For many years, Nick Battle has been working behind-the-scenes within the music industry. His songwriting ability has gained him over 30 gold and platinum discs, and though he is far from a household name, his songs and collaborators most certainly are. Working with the likes of Sir Cliff Richard, Michael Ball and Gary Barlow (as well as kick-starting The Spice Girls), he boasts an impressive list of contacts. But that’s not enough for Nick.
Now is his time to take the glory, rather than giving his tracks away – he kept this collection for himself. ‘Love is a Long Road’ looks back on Battle’s life and the lessons he’s learned along the way. Inspired by the singers and songwriters who have influenced him most, this album continues from where 2016 album ‘Big Heart’ left off.
This new album is a chance for people to hear Battle’s music as it was meant to be heard, no artist interpretations, tweaks or re-writes, but the writers pure vision and authentic sound.
In a way completely befitting the world’s most enduring game of heroes and villains, Chilean singer Juga has combined the worlds of chess, cinema and music by releasing two music videos to accompany her tracks ‘Oh Capablanca‘ and ‘Isolated Pawn‘. As the World Chess Championships took place in the heart of London towards the end of last year, Juga made her name as an artist who has been actively pioneering links between the world of art and chess – combining her life as a recording artist with her role as a celebrated ambassador of the game, utilising themes of intrigue, drama and psychology all at the fore.
Juga’s first release could well be considered to be the greatest Bond theme to never feature in a film, as it combines lush orchestration and Spaghetti Western guitar with her spine-chillingly yearning vocals. ‘Oh Capablanca‘ refers to the Cuban chess champion from the 1920’s Jose Raul Capablanca, who is often referred to as the greatest player of all-time.
“The real inspiration was the irony of living a fantasy completely different from what was really happening on the board before my eyes”
The lyrics were inspired by a real-life experience of her participation in a tournament in Rome – describing an emotional voyage through a twisted chess game with her opponent, in which she suffered from over optimism. The track in essence reflects the psychology of what goes on inside a chess players mind after losing a game from a winning position.
‘Isolated Pawn‘ offers a different tale in which Juga recounts, in first person, the human emotions of the humble piece as it’s caught alone and undefended in the middle of the chessboard. The track opens with the lowest self-perception possible – of how the labels put on you by the other pieces (representing society) determine that you are weak, that you can be blocked, attacked, and then captured. However, it then demonstrates that if your hopes are high enough, you can empower yourself to break through and become the most powerful piece – the Queen, as the pawn reaches the enemy’s side of the board.
“The golden scar across the isolated pawn’s head represents how special and strong your wounds can make you. In Japan, there is a traditional art of repairing broken pottery called ‘Kintsugi’, where the piece’s ‘scars’ are filled with gold – honouring the story of the object instead of throwing it away”
These stories depict the triumph of spirit over matter, which is something that often happens in chess. For Juga, this is what makes chess poetic and beautiful, in continuous contrast with it’s scientific and logical side.
Having been mastered by Grammy-nominated Emily Lazar (Foo Fighters/ Sia) in her New York Studios, ‘Holding On, Letting Go‘ is set to be the first of a triad of records from singer-songwriter Elyssa Vulpes. From her native Italy, Elyssa is now based in Edinburgh after a twelve year spell in New Zealand, having soaked up the cultural elements of all these disparate places. Utilising the Celtic folk traditions of Ireland and Scotland, as well as the celebrated Italian singer-songwriters of the 1970’s, ‘Holding On, Letting Go‘ is set to be the most sombre in tone of the trilogy, but is a meditative as it is motivational.
Elyssa has stated her mission in her music echoes that of her profession – to help people. As a hypnotherapist, her daily routine centres around looking to empower, to inspire and to give hope. If she can illuminate a path to connect with a community of like-minded people then through this they can be encouraged to find their own way. This advice has also been reflected inwardly, having cured her own anxieties through a combination of hypnotherapy as well as writing and performing music.
“I believe that without meaning, there is no art… I believe the true aim of art is being fulfilled at the soul level [and] I will be successful when my effort to reach out and build a bridge between me and others is achieved.”
Elyssa attributes the inherent soulfulness of her work to what she calls ‘Scorpion Energy’ -the essence of which is all about transformation – ‘Death and rebirth. Transforming darkness into light’. Through the shedding of metaphoric skins is said to then allow you to confront whatever is bringing you discomfort and hence overcome your fear of pain and accept your own truths without becoming a victim to circumstance.
