much like what Dominican folklorist supreme Luis Diaz did before him. Clean, beautiful electric guitars bring merengue, bachata and son to the next level.”


LOVEWARE – BACAYNE
“Currently living in Barcelona, electronic music DJ and producer Genaro DeSantis presents his second musical project under this new name (previously called Tomadu). His style is defined by a powerful mix of synthesized bass, deep soulful beats and high melodic pulsations.”


VICEVERSA – SOLO FERNANDEZ
“These indie rockers are a local pubs and clubs favourite. They’re young and their style is refreshing and modern. Their first EP is recently out and consists of three good, solid songs, carefully, skillfully drafted – dance groove without forfeiting substance.”


LEAVE IT ALL – THE CAT LADY
“Another promising indie force from Santo Domingo, their style is minimalistic rock with outstanding, careful guitar work and lyrics in English. A great hope for international recognition. They have notoriously played the Isle of Light Festival and continue to solidify their stand and expand their fan base with every exquisite, unforgettable performance.”


EL MOSQUITERO – RICCIE ORIACH
“Some call him the natural heir of local modern folk icon Rita Indiana. His sound speaks for itself. Riccie emerges from the underworld of Alt Dom music and the elements of salsa, son and guaracha (an old rural Dominican rhythm) mixed with electric guitar distortions are his trademark – a sort of Hector Lavoe meets Chico Trujiillo. He tours the island regularly and his mass appeal attracts everyone, from music connoisseurs to the simplest of people.”


PARADISE – MAMEY GENIUS
“DJ, electronic producer and guitarist known for his distinctive use of effects pedals. This project by multi-talented Johnny Kamaleonic (formerly with auro&CLEMT and Tango Whisky Man) now presents himself in a more intimate format. He takes the stage surrounded by synthesizers, laptops, guitars and a drink at hand, giving his performance a cool, fun vibe.”


Diego MenaWith three acclaimed solo albums under his belt, plus the outing under local super-group Gonzalez, Diego Mena has solidified his position as one of his generation’s finest craftsmen of pop melodies in the Dominican indie music scene. Find out more at diegomena.net

Classic Of The Week: Aye Nako

February 11, 2018 in News

Aye Nako

“The fountain of dreams is the nightmare”

If you’re a fan of 90s inspired punk then we’re certain you’ll love today’s classic as much as we do

You’ll find our favourite tracks of 2017 in the latest issue of our App. We won’t tell you where this exquisite indie-rock song features in our list. However, what we will say is that it’s in there, and deservedly so.

It’s one of the freshest examples of 90s inspired punk to have been released this millennium and holds the title of most played song of 2017 for one of our writers. After you’ve heard it, we’re certain that it’ll be one of your most treasured tracks of 2018.


Classic Of The Week Playlist


Latest Spotify feature gives creators credit

February 10, 2018 in News

Spotify

Spotify’s latest feature is great news for songwriters. Credit: MIH83

The new feature allows users of the platform to view songwriter and producer credits, giving music the transparency it deserves

The ‘show credits’ option will provide users of Spotify with the ability to see who writes and produces the songs they are listening to. Spotify will receive the information from record label metadata and will display the source of credits. They’ve warned this will take time to get right, so expect inaccuracies at first.

This seems like an obvious feature and those who aren’t familiar with the platform would be forgiven for thinking it already existed. Is this addition to the streaming service a case of too little too late?

There was a time when songwriters and producers were recognisable figures, even if only by name. The likes of Bernie Taupin, who writes lyrics for Elton John, and the eighties giants Stock, Aitkin and Waterman were legendary songwriters and producers, responsible of the likes of Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, and Dead Or Alive.

However, since the turn of the millennium, songwriters especially have been overlooked, and the number of music fans who believe the artists are the sole creators of their music is staggering. Even the likes of Taylor Swift get help every now and again.

‘Time The Teacher’ by Jerry David DeCicca (Album)

February 9, 2018 in Music Reviews

Jerry David DeCicca

Jerry David DeCicca: inspired by his move to the hill country of Texas Hill

This record pays tribute to its creator’s new home by accurately depicting the people, places and nature that colour it

Jerry David DeCicca 'Time The Teacher' album coverThe latest album by Jerry David DeCicca, formerly of The Black Swans, was inspired by his move to the hill country of Texas Hill. It’s a record that doesn’t necessarily reflect the areas musical heritage but pays homage to the way that it makes him feel, the characters that make the community and the paths it leads his imagination down.

