Sunday, 7 July 2013

Robert DeLong: The Indie Calvin?

According to Nigel Harding (Radio 1 Executive) Robert Delong is the Indie Calvin. A sloppy description I believe but I see the point. He does sing on his own club production...

That aside, Robert Delongs first big offering called Global Concepts gives us an insight into his background of EDM and House whilst his Indie influences come across in his laid back vocals. The main synth line is typical of the genre but what makes his track stand out is the rhythmic elements.

Besides the four on the floor kick pattern, his use of percussive synths and hat samples and what sounds like a djembe that run in and out of the track provide some interesting grooves. Then of course there is the snare! Very few producers would be daring enough to put such a bombastic sound into a dance track but it gives the song something to stand out against all the other Indie House acts that pop up every few weeks.

DeLong has a background in percussion having studied drums at Azusa Pacific University, his interest in percussion and rhythm makes his music come into its own and seems to put it on another level to the barrage of EDM tracks that plague the airwaves. Besides he himself looking like a bit of an addict, his orange X gives him some great branding that his fans have taken to painting on themselves at gigs.

Whether he will really break into the mainstream music is yet to be discovered but I think on the strength of his latest EP/Album "Movements", he will be creeping more and more onto our iPods and Spotify playlists.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Writing with Sarah Proctor

Meeting someone that you've never even spoken to before and knowing that you've got to spend five days in a room creating material that is hopefully going to be ending up on a record is always daunting. However, I imagine travelling from one end of the country to work with two people who speak and work with each other in a daily basis, and having to find a voice in the tracks we were setting out to create has got to be an even more daunting thought. Luckily for us, Sarah Proctor has got to be one of my favourite people to work with as a songwriter and we all seemed to hit it off quite quickly.

Miss Proctor is a blank canvas sound wise which meant we got to spend some time trawling through our cyber record collections picking apart artists that we like and finding production ideas that we felt would represent her in the right way. Rather refreshingly for me, Sarah isn't out there to create your standard top forty four on the floor type pop and I got to experiment with big dirty dubstep style synths with symphonic orchestras and more interesting drum patterns and ideas.

Sound wise, if you threw in Lana Del Ray, Ellie Goulding and Rihanna into one little Northern songstress you would probably start to get a good idea of the mixture of influences that are going into this record. A big starting point was looking at experimental DJ remixes of Mikki Ekko and capturing a darker element of solid pop songs. It was good to stray away from big string synths and over zealous harmonies for a sound that is a bit more elegant and focused on lyrics and story telling.

So far the feedback from both our management has been good and we're talking about some more dates to write more tracks for the EP or album as well as potentially putting a music video together. However, for now, keep an eye out for some acoustic videos from Sarah Proctor appearing on YouTube very soon!!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Ria Ritchie: I Feel Close When You're Next to me

Younger Sister of actor Reece Ritchie (10,000 BC and Prince of Persia), Ria Ritchie is a singer songwriter hailing from the most easterly point of the UK.

Another YouTube starlet she reached over 11million views of her pop covers and then went on to have a seemingly ideal run of collaborations, writing with Plan B and creating a studio partnership with one of Pixie Lott's writers, Ruth Anne Cunningham. She then gathered the attention of Jay Z's business partner Jay Brown (who had discovered Rihanna and Ne-Yo) and was signed in 2011 to Takeover Entertainment and Jay Z's label Roc Nation.

Ria then released the anthemic single "Only One"in May of 2012 and promised an Album in February of 2013.

The song is great, her vocals are on top form, she has all the right people behind her so why haven't you heard of her yet? I can only believe its a timing and PR thing because everything about this amazingly talented singer songwriter screams chart topping hits and success. However, for some reason people haven't quite caught on... yet.

Her latest "release" on YouTube displays a stripped back acoustic rendition of "Wrong Side of Paradise" which is testament to her songwriting ability. I think we definitely have a lot more to hear from Ria Ritchie and I really do hope there is an album coming. I for one am looking forward to hearing it and hope that the BBC R1 playlist execs catch on to it to. Ria is there and just needs the exposure that will make her career fly!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lauren Aquilina: Fools

After hearing the Berkshire based singer/songwriter on BBC Radio Ones Introducing I almost immediately had to look her song and EP "Fools" up on Spotify to have a listen. A lot of great acts come up through BBCR1 introducing but very few sound so complete and as finished as Lauren Aquilina.

Lauren made her name the way that so many pop stars are now doing on YouTube performing covers and originals on the social networking site developing a strong fan base and eventually getting some recognition.

Still only a 17 year old school girl Lauren is juggling her time between school work and sold out shows of which I haven't got a ticket :( and has her career being handled by some of the best people and companies in the business. Her music itself is a great blend of influences from the XX to Ellie Goulding and it seems that "Fools" is a great start to Lauren finding her niche and making her mark in the pop world.