“From the perspective of eternity, no choice is a bad choice – It leads to the same end: the evolution of consciousness.”
How this resonates through her music is a concept that has begun on this album, with this and the accompanying two records reflecting on the past decade of her life. Lyrically, there are recurring themes of life’s sufferings, but also that of hope and transformation – which is perfectly encapsulated in the albums closer and lead track ‘Front Line‘: a defiant track resonating the themes of overcoming pain and turning it into something positive. Over the course of it’s 15 tracks, the album takes you on a journey of discovery as well as showcasing a variety of musical hues – from the sweet melodies of ‘Summer Romance‘, to the rocked up ‘Do You Wanna Play‘ to the positively punky ‘Grow Up‘.
Despite being born in Manchester, the musical inspiration of indie folk artist Joshua Howlett is very much grounded in his Swiss base in Montreaux, where he now resides. A soulful, young and ambitions performer, he is an artist that is striving to evolve and develop without taking himself too seriously and, as such, has looked to his surroundings – the exquisite nature and historical cities of Switzerland as his creative muse in order to produce his ‘Autumnal‘ EP. With a sound likened to the likes of Ben Howard and Angus and Julia Stone, this is a record that evokes the calm atmosphere of beautiful scenery.
The EP has been noted to draw further inspiration by feelings of nostalgia about leaving the UK, which nicely introduces themes associated with autumn. In an interesting synergy between the atmospheric surroundings of the Swiss mountains, the songs all give off the feeling of autumnal reflection, evoking feelings such as change, anxiety, nostalgia and deeper states of consciousness. It’s an emotional collection of feelings – a meta-cognitive explanation of his physical and mental state at the time of composing.
As mentioned, the true reflective aspect is reflected from his surroundings with him taking heavy inspiration from nature – trees, forests, mountains, and ironically water. He has often written about water and the sea, metaphorically or otherwise, despite the fact he hates swimming and going in it. However, the poetic tranquillity of the element certainly serves its own purpose here.
Having being raised between British and Swiss culture, he has ended up being somewhere between the two. After learning guitar at an early age, he slowly began to develop his own unique style and identity that has been shaped and refined throughout his young career. From writing songs in his bedroom, with no particular intentions, this process reached its natural catalyst in 2017 when Joshua became friends with a producer from Big Fam Records at sound engineering college. Merely a day after deciding to record a song together for fun, they then decided to partner up and record music professionally.
Joshua has been noted to be somewhat shy in character away from music, but everything changes when on stage. His on-stage persona is a mixture of a soulful musician and a stand up comedian – often engaging with the crowd before introducing a song. Indicative of this characteristic, his stages have not always been traditional in their truest sense, as his live performances have taken him from a snowy chalet up a mountain to a show window in a subway station.
His debut EP, recorded with experienced live musicians who have thoroughly immersed themselves in the concept, has been spearheaded by the release of the single ‘Dover‘.
Taking precedent from the likes of Big Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe before her, Rasha Jay is an artist who’s not afraid to stride beyond convention and make music that’s true to herself. This is music that harks back to a previous time where blues and rock bounced in tandem, and women wailed with no apology. Her raw soul vocals and songwriting ability combined with blues based alt-rock – as seen in her forthcoming EP ‘High Dive‘, she has managed to take rock back its roots while also managing to keep her sound simultaneously fresh and urgent.
Thinking figuratively about how a person protects themselves from love, the underlying themes emanating through lead track ‘Red Coat‘ have been meticulously crafted to bring out elements that show just how dark, murky and conflicted love can be. Speaking about the record as a whole, she explains: “The EP ‘High Dive’, is a continuation of that exploration, the tangled mess of relating to each other, if and when to dive in, jump out, and the audience that’s always waiting to see what happens.”
Rasha’s mantra stems from one of looking to encourage all artists who are unsure of their own writing ability, or those who are lacking the confidence to write anything at all. From her own heart comes a raw, thunderous love for performing. To her, singing is like another language where you use the same words differently – it’s like learning to speak all over again, and once learnt there’s no turning back.
