INTRODUCING: Teagan Stewart

Teagan Stewart

New Mexico-native Teagan Stewart released the title track of her forthcoming EP, Taste of My Heartbreak, back in August. With two more singles planned before the EP itself, this blues-country powerhouse has big dreams and an even bigger voice. We caught up with Teagan to talk about her career so far, as well as a little about the EP.

 

Country music has always felt so personal to me – even when I wasn’t actually a man going fishing, a woman driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati on a snow-white Christmas Eve, or anything else of the kind. But I was sucked into the world of each song. I was an intense listener as a kid – I would memorize the songwriters of each song on an album and know all the stories behind the songs on the radio. Country was (and still is) home.

 

There are so many influences! For this EP especially, biggest influences were: Eric Church, Hunter Hayes,  Miranda Lambert, and R&B singer JoJo. The inspiration I got from these artists was their musicality – I didn’t want a canned radio sound or the guitar riffs to sound like any Broadway guitarist played them. I wanted the instruments to talk and each player to come in with their own musical voice and really jam with each song. Eric Church’s stuff can be so funky and Hunter Hayes, the same thing. I love the lonely steel guitar in Miranda Lambert’s ballads and I pulled from that. With JoJo, I wanted to achieve how expressionistic she is with her voice.

 

I’m proud to say I wrote four out of six songs solo. This entire collection of songs is so personal to me because I designed it to mimic the emotional arc of my breakup. You begin with the title track (out now), where the initial shock of the break up makes you feel all kinds of things, like edgy, playful, petty, and a little angry. Then you move through all these different stages – denial, loneliness, newfound freedom, recklessness, etc. The final song, Good Intentions, was written when it was suggested that we should get back together and maybe try again. Well, I take it back. The hook and part of the verse were written at the time that that happened. Then I couldn’t finish the song. Nothing stuck. But I knew I had to stick with it because I always sang it when I was alone in the bathroom. And that’s how I know it’s the real deal, because I don’t usually sing any of my own songs in the bathroom. So then I knew I had to finish it by the time one of my shows came around. I had written it acapella, so I didn’t even have chords to give the band. I was just like, I’m gonna sing it, and let me know what feels right to you. I’m maybe most proud of that song.

 

This EP and the musicians I got to work with – i.e. Tanya Tucker’s bassist, guitarists on tour with new country acts, etc. are certainly my biggest achievements to date, along with playing iconic venues like The Bluebird Café, the International Balloon Fiesta, The Back Corner and the New Mexico State Fair. Among the top of the list for me is to play/host SNL, play the Isleta Amphitheater where I saw every country concert as a kid, and collaborate with Hunter Hayes.

 

I want to make a music video for Good Intentions. Of course, I would love to play shows but I’m patient. I’m definitely ready to tour for the EP as soon as it’s safe and makes sense to do so!

 

TASTE OF MY HEARTBREAK is available to stream now, ahead of the full EP release in October. Keep your eyes peeled for some more features with Teagan over the coming weeks! Follow Teagan on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, or visit her website.

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INTRODUCING: Laura Beckwith

introducing Laura Beckwith

 

Up-and-coming country/pop artist Laura Beckwith has always been drawn to music. Beckwith learned piano after enrolling in theatre school and has been writing and performing all over the south of the UK ever since. We caught up with her in the run-up to her next single release to talk about her career and #whatmadeyoucountry.

 

Since the age of three I attended theatre school and I’ve have grown up performing musical theatre songs. I feel that my love for country music stemmed from the want to tell stories much like musical theatre songs.  Maddie and Tae are a country duo who have worked incredibly hard and persisted through the rough times to get where they are. They truly inspire me to work hard, aim high and to go after what you want.

 

‘Halfway’ came after an extremely long and heated argument that seemed to never end. The single is about me trying to find a way to finish the argument without making it worse.  My previous single,  ‘Not In Love’ was played on BBC Essex and several other radio stations. Unfortunately ‘Not in love’ ended up being released during lockdown so I haven’t had the opportunity to perform the song live yet.