Stylistically, DeCicca combines elements of gospel, jazz and classic songwriting into his late night reflections. There’s a pleasing balance between these arrangements and the simple lyrical imagery which brings the album to life. Watermelon is “pink as the sunset / green as the garden” and Grandma’s Tattoo is both “yellow and blue” and “wrinkled and true” – all delivered a vocal style that is relaxed to the point of cool detachment.

This uncomplicated yet evocative thread can also be heard in the compositions too – for example the percussion of Woodpecker echoes the knocking of the bird’s beak against a tree. It’s yet another charming and stylish illustration of what makes Time The Teacher such a cogent achievement.

DeCicca’s affinity for his new home is as obvious as it is infectious and it’s hard not to be swept along with him.

Verdict: A charming homage

Duncan Haskell

Sodajerker presents… Emeli Sandé

February 7, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Emeli Sandé

Emeli Sandé: “I really wanted to be on a mission to counteract that and bring, with full force, a message of love and confidence.”

The perennial podcasters sat down with the Scottish singer-songwriter in her London studio to talk about her career in music

Emeli Sandé is a Scottish singer-songwriter who also happens to be one of the most successful British solo artists of the last decade. Her collection of awards includes two BRITs, a pair of Ivor Novellos, four MOBOs and an MBE. Having been writing songs since before her teens, Sandé’s talent was so apparent that she was first offered a record deal when she was just 16. She decided against it in favour of entering further education and eventually signed a publishing deal with EMI in 2009. Around the same time she met producer/songwriter Naughty Boy (Shahid Khan) and forged a creative partnership with him which saw the pair writing for the likes of Chipmunk, Professor Green and Wiley.

She released her first solo single Daddy in 2010 but it was her collaboration with Professor Green on his smash single Read All About It that really thrust her into the limelight the following year. Her acclaimed debut album, Our Version Of Events, dropped in 2012 and became an instant hit as it reached No 1 in the UK album charts. Sandé’s second record, Long Live The Angels, arrived in November 2016 and more than matched the quality of the first, boasting singles like Hurts and Breathing Under Water.

Kingdom Coming, a new six-track EP which was released in November last year, provided Simon and Brian the perfect excuse to chat with Sandé about her career in music…


A lot of people talk about how they find it easier to write moody ballads, do you find it a challenge to write a song that is both uptempo and uplifting (like Starlight)?

“Yeah it was definitely a challenge for me but I try and reflect what’s going on in my life and how I’m feeling. Sometimes it can be easy to go to the same chords on the piano and really dig deep emotionally when it’s minor or something that is a bit more emotive melodically. It was a big lesson for me really, going on tour and asking fans, or just speaking to fans and hearing about what the songs meant to them. Some songs I might think, ‘Ah it was a bit too happy,’ or, ‘It didn’t speak to people as much as something that’s a bit deeper.’ Then when someone tells you, ‘Next To Me meant this to me and I was going through such a difficult time in my life but hearing this music was so uplifting,’ it kind of put me on this mission to make music that really instilled confidence in people and was uplifting.

“Everything that’s going on can really get people down and can seriously traumatise people. Maybe we shouldn’t all be able to see these horrific events all the time and every day. I think the psychological effect of that can be quite scary. Sorry to get so serious about it but I just feel that it’s a very hard time now to stay happy and feel good and positive and also feel confident that you can make a change.

“When you see so much disaster it can be disheartening. So I really wanted to be on a mission to counteract that and bring, with full force, a message of love and confidence. No matter what you look like, how many likes you get on whatever site, you’re human and you deserve to feel good and you operate better when you feel good and happy. Even though I did find it challenging before, I really enjoyed seeing people’s reaction to more positive-sounding songs.”

Are you typically sat at a piano when you write or will you come up with stuff at all kinds of inopportune moments?

“Yeah, to be honest it’s usually when I hear instrumentals because they really set a mood and tell a story before you’ve began the topline. It kind of pulls you into a world where it gets my imagination going so much. I see scenarios of different people, or different emotions from my past may come up. So I find that interesting. Then it’s a lot more pure sometimes when you’re sat at the piano because it’s fully your expression. I don’t play the piano the same as my favourite pianist so even though they can play a thousand times better than me I want my identity in how it’s being played. Sometimes I really enjoy being in control of the harmonies and the chords and the topline and you can fully oversee how it’s all interlinking.”

Would you say that Naughty Boy is the main person you’ve connected with as a co-writer? What are his qualities?

