Interview – Bloke & Bird

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I’m so excited to be speaking to the beautiful Jennifer Åkerman, half of one of my favourite new bands, Bloke & Bird. Best friends since 2010, Jennifer and Lars (or Lorenzo!) put their creative heads together, and the result? A seriously cool sound, inspired by their travel, cultural and personal life experiences.

If you love Indie-pop in all its various forms, you’ll love Bloke & Bird. Taking huge influence from the Californian Indie scene, the duo offer a simple sound but its well and truly enough, driven by vocals, guitar and percussion. Jennifer’s vocals scream sexy rock ‘n’ roll, a perfect contrast to Lars’s multi-instrumental, mellow but rich accompaniment.

Releasing track by track of their debut EP is a genius way of getting their music out there in a personal way, offering listeners the chance to take their time in discovering the Bloke & Bird concept. What I love about the EP so far, is that each track really does have its own identity. I love the chilled vibes of ‘Bon Voyage‘. you can really hear the Californian, easy breezy lifestyle influence behind the track. ‘Animal Style‘ and ‘No Fucking Game‘ bring more depth to the EP, but you can still feel their simplicity throughout, with elements of rock and pop, tearing electric guitar, solid bass lines, catchy choruses.

What I love most about Bloke & Bird though, is that their project was born out of friendship. In their live videos, you can see the chemistry between Jennifer and Lars – its genuine, wholesome and at the end of it all, these guys are just two best friends having a good time doing what they love. And it works. Bring on the rest of that EP. And a UK tour, thanks guys.

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Jennifer and I caught up:

Hey Jennifer, welcome to Meander!

Hey! Thank you for having me! 

So tell us a little bit about yourself and Lars. Jennifer, you were born in Sweden, Lars was was born in Mexico. How did your paths cross?! 

Well, yes Lars was born in Mexico but moved to Sweden when he was just a couple months old. So, Lars is actually his Swedish name, his name at birth was Lorenzo and that’s what I call him! Our paths didn’t cross until much later 🙂

Aha, I see! So, when was Bloke & Bird born? 

We met in LA I think… 2010? I was singing in my first band called Bella Tech, and Lorenzo came and saw one of our shows at the Viper Room. Or was it House of Blues? One or the other 😉

Anyway, we started writing music together and instantly had a connection but it wasn’t until maybe 2013 we decided to become a duo.

And boy am I glad you did! The music you’ve released so far, I love. The tracks seem to carry the essence of what you’re all about, like your duo name. It does what it says on the tin. You are what we hear.  Mellow but catchy. Would you say that’s pretty accurate? 

Thank you! Yes, totally and that’s what we want to hear from people! We have a strong identity and we want that to be heard through our music. 

 

 

You’ve both had pretty colourful cultural experiences. Jennifer you’ve split your time between LA, NYC and London with your modelling and music career, Lorenzo lived in Sweden for many years and immersed himself in the Swedish music scene. Have your experiences within travel, culture and meeting new people inspired your lyrics and sound? 

For sure. I think we mainly get our inspiration from traveling, I definitely do. I need life experience to write lyrics. Musically we get a lot of inspo from California and the US. Even if we would be in Sweden, we would write songs with titles like “New York City” or “Brooklyn Kid”.

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What music/artists have specifically inspired you throughout your years in the music industry? 

I think it’s a lot of rock (specially guitar riffs) mixed with the California indie band scene and Swedish pop. 

Tell us about your debut EP, what can we expect?

Since this is our debut release, we decided to release the songs individually as singles. We wanted to give people the time to discover and get to know us. One thing we’ve definitely learnt is to be patient, I wish we could share all of our music with the world right away, but we just have to take our time with it. But I promise you, they’ll be a lot more to come and you won’t get disappointed 🙂 There’ll still be fun and catchy tunes with some rock n roll!

 

Don’t take too long, I’m so excited! Though I completely see where you’re coming from, its great a listening to slowly get introduced to your style and versatility as a duo. How is it to perform live as a duo, do you feel exposed, or do you feel really comfortable up on stage? Do you get nervous before shows? 

I think the best thing about being a duo is that you become so tight and comfortable with each other. Especially for us as we write the music together. And if one of us fucks up during a song, we know that we have each other’s backs so nobody would even know that we’d slip up! Knowing that calms the nerves 🙂

Who should we be listening to at moment on the Meander playlist?

We love the band Kaleo, they are a great band from Iceland!

Sweet. We want a good night out with music, beer and lights in California. We want to be shown a damn cool time. Where are you taking us? 

Venice! Board walk. The Doors cover band, beer and sunshine. My favourite thing!

We’re game! Tell us something about yourselves that not many people know…

Oh there is a lot..! We’ve spent a lot of time together.. Living under the same roof, traveling, studios etc. We have exactly the same humor. We’ve had a lot of good laughs. 

