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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Philip Jonathan

Hello. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
In a nutshell, it’s cinematic folk – or Ben Howard at the front and Sigur Ros at the back! I spend a lot of time in the hills or on the coast and this inspires a lot of my writing. So I tend to like these earthy, organic folk sounds sitting on top of wide open spaces and atmospheres created by orchestral and electronic sounds.


You’ve just released your debut EP titled “Pluma”. What is the story behind the EP and its title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
Pluma” (‘feather’ in Latin) is about searching for hope in the highest, lowest and most mundane moments in life. The tie for me between a feather and the concept of hope goes back some way. Chokehold came about through the grief of losing a close friend who passed from cancer a few years ago. As he got more unwell, he kept on seeing feathers everywhere, and this prompted him each time to remember things to be thankful for and to live in the moment – that things were going to be okay. He was someone of faith and for him, existence was bigger than the life lived here so he had a different perspective. I worked the feather into most of the music videos – leading the woman to the shore in Seafront, behind the sunflower at the end of I, Hope, and all the bird-feeders in In the Garden. The artist who made the cover art, Goutham Tulasi, had shared with me how Seafront had accompanied his journey making peace with his father’s death. He suggested having a flower bursting from the end of the feather. Even after the feather has fallen from the bird: its story isn’t over yet. 

I couldn’t pin down any one thing that influences my music and writing. Often I find writing songs is a way to authentically examine some of the questions I ask myself. But a recurring theme in that process is a search for some kind of redemption – to find meaning and beauty in the middle of some of these struggles.

We really enjoy your music and had the pleasure of seeing you play at a Sofar Sounds event in Gateshead. What have been career highlights for you so far?
The day I released my first track, Seafront, stands out for me – the amount of messages I received from friends and total strangers about it was totally overwhelming! It took me about a week of near-constant messaging to reply to them all. That was a huge moment for me after years of not sharing so much of this music to realise that people actually valued what I was making. After that, another big milestone has got to be the gigs around the “Pluma” release. I played Sofar NE, sold out my first headliner for the launch gig and played to a packed room in Berwick the week after. It was both humbling and surreal to realise that so many people were coming out to support me! I’ve always wanted to play at Sofar – they have the best audiences, so that was really special. At the launch gig, the crowd started singing along to In the Garden – Alicia (my backing singer) and I were so surprised that we forgot all the lyrics! We had a good laugh about it on stage and managed to carry on though.


Do you have any plans for the year ahead that you would like to share with us? Also, what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
The next few months are about taking time to allow creative ideas to bubble up again. The last year has been so intense learning how to self-promote, use social media, send out press releases etc. that I’ve had almost no time for the most important bit – songwriting! But I’ve already been back in studio getting started on the next EP. I hope to be finishing off that through the Summer and Autumn, whilst getting out and playing as many gigs as I can in the meantime! Expect some new releases towards the back end of the year/early 2023.

What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
I recently wrote a piece on just this for the fantastic local music Zine ‘Every Day is a Rhythm’ – you can read it here: https://t.co/8JuMtQ62v2. But in summary: Figure out what drives you and what your internal metrics of success are – the things which aren’t dependent on anyone else. Don’t make art about numbers or what other people are saying, make it about what moves you or you’ll probably burn (or sell) out. Second – and I’m still on the learning journey here – don’t compare yourself up or down. Celebrating and championing those around you is a great antidote to the urge to compare yourself to others.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
There’s a few most established artists who massively inspire my sound that I’d love to plug. The Staves are phenomenal live. Also, if you like any of my music, I thoroughly recommend Roo Panes, Matthew and the Atlas, the Paper Kites, the Oh Hellos and Francis Luke Accord.

However… locally (as I’ve recently been discovering!) we have some phenomenal talent. I’m a particular fan of Benjamin Amos live (so much energy!), Tom Joshua (can’t wait for him to release more music), Jodie Nicholson (a rising star + beautiful vocals) Matt Hunsley (cracking vocals and interesting arrangements) and Ceitidh Mac (some serious music there). I also saw Faithful Johannes live recently and I can say it was a unique and truly extraordinary experience.

Follow Philip Jonathan on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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Artist Interviews

Artist Interview: Keiran Bowe

Hello, Keiran. In your own words, how would you describe your sound and style?
I always find it difficult to answer this one, I like the lyrics to stand out, I’m writing about my past and what I’ve learnt in such a short space of time but at the same time, they are lyrics that I think people can relate to. It’s then about creating a sound around those lyrics, either a catchy riff/beat people can move along too or just chords that allow for people to be able to sing words back.