“Yeah definitely. I mean I’ve learnt so much from him and I’ve gained so much confidence just being his friend, for one, and being around him and seeing his process and that balance between being a kind person, which he is, but also being business savvy and not being taken for a ride. I feel like I’ve really learnt a lot from his character but as a collaborator we get along so well. When you can fight with someone and then be friends a couple of weeks later, that’s the type of person you want to write a song with.

“You go into a very deep personal place with your music and you want to trust them as you would a family member and you want to really be able to open up and try different things and make something that sounds really shit one day and then know that they have faith in what you’re going to do the next day. So he always had a true faith in me that I felt from the beginning. He’s always stood up for me and from the beginning said, ‘You don’t need to be in with a writer, you should be doing this yourself.’ I just think that he’s a great guy and he really spots talent and knows how to nurture it.”

Emeli Sandé

Emeli: “I love making music and it’s like they’re your children almost, you just love them all.” Pic: Jaguar/Wikimedia Commons

How does a typical session work between the two of you?

“That’s the thing I love about him, everything is always spontaneous. You never know what the next session is going to be like. Usually I put my piano in his studio and sometimes I’ll sit down and put down some chords. And that’s the great thing about him, things that I would forget or just think, ‘Oh it was nothing,’ he’ll be like, ‘Come on, let’s record it,’ and he gives you that push you need. So yeah sometimes it’s piano or he’ll be like, ‘Ah mate, I made a sick beat last night,’ and he’ll tell you the whole story of the track… Something supernatural always happens in the studio like, ‘Then this angel came and I saw this number,’ and it’s like stepping into a magical world. Because I’ve got such a big imagination we can be big kids together all the time. So just capturing our imagination and putting it into songs makes it such a pleasure to work with him and it’s always exciting.”

We really like the song Wonder, we wondered who did what on that one?

“I had been at home just playing that riff and I think maybe I had the Wonder part and again it was just showing him. Something that could have stayed as a voice memo for the rest of my life he was like, ‘Yeah let’s record that.’ So I put it in the piano and he started building a tribal beat around it and yeah it was great. Just stacking the harmonies on the chorus really brought it to life and we were so excited about it, we really wanted our A&R to come down and hear it immediately and it was just such a sunshine song.”

We have to ask about Next To Me, is that something that would evolve really quickly or do most of the songs that have been really successful take more time than that?

“For Next To Me it was quite quick. I was with Craze & Hoax, I was round at their house and that came really quickly I think. At least the chorus and then I think the ‘oo oo’ part got added a bit later. I don’t remember the writing of that one taking that long. It’s just once it’s been decided that this is going to be a single, it’s the process then of getting it polished and ready and all the technical parts that make it take so long. And also the pressure to get it perfect, because you know that people are really going to hear this one. But writing it was quite quick really.”

It is possible to get a realistic picture of whether a song is any good, we assume it’s pretty clear when you’ve got something like Next To Me in the bag?

“For me it’s not. I love making music and it’s like they’re your children almost, you just love them all -so Next To Me I didn’t know. I thought, ‘Yeah cool, it was a great session’ and I love working with Craze & Hoax so let’s just see. My A&R at Virgin was like, ‘What’s this song you just did!?’ He’s not always excited, let’s put it that way, it takes a lot to get him excited about an idea and music. But when he knows it’ the right thing you’ll see him come to life and definitely with Next To Me that was that. I guess that’s why he’s so good at his job!”

You’ve also got that rare skill of being able to write for other people. Do you pride yourself on that ability?

“I love it and it’s always a great challenge. Often it’s songs that you’ve written alone, just at the piano or something. To hear their interpretation or to hear they’ve heard a part of it and it’s meant this to them in their life, it’s humbling because it reminds you that the music is so much bigger than you, or you having to sing it. When something is very important I think you have to perform it but some songs they could fit anybody… well not anybody, but they can speak for certain people. I do love doing that and I love that it’s something that I can do a lot more of in the future because it allows me to learn so much.”

Might you have that artist in mind when you actually write or is it typically a song that you wrote that might be your own song?

“I found that I have more success when it’s just songs that I’ve written. I think sometimes you try to overthink things or second-guess someone. Unless you’ve really had the time to sit with them and understand their story and what they specifically want and who they are as a person, I think you have to spend so much time with someone to really understand their energy like that. Usually it’s songs that I’ve done by myself. I do try and write to a spec, but I usually find that you can tell as it gets a little bit robotic. If I’m trying to write, thinking about what they want to say without meeting them.”


