Tag Archives: singer-songwriter

Laura St Jude: Artist Spotlight & Interview

Image courtesty of laurastjude.com

Laura St. Jude is a name you should take note of.

Despite the fact she’s just getting started in music, her sound is already well established. Sultry tones envelope a musical style which has been called both ‘beguiling’ and ‘flawless’ in the past. Vic Galloway listed her as ‘One to Watch in 2014’ and it’s not hard to see why; with influences such as Peggy Lee and June Carter and a look that is full of 40s style and 50s chic, Laura St Jude is someone you won’t forget in a hurry.

Suffrockgettes caught up with the singer for a chat about how an artist whose sound is steeped in musical history responds to the modern day demands of being a musician.

1. Firstly, how did it feel to be tipped by Vic Galloway as an ‘artist to watch in 2014’?

It feels great to be tipped as one of Vic’s ‘ones to watch 2014’. A few of my favourite Scottish bands are also on the list (The Amazing Snakeheads, The Rosy Crucifixion, Casual Sex and Halfrican) it feels fantastic to be on the list alongside musicians I really admire.
I write and perform with my band for myself first and foremost, as it’s what I love to do, but it’s fantastic to know that others enjoy my music too!

2. You are connected to sites like Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud. How important have they been in connecting you to your audience and establishing a wider audience?

I have a love/hate relationship with social media, but for me it’s a necessary evil. On one hand, I feel it’s a shame that artists are often obsessed with their online presence but on the flip side, it does help when connecting with others, and it’s certainly been useful for me when sharing and promoting my music – I can’t deny that.

I personally try not to focus on my online presence too much on the music front. I think the best way to connect with/widen your audience is to go out there and play as many live shows as you can – that’s really what it’s all about, you’ve got to really live it and love doing it and hopefully an audience will eventually gravitate towards you both online and offline.

3. Live music is the lifeblood for any band or musician. Do you think that people (fans/general public) are still as interested in the local live music scene and discovering new bands at a grassroots level?

Yes, I still think there is great interest in local live music. Of course, audiences have changed and lessened through time but I do think there are plenty of people out there who love to attend live shows and I’m really thankful for those people.

There are a lot of great bands in Glasgow/Scotland at the moment that have generated audiences and have given their fans something to be excited about. I personally love discovering new local talent and I’ve recently attended gigs that have genuinely blown my mind, especially when witnessing the audiences and their enthusiasm towards the bands/artists at the shows. It’s electric!

Laura St Jude performing

4. Has technology made it impossible for bands to make money from music? There’s so much choice out there and so many platforms by which to listen, isn’t it more about selling t-shirts and gig tickets nowadays than selling albums and EPs?

I don’t think it’s impossible for bands to make money but it’s certainly becoming more difficult. It’s true that people don’t buy albums/EPs as much as they used to. I personally released an EP for myself as it’s great to own a physical vinyl copy of your music; it feels like such an accomplishment to be able to hold your own record in your hand – even if nobody buys it.

I do agree though, if you’re involved in music purely for money, you’ve got the wrong idea. It’s not impossible but it takes a combination of real talent, hard work and luck to make a career out of music. I admire anyone who continues to record and release records despite the decline in record sales. Although it’s a tough business, there are still plenty of music fans who appreciate and support artists wholeheartedly and I love that!

5. With piracy of music still a massive issue and websites such as Spotify offering a pittance to artists for streaming their work, do you feel in some ways that music has lost its value to the current generation of music fans?

To an extent, yes I do. Music is so accessible now; people are able to stream/download music free of charge and at the touch of a button. I feel like people often take it for granted. There’s definite beauty in going out to a record shop or attending a live show and purchasing a record, you appreciate it more and it becomes a possession that you really love and care for, not to mention you’re supporting musicians by giving them the money they deserve.

I think when people download music and use platforms such as Spotify, music can become less significant to the listener as it’s too easily accessible, but unfortunately, you’ve just got to adapt and roll with the times, there’s nothing we can do about these things. We’ve just got to get by, do what we love and hope for the best.

6. It has been said before that there is now no middle ground in terms of the structuring of bands/artists – you’re either massive – like Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys – or your struggling to make ends meet. Would you agree with this statement or is the outlook for musicians in 2014 much brighter than that?

I think from the outside that how it might seem but it’s not necessarily the case. There are artists out there who aren’t too well known, who are signed to record labels and are making a comfortable living out of music, but I do agree that a larger percentage of musicians are generally struggling to make ends meet.

I think there’s hope for artists in 2014, I’ve witnessed some amazing new bands who I think could really make a change.

