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RY X at The Deaf Institute

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RY X at The Deaf Institute. November 2016, I attended possibly the hottest gig of my life. This was due to Manchester’s Deaf Institute (yes, I was there again!) being full to the brim with RY X fans who managed to sell out the popular venue.

RY X at The Deaf Institute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G47vW_1Gte0

At the RY X gog, whilst feeling a little like sardines, my sister, Dad and I crammed ourselves into the busy room in anticipation of Australian singer songwriter, RY X. These tickets were a rather spontaneous purchase I’ll admit, after only hearing one of his tracks on a playlist at work about a month ago. Upon arriving home that day I searched desperately for more of his music, discovering a whole album was available and that he was touring the UK on my birthday! Well, what better way to celebrate than seeing him live, so, dragging my Pops and sister, Ella, along I bought some tickets!

It’s quite possible that RY X and his band are the epitome of the word ethereal. Or ambient. Either will do, as regardless, those words sum up his music perfectly.  He, himself, uses the word dreamy, which is equally suitable! This was something I already knew from listening to his album Dawn repeatedly over the past month but somehow the ambient levels increased in a jam packed room. Not only was the sound beautiful but also the attention to stage detail too. Smoke machines provided a mysterious setting as smoke billowed and drifted across the stage and into the room. Candles were lit and placed over the stage also, and combined, the soaring smoke and open flame gave the best stage setting I’ve seen in a long time. With the spot lights shining through the smoke, creating silhouettes of the musicians, there was something very magical about it all.  This was before even the first hypnotising guitar notes were played or before RY X’s soft husky voice uttered the first words of his opening song Shoreline.

On stage, RY X was accompanied by only two other members. For a band made up of only three people, the sound they created was equally full as it was spacious. RY X himself made up the lead vocal part and used (from what I could see) a foot pedal, that every now and then he pressed to produce backing harmonies to add layers to his songs. He also swapped throughout the set between his electric and acoustic guitar. His acoustic guitar created mournful and haunting melodies, whilst his electric guitar provided magical sounds that contributed to the spacious feel. Combining his acoustic guitar and his falsetto layered vocals, it very much reminded me of Bon Iver’s early sound, but RY X experiments with more electronic features in some of the tracks. These electronic effects were produced by RY X on stage because next to him stood some sort of synth. From where I was standing, I was unable to see exactly what instrument he was playing but the synth sound enhanced the ethereal and ambient quality I mentioned earlier.In addition to RY X, was a pianist who may also have been creating further synth and ambient sounds, but it was hard to tell amongst all the smoke that distorted my vision of the stage. On the other side of the stage was a drummer who included electronic drum parts as much as acoustic drums, fulfilling the electronic vibe once again. Although the majority of his songs are very melancholy (that you all know I love) they were equally soothing and it was easy to get lost and captivated by the music they made. Each song seemed to last between 5-10 minutes but it never became boring only easier to be enchanted. This, I suppose is the ambient element to his music that makes it so hypnotic.

Tracks such as Vampires, Lean and especially Deliverance, provided more tribal and dance-like vibes, but still concentrating on a dark mood throughout. His delicate songs Sweat and Salt were just as fascinating, causing a hush over the audience so that we could listen to his barely-there vocals and acoustic guitar playing. I love that there is a balanced mix between his up tempo songs and his more gentle tracks, both on his album and when he performed live, and I look forward to seeing him live again. The album was released only in May 2016, so I hope we don’t have to wait too long until his next release of songs, as I would love to see where he takes his music. Until then I’ll certainly be listening on repeat to Dawn, and getting lost in his ambient world.

M x

Highlights from 2016

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My 2016 highlights, now that 2016 has come to a close, let’s brush away any of the negative vibes from the past year and start 2017 in positive spirits! I thought perhaps it would be nice to reminisce on some of my favourite memories and achievements of 2016, because quite frankly, I’m very proud of what I have achieved! I feel very privileged to have had these experiences, and I’m grateful to anyone has been involved in some way.

RAG N BONE MAN

The beginning of 2016 started off amazingly well when I had the opportunity to support Rag’n’ Bone Man, who recently won Brits Critic’s Awards 2017 (that he definitely deserved!). I was lucky enough to meet Rag’n’Bone Man, real name Rory Graham, just before his set at Glass Butter Beach Festival in 2015. With an appearance that could almost be described as intimidating to small little me, as he’s endlessly tall, with many tattoos and a big beard, he was actually one of the loveliest people I have met in the industry. He was more than happy for me to have a photo with him and a little chat, and even gracefully accepted my EP’s. Little did I know that three months later he would be tweeting compliments about my music and then personally inviting me to support him at an event he was putting on at Manchester’s Sound Control.highlights from 2016This is by far, one of my favourite moments in my little musical journey (if not just life in general!) having the opportunity to have played to a sold out venue where the audience were incredibly enthusiastic and welcoming to both me and River Mathews, who also joined us on the night. My guitarist, Liam, and I played an acoustic set for the occasion and this photo below is arguably my favourite photo, not only as it was captured by Rag’n’Bone Man himself, but also because of the incredible buzz in the room that created so much adrenaline and energy on stage for us. The night overall was amazing, as Rag’n’Bone Man finished off the evening with a fantastic set. I wish him every success and hope that we’ll meet on the road again some day.

