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Monthly Archives

September 2016

Welcome to Blog Number 3

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Welcome to Blog Number 3

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― A. O’Shaughnessy

In this weeks blog I thought I would give you a little insight into some music that I’m listening to at the moment. I found it hard to choose so I decided to narrow it down to my three favourite female artists who currently inspire me. These are artists I find my myself continually coming back to for inspiration, but I will point out that there are a vast array of musicians who I am influenced by, and I am always eager to discover something new.

 Artist: FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE

Favourite tracks:  ‘QUEEN OF PEACE’  //  ‘LONG AND LOST’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSM0lLbVYOo

The first album I ever remember buying (with my own money) was ‘Lungs’ by Florence and the Machine. I think I was actually drawn to the album cover if I’m honest, but I’m certainly glad that this time I had judged the book by its cover. I sat for many hours listening to this album when I was in high school, hooked on ‘Rabbit Hearted Girl’, ‘Howl’ and ‘Blinding’. I even went on to buy the piano book so that I could learn them. The songs themselves are fairly simple and poppy but she seemed to be doing something different from the usual pop sound, incorporating the harp, tribal drums, and powerful choral harmonies with these strange lyrics that I couldn’t decipher. She went on to release ‘Ceremonials’ and although I didn’t connect to it as well as the first album, it still holds a place on my iPod and I will often give it a listen, especially ‘What the Water Gave Me’.

However when she released ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ last year, I seemed to be completely oblivious and it wasn’t until this summer that I found myself searching for something new to listen to, and a friend of mine suggested this album. After a few listens I found myself falling in love with it. I’m not sure what it is that has made me so obsessed with this particular album, I think it might be the dreamy atmosphere whilst still exploring this dark and ominous sound and continuing with the tribal and anthemic vibe.

Florence Welch also created ‘The Odyssey’, a short film, with Vincent Haycock that sits alongside the album. Somehow watching the songs interpreted this way makes the music, and Florence herself, even more intriguing. She is certainly the most theatrical of the three artists, but I think this suits her perfectly. Having a character for each song takes the imagination somewhere else making it far more dramatic and brooding which I love.

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Artist: THE STAVES

Favourite tracks:  ‘MAKE IT HOLY’   //   ‘BLOOD I BLED’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uvZE-A9hhk

A few years ago I saw the Staveley-Taylor sisters, better known as The Staves, support Bon Iver in Manchester. The three sisters captivated a whole arena with only their soaring harmonies and a guitar and I was bewitched by their voices that seemed to just blend and flow in perfect harmony with each other. Their voices always sound perfectly and naturally arranged, that it’s almost spooky how they are all so in sync with each other. Telepathy anyone?

At this point in their career they were playing songs from their first album ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, which oddly I liked but didn’t love. Seeing them live though mesmerised me enough to continue to follow them.

Then, March 2015 rolls round and the release of their second album ‘Blood I Bled’ stands before me. This album was recorded with Justin Vernon (the creator behind Bon Iver) so I was desperate to hear the album knowing he had played an influential part. The single release ‘If I Was’ immediately had my attention in a different way to when I had seen them on stage. The sound is so much bolder with experimentation of instruments, such as military drums and synthesisers, which thankfully never obscure the harmonies due to Vernon’s careful production.

Their songs had definitely progressed to a far more sophisticated sound and feel with this album that I am very happy about! I had possibly matured a bit more myself by this point and could appreciate what they were trying to achieve. I have since seen them support Angus and Julia Stone, then again on their own tour where they played their songs from the new album with a band, adding a whole new dynamic to their beautiful sound!

Blog #3

Artist: MARIKA HACKMAN

Favourite tracks:  ‘YOU COME DOWN’   //   ‘LET ME IN’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0FbrKgLLD4

One day my Dad called me downstairs to listen to a track he thought I would like (as he often does) and presented me with a song called ‘You Come Down’ by a girl named Marika Hackman. Not only was I instantly intrigued by her unusual name, I was immediately taken by this completely mysterious and mesmerising voice, enhanced by beautifully, dark lyrics. Oh, her lyrics. Never have I been so in love with a songwriter’s words. They are so poetic and full of gloom, that I can’t get enough of them. I’ll admit that for the most part I have no idea what her lyrics are supposed to imply (which I know can often put people off a song) but this is what makes me like it even more. What is she trying to say? What does she really mean? It’s left to the listener to try and piece together the story that is being told, and it’s likely they’ll never complete the puzzle. Lyrics are always something I focus on when I hear a song, and however much the melody is amazing and catchy, the lyrics can still be a deal breaker. Clever, poetic words will always captivate me, and Marika Hackman is the top of my list for this (if I hadn’t already made that obvious).