I'm genuinely excited about watching Lauren's career blossom. Despite her age she has a very confident EP with a sound that seems to represent her songwriting style perfectly. A lot of songwriters and Artists who get noticed at a young age are pushed into different styles and sounds and are produced into perfectly manicured and manufactured pop stars but Lauren has managed to get this far without compromising on her integrity and most of all, from her twitter account it seems like she is having a lot of fun with it too.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fall Out Boy: "So Light 'em Up!"

Since their "From Under The Cork Tree" period and the release of songs like "Dance, Dance" and "Sugar, We're Going Down" I have had quite a fondness of Fall Out Boy and their own brand of Post-Skate-Punk-Come-Indie-Come-Rock-Pop (no that isn't a genre I've completely made up...). At the time I was heavily involved in the heavy metal scene as a musician and so they became a bit of the horrifically coined "Guilty Pleasure" along with early Blink 182 and Sum41's first album and now they are back stronger than ever with what has to be my favourite release to date from this Illinois quartet.

Guitar music has been kind of missed from sorely from the Radio One culture but Fall Out Boy are shoving it back in our faces with their bombastic and high octane single "My Songs Know what you Did in The Dark". Bad song title aside, musically this the most interesting and well produced release of theirs and the vocals are beyond cool from the repetition to the big anthemic chants and whaling guitar-esque falsetto of the chorus.

NME predicted that this is going to be a big year for guitars and if this song is the start of a trend for 2013 I for one will be happy. This song is everything good rock should be. Catchy, driving and most of all, as BIG AS HELL. I will be looking forward to the full album "Save Rock and Roll" release on April 15th 2013.

Monday, 25 February 2013

It's All Just Good Conversation

If it wasn't for music I probably wouldn't have any friends... seriously.

Every relationship I have revolves around music and over the years I've developed a network of friends  who all have an incredible talent or a high level of expertise in their own niche within the music industry. I don't think I meant to do this and it certainly hasn't been a calculated thing but I have kept in touch with very few friends who weren't useful to me musically.

It sounds like a cold or horrible thing to admit but all of my best mates are the ones I "work" with most either recording their music, writing songs or performing with them. One of my best friends who I talk to on almost a daily basis is my songwriting partner and co-founder of XS7Music and although I love him immensely as a person, if he wasn't such a talented writer I probably wouldn't even be in touch with him at all.

I came to this realisation last night when another one of my closest friends came over to my flat after an intense weekend to wind down, chat and drink whisky. We spent most of the evening sharing new artists we had discovered and depleting my single malt collection and for me, this is the only kind of conversation that is acceptable and interesting to me. Everything else can seem like hard work.

These are the types of conversations I have on a daily basis with highly passionate people about a highly passionate and diverse industry. I've had friends call me and keep me on the phone for an hour or so just to talk about a musician they've found and I'm constantly outstaying my welcome because the person I'm speaking to absolutely must hear and see every video released by an artist I've just discovered.

Maybe I am highly calculated on some level and dismiss friends who I don't feel are useful, or maybe (and I hope that this is actually the case) I just like passionate people who I can talk to for hours about an industry I have given my entire life to.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Ellie Goulding: "It Will Never be the Same"

Anyone that has hung around me for longer than 5 minutes knows that I am hopelessly in love with Ellie Goulding and if I ever had the opportunity to work with musically or otherwise, I would certainly die a very happy man. Her latest single "Explosions" only deepens my love for her soft, childlike vocals and her perfect blend of folk song craft and bombastic electronica.

The video for "Explosions" does exactly what every good pop music does, it makes you want to be part of the experience. It leads you to imagine that being her would be a perfect existence and for me only deepens the dream of working with her as songwriter or producer.

The black and white nostalgic tour feel of the video brings back my own memories of being on tour with a group of musicians who inevitably turn into your best friends and then your family. Spending six months to year with the same people performing every night creates an unbreakable bond between musicians and this video captures that perfectly. Although this is definitely the "Ellie Goulding Show", the band look like they are genuinely some of her best friends and unlike a lot of popstar tour videos, this looks like the real deal.

Ellie Goulding has come a long way from her roots playing "Starry Eyed" in cool west London music venues and I think she has a lot more to give. After her first album I was unsure whether she would be able to progress her sound in an ever changing musical soundscape that is the pop industry. However, her lastest musical delivery "Halycon" demonstrates a more mature grasp of songwriting and maybe showcases a lot more of her love for folk as well as more experimental electronica sounds.

For those that have missed Ellie Goulding's existence over the last few years (not sure how you could)...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Spotify Playlist: Great Songwriting

I wanted to share a playlist with any of my readers that also use Spotify. I'm personally a huge fan of Spotify and being able to discover great music. I like nothing better than putting together playlists of great music.

This playlist in particular is all about the songwriting. I don't care about the genre although most of this fits neatly within the Pop category with a few cool outsiders, but these songs are all tracks that I believe showcase amazing songwriting. For me, a great song could be arranged on just a guitar and vocals and still touch that place that amazing music touches.