highlights from 2016

Click the image to visit the Rag’n’Bone Man website

STAFFORDSHIRE & CHESHIRE MUSIC AWARDS

In February, I attended the Staffordshire and Cheshire Music Awards after my song ‘Early Morning Riser’ was nominated for Best Single. The Music Awards made its debut in 2016, and is dedicated to supporting local bands and artists of Staffordshire and Cheshire.
The amount of effort and contribution they put into supporting local musicians is really quite amazing and I felt very fortunate to have even been nominated. The band and my family joined me on the evening which was held at Kings Hall Stoke, and I was amazed and overwhelmed when my name was announced as the winner of Best Single of the Year! To all the lovely people who had voted for me, whoever and wherever you are, a big thank you to you for your support. It never goes unnoticed.highlights from 2016Surprisingly, I have actually been nominated for 2017, as Best Solo Act. I was so thrilled to have been part of the event last year, so to be nominated again this year is such a wonderful feeling!

2016 Highlights

If you would like to vote, click on the image and follow the link

CORNBURY FESTIVAL

February to June of 2017 flew by in absolute blur, as I was in my final year of my degree and was spending most of my time writing my dissertation and endless essays and projects, so a lot of my time and energy was focussed on that for a little while. However, summer soon came round, which meant the festival season was in full swing. Having played a wonderful array of local festivals, I was also lucky enough to be invited by Caffe Nero to play on the stage as part of Cornbury Festival. In my first blog post I talked about how much I enjoyed the whole festival itself, which prides itself on being the most civilised festival, of which I can definitely confirm! The whole atmosphere was so calm and peaceful, and I felt privileged to have been able to just spend the weekend lying in the sunshine listening to a range of bands and artists. We took to the stage on the Sunday morning at 9am (!!) and were overwhelmed by the people that stopped and stayed to listen to our set, even at that time of the morning, and who equally stayed to chat afterwards with the band and I. Perfect end to the perfect weekend.

highlights from 2016

To find out more about the Cornbury Festival, click on the image

GRADUATION

November 14th saw the end to my three years of studying Songwriting. Those three years quite literally changed my life as clichéd as it sounds, but I most certainly would not be where I am today without the guidance of my degree. Although, the academic side of the course was interesting, the practical involvement of the course was what made my time there so valuable. From the people I met, to the opportunities I was given and possibly most importantly the confidence boost it gave me it allowed me to experiment, develop and grow as the songwriter I wanted to be and to find my feet in the industry.highlights from 2016So on the 14th it was a bittersweet event to be graduating from a place that I had made so many memories and achievements at but knowing that all my hard work had paid off. Our graduation was held at Manchester’s Town Hall and we were in fact the first graduates of the Manchester campus, so it was a wonderful feeling to be graduating with people who I had met right from the beginning. They are friends that I will probably still be in contact with, if not working on music with, in the foreseeable future.highlights from 2016

LONDON SUPPORTING SOBI

November was a busy month for me, and part of that was supporting singer songwriter Sobi, at both her Manchester and London gigs. The band and I were invited to support Sobi as part of her tour, and we were excited to be heading to London as it was our first opportunity to play as a band there. We certainly were not left disappointed, with the most warm and welcoming audience at The Slaughtered Lamb. It meant a lot to us that people who had never seen or heard of us before had stuck around with enthusiasm to watch us perform, especially as we were somewhere completely new! Thanks to Sobi for having us! You can check out her music, and I even made a little vlog of the evening.highlights from 2016Click the image to watch the clip

WITH TIME’ RELEASE

highlights from 2016

Click on the image to visit Itunes and listen to and buy “With Time”

Another reason November was so busy was because I released my latest single ‘With Time’, which I don’t think I have actually addressed on this blog. The band and I are really rather proud of this track, as it is the next step into how we want the music to sound, which is a darker, more ethereal and climatic sound, and this track is the transition into that. We hope that you will enjoy the track as much as we enjoyed making it, and thank you to anyone who has already listened, bought or shared the single.A week later we actually had the opportunity to have the song filmed live as part of Fat Pigeon Sessions. I have worked with Fat Pigeon once before as I played a solo set for their sessions, but this time we were invited back as a band to showcase some of our new songs. The team at Fat Pigeon, are some of the loveliest and hardworking people I have ever met. They transform what is essentially a village hall into a scaled down version of ‘Jools Holland’ to create a TV studio to film the set for you, with an audience being featured in the background. The quality of sound and production is absolutely incredible, and they don’t get enough credit, so you should definitely go and check out their channel. Here, I’ll give you a little taster to get you into the swing of things.  highlights from 2016Click on the image to watch the clip

WEDDING!  