Now for the musical content. Listening to her music just the once, it’s likely that you wouldn’t be able to sing back what you had just heard. But after enough listens, her twisted and eerie melodies will seep in and you’ll find yourself being followed around by them.  Her debut album ‘We Slept At Last’ came out in 2015. The songs tend to be stripped back to her acoustic or electric guitar accompanied by strange and unusual sounds with just the right amount of instrumentation to perfect it. There is often a ‘Gothic’ feel throughout lead heavily by her harmonies and explored further with organ drones.

I was actually lucky enough to meet her when I saw her perform at Stoke’s Sugarmill. The whole evening consisted only of Marika and a selection of her guitars and there was no need for anything else, other than to immerse yourself in the ethereal gloom of her music. For any fans of Laura Marling’s earlier works, this will be right up your street.  Let’s say the majority of her songs are melancholy and if you have ever listened to any of my songs, you’ll know that that suits me just well.

blog #3

blog #3

So there you have it, just a snippet of some of my favourite musicians at this moment in time – though I’m sure they’ll be sticking around for a good long while! If there are any artists you think I’d like to hear, drop me a link in the comment box, as I love to discover something new! Please keep an eye out on my blog for future live events, thoughts, memories and music related passion.

 

M x

The Castle – ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ – F. Nietzsche

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My return to a great venue, The Castle, Manchester

Sunday night saw my return to the Castle, a venue I’m very fond of playing here in Manchester. This time I was supporting a band from Leeds called Heir. They had got in touch after a friend had very nicely recommended me to them, and I was rather excited to be opening up the evening for them. The other support band were called PEAKES, and I was told that both bands had studied music together in Leeds. Being an outsider from Manchester, I actually felt very welcomed when I arrived, making me even more delighted to be joining them. Although I only caught a snippet of PEAKES sound check I was already very much looking forward to the evening.

The Castle

All set and ready to go!

As people began to bustle into the room, I took to the stage, just me and my trusty piano. The set that I had prepared for the Castle gig consisted of songs old and new. Playing new songs is always rather nerve-wracking but thankfully the audience responded very kindly! Now, because I love playing with the band I can find performing on my own rather lonely. However having the audience listen so quietly is something I always appreciate, especially when I play on my own. I take this as encouragement that they think I have songs worth listening to and that’s a wonderful feeling! So I was very happy to find that this happened last night and I just want to thank the people who listened so intently and supported me. It reminds me why I love performing which in turn helps me overcome my performance anxiety. I would also like to point out that the sound engineer did an excellent job and it’s surprising how much a good mix can make playing that much more enjoyable. It made projecting my voice and getting the emotions of the song across far easier.

The Castle

Megan Dixon Hood 11/09/16

If you want to hear the type of songs I play by myself, just click on the link below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHxQDNpLu38

At 20:45 it was PEAKES turn to take to the Castle stage. Their set up was a three-piece with a drummer, singer, and a synth-player so I was intrigued to see how their sound would unfold. Almost immediately I was amazed by how full a sound that the three of them produced. Granted, they were running backing tracks and samples to add depth and texture, but in my opinion this worked well and meant the arrangements were amazingly choreographed. In their own words they describe their music as ‘Electronical Popical Classy’, which quite frankly is pretty accurate. They reminded me of London Grammar, only playing around more heavily with drumbeats and synth sounds. The whole feeling of the set was chilled and mellow but equally atmospheric with intense build-ups in the perfect places!

It would be hard for me to pick a favourite song from their set, but I loved the whole easy and atmospheric feeling of ‘Contemplate’. When the lead singer, Molly, announced they were going to perform their rendition of The Carpenter’s ‘Close to You’ I was interested to see how they would arrange the song. Sure enough I wasn’t left disappointed, as they created it to fit their style which gave it a whole new and modern twist that was completely their own. It wasn’t until after their performance that I was told they had only been together for a few months. Madness!

The Castle

PEAKES 11/09/16

If you want to check out PEAKES for yourself you can visit their page, and keep your eyes peeled for a video of their song ‘Better Days’ coming soon.

https://www.facebook.com/peakesmusic/

The finale of the night was the five piece band, Heir. They describe themselves as a ‘Pop’ band but honestly, I think there’s more to it than that. There are definitely elements of a folky acoustic vibe which I love and I think this helps set them apart. Heir, made up of drums, bass, keys, electric and acoustic guitars, filled the entire room with exciting, dreamy sounds. If I were to compare their music to others I would suggest bands such as Kodaline, The Lumineers and James Bay, but playing with rockier elements.

Whilst I have terrible harmonising skills (something I am working on!), I am still a sucker for beautiful harmonies and, well, these guys nailed it, with 4 members interweaving them in each song and maybe that’s what achieved the dreaminess. It added an extra layer to the songs that they executed perfectly every time. This was highlighted even more so when three-quarters of the way through the set they performed a completely acoustic, stripped back song called ‘Castles and Islands’. Here they brought their sound back to its roots as they unplugged their guitars, stepped away from the microphones and stood together to perform to a hushed, awestruck audience. My favourite tracks (although difficult to pick as I loved them all!) were ‘Scrapped Paper’ and, ‘I’ll Pick You Up’, with their catchy hooks, and the final track, ‘When the Lights Went Out’. This was the only track I had heard previous to the show so was thrilled that they ended on this!