 

At the moment my aim is to meet as many artists as possible and write brilliant music! As well as hopefully getting back out and performing live.

 

Country music is raw and truthful. With my Dad being a drummer I have always appreciated the complexity of playing an instrument. I grew up watching ‘Hannah Montana’ and I was obsessed with the music. I can’t be 100% sure on the first country song I ever heard. However, the first country song that really hit me was ‘Bless the broken road’ by Rascal Flatts. The blend of their voices and meaning behind each lyric is absolutely incredible.

 

The first country gig I saw was actually only last year when visiting Nashville. I watched a performance at The Listening Room Cafe. I was in my element! The music and the atmosphere put together made that night the best!

 

An artist that inspires the most is ‘Kelsea Ballerini’. Her music is absolutely incredible and I love how much she connects with her audience when performing. Right now I’m listening to Ingrid Andress and her album ‘Lady Like’ – her music is incredible and timeless.

 

Every time I listen to ‘Bless the broken road’ it reminds me exactly why I love slow music. The song is a pure masterpiece, the lyrics, melody and harmonies fit so perfectly!

 

If you wanna bring up the mood in any situation play ‘Islands in the stream’. If I can make music that gets everyone singing and dancing like this song does – that would be the ultimate.

 

I was in two minds for a long time about whether I suited country music and if wanted to release that style of music. After hearing ‘My Church’ it was the final confirmation that I wanted to create brilliant music like this.

 

When I first heard ‘More Hearts Than Mine’ I was shocked at how much the lyric related to me and my family. The more you listen to country music you realise that every song has come from a true experience and I love that you can relate to others.

 

My last song although by far not the least is a pop song called ‘Turning Page’ by Sleeping at Last. This was one of the first songs I performed professionally. This particular song also made me realise just how much I love music. The first time I heard ‘Turning Page was in my most favourite movie ‘Twilight’ – I adore the vocals and lyrics – such a stunning song.

 

Laura’s next single HALFWAY is released on 25th September 2020. Pre-order via the iTunes Store & pre-save on Spotify here. You can follow Laura on FacebookTwitter & Instagram.

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Introducing: Nick Byrne

Interview - Nick Byrne

We recently shared a review of Nick Byrne’s alt-country/folk single Houses, and now he’s back with us for a little chat about his career so far.

 

It has been an interesting musical journey to get to this point. When I started playing guitar in my early teens I was very into rock and ‘loud’ genres of music. But although I often strayed from those genres there came a time where it lost its impact for me. Some members of those bands recorded acoustic folk or country albums – Dustin Kensrue was one, Frank Turner and Jenny Lewis were others – and I started feeling that a soft guitar or vocal can have just as much impact or emotion as those louder sounds. So from there developed a massive love for singer-songwriters, contemporary folk and alt-country.

 

I remember the first time I stood up and took note of Jeff Buckley’s voice, I remember the feeling hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t in a band at that moment so it inspired me to write solo material from an emotional and vulnerable place. Another artist is Iron & Wine. ‘Our Numbered Days’ inspired me to move towards more delicate folk and Americana with my ‘Through The Tall Grass EP’, and in particular has influenced my fingerpicked guitar style. Other artists such as Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens and Andy Shauf are artists who are inspired by varying musical genres – they all also have their own distinct vocal style and sing from that same place of honesty and vulnerability.

 

‘Houses’ is primarily written about my relationship with my dad, a builder by trade. There’s a few subtle references to this as well as his struggles. The building imagery ties it together and act as a metaphor for life, and how it takes time and effort to shape it into something that feels like home. I was first inspired to write the song on a family trip to Liverpool. We ended up coming across an area with rows and rows of abandoned houses, condemned to fall into ruin. Walking through those streets was incredibly eerie, imagining what they would have been like when they were filled with families – and this ended up being the subject of the second verse. It’s definitely a song that was quite therapeutic for me to write.