Big things have been happening to you since the release of your latest single: “Hinny”. What is the story behind the song and it’s title? What themes and ideas influence your music and writing?
I tend to write my songs in an almost chronological order, of events that have taken place in my late teen years and having to grow up quick. “Hinny”, in particular, comes at one of the most difficult times of my life, where things could have panned out a lot different to what they did. Without going into detail, it’s almost a reassurance message to a mother worrying about her son, as if to say “Look I know it may feel like the worlds crumbling around you but he’s gonna be alright”.


You’ve been busy, playing a steady stream of live shows around the north east. What has it been like playing gigs through the year and what gigs do you have in the diary for 2022?
It’s the busiest me and the lads have ever been, as hectic as it’s been it’s definitely been the best few months we’ve had as a band. Seeing packed out venues, seeing new faces and meeting some incredible artists, you can’t beat it. We’ve a load of stuff booked for 2022 some of which haven’t been announced so I’ve got to keep hush about those. We’ve a one off close to home gig at the Thomas Wilson social club on 11th Feb, The Green Room in Stockton 5th March and a headliner at The Cluny 2 on 2ndApril.


Have you had much of a chance to look ahead to the new year? If so, what plans do you have and what would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
Now we’ve got mgmt, everything is a lot more organised. Credit to them they really have worked wonders for us so far. We plan to keep the ball rolling, a new single 25th February, which is, probably the best yet. Following on from that it’s literally gigs gigs gigs, graft and gigs.


What advice do you have specifically for other north east artists? And what advice do you have for artists in general?
The north east scene is something I’m so proud to be part of. The talent is insane. Network would be my first advice, get to know those on the scene, get to know venues and the guys that run them, there’s people who can help you on your way. Then it would be just to take every opportunity you’re able to take, and at the same time, go watch other local artists and show them the support. It goes a long way.


Lastly, what artists are on your radar that you would recommend others listen to & see live?
I need to get out and tick a few people off the bucket list, we’re talking BigFatBig, Club Paradise, A Festival A Parade, Lizzie Esau. Those who are a must see live, Motel Carnation, Kate Bond, Elizabeth Liddle, Palma Louca and Don Cayote.

Follow Keiran Bowe on socials: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Simon Shaw (KU Promotions)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
Hey, I’ve been active since I was 18 years old as a musician, I think I put my first gig on when I was 22 as a promoter? I’m 33 years old now, it’s been a long long time. My main role is co-promoter over at KU Promotions alongside Jimmy Beck but I also am a rep for other gigs and even more recently also take photos/videos of gigs. Bass playing wise I’ve played in a fair few projects most notably Cape Cub but currently playing with ‘Travis Shaw’ and ‘Church, Honey’ with a couple others TBA (that’s a promoter joke but also true).


How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
I’ll speak mainly as a promoter from now on as that’s been my full-time work for so long and probably more interesting than wanting to perform on stage ‘because it’s class’. I wanted to put gigs on because I wanted my mates to have somewhere to play at the start.  I did everything myself to keep the costs down to please the venue owner at the time which meant setting up, doing the sound, taking little breaks away from the desk to take photos and serve some drinks if the bar was busy. I did that four, sometimes five nights a week for three years. I do think I’m still here because I’m very honest and friendly and people can see I’m horribly working class, I’m not from money in fact my parents were both disabled growing up. I am a people pleaser and somewhat live my happiness through the events I put on. I love live music, I don’t think there’s anything better than a dead good gig.


What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
If you’re wanting to be a promoter I’d say find your local small venues, go in and watch the gigs as early as possible, maybe turn up at the door time. Stay as long as you are allowed and watch and take in what’s happening. Usually these gigs have the lowest overheads so speak to the owner of the building and see how feasible it would be to put a night on and explain it’ll be your first. Thankfully the buzz with your mates about your first promoted gig will be enough to fill a small room but then comes the graft. Little tips that always work is to keep the bands happy with expectations of what the gig is and how sales are going. Keep your engineers happy by sticking to planned timings and give them enough space and time to work. Keep everyone safe and most importantly, look after yourself. It’s a tough craft at times because the buck literally stops at you, if an event fails it’s because you didn’t get it right and that’s okay.


