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(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #404: ONR.

 
By on Tuesday, 27th February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Some of Britain’s musicians and bands have the unusual desire to hide their identities. As this isn’t really a thing here in America, I’ve always wondered why that was. I’ve been thinking about this more lately, considering that revealing who you are could potentially be devastating to any chance of upward mobility in the business. If you’re related to another famous artist, you run the risk of always being compared to that person: consider Pixie Geldof, the lead singer of Violet, or Jakob Dylan, Bob’s son. Maybe you’ve simply reinvented yourself under a new name and don’t want any of the baggage of your previous artistic efforts.

In an effort not to raise his ire and to keep things the way he wants them, I won’t unmask who Scottish electronic artist ONR. (pronounced “honour”) is, or who he used to play with. You can find this information online if you look hard enough. For now, enjoy the romantic air of mystery swirling around this up-and-coming songwriter whose face I hadn’t seen until last week. His anonymity is unlikely to last long: he’s signed to Capitol Records here, which suggests once he’s got an album ready to be released, we’ll be seeing his name and face around these parts much more often.

New music from ONR. has only been coming along as a teensy trickle. In 2017, he released his debut single, the brilliantly tense ‘Jericho’, described by the artist as “an old-fashioned protest song…it harbors a sort of gentle aggression throughout.” A slow-burning track, it takes the Biblical imagery of the River Jordan and being purified by the waters, before moving into more rhythmic, Depeche Mode-esque territory. In the instrumental bridge, booming synth notes skip across the keyboard, pairing complementarily with the intriguing backbeat. ONR.’s voice becomes an urgent shout, the song reaching a satisfying crescendo at its conclusion.

While follow-up single ‘Five Years Time’ has some similarities to ‘Jericho’, it’s still very much has its own identity. Its synth bombast will make any New Wave fan swoon. However, I think it’s the equal parts of vulnerability and sexiness in ONR’s voice that have the potential to cause mainstream music fans, never mind just the indie fans, weak in the knees. The lyrics seem ambiguous enough to me, as if he’s singing of human frailty and our vices, of the dark corners of our pasts and the anxiety of what will come in the future. “Is it simple, is it brave enough? / To go gentle into the cut?”

His newest single released this month, the cardiovascular workout ‘American Gods’, is ONR.’s love letter to the land of the brave. It begs the question, is he clairvoyant? Will ONR. soon be considered a musical god here in America following his live appearances at SXSW 2018? I’ll be standing by in Austin to see exactly what materialises.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, ONR.’s appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #129: Courtney Marie Andrews

 
By on Monday, 26th February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

American alt-country artist Courtney Marie Andrews left her home in Arizona at the tender age of 16, taking up a life of music and full time touring. Her official Bandcamp page shows a fairly lengthy list of early EP and LP releases, but Andrews’ major breakthrough came with her 2016 album ‘Honest Life’, which was picked up by Fat Possum/Mama Bird in the U.S. and Loose Music in the UK, and re-released in 2017.

Less than a year has passed since that release, but Andrews already has a brand new album recorded and ready to go. ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is due for release on the 23rd of March, just after Andrews’ scheduled appearance at SXSW 2018. ICYMI, we recently featured the album’s latest single ‘Kindness of Strangers’ as our Video of the Moment #2793. Andrews is one of the artists I’m most looking forward to seeing in Austin this year, and she was gracious enough to answer our set of Quickfire Questions ahead of the event.  Read on to get better acquainted . . .

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Words, Imagery, Feelings.

Is this your first time at SXSW? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I can’t believe after ten years of touring this will be my first SXSW. I’m hot-diggity ready! Ten years is too long to not attend and perform at one of the quintessential music festivals, as a full-time musician.

Of the bands who have already been announced, are there any you’re particularly interested to see? If yes, who are they and why?
I’m very excited to hear Marlon Williams play, ’cause I think he has an incredible voice. I’m also very much looking forward to playing at Luck Reunion and hear Willie [Nelson] play that night. I’ve been hearing about that part of the festival for years, and I’m very excited to finally experience it.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
I’m looking forward to rockin’ the hell out with my band and catching up with all my pals in the music world.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
I always pack one too many pairs of earrings and only ever end up wearing one pair the entire tour. Bad habit.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Depending on the night. If it’s chill, a glass of Pinot Noir. If it’s rowdy, a shot of tequila. Somewhere in the middle, I’ll go for Gin & Tonics, Whiskey Gingers, Margaritas with salt, or Manhattans. My drink of choice is very mood oriented but those are my top picks.

Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘Edelweiss’ from Sound of Music.

What was your favourite song as a child?
‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin, or ‘Blue’ by LeAnn Rimes.

What song always makes you laugh?
‘We’re Not the Jetset’ by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

What song always makes you cry?
‘River’ by Joni Mitchell.

What song reminds you of a specific memory? (For example, the first time you fell in love, the first concert you ever attended, etc. It’s up to you if you want this to be nice or naughty!)
Jerry Garcia’s entire ‘Lonesome Prison Blues’ album reminds me of the time I spent four nights on a Greyhound bus on the way to New York. I sat next to some of the nicest prostitutes and convicts, and I felt like I had lived every lyric Jerry sang about on that record. Every time I see a Greyhound bus I feel the urge to listen to that record.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Ooooh, that’s so hard. SO MANY. Off the top of my head, I’d say ‘Picture in a Frame’ by Tom Waits.

Who is your favourite artist? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer, or an actor, visual artist, etc.)
A Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin love child, in a perfect world.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I would probably try my hand at writing novels, or try and become an anthropologist. Those are careers that always seemed to hold a lot of stories in them, and I could never do something that didn’t involve a story.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
SO HARD. I’d bring Paul Robeson, ‘The Power and the Glory’, because that feels like a good album to listen to in “Heaven.”

Along with her own new album (naturally!), Andrews also recommends an upcoming release from one of her Mama Bird Recordings label mates. “The opener for my U.S. tour, Matt Dorrien, is releasing a beautiful new album on [the 27th of April]! I’d definitely look out for that one!” (NPR featured that album’s lead single ‘Baby I’m So Lost’ back in January; it’s well worth a listen.)

Andrews has a full slate of shows lined up for her time at SXSW 2018; you can keep up with her showcase appearances by checking the official SXSW 2018 schedule. Following SXSW, Andrews will hit the road with her band for live shows in the North America, Europe, and Australia. Details of her UK and Ireland shows are right back here, and a full listing of her upcoming live dates can be found on her official Web site.

Our thanks to Doug for arranging this e-mail q&a.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Culture & Stories track

 
By on Friday, 23rd February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Music is such an important part of the fabric of our lives, and the effects of the stories that music makers tell through their art often go far beyond their original inspiration and intent. In the Music Culture & Stories track of the 2018 SXSW Conference, there’s plenty for the music fan to sink her/her teeth into on the influence of song and in the many directions music can take us our minds and hearts.

Documenting Music and Musicians
Though we may not be actively thinking about it on a regular basis, those who document music, musicians and the legacy of their art and how they have done this documentation have affected the way we consume and ultimately remember the music that has moved us. In an early afternoon session on Tuesday 13 March entitled ‘LONDON ROCK: The Unseen Archive’, Alec Byrne will discuss his decade-long career as a London rock photographer. Attendees will enjoy a slideshow of his rare images of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and many other artists. These images have been stuck in an archive for almost 40 years, only resurfacing recently as part of Byrne’s book. Photographers have been some of the few in the industry who have crossed and allowed into the emotional inner sanctums of musicians, so Byrne will have some unique stories to share.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 14 March, panel session ‘Preservation & Appreciation of Album Art Today’ will discuss the effect of the size limitation of album covers in digital streaming platforms. With such a small graphic size available, how we can continue the artistic appreciation of the art form that was once so important enjoyed during the original heyday of vinyl in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Albums like The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and the banana of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ are remembered almost as much for their cover art as they are for the music they contain.