 

As a small artist I’ve been lucky enough to perform at some nice venues and support some artists I respect a lot, probably the biggest has been Declan McKenna. It was a great show and a real experience. To be honest though it’s probably the songs that I’m most proud of. I went through a period where I stopped playing music and when I returned I had a simple goal: to create music that was lasting and beautiful. Something I could look back on and be proud of. I’m pleased with ‘Houses’ and it seems like its been well received by people who’ve listened to it. So I can’t ask more than that.

 

I’m looking forward to releasing my next single ‘Summer Rain’ in August. It’s a little different to ‘Houses’. It’s written from quite a naîve place, about young love and healing. Further to that we’ll see what the ‘new-normal’ bring in terms of gigging. Hopefully I’ll be back in the studio and practice room with my band soon. Either way I’m always writing new material so hopefully I can share some more soon!

 

Follow Nick on FacebookTwitter & Instagram, and check out his music on Spotify here.

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Introducing: Mike West

Introducing Mike West

 

Meet Mike West. Mike is a singer-songwriter from the North West of England who takes his inspiration from Kris Kristofferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House, Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf.  He is a dichotomy of genre and style, oft described as ‘not country enough’ – something he has incorporated into his tongue in cheek slogan of not country enough – not blues enough – not folk enough – too heavy. On the journey to releasing his first full-length album, The Next Life, Mike stopped in to talk to us about his music, the album and defying the arbiters of genre. 

 

I grew up listening to and loving metal and rock music and that’s what first made me pick up a guitar.  As I got older and discovered new music for myself, I found Delta blues and country. That changed my life, how I perceived the world, how I portrayed myself in my lyrics and playing style and as I dive deeper into these genres all the time, I discover new and old artists who impact me on almost a spiritual level. You can’t listen to Blind Willie Johnson and not feel something. You can’t listen to Johnny Cash’s American Recordings and not have it hit you in your soul. The songs I write and how I perform on stage, I would never say is strictly country or blues but it is a sincere love for those genres that I play the way I do. These aren’t rock or metal songs that didn’t work out that way. These are all written as a love letter to country, blues and folk in the only way I know how.

 

Ace Frehley and Tony Iommi made me pick up an electric guitar. Robert Johnson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson made me trade it in for an acoustic. I like to think I fuse these influences in the way I write, even down to the song structure. Black Sabbath taught me that songs don’t have to go Verse – Chorus -Verse – Chorus; they can completely go off on to some new idea to reinvent the song in another way and it’s something I have lots of fun doing. Johnson, Cash and Kristofferson taught me to be as honest as possible and a lot of contemporary influences like Shawn James and Amigo the Devil tell me the same but when I’m writing I try and stay away from this type of music as much as possible to make sure I don’t repeat what someone else has done. I’m most creative in my writing when I’m listening to Public Enemy, Wu-Tang or something heavy like Bury Tomorrow because they are still powerful, emotive songs that inspire me without unintentionally copying their style or chords the same way as if I was listening to a John Prine record. It’s convoluted but if I am writing for my genre, I try and listen to that genre as little as possible during it.

 

THE NEXT LIFE has been two years in the making. After I recorded the first vocals and guitars in 2018 and then lived with the songs, touring them, I knew I could do better and recut all the vocals again. I think it helped a lot. With my first EP (Rusted), it was just me and my guitar and with The Next Life being The Next Life in my personal life and my music, I needed to take it up a notch. I brought in some phenomenal players in Amy Chalmers and Travis Egnor to play violin and pedal steel respectively and it elevated this record to a place I couldn’t alone.

This album is a chapter in my life I am so proud of as I have become a happier and confident person on and off stage and it is thanks to the people I surround myself with and my state of mind that I reassessed and worked on while I was writing these songs and performing.

