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NMC Guest: Lee Hawthorn (BBC Music Introducing Team Assistant & Social Media Admin At Independent)

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 leehawthornmusic@gmail.com 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

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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Mal (That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I was first introduced to the music scene about 2003 when I was in a punk band called Verbally Withdrawn. But right now I have my own music blog which is named after that band called That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog. I also still play I’m currently in a blues-influenced band, Grim Lizard (formally Dark Passenger), as the bass player.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
My interest in music started when I got introduced to the band Blink 182. I just loved everything about them; the image and music all seemed very cool to me. Over the year I’ve been in and out of bands and have made many friends along the way. I’ve also been very keen on supporting over bands and going to as many gigs as I can. That’s why I started the blog and, I think, the more I do the more popular the things I have posted have gotten.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
My advice, if you’re interested in going to gigs and getting involved yourself, is to find other people with the same interests and catch some shows together. If you’re interested in writing, maybe start your own blog or get in touch with people already involved like local zines or magazines for a little help.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene?
The support that people give each other, especially recently, has been incredible to see. I also love that events aren’t just limited to music acts; you get all types of art being displayed at events. People using art to send out a message. There’s really been loads going on over the past few years. On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed being involved in many things like bands messaging me upcoming tracks to review, and being in the band getting to play festivals like Stockton Calling, Heelapalooza and Volkspower, were so much fun. One of my favourites was playing Salsola’s single launch for the song “Cass”. I’ve always enjoyed launches that are organised by the band. It’s always been a fun and creative way bands to support each other.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
Mostly on the socials such as Facebook or Twitter, for the blog just search “That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog”, and for the band search “Grim Lizard”.
That Verbally Withdrawn Music Blog: Facebook | Twitter | Website
Grim Lizard: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Dave (Spark Sunderland Producer)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
This is a tough one to answer really as I can’t really say when I got involved as it feels like forever but it’s mainly been in the last year and a half properly I’d say.
For those that won’t know me, I’m a producer at Spark Sunderland, a radio station based at the University of Sunderland, so I look for bands and artists to interview and feature on our music playlists. I have a section on our Friday Drive Show with presenter Emma – had to name drop, sorry 😂 – where we do the interviews with the bands and we normally have an acoustic set to accompany this. The show, as the pairing, has been going for a year-and-a-half so I kind of pin point it there (but I do still remember Street Party in Soho before Club Paradise made their mark; sorry Ryan, but 17 is a banger).

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
Having moved to Sunderland for university, and making friends and being involved with Spark, I began to meet those involved in the scene – whether they’re in a band or were/are doing similar to what I do, etc – got me into it, so I started going along to gigs and then wanted to incorporate promoting bands on my shows as it’s always something that I’ve been a big supporter of, because every chart topping artist has had to start locally and gain that support somehow and if you don’t support the “small bands” they ain’t ever going to get “big”!!
A lot of what I’ve done has been a part of Spark; just loads of graft and going to gigs and chatting with the bands after sets and making yourself known really. Biggest pro on the scene is how friendly and approachable the scene is in every aspect. Bands are always happy to chat and we’re always happy to feature so it’s a win-win!!

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
My advice for anyone who wants to start blogging, interviewing, starting a band, gigging, gig photography, PR, whatever it is: just go and do it! We’re all our own stopping block, so I always say, if it’s something you really want to do, go and it give a good bash!! You will definitely come across so many supportive people who will give you advice, support and anything else so we never need to worry about those who don’t want to support (and stuff those who ain’t there to be supportive, they’re not important!).
Before you start: if you’re hesitant, speak to people already doing similar work to what you want to do and speak to others in the scene too because everyone will always support you and fill you with confidence! I’ll always be happy to offer advice in any way!