Sodajerker

Internationally renowned songwriters are queuing up to be interviewed by Sodajerker, who now have more than 100 episodes under their belt. Established in 2012 by Liverpudlian songwriting duo, Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor, the Sodajerker On Songwriting podcast has welcomed guests including Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Justin Currie, Willy Russell, Lamont Dozier, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Marr, Ben Folds Five, Billy Bragg, Richard M Sherman, Neil Finn, Suzanne Vega, Jimmy Webb, Rufus Wainwright, KT Tunstall, Dan Gillespie Sells, Jake Bugg and many more.

To find out more about Sodajerker and their work, or to download their podcasts – including the 40-minute interview with Emeli Sandé – go to www.sodajerker.com. You can also connect with them on Facebook or Twitter, or download the podcasts from iTunes.

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Arrows’ by Trevor Hall

February 6, 2018 in News

Trevor Hall

Today’s exclusive is by the excellent, Trevor Hall. Credit: Emory Hall

Today’s exclusive song comes from a songwriter raised on an island in South Carolina, who blends roots and folk music

Not many songwriters record their first album aged just 16, but Trevor Hall is not just any artist. Having studied classical guitar and collaborated with musicians such as Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Matisyahu, and Michael Franti, Hall is well versed in the business of writing music.

His exclusive track is Arrows and of the song he says:

“Some of the sages say that the spiritual journey is like ‘walking a razor’s edge,’ meaning that it can be extremely difficult. Arrows is about being on that journey, but knowing that I can never turn back no matter how difficult or painful the journey may be because the reward is greater than anything.”

He’s been likened to Bon Iver, Xavier Rudd, and Iron & Wine. Listen below and see what you think…

Like that? Then you can find Trevor Hall on: Facebook, Twitter, and his official website.

Rebecca Nelson of Faeland’s #songwritingsurvivalkit

February 5, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Faeland

Bristol-based folk duo Faeland (left to right): Jacob Morrison and Rebecca Nelson

Fuelled by a cup of cacao, one half of the Bristol group Faeland shares her crucial songwriting kit with us

There’s nothing we like better than to take a look at the essential items that help get the creative juices flowing for our favourite songwriters. In recent editions of our magazine we’ve seen inside the writing rooms of Frank Turner and Nerina Pallot and discovered that cats and poetry books are just as important to them as pianos and notepads.

The latest artist to share their #songwritingsurvivalkit with us is Rebecca Nelson, half of the Bristol-based folk duo Faeland. The pair of Nelson and Jacob Morrison have recently released their debut album, All My Swim. It is a beautiful collection of modern folk songs underpinned with some classic writing. Such is the LP’s charm that we were desperate to learn a little more about the group’s writing process.

Thankfully, Nelson has revealed to us the indispensable aids she can’t do without…

“I’ve been writing songs since I was eight years old and my songwriting kit hasn’t changed all that much, apart from the guitar has replaced my old family piano as my songwriting instrument of choice”

Rebecca Nelson of Faeland’s #songwritingsurvivalkit

Rebecca Nelson of Faeland’s #songwritingsurvivalkit

1. Waghorn Guitar
“This guitar was handmade in Bristol and is the best I’ve ever played. When writing a new song I approach it very much like one would fishing. I sit, I wait and I see what comes. This guitar just asks to be played all of the time and everything sounds great on it. This particular instrument seems full of songs. When I brought it home for the first time Jacob (also of Faeland) began strumming it and within ten minutes we’d written Silent Story almost in its entirety.”

2. Cacao
“I need refreshment when I’m writing so I can settle in and get into flow. My sustenance of choice has to be a hot cup of cacao. A hot chocolate won’t do – I need the pure stuff! It’s a bit of a ritual and always gets the creative juices flowing.”

3. Biro
“I’m really picky when it comes to which pen to use for my writing but you just cannot beat the humble biro.”

4. Notebook
“My favourite notebook is a Moleskine – it has been ever since a friend at uni introduced me to them. I love writing in them and I appreciate their strong covers; I have drawers full of old songwriting notebooks which have been loved to bits and are completely tattered and falling apart.”

5. Heartache
“Ok I don’t want to get overly poetic here and I considered leaving this one out, but at the end of the day I just cannot write a song worth listening to without it. Be it the happy heartache of a good day or the ache for something lost, heartache is the fuel of good songwriting. I love the alchemy of how a sad event or difficult life experience can be taken to a guitar, re-spun and woven into something beautiful.”