 

I am so proud to be releasing a full-length record and on vinyl! To have a physical manifestation of my work is a dream come true. I’m also really proud of being an independent artist and touring the UK and Europe a couple of times and actually having people show up. You can never take that for granted. I’ve toured and played with some of my favourite artists like Chris Shiflett, Amigo the Devil, Shawn James, Jason Eady and my friends The Plott Hounds. As a music fan, that is second to none.

 

With the release of the record, my main goal is just that the people who I’ve been lucky enough to have support me over the years, actually dig it. I want them to listen to The Next Life and to have it sit proudly in their record collection. Every time someone orders a copy, it ticks off a goal for me.  I really want to get back out touring and performing so hopefully towards the end of the year or 2021 that will happen but with The Next Life and my podcast Into the Van, I’m grateful to still be able to put out new things for people to enjoy consistently and scratch that creative itch!

 

Mike’s phenomenal album The Next Life is released on 7th August 2020, and you can pre-order a copy here.  You can follow Mike on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and get your hands on some merch.  For music and Mike’s Into The Van podcast, check out his linktree.

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In Conversation with Swamp Doctor

swamp doctor - interview

 

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down for a conversation with Swamp Doctor.  Swamp Doctor is no stranger to the music industry having previously released tracks on Cherry Red Records (Dead Kennedys, Everything But the Girl) along with playing over 1000 shows in his career so far, including Guilfest (Main Acoustic Stage), Truck Fest (Supporting Chip Taylor) and Dingwalls where he met the legendary Lemmy (Motorhead) who was amazed by his performance.

 

My conversation with Swamp Doctor ran the gamut from musical influences to the effect of the global pandemic on the music industry to world politics – and more.  Read on for our conversation in full, and to hear Laura Mae ahead of its 26th June 2020 release.

 

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An interview with Becky Lawrence

A little while ago, I sat down for an interview with Becky Lawrence to talk about musical theatre and guinea pigs (she has six – check out her socials at the bottom of this post to see/hear more about them!) and ask a few questions about country music…

Let’s start with a little introduction; describe yourself in three words.
Quirky, bubbly, kind.

Read on to find out more…
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In Conversation with Danny McMahon

Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with the UK’s reigning country artist of the year Danny McMahon to find out a little bit more about what’s going on in the production room, what’s so special about Nashville, and of course – what made him country.  Read on to find out more.

 

Introduce yourself – what have you been up to?

I’m a singer-songwriter, country-pop artist from Bristol, current UK country artist of the year for 2019 – my journey into that was as simple as I got into country music through hearing the song Letter To Me by Brad Paisley, first modern country song I heard, and that helped me understand how country music works from a songwriting point of view and that’s what brought me into the realm of country music. I was blown away by the realness and authenticity of what Brad Paisley was doing in that song.

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In Conversation With BOXES

A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of spending time with half of UK country-rock band Boxes.  I spoke with David (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Josh (electric guitar) to find out more about how lockdown is treating them, their unusual talents, biscuit-eating habits and – of course – what made them country.

 

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In Conversation with Emma Moore

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Emma Moore.  Emma is a woman after my own heart – just a girl from the north west who grew up obsessed with Shania Twain.  It was so much fun to hear Emma’s take on those classic albums, as well as her insight into songwriting and great advice – and of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask what made her country!

 

 

Let’s start with an introduction – tell me about you.

I’m in Blackpool – that’s where I was born and raised.  I’ve travelled a bit, I was in London for last year just songwriting for the entire year, I went down and did a Masters in it so I got to completely focus on that.  But I’m back in the north west.

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Talking to Kelsey Bovey

Earlier this week, I sat down with Kelsey Bovey to find out a little more about her Disney preferences, what she’s been up to during this lockdown season, and of course – what made her country.

 

Let’s start with a bit about Kelsey Bovey, in her own words:

I do music, obviously. I write original music myself based on my own personal experiences, so, I was bullied in school so I write about that – and the lovey-dovey pop songs, the heartbreaks… I started when I was eight years old, started with the piano, got into singing and songwriting and then I picked up the guitar.

 

And then in my personal life I’m just a bit of a Disney freak!

 

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