What has been your top musical highlights so far in both your careers? 

Just finally being able to release music, showing the world who we are and getting awesome feedback from it. That’s all we ever wanted! We’ve also been lucky to feature some of our music in commercial for big companies like Nordstroms. That was fun!

Awesome! If you could perform with any act in the world, who would you pick and why? 

Ah good question! I think we both would love to tour with a bands like Black Keys or The Kills. They’re cool duos 🙂

Love Black Keys! What’s coming up for you guys this Summer? More live shows? I hope you have plans to hop across the pond to the UK? We could do with a little Californian sunshine this summer through your music! 

Yes that would be amazing! At the moment we’re still in the middle of release the EP but will announce shows on social media during the summer. @blokeandbird

 

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Sincere Deceivers – Hot Handed (Live) Review

Lord love these boys. If any of you moved from my old music blog ‘Guy Talk’ to Meander with me, then you’ll know the buckets of love I have for Sincere Deceivers. For those of you who aren’t so familiar with the Yorkshire bred trio compromising of Matt Glover (vocals, acoustic guitar), Tim Davies (electric guitar, vocals), and Dom Main (cello, vocals) , Sincere Deceivers are a wonderfully unique band that carry a folk-driven sound with tinges of wholesome rock that warms the heart.

Following the release of their truly gorgeous EP, Autumnal Dreams, the boys return with a new release ‘Hot Handed’, and its just sublime, such a treat for the ears! What I love most about Sincere Deceivers and their live performances is that what you see is absolutely what you get. They lay the heart and soul of their music out there for all to hear, see and experience. You can feel their love for what they do, the energy they bring, and fierce musicianship between the three. What’s really staggering is the depth of sound they create with just three. Their music is so rich with layers and texture, and just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need a whacking great band to produce a big sound with an impact. I still believe adding Dom to the band was a stroke of genius. Best move they’ve made!

The trio’s music creates a listening experience that makes you stop, forget everything for just a moment and breathe. Their lyrics are serious and meaningful, their sound organic and melodious. And actually, its so nice to see musicians just having a great time creating and playing music together that they love – you’ll see in the video above that their joy for their art shines through their playing, and it makes such a difference.

Of course, Oak Sessions ability to film gorgeous videos adds to the beauty of it all – the soft tones, the bright filament light-bulbs, the fish mobiles. What’s not to love? Visual delights.

‘Hot Handed’ isn’t even 3 minutes long and its wow’d me. Pure listening joy. Watch it!

 

LewRey – ‘Never’ Single Review

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Man, am I happy to be introduced to these two. I am so excited for LewRey I could scream about them from the rooftops (though I won’t…health and safety, ya know?). Boasting a pretty impressive supporting act portfolio for the likes of names we all know and love from Example and Professor Green, to Pendulum, MistaJam, The Japanese House, Rosie Lowe & Aquilo and more, this genre-mashing alt pop duo,  comprising of Lewis Reynold and Ian Walker, have a seriously bright future ahead of them, watch this space!

Never‘, their latest release, is a corker! Perfect to get those summer vibes going, with a club-ready belter of a chorus that you will definitely find yourself singing for the rest of the day (cue ‘be someone.. be someone…loaded gun… loaded gun..’. ♫). The single is backed with deep soul-pop melodies, moreish vocals, catchy hooks, and a sprinkling of Indie. What’s not to love? There really is something for everyone. Listening to their previous tunes, ‘Never’ definitely offers listeners an idea as to where these chaps are heading with their sound. LewRey’s debut 2014 EP ‘What’s Up?’ is a really enjoyable listen, a 5-track cracker traced with tints of urban and electronic-pop elements that demonstrated what the duo could bring to the table with their music in the early days, high quality variety with tracks drifting from slow and ambient to dancefloor-filling.  ‘Never’ takes their concept even further.

The single is beautifully interlaced with layer upon layer of different genres, technique, vocal lines and instruments, and has been released at the perfect time showcasing what these guys are capable of – stellar musicianship, mega pop anthems and damn good fun.  They are so relevant to the current music scene as we know it. And you know what? I think LewRey are just getting started.

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Kathrin Christians – Interview

 

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Introducing the truly beautiful flautist, Kathrin Christians. Having played the flute from a young age, Kathrin is first class talent, with a clear unconditional dedication to her instrument and her art. It’s always so wonderful to meet young classical artists who carry such passion for this genre of music, and who play with such depth of emotion. I’ve heard a number of recordings by Kathrin, and was really blown away by the clarity of her technique and rich tones as a flautist.

Having won numerous prizes in international awards from “The World Competition” (Australia), to the Lions Music Competition, and actually winning in two successive years, the Music Competition of the City of Heppenheim, Kathrin has a seriously bright future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see her continue to rise as an international success.