All My Swim is out now. To find out more, head to faeland.co.uk

Classic Of The Week: Stella Donnelly

February 4, 2018 in News

Stella Donnelly

“Would ya blame your little sister, if she cried to you for help?” Credit: George Foster

Today we bring you a gut-wrenching track which has earned its classic status despite it only being released in 2017

It’s not often that we at Songwriting struggle for words. However, upon hearing this track from Aussie songwriter Stella Donnelly we were simply bowled over.

It’s raw, heart-wrenching, and, in keeping with the mirror raised by the #metoo movement, a story that reflects the horrifying society that we find ourselves in. We’ll let Stella speak for her song:

Boys Will Be Boys is my attempt at making sense of society’s tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault and rape and make excuses for the perpetrators. It was also my way of dealing with certain events that were occurring in my life at the time. The video itself was intended to express the burden of victim blaming and sexual assault on the victims themselves as the mundane aspects of life go on. A song is just a song but at the very least I hope it will open up difficult yet important conversations between family members, friends, government bodies, organisations and most importantly, boys and men.”


Classic Of The Week Playlist


Cardiff’s Festival Of Voice returns for 2018

February 4, 2018 in Events, News

Gruff Rhys and BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Gruff Rhys (right) will be performing with BBC National Orchestra of Wales

The Welsh capital’s international biennial arts festival announces headliners, including Patti Smith, Gruff Rhys, Billy Bragg, Nadine Shah and Passenger

Cardiff’s international arts festival, Festival Of Voice, returns this year for its second instalment. Encouraging a spirit of discovery, the festival will include one-off events, collaborations, community participation projects and features voices from music and the arts, both locally and internationally.

The first wave of announcements includes an intimate evening with legendary American musician, poet and activist Patti Smith in the St John’s Church, Canton. The following day, Patti takes to the main stage at Wales Millennium Centre for An Evening with Patti Smith, also featuring Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan.

The Festival Of Voice will host the world premiere of Gruff Rhys performing with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, who celebrate their 90th birthday this year. Other headline artists appearing at Wales Millennium Centre are Ivor Novello award-winning singer-songwriter, Passenger, plus Nadine Shah opens for Billy Bragg on the first night of the festival with a special Voices of Protest evening.

“This first announcement is just a snippet of what’s to come. We’re stoked that Patti Smith will be joining us with her words and music in a small intimate show,” comments the event’s Executive Producer, Sarah Dennehy. “I hope the festival brings a burst of energy that will help raise the profile of Cardiff as an international arts and music city.”

The Festival of Voice will take place between 7-17 June 2018 at multiple venues across Cardiff. For updates and further information, visit festivalofvoice.wales

The UK Americana Awards 2018 results

February 3, 2018 in Events, News

Americana Awards

Congratulations to the winners at the 2018 UK Americana Awards

Robert Plant scoops two prizes amongst a mix of worthy winners, proving 2017 was another strong year for the scene

Robert Plant was presented with the AMA-UK Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony on Thursday night (1 February). The occasion marked the third annual UK Americana Awards, which took place at the Hackney Empire. And unlike some high-profile awards, the gender gap was significantly reduced.

Emily Baker, Courtney Marie Andrews and Yola Carter triumphed, winning UK Artist Of The Year, International Artist Of The Year, and UK Song Of The Year, respectively.

However, the big winner on the night was Robert Plant who also picked up the award for Best-Selling Americana Album 2017 for Carry Fire. The album, which was released in October 2017, was the Led Zeppelin frontman’s 11th solo studio album.

The Grassroots Award went to Come Down & Meet The Folks, an evening of music which takes place twice a month at The Horseshoe pub in Clerkenwell, London.

The winners in full:

UK Album of The Year
I’ll Make The Most Of My Sins by Robert Vincent

International Album of the Year
The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit (produced by Dave Cobb)

UK Artist of the Year
Emily Barker

International Artist of the Year
Courtney Marie Andrews

UK Song of the Year
Home by Yola Carter

International Song of the Year
Tenderheart by Sam Outlaw

UK Instrumentalist of the Year
Thomas Collison

Lifetime Achievement Award
Robert Plant

The Trailblazer Award
Mumford & Sons

Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award
The Wandering Hearts

The Grassroots Award
Come Down & Meet The Folks

The Best-Selling Americana Album of 2017
Carry Fire by Robert Plant