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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).