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.
Through bridging the traditional sounds of her homeland in Ontario to those of her current home in Limerick, the new EP ‘Throwing Shapes‘ from Emily Jean Flack is perhaps her most accomplished work to date – showcasing her gorgeously pure vocals and the Celtic music she was raised with, whilst injecting cool electronic textures to create a genre-spanning mix that defies expectations and delivers on every level. Produced by Belfast native Peter Wallace, and mixed by three-time Grammy Award winner David Bottrill, ‘Throwing Shapes’ also features guest performances by two Irish folk stars, whistle and flute player Brian Finnegan from the band Flook and guitarist Marty Barry.
“Although I come from a traditional instrumental folk background, I’ve always listened to so many other styles of music. And my own music has always been more personal, more modern and more contemporary. Being in Ireland is wonderful in the sense that it’s so culturally rich, but there is a ferocity and sense of independence within the music. It’s not cute or quaint. It’s quite raw and organic. Ireland has offered me an environment to openly make the music that moves me”
Harnessing an impeccable musical lineage as the daughter of Denise Flack – a member of the groundbreaking Celtic-pop band Leahy, Emily Jean Flack grew up immersed in traditional Irish music and dance. Emily cites her mother as her main influence and inspiration, with her family experiences being what has given her both an undeniable stage presence and an aptitude for performance. Her first public rendition was at an Irish Ceilidh near Peterborough, Ontario where she sang “Katie” by Mary Black, accompanied by her aunt on piano. Despite this being a small performance, this clearly had a profound effect of her maturing musically at an early age, and she had been quoted as saying that this moment felt in some small way that she was following in her mother’s footsteps. Her love of ceilidhs and festivals meant that her eventually uprooting to Ireland was a transition was one that was both effortless and empowering.
Through honing her craft while studying for a Masters in Traditional Music at the University of Limerick, vocalist, songwriter, musician and dancer Emily has spent her life surrounded by music and musicians, but has always harnessed a keenness to express her influences in a way which was entirely her own. Despite the dynamic and joyous feel to her music, there is an inherent degree of heartbreak behind the veil, which emotionally, allows the tracks to feel more wholesome and real. With the spirit of the Emerald Isle permeating her material, Emily also incorporates jazz, pop and Americana influences to create a sound that she describes as progressive folk. Lyrically, the concept of love is explored in all its various forms, with all of her songs coming from a degree of personal experience – Love is hard, love is beautiful, love is worth the fight.
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‘.
In some aspects, Mark Shepherd’s musical career may appear to be in reverse. For those whom ‘The Grand Scheme of Things‘ EP (produced/engineered by Chris Pepper at Saltwell Studios) is their first introduction to Mark Shepherd’s work will soon understand the depth and emotion which impact on both his music and his lyrics. Through his original brand of thought provoking indie-folk, his strong and distinctive vocal style is complimented by powerful and melodic guitar, through which listeners will quickly understand the depth of emotion that has reckoning on his work lyrically and musically.
Having had been handed a record contract with Lamborghini Records at the age of 18, progress unfortunately stagnated when the company went bust. While venturing along a ‘normal’, but successful, trajectory in his working life, a longing to encourage his undoubted musical and creative talent has driven things full circle. What ensued was a heartfelt determination to push things forward from the triumphs of his previous EP ‘Bad Man‘ (produced by Pete Brazier at Vertical Rooms). As well as featuring on Cambridgeshire’s BBC Introducing and a host of community and online radio, he also has an impressive resume of playing famous venues in London, Manchester and New York.
The EP offers the listener two distinct paths, with both electric and acoustic versions of each of the four tracks, the perfect choice for an artist whose music is all about mood and story-telling. While the overriding subject matter of the tracks touch upon themes of regret, loss and aspects of a more troubling nature, he has stated that his lyrics left intentionally ambiguous in order to allow his audience to apply their own interpretation. Opening with the title track – a song which brings together elements of Paul Weller’s strongest solo work and the more introspective songs of Tom Petty, this is a look at the culmination of someone’s life and questions and what it means to have made a difference – asking if making a positive impact on a small number of people isn’t just as worthwhile as grander gestures.
Having settled across the waters by a remote region in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains, Fergus McKay and his band, Nothing Concrete have fought to escape the furore of high living and encapsulated a lifestyle that epitomises the unconventional. In terms of their songwriting, their self imposed isolation – rejecting technology in favour of home-grown living – has transcended into a philosophy of inclusion; a sanctuary of community that encourages creative space and freedom.
While busking his way across Europe solo for many years, Fergus has absorbed the experiences on many and has woven them in neatly as source material into his songs. In times that followed, and several personnel changes later, the line up now sounds akin to the set up of a bad joke including; a Scotsman, an Italian, a Jewish percussionist, a Frenchman and a brace of tap-dancing saxophone players.
This music comes from a place where cabaret isn’t a novelty, and live music is a focal point for entertainment. The vibration of each note that emanates is as organic as where they were created. With the track recorded in an abandoned barn, and each member balancing the life of touring with raising their children, they embody a self-affirming lifestyle. This has yielded a synergy of acoustic led folk with 1930’s jazz that hybridizes both freedom and struggle.
The story of the track itself details the vantage of an ‘Old Black Crow‘, surveying a group of renegades on the run. This, in turn, feels awkwardly familiar to the vantage of the listener. From this perspective, the make-up of the numbers seems as bohemian and unconventional as the instruments they play.