7. Are record companies becoming obsolete due to the ability of artists to become their own PR and distribution machine?

I wouldn’t say so. I think that although many artists do act as their own PR and distribution machine, they would rather accept record label support, if they were offered a deal by the correct label for them. It seems to me that most artists want to be picked up by a label so that they are able to make a living out of doing what they love.

8. Are Facebook likes and Twitter shares now more important to bands than record sales?

There’s definitely a hint of that nowadays and it’s something I really can’t stand! I think there’s even ways to generate fake Facebook ‘likes’ by purchasing them, which I think is absurd. Some bands treat music like a popularity contest and focus too much on the interest they generate online rather than going out there and interacting with their audience face to face.

I know plenty of musicians who only have a couple of hundred ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ and I often prefer their music to artists who have thousands of online fans. For me, it says nothing about the quality of the music, you can’t judge a band until you attend a live show or buy/listen to their music. I can’t speak for every musician, but I personally take no interest in counting my followers online. For me, that’s not what music is about.

9. How important will social media be in developing your fan base in the future?

Without a doubt, technology and social media is only going to become more prominent, it’s certainly something I will continue to use to help me reach an audience and to communicate with fellow music fans.

Social media will never be more important than song-writing, performing and releasing records for me, but it will always be beneficial for connecting with anyone who enjoys my music. The Internet is also fantastic for music blogs and music journalism, its great having the ability to discover new bands via these platforms.

10. Do you think the relationship between bands/musicians and their fans has changed because of social media and technology?

I’m not really sure; it depends on the artist/band really. Some bands chose to focus on using social media excessively to communicate with their fans. Others use it simply as a platform to post gig updates and promote records. Different bands connect with their audiences in their own ways. It’s undeniable that the Internet/technology has had a major effect on the music business and musicians themselves.

Laura St Jude’s debut EP ‘Fatal’ is available to buy now via Oligo Records on vinyl, CD or download here.

To find out more go to: www.laurastjude.com or visit her on Facebook or SoundCloud

 

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Misogyny in Music

In September 2013 Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry penned a piece for the Guardian entitled, ‘I will not accept online misogyny.’ It was a piece aimed squarely at the barrage of messages the singer was receiving daily via the band’s social media pages, both in response to innocent posts the band were making regarding their music and by men generally just messaging the page and being sexually explicit towards the singer.

Just one of the misogynistic messages Chvrches Facebook page was receiving.

In the article, Mayberry pointed out that, ‘the number of offensive messages directed towards me, “the girl singer,” compared to my bandmates is undeniably higher.’ She went on to make clear that whilst she accepts that she’s in a position whereby criticism and response are to be expected, that no woman should ever have to accept messages of the nature she was experiencing.

Since the piece was published, Chvrches Facebook page no longer has a message function. Suffrockgettes can’t confirm whether the decision to take this feature away was based on the types of message the band, and Lauren, were receiving. The timing does seem to suggest that the band who were ‘born on the internet’ have simply decided that enough is enough.

Misogyny in music is nothing new. In fact, it’s practically as old as popular music itself. In 1955 Elvis Presley released a song called, Baby Let’s Play House, ‘I’d rather see you dead little girl/ than be with another man.’ A lot has changed in the 50-odd years since this song’s release but the misogyny debate still rages on.

Singer/songwriter Lou Hickey is a woman who holds an opinion. She’s carved her own path in the music industry since her first EP release back in 2007. As well as her own solo success, she spent a couple of years working with Fratellis frontman Jon Lawler in Codeine Velvet Club. Her roles with both Club Noir’s highly popular burlesque nights and as vocal supporter for the Yes Scotland Campaign mean that Hickey is absolutely aware she’s a prime candidate for criticism and attack:

‘The music industry is very male dominated. That’s why I made sure I was as educated as possible in what I was trying to do. I think being a singer, and also working for a burlesque club, I am in the line of fire. I just work hard and try to take it in my stride, be confident and smile.’

It hasn’t always been as easy as taking it in her stride though. Back in 2008 when Hickey announced her professional partnership with the Fratellis frontman, not everyone celebrated her achievement:

‘Not long after Codeine Velvet Club were signed, I had heard that a known Glasgow musician was claiming I had got my record deal because I had slept with someone. That was probably the most hurtful thing to me, because I had worked so hard just to get to that point and sacrificed so much financially and mentally. Jealousy is a horrible thing and I hated that he used such a cheap angle because I was female.’

Misandry, the male equivalent of misogyny, could be said to be just as prevalent in today’s music culture. When pop singer Kesha arrived on the scene, her debut album was all about shock value and blurring gender values. One track from the album, Blah Blah Blah contains the verse:

‘I don’t really care where you live at

Just turn around boy and let me hit that

Don’t be a little bitch with your chit chat

Just show me where your dick’s at.’