Music, Our Minds and Our Emotions
How music makes us feel is an important key to what we like and remember and what resonates with us emotionally. In ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’ on the afternoon of Saturday 17 March, University of British Columbia’s David Metzer will discuss his book The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé. Metzer believes when a ballad is written and released to the public and what is going on in the world at the time can influence how that song is experienced by the listener. Taking things on a more philosophical level, Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou of Zent Records in ‘The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters’ will provide his personal views on how artists through their songcraft “have a unique role to play as our nation comes to terms with these dark days.” (date TBA).

Two members of London rock band The Fish Police (header photo from their Facebook) have autism, and their conditions have informed the way they write music and unapologetically. Alongside staff from internationally acclaimed creative organization Heart n Soul, they will offer their unique perspective on making art in their own unique musical universe in the session ’Exploring Music Through the Lens of Neurodiversity’ early Wednesday afternoon (14 March). On a slightly different tack, local radio station KUTX will be taping their podcast This Song at SXSW 2018 on Thursday afternoon (15 March). Podcast host Elizabeth McQueen will be interviewing hip-hop artist and writer Dessa, who will describe a life-changing song and how it influenced her new album ‘Chime’. [NB: This taping will be held at the Wisteria Room at the Fairmont Hotel on 101 Red River Street and not at the Austin Convention Center.]

Iconic Venues
Some music clubs live on in memory, even long after they physically no longer exist. In
‘From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora’ on Friday 16 March, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Modern Recording artist Chris Stamey, Talking Heads members Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, and visual artist Julia Gorton will recall what made the New York City dive bar special and why it’s remembered even today.

Despite the widely reported assault on music venues across Britain by property developers, we thankfully still have venues in North America who have stood the test of time. Session ‘The Horseshoe: the Roots of Canadian Rock n’ Roll’ will explore how this venerated institution in Toronto has survived for decades and been the starting point of a career for many Canadian rock acts who then went on to stardom beyond the Great White North. Closer to home and heart for Texans, ‘The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk’ and its over 5 decades of support for live country music will be discussed on the morning of Tuesday 13 March by none other than its long-time and only proprietor James White.

Musical Legacies
In terms of American musical heroes, who casts a bigger shadow than Elvis? In a featured session on Wednesday afternoon (14 March), there will be an exciting conversation about the upcoming three-hour, two-film HBO presentation on Elvis Presley that will premiere in April and includes “a comprehensive creative journey from his childhood through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions”. The panel will include Presley’s widow Priscilla, legendary Memphis music writer and producer David Porter, director Thom Zimny and producer Jon Landau. Arguably Elvis’ counterpart in rap Tupac Shakur will be fondly remembered in ‘Still Thuggin: Tupac Relevance Over 20 Years Later’ on the afternoon of Friday 16 March.

In more recent, fast-paced times, there’s been the question of whether musical stars made through appearances on reality tv shows will live on or will they be quickly forgotten. In ‘Now What? Life After Reality TV Singing Shows’ on Saturday afternoon (17 March), Cas Haley (2007’s America’s Got Talent), Blake Lewis (6th season of American Idol) and NAKIA (1st season of The Voice) will share their experiences before, during and after appearing on millions of tv screen around America.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #403: Rhys Lewis

 
By on Thursday, 22nd February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

As I’ve mentioned in past live reviews, solo artists have to bear the brunt of all the attention thrown their way, positive and negative. I always think of a quote from George Harrison where he said he felt sorry for Elvis because Elvis didn’t have a gang of friends he did like the Beatles. I tip my hat to every singer/songwriter who has had to audition alone, in front of countless audiences of industry bigwigs, endured rejection after rejection, and made it to the other side with head and heart intact with a record deal. Massive respect. All that taken together, when I’ve discovered a young new British artist with a major label deal, I can be sure that this person has impressed an awful lot of people and must have a lot of potential. It was this potential I heard listening to the songs by Rhys Lewis. I don’t think he has even hit the age of 25 yet, roughly around the same age as the Beatles when they were discovered. However, Lewis has one thing the Beatles famously never did: he got a deal with Decca Records.

