WORDS & ART DIRECTION: ZOË JENKIN
STYLING: KYLIE GRIFFITHS | PHOTOGRAPHY: OLIVIA RICHARDSON
HAIR: TERRI CAPON | MAKEUP: REBEKAH LIDSTONE | GRAPHIC DESIGN: EMILY BHANTOO & ROBBIE HANCOCK
So it all started when you, (underage at 14!) played a gig in a local pub in your home town right?
Yes! I was brand new to the music scene and had only been playing the guitar for 4 months but I found the details of some promoters in Southampton and asked if I could open some of their local shows! I had written a bunch of songs about flowers and nature and my first loves, I never performed covers though! I only loved playing my own songs.
You uploaded a demo to Soundcloud when you were only 17, tell us what drove you to produce that track and share it with the world?
I had met a guy called Simon Neal (Now known as shadow child) he lived fairly close to me and we met through one of my college lecturers, he had a show on radio 1 and made his own house music and wanted to start a new project, I’d go there after college and we’d write and muck about with guitars and the computer for hours trying to make something for his new album, I found it really hard to write in that genre of music at the time so one day we just decided to record one of my folk songs i had written at home, and out came next time, we uploaded it within 2 hours of recording it and I had just been to the dentist so I had a completely numb mouth! A really happy accident really.
So as well as being a singer and musician, you’re a completely self taught producer too? Have you ever produced for anyone else? Or is that a future plan?
I have started doing a few bits for other people, I would love to do that at some point it is one of my dreams to help a new artist find their sound and who they want to be, as for me that took quite a long time, there is such stress when you are freshly signed, you get sent around to all these different people, when all I really wanted was one person to almost mentor me and help me in a partnership, I think that’s why I started learning to produce so I could be that person for myself as I struggled finding that right partnership.
And what happened next, once you’d given us all the first taste of your sound? I heard you ended up writing in LA, ‘discovering’ yourself a little? I went there myself recently, to me the areas I experienced definitely seemed like the place to be for peace and chill vibes!
I would say the opposite! Everybody is so on it, I find it so inspiring to be in a place where people feel they have no barriers or boundaries and could literally conquer whatever they choose to. The first time I went there I had just turned 18, I think my managers were throwing me in at the deep end showing me what my life could turn out like if I was ready for it.
Your first song penned back in the UK, Blue Blood, blew up online, bloggers were loving it and you hit No.3 on Hype Machine, how did that feel? What was the next goal for you?
Yeah that was amazing! I re-released it recently and it did exactly the same again! Its amazing to see people still love it 2 years on with its full production and the live orchestra. I think next for me is just to get more exposure, I don’t really sit there aiming for certain stats and social media followers I just want my music to be heard by as many people as possible, that way I can continue to make music all day, every day, and that would mean me being a very happy human.
Have you always had a life-plan regarding what you wanted to be or achieve career wise? Or has it just happened more organically?
This has always been my life plan, I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t an organic way of happening though, I would say it might even be more organic, it seems to have been ingrained in me from birth!
As you started pretty young, does this mean you decided against uni etc or have you still managed to squeeze any stuff like that in?
I went to school and college and really did dedicate a lot of energy to that, I love education and learning, I have a real addiction for english language, and literature and just words in general really. I was about to go to university at Goldsmiths in London when I got offered this development deal with Universal Music and Turn First Artists, so I decided to hold off on uni for the time being.
You’ve been compared to a few particular artists, but who would you say are your own personal inspirations musically? And has this changed over time?
This is something that changes every day! I consider Florence and the Machine a big influence, also Bjork, The Maccabees, Lissie, Tyler the Creator, and so many others.
Who’s been the best live performance you’ve ever seen? Although I know it’s hard to pick, so maybe top 3?
One of my favourite acts no longer play live, but scroobius pipnand and Dan le Sac are my favourites of all time. Ben Howard is also incredible live, I’ve seen him a few times and I love Florence and the Machine.
Festivals - love or loath? Do you have any faves?
Absolutely love! Going to a festival is one of my favourite things to do ever! I have been to Bestival 4 years in a row now, but I think I'm going to move on to Secret Garden Party, I played this year but the weather was so awful so unfortunately I didn’t get to stay.
Come on now, honesty time - what was the first single you ever bought? I guess you’re young enough that it could have been a download…!? (I feel old, mine was definitely a cassette tape of Shampoo - Trouble!)
Dr Jones - Aqua!!!!! Still the best song ever
In a dreamworld which movie would you love to have done the sound track to?
Where the Wild Things Are, although I’m glad I didn't as Karen O made a soundtrack so beautiful and pure it would be such a shame for that to not be in mine and everybody else’s life!
You recently supported John Newman on his UK Tour, was this your first experience of touring? Was it what you expected?
I love it, its like having a little family on the road for a few weeks, it really is another life, it feels weird to be back into reality again.
Fan-dom these day’s is a funny thing, with the onslaught of social media etc, it’s changed a great deal from people writing fan letters and queuing outside record stores to get a signature. You have quite an online following, is this reflected when you do a live gig? And how do you find the idea of having ‘fans’ and the online attention etc?
Yeah I do meet a lot of my fans at gigs, I absolutely love it as online I find so impersonal its nice to meet people just human to human. I don’t really get much pleasure in online attention to be honest, I do use social media a lot especially instagram, I guess its just another way for me to express myself, but I prefer the real world to the online one.
Things like spotify and streaming music for free… What are your thoughts generally, good or bad?
I haven’t experienced it any other way to be honest so I am used to the whole streaming thing. I don’t feel like I really have an opinion on it as such, there is no point going against the future though, people just have to make the most of what is happening and move forward with the rest of the world. I know plenty of people who still buy albums, so Its not like selling albums is completely dead.
Who would be the dream artist to work or perform with?
Paolo Nutini is my absolute dream, I worship him as an artist, over all others!
How would you describe your music to a stranger?
Cinematic, moody, alternative pop.
What do you do when you’re not writing and producing?
I spend a lot of time socialising, meeting new people and exploring, even drinking inspires me to write the music that I do, so I never see leisure time as a unproductive. I also write spoken word for a hobby, and exercise a fair amount too.
Do you come from a musical family?
Not at all, I am the first to pursue music.
How would you say your style has changed since you started making music as “Under the Laurels?
I think you can still hear the 14 year old me in my songs a little, whilst the lyrics to my songs may be a little cryptic sometimes they are very honest I usually just write exactly what I’m feeling, I guess the whole of the musical backdrop has changed though, although I’d love to get some of my folky roots back, I’ve picked my guitar back up recently for some intimate shows and writing.