Here’s our little chat below:

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Kathrin, thank you so much for joining Meander! How are you?

Hi, its a pleasure! I’m well thank you, just on the train to Leipzig for a few upcoming concerts I have!

Oh, that sounds exciting! Good luck. You’re my first flautist on the blog – pretty exciting! How old were you when you began playing the flute, and did you take to it quite naturally?

It was quite a challenge to start. I actually started to sing at the age of three, and at age four began to play the recorder, but it didn’t really give me the sound I wanted to produce. After lots of research, I actually told my parents I wanted to play the bagpipe – at the age of 6! Yes, their reaction was the same as yours is probably right now!  So they decided to help me find the right instrument…! When I was nine years old, they sent my to a music school to try out the flute, and I fell in love with it almost straight away! The minute I played the flute, I had no doubt this was the instrument for me.

Wow! That must have been a pretty amazing moment. So you mentioned singing, do you still sing?

I sang just as much as I played the flute when I was young, it was very close to my heart, but eventually I had to make the decision to commit to one or the other professionally!  I still do sing though, from time to time! This year I’m actually singing at a very dear friend’s wedding which I’m really looking forward to!

I read that at the age of 23, you became the first flautist with the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra – that must have been an incredible experience? Did you feel you learnt a lot during your time with the orchestra?

Absolutely! Although I played with orchestras before, it was an amazing thing to play with the same musicians for a couple of years, and to record so many CDs together with them! Its great to work with colleagues so closely, especially during festivals where you also get to play chamber music – its a different experience every day! You really learn the essence of teamwork. Playing with a Symphony Orchestra like Heidelberg is almost like being in a different world with its own, and sometimes, very special rules. 

 

You’ve played all over the world for numerous concerts, from Thailand to Italy, South Korea, Africa and more! Where was your favourite destination and why?

I feel so lucky! Each and every country I’ve played in have been so special in their own magical way!  The deeper the culture, the more I love a country though. Being immersed within different cultures give me such a buzz, lots of energy and new inspiration. 

I do love the UK’s  sense of humour,  South Africa and its people, Italy for its joy of life and food (of course!), Thailand and its tradition within the cities, South Korea and its baths, Japan and its politeness, Burkina Faso and its cultural heritage, Denmark and its soaring landscape…I’d better stop, I could fill the rest of your blog talking about countries I love!

Haha! Wow, you’ve really seen a lot of the world. How wonderful! Who’s music do you like to play more than any other and why? And do you have any favourite general composers?

This isn’t my favourite question, only because its so hard to answer!

I’m really into contemporary music and try to encourage people to explore the different types of music within the genres! For example, you should definitely listen to  Jindrich Feld ‘s Flute Concerto, or Peteris Vasks’s Aria e Danza. I love music that explores expression and emotion, from joy to sadness, from hate to love… anything that conveys deep emotion is my music. 

But at the same time, I do love traditional Romanticism and Impressionism.  This weekend, its all about Richard Strauss, Paganini, Emil Kronke and Piazzolla time. And if someone gave me some Baroque to listen to, I’d say “that’s pretty wonderful!” 

Besides that, I do get my friends to help me appreciate other genres of music. One did send me James Blake’s music to listen to. 

You’ve taken part in a number of prestigious competitions, including the 2013 International ‘The World Competition, The 2012 International Severino Gazzelloni Competition and the 2009 International Mediterranean Flute Competition. Incredible! Are you taking part in any competitions this year?

Hm… we shall see!!

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Your great-granduncle was the infamous Danish composer Carl August Nielsen.  What’s your favourite piece of music he composed?

Oh, please listen to Hymnus Amoris and the Helios Ouverture!! And tell me your thoughts after!

Do you have any concerts coming up this year?

I have quite a few nice projects coming up. After Leipzig, I’ll be playing at a small church in the countryside. Following that, I’ll be going to Italy and France, then will take part in two lovely concerts with  the Württembergische Kammerorchester. And not forgetting my own concert series this Autumn!!

Thanks for chatting on Meander, Kathrin! Wishing you the best of luck with your upcoming projects! 

 

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5 Dollar Shakes – Review

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Ladies and Gents, meet Indie rockers 5 Dollar Shakes! These strapping Irish lads have recently released brilliantly catchy single ‘Auxiliary Love’, lifted from their promising second EP Come & See Enough To Stay. The EP itself is a little 4-tracker gem, that features an obvious indie influence, with shimmers that hark back to anthemic hits in the alternative rock scene. Without doubt, a large, polished step-up from their debut ‘Back To The Start Again’ – though also great listening.

Formed back in 2012, 5 Dollar Shakes (note Pulp Fiction reference!) take inspiration from Tarantino’s style – combining familiar influences with their own special twist to create something original – but relatable. Nice! It’s clear to hear where these boys are heading – their aim is to create powerful stadium-worthy songs that thousands can chant to,  backed with a strong merge of big, theatrical indie-pop and rock. ‘Auxiliary Love’ does just that, a cracker to end the EP.