To round off 2016, I have a personal highlight, but as it was such a wonderful day I thought it deserved to have a mention; my mum and dad finally got married!! After being together for 25 years, they secretly went off to finally tie the knot, surrounded only by me and my siblings, before spreading the news to everyone straight after, to which all our family and friends were of course surprised but elated by the news. This was the icing on the cake, to what has been a wonderful yearhighlights from 2016I hope that 2016 has brought great achievements and memories for all of you, and that 2017 is even better! Thank you for the support you have given me throughout this year and I hope you will want to stick around and see what else we have in store. Here’s to 2017 *clinks glasses* Cheers!highlights from 2016

THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA

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Cinematic Orchestra – the Apollo, Manchester

In my last blog I had a little chat about how to stay inspired as a songwriter and I mentioned the importance of watching other acts perform live as a way to spark inspiration.

I did just that on Saturday night at The Apollo in Manchester with my friend as we went to see The Cinematic Orchestra. I also mentioned in my previous blog the electricity that is produced in a room full of enthusiastic people who have been brought together purely for their love of one band or artist. This happened on Saturday night too, as a crowded Apollo babbled excitedly in wait for The Cinematic Orchestra to make an appearance.

The 7 piece band called Submotion Orchestra opened the show. I had heard the name in passing a couple of times before but I had never actually listened to their music. Originating from Leeds, they are heavily influenced by Jazz, Dubstep, and Electronica mixed with Classical elements. Their set up included keys, bass, drums and a percussion section, trumpet, an FX and sound engineer, and a lead vocalist. These combinations create an amazing ambient sound, with heavy bass parts that filled the whole room, trumpet sections that completed the chilled jazz vibe, and ambient vocals swallowed in reverb and delay. Often using the dubstep influence of creating drops in the music, it was hard not to want to join in dancing, even as I found myself mesmerised watching their tight musicianship. My favourite track was ‘All Yours’ and was a clear favourite for much of the audience, who burst into cheers at the opening piano chords. I have since listened to Submotion Orchestra’s music online, and although the quality is good, it lacks the feeling and excitement that they managed to produce when they were playing live, which, in my opinion, is a compliment. The fact that they are more amazing live than as a recording proves just how brilliant their musicianship really is. If you ever get the chance to see them live, I would highly recommend!

Cinematic Orchestra

A very grainy picture of Submotion Orchestra 05.11.16

After a changeover interval, filled with DJ, Mr.Scruff, The Cinematic Orchestra made their way to the stage. Now, I’ll admit that my friend bought me tickets to this gig as a gift as we were both fond of some of their tracks, but we didn’t actually know a lot of their music. This didn’t matter though, as this can make a gig equally as exciting, as it allows you to be taken by surprise and discover their music live; a whole other experience to listening to a recording.

The Cinematic Orchestra was created in 1999 by Jason Swinscoe, before it became a group project. Many of their tracks have been used in film, so it’s likely you’ll have heard ‘To Build a Home’ and ‘Arrival of the Birds’ at some point. On Saturday night the number of musicians on stage varied between 10-13 members, which was incredible to see so many musicians in sync with each other, boasting amazing technical abilities. There was a string quartet, pianist, double bass player, percussionist, drummer, saxophonist, guitarist and a turntablist who provided the electronic elements. Throughout the show they often welcomed to the stage three guest female vocalists, who sadly I don’t know the names of to credit, but their voices were absolutely incredible, and provided a whole new dimension to the songs they featured on.

The show began with just the string quartet, who set the scene for the evening, creating beautiful melodies working harmoniously together. The first half of the set, to me, incorporated the jazzier aspect of their music, with the second half providing a heavier electronic sound, although not as dubstep heavy as Submotion Orchestra had been. Many of The Cinematic Orchestra’s songs seemed to stretch up to 10 minutes in length but somehow it never became boring, consistently keeping the audience mesmerised with the different elements and layers they created. As tight as their musicianship was, they still seemed to give a laid-back approach, as if they were enjoying themselves so much they couldn’t help but make improvisations, and could easily rely on the other members to help perfect it. It just proves how well rehearsed and how much effort was put into the show.

Cinematic Orchestra

Yet another very grainy shot, my camera clearly couldn’t handle the talent of The Cinematic Orchestra, 05.11.16

At one point in the evening, it dropped to just the saxophonist who took over the stage. Now, I am completely in awe of this, as the saxophonist used only himself and a loop pedal to create layers and layers of intense melodies and rhythms, sometimes intentionally clashing, until it climbed to a screeching pitch that, although almost too much for the ears to bear, was actually incredible to watch. Not only was the saxophonist keeping in time to his existing rhythms, and playing at an astonishingly high pitch, he also held the note for an insane amount of time, and I’m convinced I could see his face rapidly turning so red and purple I thought he might burst! Thankfully, he ended the note before his head exploded, and the audience screamed in exhilaration at his talent!