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
Oh jeez! I guess I’ll take this time to say a massive thank you to every single band or artist that has done an interview, most have become regulars! Sent music without me having to slide in your inboxes. So I’m grateful for every single one you!
Highlights from the scene, I honestly couldn’t pick cause there’s so many! I’ve had so much fun going to gigs and seeing live music, and the thing I love the most is seeing all those other people who are involved in some way and chatting to them at the gigs because it’s such a friendly scene – it’s amazing!
I’ve made mates from doing what I do which is always a bonus! Also being able to attend gigs with mates who are also involved in the scene makes it a little big greater too! (Becca from The Alternative fix, here’s looking at you, and George from Ghost//Signals, swear I’m your personal roadie when gigs happen).
I can truly say that the NE scene is one of the most vibrant, varied and friendly scene to ever be a part off! From the venues, bands, managers and everyone in any role it really is the best!! And the variety in genres and sound is so unique!
But mostly out of everything, meeting and knowing so many amazing people in the scene is the biggest and best highlight of it all! I’m fortunate to meet those who have made it big but also to those who just make the scene what it is and that’s everyone, big or small!

Ps. Dan Robinsons speech from Avoid S**t Parties is the best thing ever, if you don’t know then I feel sorry for you! (Rick saved Christmas!). We won’t give you buckfast next time Dan, we promise. If you know, you know!

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
So if you want to know, at the time of writing it’s every Friday 3-6pm on Spark Sunderland is where you can hear the show. Our local guarantee is between 5-6pm!
If you want to get in touch with myself directly for anything via: David.shaw@sparksunderland.com or Daveonair12@gmail.com
Or, if you’re on Instagram, it’s @daveleurbost and you can drop a line in my inbox there! I share a lot of the scene on my stories BTW so all the more reason to follow.

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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Stephen (Tech Manager, Oxjam & NOVA Radio)

How long have you been active in the North East music scene and what do you do?
If we want to go back to my early DJing days, that takes us back about 18 years. Over that time what I’ve done has changed a lot. For the past 6/7 years I’ve been mainly associated with Oxjam Newcastle, I started to bring most elements of what I do under that brand including my radio show, which I’ve recently renamed as I’m trying to separate the elements of what I do into distinct things in themselves again.
So what do I do right now I guess is easier to answer. I present the Grassroots Music show on Nova Radio North East, which is my main outlet for promoting new music I really love. I’m currently Tech Manager at The Globe which has been really important to my need to see live music this year as working tech for the livestreams has allowed me to continue to see gigs over the past year. Pandemic conditions have put Oxjam events on hold for the past year but I’m still Oxjam Newcastle Manager, I’ve been running the festival in Newcastle since 2014 and it has been a big part of my life for most of that time.
Versatility is important, the more you learn to do, the more opportunities you will have to get involve.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I think music plays a big part in most people lives at some point, there’s something naturally human about that and it crosses borders, eras and cultures. Its always been pretty important to me though my tastes have, not so much changed as expanded a lot over time. I started out as a DJ and still love a lot of electronic music, but over the years as I discovered new scenes my tastes expanded a lot. After DJ-ing for a while I really wanted to learn production, making dance music had always sort of been the thing I wanted to do but I wasn’t much into tech growing up and DJ-ing had seemed easier to understand, I also found a free DJ-ing course where I learned the basics of that. I went to college to try to learn some production basics and stayed in education much longer than anticipated, eventually leaving Uni with a Master’s Degree in music. More important than the academic side of college/university was the exposure to lots of other music’s and music scenes. As a student I got involved with radio for the first time, put on my first events and learned to sound engineer events (A class at college I really hated initially). Post-uni I just looked for any opportunities to get involved with stuff, running a few events, doing some dj-ing volunteering at venues like the Star and Shadow and getting involved as a volunteer with Oxjam, anything to stay active I guess.
The local music scene is a meritocracy, the more you do the more you get to do.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved with the music scene, so get involved. There’s not a lack of people that want help with projects and you will always get further with collaboration than you will just working on your own. The most important thing is to do something, if you want to get into radio but don’t have a station, start a podcast. Want to write? Start a blog. The other side of this of course is to remember reputation matters, people need to know they can rely on you if they are going to keep working with you, so do get involved with projects, but only as many as you can realistically put the required time into.
Be active, get involved, be reliable.