In order to typify the feeling Rasha is endeavouring to portray, everything is enveloped in a raw state. Her voice, the music – all the elements are kept as simple as possible with the sole aim of getting the message across. Furthering this, Rasha offers some insight on her lyrics: “I am in love with words, how they sound, nerdy things like syllable counts, inflection and assonance. But that adoration comes through in my songs, I hope.”
Away from the limelight, Rasha Jay has also been an active member of her community – volunteering for various non-profit organisations as either a mentor or helping homeless young adults. Her passion for words also extends to reading. Coupled with her love for using her voice, she’s also spent time reading to children at story time and in various other settings and has also notably stepped neatly into a voice-over role having narrated Talk Show Wendy Williams‘ audiobook ‘Hold me in Contempt‘, back in 2014.
Rasha Jay typifies a very niche selective of African-American alt-rock artists. She has not gone on record to say that she is looking to break down walls or to change anyone’s perceptions of the genre, this is merely the style that feels most appropriate and true to herself, and from that foundation she will endeavour to sing her heart out.
Jasper’s Riddle is a new musical concept from Lukas Zeickner, a Manchester based medical student, who calls this project his ‘acoustic storybook’. After beginning his studies to become a brain surgeon, and switching to his current vocation, that of a heart surgeon, Jasper’s Riddle’s debut release reflects an artist’s own chameleon-like ability to shift between a multitude of artistic talents – an acoustic singer-songwriter, a classical composer, an artist and a novelist, to produce ‘The River‘ – a collection of self contained stories that combine to make his storybook.
“I would say the most interesting aspect is the versatility. All of my songs are quite different and you never know what to expect next. This applies to my classical music as well.” – Jasper’s Riddle
Influenced by beacons of talent from across the world, from Aretha Franklin to Fela Kuti to Estas Tonne, and an overarching love of Schubert, his fascination for science as well as the Arts has led to Lukas performing and producing all his own music, not to mention creating the accompanying artwork.
“I see art as simply one thing in itself – free and ever changing. There’s no difference whether its music, or a drawing, or a poem.” – Jasper’s Riddle
One of his earliest recollections is learning lessons in the ‘freedom of expression’. Growing up, he mentions that he never really understood the notion of music genres and as a result he ended up listening to anything and everything.The most immediate comparison would be that of a Jeff Buckley inspired sound (watch his cover of ‘Grace‘ here). He describes his sound as acoustic rock, with influences from neo-soul and blues to progressive rock and flamenco. With his heritage stemming from Nigeria, he feels a strong connection with his Nigerian-British heritage and sings songs in Edo as well as English, and also Spanish as a third language.
As a 22 year old classical composer and multi-instrumentalist (pianist/ guitar and singer), Jasper’s Riddle offers something really interesting in the way that people can engage with the music. The concept originates from a love of Schubert’s Lieders, which he describes as ‘truly beautiful’, through the way in which he would incorporate aspects of the story/poem into the song itself. An example of this in ‘The River‘ there are multiple moments where the guitar finger-picking imitates the sound of waves and rushing water, and also his classical piece ‘Jack in the Box’ also features an intro piano passage which imitates the sound of a jack in the box toy.
Setting sail from dockside, tales have passed from lip to cheek of The Captain of the Lost Waves – a celebration of the renaissance, an exemplar of all things Vaudevillian, embarking on his voyage to redefine labels of artistic expression. While dropping anchor at the likes of Glastonbury Arts and Edinburgh Fringe, The Captain’s absurdly engaging live performances have mesmerised and captivated crowds. As a fluid performer, transitioning between musician and storyteller, the journey is wildly outlandish, deliciously bonkers and has witnessed expressions distort from the rigid and terrified to the joyous and amiable.
Starring in his very own folk opera, little is known about his true Earthly origins, but the man behind the persona resides in the shadow of the not-so-coastal plateau of the Peak District, and from there he has embarked extensively taking his show to audiences who are then transported aboard his mystical voyages. Delightfully inventive, undoubtedly eccentric and impossible to characterise definitively, after a brief introduction in his guise indicative of an intergalactic time detective, so begins his splendid deliverance. all of which are encouraged to be sung along to.
The premiere for the video of ‘Uniforms’, the first single from the album Synthesis, will be held right in the heart of Bradford’s historic trading quarter in Sunbridgewells, showcasing the Edwardian charm of footage shot at the New Beehive Inn. Whether hopping aboard for the first time or looking to set sail once more, we’ve been offered a perfect opportunity to delve into the mystical otherworldly-ness of realms so often consigned to the shadows.