Since Mancunian duo Son of William burst onto the scene, they’ve been wooing audiences with their stock-in-trade slow burners. Though the band is in its infancy, each member has had an illustrious career, previous. Here’s three things you didn’t know about Ben and Hayley Williams.
Ben’s previous musical life saw him sharing stages with the likes of Simply Red and Chic, whilst also receiving plaudits from Grammy Award-winning producer (Coldplay) Ken Nelson and go-to drummer, Steve White (The Who; Paul Weller)
Hayley has forged her own path to success, achieving platinum sales in both Sweden and Norway.
The pair found themselves as tutors to each other after a chance meeting. Hayley and Ben exchanged lessons on vocals and guitar respectively, before forming Son of William.
With male and female vocalists intertwined in haunting melodies, Son of William deliver acoustic brilliance within a folk framework. It’s the twinges of soul that bleed though in tracks like ‘Colour of Love’ that really set this duo apart. Elements of Cattle & Cane matched with flecks of Iron & Wine create a rough landscape for the pair to draw you into their world, capturing you with hypnotic harmonies and brooding melancholy.
Reminiscent of traditional Celtic music, ‘Colour of Love’ sees the duo harmonise throughout as the chords are arpeggiated to provide subtle melodies under the vocals. Here we see that the due use their small arsenal effectively in order to create their rich sound.
‘Dear Old Acquaintance’ see the duo employ their soul side as the vocals seamlessly switch between sparing and cohesively existing. This time with short, percussive chords built the tension of the verses before we find ourselves entranced in the chorus. We are once again invited into their world and before we know it, we never want to leave.
From the U.K to Japan; harpist and vocalist Julia Mascetti has given a hint of what’s to be expected from her upcoming E.P. In Distance, Everything Is Poetry.
The track ‘In Bloom’ gives us a taste of what’s in store in Julia’s upcoming E.P. in the form of a dark, fantastical soundscape.
‘In Bloom’ presents us with the essence of mythical storytelling, what can be described as celtic-folk roots all the way to the soundtrack to a fantasy epic; ‘In Bloom’ sets a dynamic and paints a musical picture that inspires thoughts of mythology and legend.
Julia’s siren-like vocals over a haunting and melancholic harp creates a depressing yet captivating scenario; it’s dreary tones creates suspense in such a minimalist way, yet alongside embellishments from what sounds like bells and a stringed instruments it still retains it’s melodic qualities.
The song is essentially part melodic and part concept, with the timbre of the instrumentation it manages to balance these two sections perfectly, without alienating the listener. The change of arpeggios to sustained notes in each section add for diverse textures in the song.
‘In Bloom’ tells a dreary and melancholic story, the mixture of instruments elevate the texture and song stays true to itself throughout, I feel that some of these instruments could be more apparent in the mix (what sounds like a tsugaru shamisen, could be a bit louder) but overall, the diverse instrumentation compliments the song.
The E.P. In Distance, Everything Is Poetry is out on the 11th of November, you can keep up with Julia’s social networks at the links below;
A Light From The Other Side is Lisa Richards’ new album set for release on 21st April, and the Australian singer-songwriter has formed the new record from a base of folk and jazz that create an almost unheard of sound for modern audiences.
Lisa suffered during her childhood, with a difficult upbringing that included her mother being involved in a car crash and a lot of substance abuse, even from a young age. Yet it is these memories and experiences that allow her to write her introspective songs in her own unique style,
Taken from the new album, ‘Frank Sinatra’ is an upbeat tune full of delicate shuffling guitar and Lisa’s incredible vocals that occupy their very own private estate in the world of singing voices; you’ve honestly never heard anyone quite like her.
A Light From The Other Side exhibits Lisa Richard’s fascinating and turbulent life story, which is weaved throughout her songs. Set for release in April of this year, the record was also put together with the help of internationally renowned producer-singer-songwriter, Greg J Walker.
Irish celtic-rock violinist, Joe O’Donnell, and his band Shkayla are reissuing their classic album, Gaodhal’s Vision, in celebration of its 40th anniversary.
As someone who has strong Irish roots, going back in lineage to the people who originally brought St. Patrick to Ireland, Joe feels strongly about the heritage of his country and this is an idea explored in Gaodhal’s Vision. The album tells the story of the Milesian people who set sail for the island, foretold to them by Moses, called Eire (Ireland). The record displays Joe’s fascination with the esoteric and celebrates the origins of the Celts and many distinctive aspects of their famed culture.
As well as Joe, the album featured some highly talented musicians of the day including virtuoso guitarist, Rory Gallagher, with whom Joe enjoyed a warm musical friendship. Consequently, the album was met with strong praise as a result of Rory’s involvement, but also because of Joe’s unique approach to his compositions and the experimental choice of instrumentation.
With this year marking the album’s 40th anniversary, Joe and the band will also be performing the record in its entirety at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, on 31st March and 1st April. However, it will not just be a gig like any other: there will be Irish and Indian dancers, live narration and as well as that, the original recordings of Gallagher’s solos will seamlessly play alongside Joe and Shkayla. The set up is sure to make for a multi-sensual experience like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Although Joe learnt his trade as a musician the conventional, classical way, his early experience in rock bands allowed him to see the similarities between Celtic and Indian music which he has blended together within Shkayla. As well as this, the band employ elements from rock, jazz and orchestral styles.
The 40th Anniversary Special Edition of Gaodhal’s Vision is set for release 28th April 2017.