The beauty of what these chaps do, is that they have cleverly created music that has a wide appeal across a range of genres that the mass are drawn to. Their tracks are catchy, fun, easy listening and full of energy and power – the perfect ingredients to make a success! Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Germaine D’Rosario – Interview

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Introducing beautiful soprano, Germaine D’Rosario. Artists like Germaine are exactly why I created this blog – I love to support musicians and artists regardless of who they are
where they’ve come from, or what they do. They are dedicated, committed and passionate. They work hard to get to where they want and need to be, and won’t stop until they reach where they are meant to be. I found Germaine, like many of other artists through the powers of social media, and from the moment heard her Soundcloud clip of “Un bel di vedremo”, I just had to get her on Meander to share her enthusiasm and her story.

Germaine’s story is hugely refreshing, and goes to show that pure love for something can go a long, long way. Her voice is a delight, it soars with an impressive range, allowing her to sing from heavy operas we know and love, to musical theatre classics, classical crossover and more. Her talent is undeniable, her fierce adoration for singing couldn’t be more obvious!

I’m so happy to share our chat, and hope that you’ll take as much inspiration from it as I did.

 

HI Germaine, welcome to Meander! How’s it going?

Hello, yes I’m very well, thank you!

So, lets talk about you. Can you give us a little history as to when you’re interest in singing sprang from?

I’ve always loved singing! My dad was a self-taught musician so I believe my musicality was inherited from him. I do remember that, from a very young age, I would sing along to my dad’s records which were mainly rhythm and blues and rock and roll. I was also an enthusiastic member of my primary school choir and over the years, I’ve sung with a number choirs, including my church choir.

I really can’t remember a time when I did not enjoy singing, but it was only after performing with a local theatre group and hearing some of the lovely comments from the cast and the audience that I realized I had a voice which was worth developing with singing lessons. After several years of study, which continue to this day, I felt ready to release two back to back classical singles in 2014.

Your repertoire is incredible. You sing opera, oratorio, musicals and classical crossover works. That’s a huge range – and all requires such different technique! What do you love to sing the most? 

The songs and arias I enjoy singing the most, and which I believe is right for my voice, tend to the ones with a powerful soaring vocal line, but the songs also have to be meaningful and move me in some way. I loved the ethereal feeling of “Winter Light” and the beautiful and emotive“You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

However, I suppose, what I enjoy singing the most are arias from verissimo operas, particularly those by Puccini. I loved recording “Un bel di vedremo” from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”; not only was it the fulfilment of a life-time ambition, but the wonderful music and the human story and emotions expressed in the lyrics was a just joy to sing.

Where did you learn all of your technique skills? 

I don’t have a degree in music or drama but instead developed a lot of the skills and techniques when performing with theatre groups, opera companies and choirs. Of course I have also undertaken the vocal training I mentioned earlier; initially this was basic singing lessons with John Yates, then later, classical vocal training with Colin Morris and more recently, advanced vocal and repertoire study with baritone and opera director, Wayne Morris.

Does your musical interest lie solely across the classical music genre or do you take pleasure in listening to all sorts of genres? 

I only started listening to classical music as a young adult, and opera, later still. Prior to that, I tended to listen to “pop” and “soul” music, as well as my dad’s music, which I mentioned earlier; so now, my taste in music can best be described as eclectic! If I want to relax, then I’d probably listen to classical music, opera, or the music of classical crossover artists like Sarah Brightman or Enya. The rest of the time I will listen to other genres including songs currently in the charts. I also enjoy listening to rock bands like Queen and some of my favourite female artists are Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Sia and Amy Winehouse.

 

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Who is your ultimate favourite classical singer?

I love Maria Callas in roles such as “Norma” or “La Traviata” or “Tosca”. I also enjoy watching Anna Netrebko because she is not only a very beautiful soprano with an equally beautiful voice, but she is also a terrific actress too. However, the soprano I tend to listen to the most is Dame Joan Sutherland; I just love the agility and sheer beauty and purity of her voice.

If you could perform on stage with any artists in the world, who would it be and why? 

I would love to perform with the world’s top opera stars, like Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Placido Domingo and Jonas Kauffman; I admire their talent and it would be both a pleasure and a privilege to perform with them. I would also love to perform with Sarah Brightman, not only because she is an amazing artist, but I love the sheer spectacle of her concerts and it would be great to be a part of that.

What is  your all-time favourite piece to sing?

It has to be “Un bel di vedremo”. I loved this aria the first time I heard Renata Scotto sing it, and it was then that I knew I wanted to sing opera.  It is a beautiful aria and I love singing it.

How do you prepare before a big performance?