The lead violinist also captivated me at one point, in a track where he had a solo and played at such a speed and pitch I don’t know how his strings didn’t break. He played with such ease that the melody just glided above the other instruments into ridiculously high pitches and the applause from the room was electrifying.

When they finished the show, the whole of The Cinematic Orchestra took to the front of the stage to bow to the audience, who in turn continued to scream in admiration. I have witnessed many calls for an encore, but this one was a frenzy of clapping and yelling for more, with much of the Apollo stomping their feet in an effort to make as much noise as possible to get the ensemble back on stage. Like any great band, they made their second appearance and to my delight they actually played ‘To Build a Home’ as their encore. The arrangement  this time transferred from the usual piano version to the acoustic guitar, and was sung by the guitarist, who dedicated it to his children. Much of the song was stripped back to just guitar and vocals, before the crescendo of other instruments was introduced, letting the string quartet take over to produce beautiful sounds and melodies.

Cinematic Orchestra

The craft of the musicians and their skill of being able to work so well and intensely together was not only amazing, but also very inspiring. Their standard of musicianship was extremely admirable and it was clear that the audience appreciated it. I hope to continue to hear their music synced on films and shows for years to come.

M x

How to stay inspired as a songwriter

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Inspired

Since leaving university, I have pretty much become a full time songwriter. This means I have to ensure I am self-disciplined with my productivity, including songwriting. During my time at university I had lessons about songwriting, my friends were songwriters, even the people I lived with were songwriters, and I was surrounded by musicians virtually all the time. I found this was a great source of inspiration, with influences and ideas flowing constantly because I was surrounded by an enthusiasm for writing. Now I have left, it’s a little harder to stumble across such easy inspiration. However, something I do have on my side is time. Without having to concentrate on essays and dissertations, I have time to dedicate specifically to songwriting. I thought I would share some tips that I have found help me stay inspired and motivated, that might be useful to any songwriters out there. I can also look back on this when I’m struggling myself, as I often succumb to writer’s block. 

CREATE A SCHEDULE

At university, the only schedules I set myself included my academic timetable and library essay sessions. I very rarely set myself a writing schedule, I just wrote whenever I felt inspired or had the time. Of course, even now I still write when I feel inspired or have an itch to create something, but now that I have the luxury of flexibility, I like to commit more time to writing, as not only does this enhance my productivity, but also provide practice and techniques even if many of my ideas or songs get scrapped. Eventually the process will allow me to write something worth keeping.

Being a bit of a stationary fanatic, I like to make lists and plan all of the tasks that need to be done the following day in my diary. This is when I include a writing session. I like to dedicate at least 1-2 hours of writing on an average day (and more if possible), but I don’t necessarily restrict myself to certain times, just when I’m feeling most inspired, which for me is often in the evening. But sometimes I do it smack bang in the middle of the day to break up my tasks that mostly involve using the computer. It gives me a break from staring at a screen and lets me be creative so that when I start my afternoon tasks, my mind is fresh! So typically, I will write for a session in the middle of the day and come back to it in the evening for as long as I want. I also have a part time job, so this isn’t always possible, but this is why planning can become important, ensuring that I am including writing at some point. So far I have found that my productivity levels have increased!

HOW TO STAY INSPIRED AS A SONGWRITER

HOW TO STAY INSPIRED AS A SONGWRITER

LISTEN TO MUSIC

This is an obvious one, it’s most likely what got you writing in the first place but it may also be the most important one! Falling in love with a song is one of the best feelings, and songs often create memories. Mambo No.5 for example takes me back to being a 6 year old at my parents’ house parties, and being allowed to dance to that song before being tucked up into bed. Even if I hear it now, I have the urge to pull off some terrible dance moves!

What I’m trying to say is that listening to songs you already know and love can be inspirational even if you’ve heard them a hundred times before. For me, Laura Marling is a key influence. Listening to her album I Speak Because I Can for the first time as a 14 or 15 year old is what made me want to write in the first place. When I listen to it now I am instantly inspired by her melodies, lyrics and phrasing. Each time I listen, I often discover something new that I had missed before and it gives a whole new perspective to the song. This happened recently when I found an article depicting the meaning behind her song What He Wrote, that was inspired by love letters from World War Two. This strongly influenced the way I now write as it opened up many doors to song topics.

As important as it is to listen to old favourites, exploring new songs is equally significant. By this, I mean new songs to you, not necessarily new songs that have just been released, although obviously I’m not excluding them! For example, as part of my studies, I focused on Kate Bush having never really listened to her before, and although I wasn’t a fan of it all, I was intrigued by her style and influences.