What are your favourite things about the North East music scene are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I loved the variety, it doesn’t matter how long you have been involved locally or how much about the scene you think you know, there’s always something new happening (sometimes something old happening) your going to come across you didn’t know existed.
There’s not one North East music scene, there are multiple and many of the scenes know very little about some other scene’s existence. For someone like me that likes variety, it’s a good thing. You can usually learn much more from a scene you know nothing about than you can about a scene you are embedded in.
Keep an open ear and an open mind, and never get into a place where you think you know everything that’s going on.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
For the radio show check out the Grassroots Music Show on Facebook or Instagram, the pages are pretty small at the minute as I was until recently running everything through Oxjam Newcastle. If you have music you want me to play, send it over – never hold back from sending me music to listen to: I love listening to new music. General advice when sending out your music; pick one or two of your best tracks, that’s generally good advice but I listen to everything so with me you can send as much as you want.
Grassroots Music Show: Facebook | Instagram
Oxjam Newcastle: Facebook | Instagram
Email: oxjamnewcastletakeover@gmail.com


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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Sean (Sofar Sounds Newcastle)

How long have you been active in the north-east music scene and what do you do?
Sofar Sounds is an organisation that set up secret, intimate gigs in hundreds of cities worldwide and the Newcastle branch has been around since 2013. Our shows aim to put the focus back onto the musicians, and allow our inquisitive guests to discover a wide variety of talented emerging artists, both local and from around the world, in unusual settings.
I am the city leader for the Newcastle team. I plan and organise all our shows with the help of our amazing team of volunteers. We take care of everything from the line-up to the theme and the venues.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
Music has always been a part of my life even as a kid, and I’ve loved live gigs since my questionable punk-pop days of the mid-noughties. I used to play a little myself in school and college but have found that I’d rather champion those that can do it so much better.
I was invited to a Sofar show in 2015 when I lived in London and was captivated by everything that made it unique. Soon afterwards, I joined the London team, originally as an MC – presenting the shows on the night. My deep loud voice cuts through a crowd quite easily! I transferred to the Sofar Sounds Newcastle team when I moved up north in the summer of 2017 and began to take on more organisational roles. I became city leader at the start of 2020.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Firstly that you don’t have to be an amazing singer or play an instrument! Everyone is involved in music in some way, even if it’s just listening to your favourite tracks while out running or winding down with a beer.
Do check out your local scene – there are hundreds of artists bubbling under the surface waiting for lift-off and you will be guaranteed to find someone you like. Support your favourites by going to gigs or on social media. Look out for when they release new material. Tell your friends and family about them. You can play a huge part in the development of home-grown musicians by championing them and giving them the confidence to succeed.
If you’re an artist, use your passion and experiences within your own life to create truly unique work. Anyone can learn how to copy other people’s music and lyrics, but when you write and develop your own, it gives your music a heck load more gravitas. Don’t be nervous, don’t be embarrassed and definitely don’t keep those songs hidden in a sketchbook somewhere. Other people will want to hear them too. We organise events like Sofar to get your music out there to folk that perhaps wouldn’t normally discover you otherwise.

What are your favourite things about the north-east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I personally love how welcoming and inclusive the scene is, and that you can build up a network of friends and familiar faces just by attending a few shows and supporting your favourite artists. Across the dozens of Sofar shows that I have been involved in, one of the best things is being able to mingle with the guests and artists during the show, to find out more about their personal stories.
It is also amazing to see artists that played a Sofar show near the start of their journey, that now after months or years of building their brand, are getting the recognition they deserve in tour support slots, record deals or airplay on national radio, etc.
For us at Sofar, we hope to provide a music experience that people will remember. It’s also thanks to our volunteer crew and hosts that every show is different. We have had rock music in a church, folk in an opticians, synth solos in a museum and I’ve been very lucky to host not one but two shows in my own house! Our International Women’s Day shows are also definitely one of our yearly highlights.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
At the moment, our gigs are obviously paused due to the global pandemic, but when we are allowed to put on shows again, you can find all information including the chance to apply for tickets at https://www.sofarsounds.com/cities/newcastle

Sofar Sounds: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

We also have a Spotify playlist featuring most of our artists that have played a show to date (Sofar So Good: The Definitive Sofar Newcastle Collection).