Practise, practise, practise! I like to allow myself plenty of time for learning the music and for rehearsing, although I always stop singing at least a day before the performance date; during this time I will just relax at home and listen to my favourite music. However, a few hours before the performance, I like to have a quick, gentle vocal warm up. Poor health shows in the voice, so a healthy diet and exercise is important. As part of my training as a singer, I visit the gym and go swimming. Finally, on the day of the performance, I ensure everything is organized and that I arrive at the venue in good time so I can just relax and focus on the performance ahead.

What would say are the main qualities needed to become a successful classical singer?

I believe you to have natural musicality and vocal ability, but also the desire and ability to learn new skills and techniques. I also don’t think it’s enough to just have a beautiful voice; the world’s top opera and classical singers show us that you also have to be a superb actor and performer and have “stage presence”. It can also seem that there many obstacles in the way of you achieving success and it could be so easy to give up. I therefore believe that, whilst it is important to take on board constructive criticism, a positive attitude and confidence your own ability is essential.

What do you have planned for 2016? I read that there may be an album coming up in the near future…? 

Yes that’s right! There are a couple of singles that I am looking forward to recording, but I am also really excited about releasing my first album this year. It will be classical-crossover album as I am hoping it will appeal to a wider audience. I can’t write my own material so the tracks will all be covers, but they all songs and ballads that I’ve always loved listening to and singing, and which I think is right for my voice. There is a mix of traditional and modern ballads, songs from musicals and other popular classical crossover tracks.

Thanks so much for talking to us! We wish you all the best in your singing career.

Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I wish you continued success with “Meander”.

N’aw, thanks!!

Panda Panda – ‘Millions’ EP Review

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I LOVE Panda Panda. Comprising of Håkon Brunborg Kjenstad (vocals, guitar) Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit (vocals, keys), Herman Wildhagen (guitar), Jonathan Fimland Kleven (bass) and Oddbjørn Sponås (drums), the Trondheim-based Indie based are so fresh in every sense of the word and are really making a name for themselves within Norway’s music scene. The band have created a huge buzz in Norway, having played at a number of prestigious festivals from Trondheim Calling to Pstereo and UKA. They are growing to be a pretty big deal.

Their long-awaited EP ‘Millions’ is finally out and its seriously exciting. Released by the super cool Indie Label Riot Factory, Millions offers the most delicious trio of tracks that can only be described as gloriously dreamy. Though its easy to identify the Panda Panda as an Indie-rock band, their clever use of atonal melodies separate them from the crowd, making way for music that sounds almost other-worldly, space-like and progressive…it’s really cool! From observation of human relationships to 9/11 conspiracies, a tribute to the fast life and describing a turbulent relationship, the songs running throughout the EP send you through a whirlwind of themes and emotion – it’s beautifully exhausting; intense but moreish, with just about enough space to breathe – particularly with the slow paced track ‘Fuels’! I’m so excited to see these guys grow and where their music takes them. A Meander favourite!

 

 

Billie – Interview

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Indie folk singer/songwriter Billie is a musical gem, hailing from lucky Nottingham. With honey-dipped vocals (slightly reminiscent of early Gabrielle Aplin and even perhaps Birdy) and beautifully raw original songs, she is one to watch on the acoustic scene. Her songwriting  maturity is hugely impressive and and leaves you wanting much, much more!

I think it takes a lot for an artist to put themselves out there through a recorded track or live on stage with just a guitar, its exposing and sometimes doesn’t quite come through without the support of a full band, but that is far from the case with Billie – her tracks offer intimacy, provoke emotion and are rich in sound execution,  she does just fine on her own! Super excited to see where Billie’s  music takes her, she stands out from the crowd and carries a real sense of humbleness with her, which is so refreshing and even more appealing.

Here’s our chat below:

 

Hey Billie! Thanks for coming on Meander, how are you doing? 

I’m doing great, thanks for having me!

 

So tell us a little bit about yourself – how did you get into the singer/songwriter scene?

I started writing songs when I was around 13, and knew I wanted to be a singer/songwriter for most of my life so I started to research venues around Nottingham and got my first gig at The Maze – then it sort of just went from there.

 

Have you always sung? Love your voice, it kinds of reminds me of the early Gabrielle Aplin days, with a slight edge. 

Thank you – yes I have! I grew up doing theatre and did quite a few musicals so my singing started from around 3/4.

 

You call yourself an Indie and Folk singer/songwriter – why these two particular genres? Are there particular artists within the genres that you were drawn to for inspiration?

 

Indie folk is one of my favourite genres, and has always been something I’ve been drawn to – It’s a style of songwriting that has always come naturally. Daughter have massively inspired me, more as a person than a songwriter I feel. They create beautiful music that really connects with people and I’ve always wanted to get to that level of connection with a listener, and provoke some sort of emotion.
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Who is on your current playlist? Any up and coming artists you think we should be listening to? 