Obviously the emphasis is on songs and not tracks or production so there's no dubstep, trance or maybe some more artistic experiments in music. Just good vocal melodies and lyrics that stir up the soul in some way. There are some modern top forties, old classics and relatively unknowns all thrown in there and I'm open to all and any suggestions if you want to comment.

Follow the link to subscribe to this ever growing and evolving list of music and let me know what you think.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Charles Bradley: Why is it so hard, to make it in America?

I was introduced to Charles Bradley a few days ago rather passionately by a friend who phoned me up one evening just to tell me Charles' life story, and what a story!

His music evokes passion, pain and the kind of love only a beaten down soul can ever feel, his voice screaming of injustice and angst and the message is clear, it's been a hard old life. No-one but Charles Bradley could tell his story in quite the same way.

Charles, who only met his mother when he was 8 ran away from home in his teens and lived on the streets, eventually picking up jobs as a chef. Hugely inspired after seeing a James Brown performance as a child he started mimicking the moves and the voice but was too afraid to do this in public. He did eventually get the courage to start performing but this was short lived as his band were drafted for the Vietnam war.

Eventually he was getting regular work as a performer with his James Brown tribute act but life was full setbacks such as nearly dying in Hospital after being given penicillin and hearing the news of his brothers murder.

It was eventually in 2002 that he was noticed by  Gabriel Roth, founder of Daptone Records and he invited to write with the house band. This led to his 2011 release "No Time For Dreaming". Since then he has been touring under the Charles Bradley moniker, injecting his own brand of soul/funk/RnB into the live scene.

For me, Charles Bradley is the epitome of race and class struggle in America. His voice comes from a place that no young singer could ever hope to reach. His live performances captured beautifully on film (and plastered all over YouTube) are the best way to really see the enigma and charm of his performances and given half the chance, I would lay in bed all day listening to his powerful, screaming voice and down to earth and sincere lyrics of hardship, pain and persistence.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Allen Stone: "The Best Effing Voice I've Ever Heard"

Allen Stone has to be one of the few people doing soul these days who's doing it right! His band are horrifically groovy, his voice is beyond incredible and he looks... well he looks but that doesn't matter when you write and sound this spectacular!

Performed and filmed live in his mum's living room Allen Stone steps up and show's us why soul and R&B is still relevant in todays musical landscape. His fierce grimaces show an intensity that is already clear in his vocal and "Unaware" doesn't stop building until the climatic ending which leaves you gagging for a cigarette or a good strong whisky.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Keaton Henson: I Miss the Space Between your Eyelids

This isn't exactly new news but Keaton Henson has become my latest obsession after being introduced to his music last week by Pete (other half of XS7 Music). His vocals have been compared to Jeff Buckley and writing to that of Bon Ivor and I really think he is an unappreciated gem of British songwriting.

The video to Small Hands offers only a glimpse into his obscure and reclusive world and his vocals tell a tale of many night alone with just his thoughts and possibly a few too many bottles of red wine. The bittersweetness of his music is something I think you rarely find outside of the UK and I doubt his music goes further than this small island and our soho coffee bars and backstreet art galleries.

Keaton is every bit the character he portrays, so cripplingly shy he rarely interviews in any way other than by email, where his responses are mostly drawn and his first shows were at an exhibition where he would only perform to one person at a time as they poke their head through a hole in the installation. This was music that was never meant to be heard but once it was in the public domain there was no stopping it develop a strong cult following.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Introducing Sarah Proctor

Really excited to announce that we have just finalised dates for Sarah Proctor, a talented young singer from the UK, to come down to the XS7 hub in Brighton. We're looking forward to co-writing and producing her debut EP which will be released later this year.

Go follow her on twitter @SarahProctor1
and on Instagram @sarahproctor

Sunday, 3 February 2013

View From a Sunday Morning Run

Next Big Thing; Jetta

Jetta has to be one of the coolest up and coming artist out there. I saw her live over a year ago at the Notting Hill Arts Club when she was singing with one band member playing the electric guitar, a combination that I think never usually works, however even then she was mesmerising and the songs blew me away.

It's been a good year for Jetta having signed with Polydor Records and A1 Models and she's now working on her debut album which I'm pretty excited to hear, and I never get excited about records anymore. For me she sounds like what Emile Sandè wants to sound like. A perfect blend of great pop writing and contemporary production giving the impression that she won't change for the industry, the industry has to change for her. - download Jetta's single here

Saturday, 2 February 2013

It's Been a While...

... and a lot has happened.

I'm writing this whilst listening to the new edits of the XIISkies single, a small but interesting music project from a percussionist called Evan Carson. It's prog and so by its very nature, taking forever to finish.

Me and Pete are busy with a couple of music projects and I'm quite excited about working with Sarah Proctor on her debut EP in a couple of weeks.

XS7 Music is starting to become a thing, something tangible and worthy of its own existence and it seem we are well on our way to becoming not as starving as before musicians.

I'm getting married... craziness!? I bought a stone for her engagement ring that comes from space. Sometimes my own geekiness burns a hole in my pocket...

And I have a cat... She is mental...