New releases are useful to take influence from too, discovering up and coming musicians or even niche genres is something I really enjoy. Even as I write this I am listening to an Australian songwriter called RY X, and although it is not the style that I write in, I am drawn to his ambient sounds which I feel I could borrow to incorporate into my own works. I like him so much so that I have bought tickets to see him this month, and I hope that seeing him live will give me even more

inspiration, which leads me nicely to my next point

inspiration, which leads me nicely to my next point

WATCH OTHER MUSICIANS AND SONGWRITERS

This has to be one of the best and fun sources of inspiration, if the buzz in the room at a gig isn’t enough inspiration then nothing will be. The electricity in a room full of people who admire one particular musician or band is such an exciting feeling. You feel as if you are part of something very special with live gigs. Not only are you listening to some of your favourite songs, you are seeing them performed by the creator and it’s a different experience to hearing it through headphones. One of my favourite aspects of this is watching how each musician on stage performs. Everyone performs differently, and this is another way to gather ideas on how to perform once your songs are written. It does not matter if the artist in question is world famous, or someone who lives next door to you, in some way the performance will inspire you and will provide endless ideas. If you are unable to attend gigs, then watching live performances on YouTube can still be a really helpful tool, and is something I often do in between going to gigs.

BOOKS

If you have read some of my other blog posts, then you might have known that this would be on my list. In a similar way songs are useful for creativity, I find books and stories are too. A couple of blogs back I wrote about a play called The Crucible which has been the core to my song Abigail. I found the story interesting and eerie enough that I wanted to write something about it and so I found becoming the character, Abigail, achieved this. I find this is a great way to write, taking on characters to evoke different emotions and feelings in songs. This allows you to experiment with different stories and personalities that you perhaps couldn’t do from your own life experience. At the age of 21, I feel I have not yet had enough life experience or wisdom to write personally, but writing as a character allows me to incorporate both reality and fiction. For example, Abigail focuses primarily around jealousy and anger, and although the plot is twisted, at some point the listener will have felt the emotions of jealousy and anger and will be able to relate to the song in some way.

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THE HOLY GRAIL: THE THESAURUS

Thank goodness for the dictionary of synonyms.

If you’ve been using the same word throughout a song and are struggling to think of another, use a thesaurus. If the word you’re thinking of doesn’t describe well enough what you’re trying to say, use a thesaurus. Even if there’s a word that doesn’t have enough syllables to make the perfect sentence in a section of your song, use a thesaurus. I can’t express enough how useful I have found this as a tool in helping bring lyrics to life by using what is essentially just more interesting words.

Another device I find super handy is a rhyming dictionary. Google can offer you many of these and when you’re desperately looking for a word to rhyme in your song, a rhyming dictionary will do just the trick, and will often end up triggering extra ideas to use!

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AN EXTRA HELPFUL TIP

Something else I regularly do is select a book I’ve never read before and open it on a random page. Carelessly scanning down the page, words and phrases will often pop up and stand out before you, and jotting these little phrases down can be extremely useful. You can alter them to suit your song, but in a similar way to the thesaurus, it can enhance your writing. It could even be useful to use the word or phrase as a song title and write a song based around that!

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SOMETHING CHEESY

And finally, something a little cheesy but crucial, is being yourself when you write. As effective as it is to take influence from other people, being yourself when writing is invaluable. It’s what makes your music yours, and we don’t want everyone sounding the same. What a boring place the world would be then. And don’t forget the reason you started making music was for yourself anyway, so stay true to that.

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I don’t claim any of these tips to be the only way to write, or even the right way. I believe that there is no correct way to write songs, if there was, nothing new would be created! But these points are just techniques I find useful when I’m struggling to find inspiration musically and thought that they could be helpful in some way. I hope that for some of you this might break through the dreaded writer’s block!

M x

Billie Marten

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Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester. As a musician I try to go and see as many bands as I can, whether that’s local bands or my favourites from across the world. I find it really inspires me to see how an artist works the stage with both the band and the audience, and find it very helpful with my own song writing and performance. Even if the artist is starting out, I am always curious as to how they perform on stage and how they create new and interesting sounds.

So this time my sister, Ella, and I had tickets to go and see Billie Marten perform at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. Not only do I love the Deaf Institute for its quirky wallpaper, but also the intimate setting. Even if you are standing at the back of the room, you’re never really far away from the musicians on stage, with a capacity of only 300 people, which seems to me the perfect size. Especially if you are an act as delicate and intimate sounding as Billie Marten.