 

My playlist is always full with bands and artists, but I’m really into Foals and Kagoule at the moment. Kagoule’s “Made of concrete” and Foals’ live version of  “Red Socks Pugie” are so so good!! Definitely keep an eye out for Billie Marten, she is an incredible singer/songwriter and her vocals are angelic – she also has a pretty cool name;)

Ha! It is a great name. I found you through the powers of social media (lucky me!) – do you feel that as an independent singer/songwriter social media is a huge part of the process for networking, getting your music “out there”? 

 

Yes social media is a massive part of getting your music heard, but playing regular gigs is the most vital part of it all. You gain contacts, confidence, life experience, knowledge and most importantly you get to play your music to people which is an amazing feeling!
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Now about your music – where do your ideas stem from? So many artists draw inspiration, naturally, from personal experience and memory, is this the same for you when you write? 
My ideas mostly stem from personal experiences, friends experiences or even pictures that may give me a lyric idea. My first few songs I wrote were not based on personal things, but the older I’ve become most of my songs are based on personal experiences.
What’s Silhouettes about? (a Meander fave!)

Silhouettes is a song about mental illness, and is basically one huge metaphor about it – it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve written. It is one of the first ever songs I wrote and actually the first original I played live.

The tracks you’ve released are all acoustic – love that. Do you have plans down the line to record tracks with a full band or do you consider yourself solely as an acoustic artist?

I love the simplicity and raw emotion behind acoustic music, but I’d also love to add instruments to my music and create a bigger sound – I definitely have ideas and plans to do so in the future.

 

Are you totally comfortable playing live with just you and your guitar? I guess it can feel exposing, but the experience with your audience must be really nice and intimate. 

Yes I feel very comfortable on stage –  When I first performed my song “Him” live it was the first time I felt exposed on stage but was also a huge relief to let my emotions out.

Who’s the best band/artist you’ve seen live and why?

I saw both Foals and Daughter live earlier this year, and were hands down the best gigs I’ve ever been to. They are both very different genres so it was a different experience for both but they both create incredible music that holds a special place in my heart.

 

What plans do you have coming up in the near future?

I’ve recently finished recording my debut EP and hope to release it later this year, along with playing a lot of gigs and a couple small festivals.

 

Thanks so much for chatting on Meander!

Thanks for having me!

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Luke Navin – Interview

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‘Musical mastermind’ is the only way I can describe Luke Navin. I was so thrilled that he was brought to my attention and am now converted into an ever devoted fan! A first year student at Oxford , Luke’s talent is undeniable both in the forms of pianist and composer. His debut album 7 and a Half Visions of Love is a stunning collection of original compositions for the solo piano, emitting a romantic approach to a beautiful, modern real-life love story. Full of gorgeously rich, melodic phrasing throughout, the album is sprinkled with contemporary touches, creating a listen that’s appealing to anyone from new audiences to those who enjoy film music and works from the great Romantic composers.

‘7 and a Half Visions of Love’ follows a dreamlike journey of love that so many people can identify with along the way, from the moment strangers’ eyes meet across a crowded room, to infatuation; the blossom  of developing love. As the album flows, we are transported through a hurricane of emotion to a beautiful but tragic end, with tracks expressing the grief behind loss of love, when two people are parted from each other forever.

The album features inspiration taken from various forms of art, the classic Romantic composers (Rachmaninoff , Puccini) film composers, things he’s seen, places he’s gone, and of course personal experience. It offers a listening experience full to the brim of depth, meaning and stunning musicality.

I think it was the third listen to the album that made me reflect on the power of human emotion and love, how can we possibly feel so much, and with such depth? This debut disc is huge testament to Luke’s maturity and understanding of emotion, in composition and in playing ability – and he’s only just getting started. A bright, sparkling future for this chap!

Here’s our chat:

Hi Luke, really thrilled to have you on Meander! How are you? 

Thank you, I’m delighted to be featured. I’m having a great time – I remind myself each day that I’m so lucky to be doing something I love. So few people get to do that. I’m just heading back to Oxford for the summer term, which should keep me very busy for the next few weeks!

You’re a composer and a pianist, what would you first and foremost consider yourself?

A composer. Every composer needs some medium to express their ideas, and the piano has always been mine. The piano feels like an extension of me. Any idea that comes to mind, I will play through on the piano before doing anything else.

Where did you receive your musical training? Have you been playing the piano from childhood? 

 I’ve been playing for a long time – since the age of three, although I wasn’t allowed to have lessons until I was five as I was rather small and my arms could barely reach the piano! I had a wonderful music teacher who I badgered every single day non stop until she gave me lessons. I had a string of wonderful piano teachers, the last of whom was the concert pianist Warren Mailley-Smith. He’s always been tremendously supportive.

