How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I first became active in the North East music scene in 2013 when I was sent Leddie & Smoggy’s ‘Sorry We’re Late’ album to review in my days as a blogger. I’ve since done just about every job you can in the music industry as a podcaster, artist manager, helped with PR campaigns and more. These days I’m split between copywriter and social media admin for Independent in Sunderland, and working in radio for three different local BBC Music Introducing shows (North East, Tees and West Yorkshire).
How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I am, essentially, a glorified music fan who accidentally has a career in the industry. I started a blog in 2012 where I’d review primarily American hip-hop music. I used to be a proper nerd (and still am) in college and would re-do essays if I got anything other than an A until I realised how annoying it must be for my teacher. I was suffering with depression at the time and became obsessed with the music of Joe Budden and wanted to tell the world about it. After reading some reviews on websites like HipHopDX, I decided to do one on Budden’s ‘A Loose Quarter’ mixtape and from there got quite a lot of support on Twitter and ended up getting work with the likes of Complex, MOBO Awards and Pigeons & Planes a few years later.
In 2015 I got into radio, again accidentally. I used to love listening to Greg & Potta on Spark’s Hip-Hop Show when I first started at University of Sunderland, and then I was interviewed by Young Sceptic who took over from them on the show about the local hip-hop scene. This then turned into me working as producer on the show and eventually taking over from Young Sceptic when he left.
While at Spark I also did everything they would let me from being part of management with stints as an assistant to the music team, head of evening and overnight programming and head of social media and online content. I also produced a range of shows from wrestling talk shows to a pre-breakfast fitness show and a range of specialist music shows including Dance Revolution with Scott McGerty who can be credited with just about everything I know about radio.
I then pestered Nick Roberts at BBC Music Introducing in the North East offering to make packages previewing The Bridge, a hip-hop festival at Sage Gateshead for the two years it ran. Timing was on my side because the second one was taking place the same day as BBC Music Introducing’s event at Sage for The Great Exhibition Of The North Festival and I ended up volunteering to help around at that event. I expected it to just be taking photos and posting them on Twitter but I ended up interviewing some of the acts including headliner Sam Fender. A couple months later the job opened up for Team Assistant for BBC Music Introducing in the North East and thankfully I was successful.
I’ve since been responsible for the social media for the biggest simulcast in BBC Music Introducing history, helped with bits for BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and curated a series of mixes on BBC Sounds including a special one for Glastonbury – and now work as Team Assistant for the Tees and West Yorkshire shows too.
What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Literally just do it. Get stuck in, but do what you love. It can be a hard grind and it will definitely test your patience but if you’re really passionate about whatever it is you want to do, for the most part it’s worth it.
There’s a really strong, friendly community. Whether its the musicians themselves or the people on the industry side, just about everyone in my experience have been super helpful, up for trying new things that might not work and generally just welcoming other people into the scene.
I wouldn’t be where I am without just reaching out and asking if I could help with something, and the other people being open to letting me.
What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I think essentially what I just said, the strong, friendly, community but also that it is constantly evolving. Although there’s still this perception that the North East is just indie guitar bands, we also have some of the most exciting DJs in the world, a really underrated hip-hop scene that has literally given me a career and there’s some fantastic r&B/pop talent too.
I think 2017 as a whole was one big highlight for me. Coming from a hip-hop background, it felt like a seminal year for rappers in the North East with a number of albums released that year which I consider classics including from Eyeconic, Leddie MC, Reali-T, 90BRO and Kv$hnoodle. It was also the year Hash Rotten Hippo’s ObSceNE gave rappers a monthly home at Arch Sixteen Cafe in Gateshead which felt really special at the time and is sorely missed.
Similarly the times when Static was running in World Headquarters with HB finishing their set in the car park a particularly legendary moment and I’ll also never forget Young Sceptic Presents nights at Independent especially New North East’s headliner. NE Rising’s Open Mic Nights at The Cluny more recently have been incredible too, the NE Dons headliner for that felt like one of those ‘moments’ too.
Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
I recently started doing more with my YouTube Channel which you can find by searching ‘Lee Hawthorn Music.’ The best, formal way to get in touch is emailing firstname.lastname@example.org but I’m also @LeeHawthorn_ on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t be afraid to message a few times if I miss you, I get horrifically busy sometimes.
Lee Hawthorn: Instagram | Twitter | YouTube