The Castle

Heir 11/09/16

If you fancy a listen, check out these links below:

 https://www.facebook.com/heirtheband/

https://soundcloud.com/heirtheband/when-the-lights-went-out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTAMZi9ns0w

I can confirm the evening was a great success, so let me know if you like any of the tracks featured in today’s blog in the comment section below! I’ll always post upcoming gigs on my social media pages so follow along if you want to keep updated!

Speak to you soon,

M x

Welcome to my blog “TO ALL THINGS: SMALL OR GREAT” – V. Seth

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Hello, and how are you?

Welcome, and thank you for finding your way to my blog.

Here I intend to update all you lovely people about my musical adventures and beyond. One thing you should know is that I am greatly influenced by the world of literature, art and fashion, which all inspire my music in some way so I hope to explore this throughout these blogs. I look forward to reflecting on all my wonderful experiences and being able to share them with you.

I have recently completed my degree in music and I am about to continue my career as a songwriter and musician. Sure, there’ll be hurdles along the way, but that’s an opportunity to write a new song – silver lining and all that!

Now, as you may already know my band are an important part of my music so I intend to include them as much as I can in these blogs. We have spent a busy summer rehearsing, songwriting and gigging, developing a new set that explores a darker, more eerie and ethereal sound that we hope you will enjoy as much as we have enjoyed creating.

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

The band and I after winning ‘Single of the Year’ at the Staffordshire and Cheshire Music Awards

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Instrument swap-over in rehearsal

Summer 2016 has seen us play a mixture of gigs and I thought I would pick out my highlights!

We played a good selection of local festivals throughout this season, two favourites being Lymelight Festival and Middlewich’s FAB Festival. The rain continued to pour all day for both of these festivals, but the amount of people who braved the rain to stick around and watch our set was so encouraging and made performing for you even more enjoyable! People also came to have a chat with us after we had played, and it was so lovely to have the chance to speak with you all and hear your feedback and support.

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Lymelight festival
Band photo before we got caught in the downpour at Middlewhich’s FAB Festival

Another highlight for us this summer was when we played Cornbury festival in July. We were invited down to play the Caffè Nero stage and so we decided to make a weekend of it and experience the whole event, and I can now safely say it was one of my favourite festivals that I have ever been to. The sun shone the whole weekend and while we lay in the fields basking in the sun, we had the pleasure and opportunity to listen to an array of amazing bands that I perhaps would never have had the chance to see otherwise. We played the Caffè Nero at 9am on the Sunday morning (the earliest gig we’ve played to date!) and we were surprised to find so many people who had stopped to listen to our set so early in the morning. Again, people came over to speak to us at the end and it was such a lovely experience to interact with the audience

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Cornbury Festival

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Meeting
the Lottery Winners

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

Another festival that we were scheduled to play was Glass Butter Beach in North Wales where we were to play alongside acts such as Wolf Alice and Katy B. We had performed here the previous 2 years and had such an amazing time that we were saddened to find horrendous winds destroying the festival which meant a cancellation on the day we were supposed to play. There was nothing anyone could do about it, so we kept up the festival spirit not letting the miserable weather stop us, and we continued to have a great time laughing at each other’s bad jokes and overdosing on fish and chips until the festival arena re-opened and we could enjoy all the other fab acts!

One more highlight from my summer that I wanted to mention was a solo gig I played for the Songwriter’s Circle in Manchester organised by one of my friends. Now, this probably was the most intimate gig I have ever played. The evening consisted of 2 halves, where three acts were on stage at once. Each songwriter was interviewed before playing one of their own songs, allowing the writer to reveal the stories behind the songs and the writing process. I had never played a set like this before, but being able to hear the stories and secrets behind each song was so inspirational, making it hard to pick a favourite so I will leave links to all the artists below so you check them out.

ROBBIE CAVANAGH         https://www.facebook.com/robbiecavanaghmusic/?fref=ts

DOM MAJOR                         https://www.facebook.com/DomMajor/?fref=ts

RUNAH                                  https://www.facebook.com/runahmusic/?fref=ts

TOM KAY                               https://www.facebook.com/tomkayofficial/?fref=ts

CALAN MAI                          https://www.facebook.com/calanmaimusic/?fref=ts

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

On stage at The Songwriter’s Circle

In July I spent a week in the French Alps with my family, which was a nice break after spending the last few months working non-stop on my degree! Being amongst such beautiful scenery of the open space and French mountains, I found much needed inspiration and upon arriving home I immediately sat down at my piano to write new songs.

Megan Dixon Hood Blog

So to anyone who has found their way to this page, be it someone who has followed me from the start or someone very new, thank you for taking the time to be supportive in any way. Please keep your eyes (and ears) peeled if you want to join me on my musical journey and everything in between!

Let the adventures continue!

M x