Much of your music is characterised by the late romantic style of playing, where did your love for this particular style stem from?

Like anything, I think it comes from experiencing different styles of music and discovering how they affect you. I found that there was something about the late Romantic style that really had a profound effect on me – harmonically in particular. I saw Tosca when I was very young and it sparked an interest both in opera and the late Romantic style as a whole.

You compose for a number of different things, personal commissions, to sacred events and for film and television – what projects do you enjoy working on the most and why?

I love anything with singers, and I love music that tells a story. Increasingly I enjoy writing more secular music as I find it better allows me to embrace my natural music style. That said, Christmas is always a fun time for sacred stuff – last year I composed a very uplifting carol for SATB for a large London choir, which was really tremendous fun.

Your debut album 7 and a Half Visions of Love is absolutely stunning. How did the creation process start? Did you tinkle about with a motif in yourmind or take inspiration from a particular piece?

Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I rarely compose at the piano. I started with really a lot of ideas in my head – for every day I thought about this album I found I had another ten ideas. I think a lot of the creation process was actually filtering down the multitude of ideas and piecing them all together in a way that made sense. It’s impossible not to take inspiration, especially when you’re young, and both Puccini and Rachmaninoff have been great inspirations for me. If I were to name one piece, I think the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut probably had a big impact – I must have listened to that piece a thousand times!

 

 

As a listener, I grew incredibly emotional as the album developed. Following the journey of the various stages of love – how did you manage to capture such raw emotion and translate it into music?

I’m delighted to hear that. To me there is no right or wrong way of capturing emotion – it’s something every composer tries to do, and each will have a different idea of how to do it. You have to write in a way that means something to you, and I’m lucky that what appeals to me and what affects me musically is often in line with what will appeal to a broad range of future listeners. My music is in no way elite or specialist, and will speak very directly to the emotions of everyone.

There’s often a perception that classical music requires a trained ear in order to appreciate it, when in fact this is often not the case – particularly when it comes to romantic music, and particularly not here. The very words ‘classical music’ can be so plagued by this dogma that I’m almost reluctant to use the label on my music – it’s seems unfair as this album certainly has popular appeal.

 

Were tracks of this album based upon personal reflection?

The entire album, in fact, is inspired by my experiences over the past two years. I took a year to focus on composition before beginning my time at Oxford University last year. However, midway through, I met a wonderful girl in Covent Garden who lived in Rome, and my year of composing became somewhat sidelined by the wonderful love story that ensued. Nearly two years on, this album tells that beautiful story. You could say I’m making up for all the pieces I didn’t get round to writing a year ago when I was whisked off to Rome!

 

Well that’s just quite beautiful! Whilst it’s clear to hear that this album features huge amounts of Romanticism qualities, you can also clearly detect modern skill. How do you take modern technique and apply it to the Romantic style?

It’s certainly not a conscious effort. Neither is it a conscious effort to hark back to romanticism – it’s just what feels natural and expressive to me. Rather than harking back, I feel that I’m picking up where romanticism left off. Music went in many different directions in the first half of the 20th century, not all of them good. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m going back to a real musical high point and working from there. That’s not to say that the 20th century didn’t produce some fabulous new music – of course it did. I just feel that romanticism is far from dead and so much more can be made of it today.

Are there certain composers that you took big inspiration from through the creation stages? I imagine you took inspiration from a number of film composers as well as classical?

Film music is terrific – it’s perhaps the most exciting medium for musical expression around today. Puccini was a master of musical expression, and if he’d lived a little longer there is no doubt he would have got into film music. It’s such a terrific platform and allows some great music to reach more people than ever before. As far as inspiration, I love Schubert – his music is so exquisite. And Rachmaninoff – much like great a great film score, his music can transport you to the farthest corners of the earth, and of course as a pianist Rachmaninoff has an extra appeal in that so much of it you can play! That said, I’ve spent months of my life playing through Puccini and Wagner’s operas in vocal scores… just playing through the Liebestod from the end of Tristan and Isolde, even without a singer, brings tears to the eyes.

What else influences you as a composer and musician? Art and Culture? Travel?

I love the visual element to music as well as the emotive one, so both art and travel are very important. Rachmaninoff composed one of his most dramatic pieces based on a painting entitled ‘The Isle of the Dead’, and the vision of this place (a dark and gloomy island in the middle of the ocean) in the music is profound. Every place and every image can in some way be captured musically, and working out how to do it is a real joy. I suspect this is where my love of both opera and film music stems from, on top of the emotional element involved. Music that depicts and enhances both location and visuals, and deep human emotion seems like such a complete package.

What’s your personal favourite piece from 7 and a Half Visions of Love and why?

I like the fourth track ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. I think that as a single piece it has a very complete journey from start to finish, as well as some of the most lyrical and longing melodic phrases in the album.