The now London-based artist didn’t become a success overnight. Originally from Oxfordshire, Lewis started playing in a covers band with his brother, eventually moving up to performing alone at local open mic nights. Like many aspiring musicians in America, he worked in food service in pubs and credits those days with strengthening his work ethic. He’s also had the opportunity to travel and work in international studios, which have no doubt moulded his songwriting style. In late 2016, Decca released his debut single ‘Waking Up Without You’, the bluesy hit shooting up to the top of Spotify’s Viral Hits chart. With his beautifully smoky vocals drawing comparisons to Al Green and Marvin Gaye, it comes as a surprise to hear that the young man from Oxfordshire was not always comfortable as a singer. Thankfully, he’s gotten over these nerves and will be coming to Austin next month to wow us.

His most recent single ‘Bloodstains’ (listen here), released on the 9th of February, has a more upbeat pop melody guaranteed to keep your toes tapping. The song paints a picture of a beautiful anguish, of being in love with someone you know who isn’t good for you. Loving her hurts him. Lewis soulfully sings, “your love so bitter but I like the taste / your love’s so bitter but it’s sweet that way”, as if there’s an odd sense of comfort, possibly through sheer masochism, that love like this is supposed to hurt. A new EP, ‘Bad Timing’, arrives tomorrow, the 23rd of February.

Feeling things deeply comes naturally to him, as evidenced in earlier single ‘Living in the City’, where a boy from Oxfordshire honestly expresses his misgivings of living in the big smoke, far away from the land he knows best. While moving to London might still be a necessarily evil for some UK artists to attain success, it seems nice that we will be able to host Rhys Lewis away, from there at least for a few days, and hear the stories he sings from his heart. So far, he’s been announced to be opening the BBC Radio 2 evening showcase sponsored by PPL and PRS for Music Wednesday night, the 14th of March, at Latitude 30 and hosted by Jo Whiley.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, Rhys Lewis’ appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2793: Courtney Marie Andrews

 
By on Wednesday, 21st February 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Arizona native alt-country singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews is set to follow her 2016 album ‘Honest Life’ with a new and powerful LP titled ‘May Your Kindness Remain’. The new record is due for release on the 23rd of March via Fat Possum/MamaBird (U.S.) and Loose Music (UK). In the interim, Andrews is scheduled to appear in Austin early next month for SXSW 2018. Last week, Andrews unveiled a new promo video for the uplifting, gospel-flavoured album track ‘Kindness of Strangers’, which you can view below.

Filmed in Los Angeles by The Brothers Wright, the ‘Kindness of Strangers’ promo has a muted lo-fi aesthetic created by the combined effects of a 35mm lens and super 8 film. Double exposed images of Andrews capture the internal sense of loneliness and introspection in the song itself, which she says was “written directly after some legendary musicians took their own life.” She continues, “It sparked this long and deep thought about how we all feel disconnected with each other at some point in our lives. When you’re at your lowest of lows, even a friendly cashier can make your month. Human connection is essential for survival, and I’ve felt that void at so many different points in my life. This song portrays that void, and how even the smallest amount of kindness can save you.”

Following her stop in Austin for SXSW, Courtney Marie Andrews will cross the pond to play a run of live dates in the UK and Ireland this April. Tickets for the following shows are available now.

Wednesday 18th April 2018 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Thursday 19th April 2018 – Edinburgh Summer Hall
Friday 20th April 2018 – Dublin Whelan’s
Saturday 21st April 2018 – Liverpool Arts Club
Sunday 22nd April 2018 – Manchester Gorilla
Monday 23rd April 2018 – Brighton Komedia
Tuesday 24th April 2018 – London Islington Assembly Hall

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Industry track

 
By on Wednesday, 21st February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo of Shakey Graves by Greg Giannukos

SXSW Music Conference programming under the umbrella of the Music Industry track is intended to guide artists and other industry professionals through the promises and potential pitfalls of everyday business in the music world. This year’s Music Industry programming includes panel sessions on a variety of current trends and topics of interest, as well as touching base with the basics.

Music Industry Culture
Carrying on from programming at SXSW 2016 and SXSW 2017, this year’s music conference continues its meta-examination of music industry culture, starting with a question that digs down to the very root of the investigation. On Wednesday the 14th of March, a panel session titled ‘Is Culture Change in the Music Industry Possible?’ will consider “whether it is possible for such a complex, fragmented [industry] to develop a common culture, what an ideal music industry culture might look like, and most importantly, how we actually get there.”