Ella and I arrived fashionably late to walk into the final support act, Siv Jackobsen, performing her own rendition of Britney Spears’ Toxic. I was suitably impressed to find the arrangement completely unique, verging closer to Yael Naim’s version than to Britney Spears’ herself. Siv’s vocals very much reminded me of a mix between Joanna Newsome and Ane Brun, although a little more tamed. Her writing style made me think of someone like Joni Mitchell, as her lyrics sounded very much as if they were based on her life experience. I was disappointed that we only managed to catch the last three songs, so I shall be checking out her music further, alongside Jasmine Kennedy who we missed completely as she opened the stage for Billie.

https://www.facebook.com/listentosiv/

As time crept nearer to Billie’s performance, we moved further forward into the crowd to get a better view. Soon enough the band made their way to the stage followed by Billie (real name Isabella Tweddle) and opened the set with La Lune.  It was fairly obvious from the start that she was nervous, but who can blame her being only 17 years old and on her first tour. Certainly not me, who at that age made sure my songs were kept hidden in my bedroom away from everyone and anyone. As unsure as she seemed performing to the audience, she was however very confident talking to the crowd, putting everyone (including herself) at ease, announcing that we all looked rather sad and apologised that her songs weren’t going to get any less depressing. This of course we all knew having listened to her newly released album ‘Writings of Blues and Yellowsprevious to the show. Depressing doesn’t really seem the right word to describe her music though. To me, ‘lullaby’ would be the best word to describe her songs. Each song, melancholy or not, is as soothing as a lullaby due to her ridiculously beautiful, delicate voice that I can only define as sounding like honey. Her lyrics, however, are very un-lullaby-like, with mature and sophisticated writing that make her seem much older than a 17 year old studying her A Levels. As she announced her new song Emily, she asked the audience if there was anyone of that name, and after someone timidly nodded, she dedicated the song to audience-Emily, before breaking into song.

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

The young songwriter, who was nominated for BBC Sound of 2016, was backed by a band who complimented her vocals perfectly, with a pianist who occasionally swapped his piano for a bass guitar, and a cellist who also switched between her cello and electric guitar to create flawless sounds. I was impressed further still when Billie introduced the drummer, Suren, who I recognised as the drummer from Bombay Bicycle Club, whom I was a massive fan of at Billie’s age. Clearly I’m still more of a fan than I thought! Their arrangements completed the songs, never over powering Billie’s soft voice and guitar playing, only enhancing the delicate sound

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

“I’m such an awkward human being” she exclaimed as she put down her guitar and wrapped her arms round herself. Clearly uncomfortable at not having her guitar to play, she announced she would be covering La Roux’s In for the Kill, which is led by piano in Billie’s version. It’s funny how much I could relate to her feeling so uncomfortable without an instrument to ‘hide’ herself, as it always feels a little naked to sing without my piano. Although she was clearly unsure of how to act without playing, as she serenaded us I think it’s safe to say her confidence will soon grow.

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Highlights of the set for me were songs that I already adored before seeing her live, including Lionhearted, Bird, Milk and Honey and Heavy Weather. I was equally taken with Live which she announced with a nod of the head and a giggle was ‘about living!’. The only disappointment of the night was that she played just for 45 minutes without an encore, and it would have been nice to see her for a little longer. I am however, looking forward to seeing how her sound will evolve over the next few years as she grows older. Until then anyone interested in acoustic singer-songwriter folk songs, this will be right up your street!

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Billie Marten at the Deaf Institute Manchester

Here are links below so you can have a listen yourself! ☺

https://www.facebook.com/billiemarten/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smX6xCPDbrE – BIRD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNAmwWBy0nw – MILK AND HONEY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy6e1D4yDEQ – HEAVY WEATHER

M x

Recent Book Reads

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‘A BOOK MAY WELL BE THE ONLY TRUE MAGIC’ – A. Hoffman

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of a bookworm. For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to books and as an 11 year old I was convinced I was going to become an author. I even decided to study literature at A-level, before my music took me to university.  I suppose being a songwriter isn’t a million miles away from the world of literature. Song writing allows me to write about any subject matter I want, whether it’s fact or fiction, and by putting the words to music I am combining two of my favourite things. The wonderful thing about reading or writing is that you can take your imagination anywhere, whether that’s as the reader or the writer, and for me that’s the exciting part. Due to my love of literature, I thought I’d write a little bit about some books I have recently read.

BESIDE MYSELF

Ann Morgan

Over the summer, I spent a week in France and so I made sure to pack some books to take with me. The book that captivated me the most, and caused me to be very anti-social for the best part of a couple of days, was Beside Myself by Ann Morgan. I had picked it up based on the fact that it seemed a little different to what I would usually read (that and the fact it was Buy 1 Get 1 Half price in Smiths…). The blurb depicted identical twins who decide to swap places as young children, but when one of the sisters refuses to swap back, a nightmare slowly starts to unfold. I was intrigued by its twisted plot and curious to find out what happened. It was quite literally a book that I couldn’t put down. I had to keep myself from reading it all in one sitting.

The story is led by the main character Helen who overshadows her twin sister Ellie, and when they decide to swap places to play a trick, fooling even their mother, Ellie decides that she doesn’t want to swap back, forcing Helen to take on her sisters introverted personality. Why doesn’t she just tell everyone the truth, I hear you ask? Well, she does. Multiple times. She attempts to prove the truth on many occasions, but this is what makes the book so dark and psychologically complex, because no one will listen to what she has to say. I found myself so wrapped up in the storyline, that I became as frustrated as poor Helen.  The story shifts between Helen’s present state as an adult, and her time as a child where we see the development of her unwillingness to take on her new identity causing behavioural problems and a downward-spiralling mental illness. For anyone wanting something uplifting, obviously, this would not be recommended!