What’s coming up for you over the next year? Do you plan to give live performances of your album?

I’m quite busy at Oxford for the next few weeks, but after that I will be focusing on concerts. I’ll be doing a concert showcasing the album in London in the summer – it will be something really special and unique, and definitely more than your ordinary piano recital, so definitely one to look out for. I’ll keep you posted!

Thanks so much for chatting on Meander, we wish you huge success with all your future ventures!

Thank you.

Aled Jones – Interview

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As a trained classical singer myself, on a personal level I was so, so beyond excited to get the chance to chat to the one and only Aled Jones on my blog. So many of us have grown up alongside the infamous vocals of a young chorister that warmed the hearts of the nation, especially with that timeless and truly treasured Christmas favourite,’Walking in the Air‘.

Released through the Classic FM Label, Aled’s new album ‘One Voice‘ takes us all down a trip to memory lane with him but with a bit of a modern twist, as he duets in the present day, with himself as a boy. In fact, this very album is the last he ever recorded as a boy before his voice broke, and as Aled says in our interview below,  is the best he feels he ever sang as a boy.

The folksong classics featured in ‘One Voice’ offer huge amounts of nostalgia, with songs including Danny Boy, O Waly, Waly and The Lark In The Clear Air. With works on the album composed by Britten, Vaughan Williams abd many more, Aled applies his modern-day technique to classic, traditional music we all know and love; the songs that take us back to the good old days. What rings true is the depth of emotion Aled carries throughout each track, as he journeys from boy to man in a simple yet beautifully executed record.

Here’s my little interview with Aled on ‘One Voice’ and his hugely exciting, upcoming Cathedral Tour:

Aled, welcome! Firstly, a huge, huge congratulations on the release of your truly beautiful album, ‘One Voice’. How have you found the response so far?

It’s been phenomenal and very humbling.  I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would resonate with so many people.  I’m thrilled!!

Not to mention that you have, ahem, overtaken Adele’s ’25’ in the best seller charts?!

Well I’m sure it’s a fleeting thing!! She is an incredible artist and I bought her album.  I have to admit it’s an amazing feeling being top of the best seller chart.  My producer still can’t believe it and checks the chart every hour!!!

What’s the back-story to the creation of ‘One Voice’? The last ever album you recorded as a boy was discovered almost by accident, where was it lying all this time?

It was in my mum and dads airing cupboard – lying there for 30 years – only in there to keep warm as moisture would have destroyed the original recording.  It was my last record as a boy but never released as my boy voice broke.  When I heard it a year ago I was bowled over by it – I’d forgotten that my boy voice was so sparkly.  I honestly do believe this is the best singing I ever did as a boy.

You spent years and years of your life avoiding listening to the 16 albums you had released as a child, what made you listen to this particular album?

I suppose I’m at an age now when it’s OK to look back.  I almost feel as if I’m the grandfather being proud of a grandson. I’ve listened to this album more than any other I’ve ever released.  And for the first time ever I’m proud of what I achieved as a boy.

 

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And so you should be! Do you remember recording the album as a boy?

No!!!

Haha! What was it like to sing alongside your younger-self for the very first time, were you struck with emotion?

There was no guarantee that both voices would blend or that the project would work.  We decided to record Eriskay Love Lilt first and the moment both voices sang in harmony – the producer and I stopped and at the same time said – ‘did you feel that?’ Hairs on back of neck and arms were standing on end.  It was the first time I had ever experienced anything like it.  People have said they feel the same thing listening to the album which is great.  After that it was the easiest most pleasurable recording session I’ve ever done.

 

Do you have a personal favourite track of the album? If so, which song and why?

I love ‘Eriskay Love Lilt’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘David of the White Rock’. Although to be honest I love them all!

 We have to agree with you on that one, they are all pretty stunning. Are these original duets something you’re considering to continue with in the future or was ‘One Voice’ a really special one off?

It’s a one off – apparently we’ve made world history with this one – so let’s end on a high!!

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A world-first, impressive! Your Cathedral tour sounds absolutely divine –  have you sung at all the venues before? Where are you looking forward to visiting/going back to the most?

I haven’t sung at all the venues so there will be a few surprises for me too.  It will be very emotional for me to sing at Bangor Cathedral again where I was a chorister – I haven’t sung there since I was 12! To be honest I’m really looking forward to all the dates.  What a treat to sing in these amazing buildings – and every one of them is different.

What can audiences expect from your tour? Will we be graced with hearing you duets in the live performances? 

Yes – the first half will be me duetting with my boy voice live as it were – with films and projections of little Aled being played.  The second half will consist of inspirational music – songs, hymns and special guests too!  It definitely won’t be a stuffy evening – but more a real celebration.

Thanks Aled!

Celebrate with Aled Jones as he embarks on his Cathedral Tour, kicking off in May! All the dates can be found below!

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