Juggling a smorgasbord of influences with a pop sensibility, Alice’s Night Circus walks the tightrope between her theatrical world and the mainstream sound-du-jour. Like Panic! At The Disco who married debauchery and cabaret with pop prowess, and Muse who converted a fascination for space into cabinets of album awards, ringmaster Julia Scott is attempting to lure the mainstream into her conceptual world of circus and theatrics. With her debut album ‘Metamorphose’ on the horizon, we delve deeper into Alice’s world…
In a handful of words, tell us what ‘Metamorphose’ is about?
The album is a form of escapism whilst encouraging people to embrace their creativity and individuality.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Whilst I have been classically trained as a singer my music taste is very eclectic. This ranges from opera and musicals to pop, jazz and symphonic metal and everything in-between, which means my music is very diverse. I have taken heavy influence from visual styles such as steampunk, vintage, circus, film and television.
How has living with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) permeated into your music?
I used [my illness] to inspire the song ‘Medusa’ and it also features subtly in some of my other songs.
How have you married your love for Steampunk with your music?
‘Penny Dreadful’ is inspired by my love of the Victorian macabre and old horror stories. Some of my fans have even created their own costumes to allow them to portray the song characters Mr Strange and Penny. A number of belly dancing and burlesque troupes have created routines to this track. A further fan created a Jig Doll for a video which he has since gifted to me. I create my own stage costumes and accessories as well as create other outfits for Comic Cons and Steampunk events.
Alice will be appearing as herself in a fine art photography project based around steampunks. Find out more about Gary Nicholls’ The Imaginarium here.
If a songwriter is only as effective as the stories they tell, Adam Lanceley will have his songs etched into your mind in no time. His latest album Epitaph to Innocence is his seventh to date, despite suffering life-changing injuries from a car crash many years ago. Against all odds, Adam not only proved them wrong but has taken his remarkable recovery to the extreme, running marathons and now carving out a career as a singer-songwriter. We catch up with Adam to find out how he channeled his trauma into art…
What inspired you to start writing music?
When I was 10, I had a severe car crash which I was not expected to recover from. Other people will tell me what an amazing recovery I’ve made but to be honest I don’t really think about it like that. Music has always been both powerful in helping me deal with the things life’s thrown at me.
You’re notoriously elusive about the meaning behind your songs. What’s the reason for this?
I always think rather than explain to people what your songs are about, it makes them far more interesting if you keep a little bit of mystery behind them and let the listener decide what they think it means.
You’ve written and released seven full-length albums. Are you still seeing development in your work?
In this album, I hope you’ll be able to notice a progression in both the production and delivery if you compare it to my earlier stuff. I am very keen on exploring new sounds and use of instruments to keep my music fresh.
Which artists dominated your record collection when you were growing up?
It would be a lie to say that I’ve always been passionate about music. My taste, though, has always been ‘old skool’ – going back to Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. It was when I first heard ‘The Beach Boys’ that my interest in music – particularly, 1960’s West Coast music started to increase. The 3 albums that mean the most to me, I would say, would have to be really thought provoking, reflective ones. Pet Sounds, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Hotel California.
Australian born singer/ songwriter Harp Samuels is back with his latest track ‘Breathe’, from the upcoming album of the same name.
‘Breathe’ was written in the aftermath of his father’s passing, using his grief as the emotional motivator of his spiritual awakening. The song begins mellow, before climaxing in an intimate outpouring of raw emotion. The heavy, evoking lyrics are a powerful reminder of our numbered days. This breath-taking track ends with flickering embers that radiate warmth.
‘Breathe’ gives Harp’s listeners a moment of quiet self-reflection. Harp combines the musical stylings of neo-folk and ambience with an emotive approach to his vocal storytelling. The special and haunting track is a stunning display of Samuels’ artistry as a singer/ songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist.
His 2017 debut album, Wanting received widespread air time on US radio along with several hundred thousand streams. Harp Samuels has also featured on MTV unplugged, The Bluegrass Situation, Tunecore and Atwood Magazine.
In addition to his music the Melbourne born singer is also an active filmmaker, award winning photographer and creative artists.