There is a dark mood that lingers throughout the book. You quickly become caught up in the depressive state, so much so that even when you put the book down it takes a while for your headspace to adjust from the disturbing atmosphere back to reality. This is what made me so gripped to the story.

Recent Reads - A BOOK MAY WELL BE THE ONLY TRUE MAGIC

Beside myself – Ann Morgan

THE CRUCIBLE

Arthur Miller            

Whilst I was abroad on said holiday, I was longing for my piano. Spending so much time in the mountains, where very little happens and the internet is limited, a lot of thinking time takes place and made me feel very inspired when I returned home to my piano. At some point, although I’m not sure whether it was while I was actually abroad or when we had landed, I decided I wanted to write a song about the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. This was a production that I studied in school when I was around 14 years old. I’m still not sure what made me think of it again all these years later. I think, perhaps, it was the dark twisted mood of the play that makes for an interesting song topic.

Once back home at my piano, I proceeded to write a song based on Abigail, one of the characters I remembered most without having the play to hand. Feeling very inspired I decided to order a copy of the book so that I could read through it again, as a type of research, and even now I still intend to write some more songs based on the storyline and other characters. What drew me back to this play is similar to that of Beside Myself because of the frustration and disbelief of the characters. The play, written in 1953, is set in 1692-93 taking place in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, with the subject matter being the famous Salem witch trials and a focus on McCarthyism.

The play opens with the Salem preacher, Reverend Parris, concerned about his daughter who lies motionless after he discovers her one night with her friends, all involved in a ritual in the woods with Parris’ slave, Tituba. It’s not long before the whole of the village is rife with rumours of witchcraft, which ensues the accusation of innocent people. Parris’ niece, Abigail, who appears to be the leader of the girls denies any involvement with witchcraft. She threatens all the girls who had taken part in the woods that they must stick to their story of just ‘dancing in the woods’ so as not to be suspected of being witches. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to the character John Proctor, who is married to Elizabeth, but we soon find out he had an affair with Abigail, in which Abigail still has feelings for him. It’s not long before Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, is accused of witchcraft herself which she is certain is by Abigail. From this point onwards the whole of the village seems to become swallowed up in chaos and madness, with people accusing neighbours, friends, loved ones, turning on each other, all seemingly encouraged by the court who believe the Devil is in the accused. The story seems unbelievable but the fact that it is based loosely around a true story makes the plot even more fascinating. If that’s not good content for a song, then I don’t know what is.

Recent Reads

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

THE BELL JAR

Sylvia Plath

When I was making my book order for The Crucible, I thought it would be worth investing in some other well know classics. When I studied English Literature at A-Level, I vividly remember a poster for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath stuck on the wall. Why I never thought to read the book back then is beyond me, as I have since heard the book mentioned a fair amount. I thought this would be a suitable book to order and I heard many good reviews about it. Before I go further into detail though, I have to admit I was actually a little disappointed with the book. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it, and I perhaps wondered if my expectations had been too high based on reviews because it’s an American literary classic. I can’t seem to pinpoint what it was that I didn’t like about it, which is a little frustrating. None the less, I am still glad that I have read it and ticked it off my so called Book-Bucket-List. What I did like was the realistic nature of the book, which in essence, is quite a sad one as we watch the narrator Esther Greenwood collapse into a breakdown. The psychological side of this is similar to that of Beside Myself as Esther’s life slowly falls apart, seemingly not for any particular reason! (I’d just like to point out that I’m actually a happy person in real life, contrary to the books I read and the songs I write).

The character slowly descends into despair and often the timeline skips, which I assume is to portray her state of mind, but it left me a little lost at times. The book covers a lot of difficult topics which I think is what makes the book so well admired and relatable to so many. The thing I found most captivating, but eerily loomed over as I read it, is that this could almost be about Sylvia Plath, who herself committed suicide in 1963. There are elements of the book that could be questioned as almost autobiographical, and you wonder if what the character is thinking is what Sylvia was thinking at the time. It becomes clear that Esther is extremely vacant, and when she considers committing suicide, it’s as if no feelings are involved. She finds herself in a mental institute, which supposedly helps her recover as she later leaves the institute, but by the end of the book I still felt

Recent Reads - A BOOK MAY WELL BE THE ONLY TRUE MAGIC

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

unsure as to whether she really did get better. Overall, I’m glad that I read the book, as for the most part I did enjoy it and I think it challenged me from the books that I usually tend to read.

I would recommend any of these books if you’re looking for something to read, or fancy something a little different. I don’t tend to read plays but I am now on my search for my next one, and perhaps even a song will come from that!

If you have any book suggestions for me, please comment as I’m always looking for something new to read.