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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Charlotte (Events Manager & BIMM Student)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I’ve been going to gigs since I was around 12, but the first concert I organised myself was when I was 14. I’ve been putting on gigs in Newcastle and working in/at events for around 5 years, and I now work as a Music Journalist for Quite Great PR and study Events Management at BIMM Manchester, but plan to be home for festival season. I currently run online concerts for BIMM and work as Head of Events for BIMM Radio but hope to be putting gigs on as soon as things open up again.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
My first gig was a charity fundraiser at The Globe which allowed me to start booking gigs at Think Tank. I’ve spent the last few years networking as much as possible, working with companies and festivals such as SSD Concerts, Curious Arts and Tipping Point Live to get my foot in the door with the local music scene.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Speak to as many people as possible and take every opportunity you’re given. There’s no point in being shy and most people involved in the music industry are really friendly anyway, the worst someone will do is say “no” and even then they may know other people who can help you.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I love the community feel of the industry and the great range of events and festivals that we have, working as a stage hand at Hit The North at Riverside and as a box office assistant at This Is Tomorrow Festival have been some of my highlights.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
You can find me on LinkedIn (just search Charlotte Bredael) or you can check out my online gigs ‘Freshly Locked-Up’ on Facebook, @BIMMRadio on Instagram and follow my blog @NewMusicPF on Twitter.
Freshly Locked-Up | Bimm Radio | NewMusicPF

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Guest Interviews

NMC Guest: Rebecca (The Alternative Fix)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
I’ve been involved for about five years when I started presenting local radio at University on Spark Sunderland and worked doing a few shows across the schedule including producing the local music show. But it’s only been about the past year I’ve really got knee deep in the local scene with getting my new music blog up and running and taking up lots of local opportunities with that!

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I’ve always had a love of music from a young age and always knew growing up that I wanted a career in the thing I love. I did my degree at uni in Broadcast Media and through that got really involved with local radio and our amazing local scene (that has only got better and better over the years too). I fell in love with finding new music and getting to talk about it for hours each week and knew it was what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to start a website for years but kept putting it off because I’d never gave written journalism a go but during lockdown in March I just went for it and launched my music blog and never looked back since!

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Honestly just grab any opportunity you can take because I wish I had sooner. Over the past year especially, I’ve learnt there’s so many amazing, talented and kind people on our scene, so just reach out to places like local radio stations, blogs etc and try and get as much experience as possible! The key to the music industry is trying to get as much experience as possible and at the beginning most of that is unpaid but it really is worth it with the skills, contacts and friends you make along the way. It’s always handy as well to try build up as many skills as you can across the industry because it really does come in useful, for example I’ve tried to teach myself graphic design this year for my blog posts and there’s plenty of apps you can get these days that are very user friendly and free too! As cliché as it may sound, don’t put off your goals and ambitions and just go for it because our North-East music scene is full of lovely, supportive people whether it be other journalists, artists, promoters… you name it!

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
One of my favourite things like I just mentioned is how lovely 99% of the people I’ve came across on the scene are! I love how supportive fellow artists and music journo’s are of each other. I suffer from really bad mental health and although we’ve been in a pandemic for the past year I’ve met some of the most amazing and talented people this year all through music and doing my blog, we have a lovely little network so get stuck in! Another thing I love is what huge names we have on our scene at the moment, it is definitely the strongest I’ve seen the scene since getting involved five years ago and not to be biased but I think locally, we have the strongest and most diverse music scene in the country. So many artists on the North-East scene are destined for some BIG things!

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
My music blog I run is for new indie, alternative and rock music and is named The Alternative Fix. I started this up during lockdown so only been doing it around 7 months but it’s going really well! I now get artists getting in touch not just locally or nationally but globally from the likes of America and Australia, it’s insane! The support and comments I’ve received have been so lovely and positive, it’s crazy how well it’s gone already and feel really proud I run and produce 100% of the content all by myself!
The Alternative Fix: Facebook | Instagram | Website

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The Northern Music Collective: Our Story

In January 2019 a group of promoters, journalists and musicians began assisting one another in relation to the music scene of northern England around Newcastle upon Tyne and the surrounding region.

Realising that, through working together, they could better support live music collectively, the group launch a collaborative project to do this. The new year of 2019 sees the launch of the Northern Music Collective as it strives to support musicians in and around Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Northern Music Collective has a very simple aim: to champion music in the North East of England. To do this, the project brings together those whose love of music is their driving force; the very source of their passion. It unites us all as we work together for the benefit of the northern music scene.