What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
I think the word wholesome is the vibe for me. I love seeing people succeed in their own expectations. My favourite thing is listening to people talk about something they really care about and the music world is full of those kinds of people.


Are there any upcoming events that you’re especially excited about and, if so, why?
The big one we’re promoting this year is a new music festival in Stockton called The Gathering Sounds festival. The best way to describe it to gig going fans is that it is a very slightly smaller Stockton Calling festival. Six stages all in established music venues like Georgian Theatre, ARC and KU itself. We’ve got This Feeling and Under The Influence promoters curating their own stages at this years festival. The line-ups announced please do check out because I could write a book about them all by now, headliners are Red Rum Club, Sophie and the Giants and The Mysterines, Du Blonde and Himalayas. It really feels like this is the year for a bloody big all day music festival ey?


Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
My personal social media accounts are full of my work or you can check out KU Stockton on the usual places, I’m over at @SimonShawBass. Always happy to answer questions and I love a good natter so if you spot me at a gig let’s chat. Thanks very much for the questions Northern Music Collective.
KU Stockton: Facebook | Simon: Instagram & Twitter

Categories
Industry Interviews

NMC Guest: Bekka (The Tyne Tribe)

How long have you been active in the north east music scene and what do you do?
Oooh. This is a hard question to answer as I’ve been in and out for years, ha! But if we’re focusing on what I do currently, then I would say since the start of 2021.

I had the idea of wanting to create a newsletter database for gig-listings for when the world is out of the pandemic. I got too excited and launched The Tyne Tribe on International Women’s Day. In it’s current form, it’s best described as a curated newsletter of some of my favourite musical discoveries from the North East who I call “The Tribe” (I spent four years in London so I’m basically re-educating myself) and it also features some small-scale reviews, shares other publications articles’ and songs I’m currently listening to.

As lockdown restrictions ease it will focus more towards listings, events and music news but for now I am enjoying sharing some of our regions best talent and being able to provide another platform to shout about how wicked everyone is.

How did you become involved in music and what have you done to get where you are today?
So I used to have a couple of online zines from around 2011-2015 that focused more on promoting acts from the UK and USA rather than necessarily regionally. I went to University in Sunderland though, so had some very ad-hoc single review pieces published in The Crack and on the Uni’s website as well.

But my zines helped me land an internship at Sony Music so I moved down south and worked on various releases including Blue, Judas Priest, Carrie Underwood and Live Lounge. After my year was up I moved to a digital agency where I spent three years creating social strategies and album campaigns for Ward Thomas, Calum Scott, Tom Walker, Years & Years, The xx, Ellie Goulding and loads more! It was a brilliant experience and I loved seeing the real industry side of things that seems to be hidden to us Northerners.

After four years down south I decided to come back up North and for a while I didn’t do too much. I was briefly involved with Sofar Sounds and also did some live music photography which is a big passion of mine, but only this year did I decide to properly get back into the scene because I miss it so much and it’s also grown bloody loads which is amazing.

What advice would you offer to others looking to be more involved in music?
Just go for it. Regardless of what area you want to get into whether its writing, photography, promotions, playing in a band –  just give it a go. I spent years being scared to network because I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously so have the confidence to fight for whatever it is you want and as long as you work hard you’ll get there. Also be nice to people, the music industry is way smaller than you think and connections are everything.

What are your favourite things about the north east music scene? Are there any particular highlights from your experiences?
The people. Honestly, I know everyone says it but it’s so true. I haven’t got a lot of connections in the North because I was too scared to make any before I moved (so hiya if you’re reading this, let’s grab a beer) but since I have started The Tyne Tribe you can see how truly supportive everyone is of each other and it’s refreshing to see.

I think my personal highlights are just becoming more familiar with the local venues since coming home. I took them for granted before, but now they’re some of my favourite places to be.

Where can others find out more about your work and how can they get in touch?
If you’re interested in The Tyne Tribe we’re on Twitter @thetynetribe, or you can subscribe to the newsletter that goes out twice a month here (it’s free) https://www.getrevue.co/profile/thetynetribe.

If you wanna be pals with me and grab that beer, I’m at @bekkacollins on Twitter, but also still do freelance social strategy work and shoot gigs when I can www.bekkacollins.com 

Categories
Industry 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