M x

MUSICIANS AGAINST HOMELESSNESS

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Musicians Against Homelessness. On Sunday night I was lucky enough to be involved with the project. The charity has been set up by Alan McGee who created the campaign for the whole nation to take part. The aim of the project is to raise money for the homeless charity, Crisis, combined with providing gig opportunities for up-and-coming bands. They also intend the project to be an annual event to continue to raise money, which I think would be hugely beneficial. Spending the last two years living in Manchester, I have unfortunately seen a lot of suffering on the streets, and I was grateful to be a part of this project.  This Autumn, the gigs span up and down the country, over a three week period from 18th September to the 9th October (so there’s still time if you want to catch the last few gigs!) and all the proceeds go to Crisis.

For this show, I was excited to be back on stage with my band after a month of solo gigs, it was our first opportunity to try out and reveal some new material we had been working hard on. As I mentioned in my first blogpost, one of our favourite gigs over the summer was LymeLight Festival, not only because the sound was great, but because the audience were so wonderfully welcoming and supportive. We had been invited to play Sunday night’s gig by the same organisers so we were looking forward to coming back to play. And we weren’t disappointed.

The Kings Pistol, a three piece band, kicked off the night’s proceedings. Made up of guitar, bass and drums, The Kings Pistol create a sound that is best defined as Americana with English Folk, a genre I admire (probably my Dad’s influence there). Slightly more acoustic than the other bands, I was really taken with their sound, especially a track called ‘Paperback Road’. This could almost be described as a ballad, as it was one of their slower songs with prominent stops that let the acoustic guitar ring out,  making the song that more memorable.

https://www.facebook.com/thekingspistol/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yB3DqHOI5c

Musicians against Homelessness

The King Pistol

Next up were Blackwater Trading Company, a five piece band from Stoke-on-Trent.Their experimental sound combining funk and soul with rock and acoustic elements, created a powerful psychedelic ambience. Although a busy arrangement it actually works really well, especially with the lead singer’s soulful voice. The tracks that stood out to me the most were ‘No End In Sight’, which they announced as one of their newest songs. The simple guitar riff throughout caught my attention, as I found it perfected the song, and brought the psychedelic feel to their sound.

https://www.facebook.com/blackwatertc/?fref=ts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqg9D0i92Oc

Musicians against Homelessness

Blackwater Trading Company

The Red Kites were the next band to take to the stage. Made up of four members, the band were well-rehearsed which showed in their tight performance. I suppose you could describe the music as fairly rock oriented, led mainly by the guitars but there were also parts that were really ambient which, if it isn’t already obvious, I really love! Their best song for me was a new one called ‘Murder Ballad No.3’. I was immediately intrigued by the title and rightly so. Quite a mournful song, this was where the ambience shone through! The chorus melody completed the song and is happily still stuck in my head as I write this.

 https://www.facebook.com/theuniversalnoise/?fref=ts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6195zOlcSg

Musicians against Homelessness

The Red Kites

At 9:45pm, it was time for the band and I to play, and I’ll admit, I was quite nervous to follow after some truly great bands. I was equally as nervous to play some new songs but thankfully, I think the audience enjoyed them! The sound on stage calmed my nerves when I found that the levels were perfect and thankfully I could hear all the instruments and vocals just how I needed them, which made performing that much easier. Having the band playing with me creates such a buzz on stage. We all bounce of each other musically and there’s always that rush of adrenaline as the songs sound exactly how we want them to, especially in the tracks that build up to climatic endings! I think it’s safe to say that we all get magically lost in the music when we play. Much like the last time we played in Stoke we received a really warm reception from the audience, which, as I’ve mentioned before is so encouraging and wonderful to hear. It made me even more excited to be back performing with my boys!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcCadq4D6Tk

Musicians against Homelessness

Megan Dixon Hood

Musicians against Homelessness

Liam Morgan

Musicians against Homelessness

Jake Greville

Musicians against Homelessness

Left to right: Liam, Jake, Megan, Jordan

To end the evening, with a name even longer than mine, was Nixon Tate and The Honey Club. In a similar style to some of the other bands, they had elements of rock and Americana, but with a strong singer songwriter feel. Because of this, one of my favourite things about this band was the lyrical content. I absolutely loved their track ‘Honeytrap’ which had me hooked on the first line “Walked in through the open door, ordered double whiskey and lime…”. The song only got better as the drums and bass kicked in with a beat that you couldn’t help but bob your head to. The electric guitar featured the rock elements it needed to put the icing on the cake!

 https://soundcloud.com/nixontateandthehoneyclub

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRI2m2KXOlg

Musicians against Homelessness

Nixon Tate and the Honey Club

I was so happy to have been part of such a wonderful evening. Thank you to the organisers and everyone involved for putting on such a fantastic night! All the bands are definitely worth a listen, so if you get chance, please check out all the links as there’s a load of great music available!

Also, a big thank you to Mark Vyse for all the lovely photos featured in this blog, check out his website here, http://www.mvyse.co.uk/portraits1

Till next time friends,

M x

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.

Blog #3

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