There was no furore surrounding the song. Skip to three years later and the release of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and the outrage coming from religious, social, and women’s rights groups around the world was deafening. The song was subsequently banned in university campuses across the UK. Is this double standards?

Lou Hickey explains it like this: ‘I think because it has been such a struggle for women for so long, we are at a point where we are more confident confronting it now.’

How we’re confronting it depends on where it’s taking place. The rise in popularity of social media has meant that sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been criticised for their handling of misogynistic content. But with one billion users globally, how can Facebook possibly police that amount of traffic?

There are groups who have taken it upon themselves to name and shame those responsible for this type of content. Set up in 2012, Rapebook is a social media page on Facebook, which allows users to post links to pages and people deemed to be misogynistic. It currently has just under 7000 likes.

In contrast, The Everyday Sexism Project has had global success. It ‘exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis,’ and does so by allowing women across the world to post instances when they’ve felt they’ve been treated in a sexist way.

The Everyday Sexism Project Twitter page

But are these sites making a difference? When Suffrockgettes asked for your opinion on how misogyny should be tackled online, the responses were mixed:

‘Tighter monitoring, on specific degrading words, and the people who use them against others.’

‘To be honest, I have no idea! As always, education may be the key, especially getting the aggressors to understand what they are doing to their victims online, and the mental harm that they cause.’

‘Wide spread media should censor extremist views in order to tackle attitudes and in turn misogyny will, over time, be a thing of the past.’

‘Strong reporting measures, ban those guilty from forums/social media’

Some of the Suffrockgettes responses to ‘What Should be done to tackle online Misogyny, January 2014

The view of banning those caught making misogynistic remarks is one Lou Hickey shares: ‘I think social media needs to take some responsibility and not back away from these issues. It needs to be moderated. Personally, I think anyone sending any form of hate mail/messages should be removed.’

However, just like Chvrches, Hickey is aware that if it weren’t for social media she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in today: ‘I don’t think I would have a career now if it wasn’t for social media. I went from being signed to a major label to going it on my own. Social media has allowed me to reach my fan base directly and release and promote my own album.’

In a music landscape where Lily Allen is releasing a song like Hard Out Here, aimed at tackling misogyny in the music industry and complete with accompanying video which sees the words ‘Lily Allen has a baggy pussy’ spelled out in balloons, we also have Miley Cyrus. At 21, the sexual content of both her video’s and lyrics leaves little to the imagination.

Allen’s attempts at equalising the field may have slightly miss-fired but at least she’s trying right? Perhaps this issue isn’t how men respond to women in the industry but how we promote ourselves.

Miley Cyrus

Suffrockgettes wants to know your opinion on this debate. Get involved via the comments below!

(Suffrockgettes wishes to thank Lou Hickey for her time.)

Lou Hickey has just announced a show at Glasgow’s o2 ABC. For more information and to buy tickets click here.

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Chvrches Reveal first signing to Goodbye Records

Promising Derry singer signs record deal with Scottish band’s newly established record label.

Female fronted, Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches have just announced their first major signing to newly established record label Goodbye Records.

Young Talent

Derry born singer SOAK, was revealed via Twitter as the independent label’s first act. The label, which was set up in conjunction with Virgin Records tweeted early last week that it had signed the young singer.

The label added to this on the 29th of January when it tweeted:

The 17-year old singer-songwriter has been making waves since the release of two EPs in the space of a year.

SOAK – aka Bridie Monds-Watson – only picked up a guitar some four years ago but despite this has found critical acclaim with songs such as Fingers Crossed from her Sea Creature’s EP.

“Soak’s sound has snippets of Cat Power and the delicacy of Lykke Li to it, despite her citing Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and ABBA as her main influences.”

Coming soon

The singer is set to support Chvrches when they perform at an intimate show at London’s Scala on February 17th as part of the NME Awards Show.

After this SOAK will then go on to support the band during their sold out European tour in March.

No release dates for new SOAK material have been revealed as yet, with the singer’s official website only stating that her newest EP, entitled Blud, will be available soon.

However, Goodbye Records have announced details of the first single to come from the singer, which is also entitled Blud.

Hometown hero

SOAK has become well known in her native country due to a string of festival appearances last summer and was previously signed to Universal in early 2013.

Her sound is said to evoke, ‘snippets of Cat Power and delicacy of Lykke Li, despite her citing Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and ABBA as her main influences.’

Label owners, Chvrches, fronted by Lauren Mayberry, formed in 2011 and came fifth in the BBCs sound of 2013 list of the most promising new music talent.

Their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, reached the UK Top 10 as well as reaching number 12 in the US charts.

Article by Kirsty Fraser

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