A continued emphasis on feminism in the music industry manifests in several conference sessions, including ‘Women in Music: Break the Ceiling + Bridge the Gap’ on the 14th of March and ‘Sexual Misconduct in the Music Industry’ the following day. The former panel promises to “explore the challenges women face in negotiating and share tactics to become a better negotiator” as well as assessing “the current status of the gender and wage gaps and the impact these barriers have had on women in our industry.” The latter panel will specifically address sexual misconduct, with focus on “the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct and how this aggression affects the psyche of women working in music in regards to performance, promotions, equal pay and influence.”

Music Curation and Experience
‘Barriers to Innovation for New Music Experiences’ will begin the week on the 13th of March with a panel set to examine “current hurdles and roadblocks that face those building a new generation of music services and experiences”. In the spirit of an evolving music experience, a historical session titled ‘Curation, Collaboration & Community’ on the 14th of March “will outline the journey of Tileyard Studios and the revolutionary transformation of a dilapidated area of London to one of the most exciting music creators’ hubs in the world.”

Conference programming also reflects a continued interest in the ways modern listeners prefer to consume music, with topics ranging from terrestrial radio to digital playlist collaboration on the table for discussion. On one end of that spectrum, ‘Measuring What Matters in a Playlist-First World’ on the 14th of March will dive into the data on digital playlists with discussion about “how to understand and measure them” as well as what those measurements might reveal about “music consumption, marketing, and music creation”. At the other extreme, a session on the 16th of March called ‘Is This the Golden Age of Alternative Radio?’ finds that medium inexplicably “on the rise” and will examine how best to take advantage of its current popularity.

On the related topic of music curation and discovery, Pitchfork founder and editor-in-chief Ryan Schreiber will lead a panel on the 15th of March titled ‘Why Music Journalism Matters in the Streaming Era’, with discussion on “navigating new challenges, providing crucial context, and how to evolve as [music streaming] services threaten to push into the realm of content creation.” The following afternoon, ‘Stop the Scroll: Creative Strategy in Social Media’ will help online curators “learn how to make a creatively driven social strategy . . . [and] deliver campaigns that keep fans coming back for more.”

Artist Issues
Professional issues facing artists in the current music business atmosphere are, as always, at the center of this year’s Music Industry track. Early in the week on the 14th of March, ‘Beyond the Band: Shakey Graves’ will take a look at the “many different elements that comprise a successful career as a musician” in the context of Do617’s Beyond the Band partnership with Berklee College of Music and LATW Group. The featured artist on the panel is Shakey Graves’ Alejandro Rose-Garcia, pictured at top.

In the same vein of cooperation and collaboration, ‘The Band is With Me: The Art of Team Building’ on the 16th of March will talk about how to assemble a strong team of professionals behind a career artist, in the areas of “artist service platforms, PR, development/management, and marketing/touring.” More specifically, ‘What Does an Artist Manager Do and How to Get One’ on the 17th of March will find artist managers sharing “practical, concrete steps every artist can take to go about obtaining management” and ways for “up and coming managers . . . to help grow their clients’ careers exponentially.”

Financial issues are always at the forefront of an artists’ career, and there are many scheduled conference sessions surrounding the delicate topic of money. On the 15th of March ‘New Ways to Finance a Music Career’ will discuss artists’ “options [and] tools to self-finance their career outside of the traditional label/publisher system.” On the 16th of March, ‘We Will Rock You: Make a Big Noise with the Brands’ promises helpful tips on “how you can win that brand and help the brand tell a story [that will] come alive with your music.” In the same time slot, ‘Paid in Full: Fixing Music Rights for Artists’ covers the difficulties of “connecting billions of global streams to the right parties” and “how smart minds are working to find solutions.”

Mentor Sessions
A large number of Mentor Sessions with music industry professionals are listed under the Music Industry track. These sessions require RSVP, and access will only be available to badge types listed as having Primary Access. Featured mentors include record label executives, public relations professionals, artist development managers, marketing specialists and attorneys.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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