Zervas & Pepper
Americana, Folk Rock, Laurel Canyon
Cardiff, Wales, UKRead More
For fans and musicians of Folk, Americana, Country, Blues, Singer-Songwriter, Rock, Roots & Acoustic and music from the Laurel Canyon late 60’s/early 70’s era.
LCM is a new co-operative music community, promoter, event organiser and on-line magazine to promote & support the music that we love. All the latest news, reviews and interviews
LCM is your indispensable insider guide to the wonderful world of independent music and beyond
We aim to help music fans connect and discover great new music and help indie musicians promote their music and help them build relationships with supporters and industry professionals.
Please join us now and explore our website.
We also have some special and exclusive items in our LCM store that you might like.
Zervas & Pepper
Americana, Folk Rock, Laurel Canyon
Cardiff, Wales, UKRead More
London, England, UKRead More
Our Atlantic Roots
Folk, Americana, Roots
Cornwall , UKRead More
Country, Americana, Singer-Songwriter
Discography: Laura Oakes EP (2015), Nashville Stole Your Girl EP (2017)
Liverpool may not be the usual breeding ground for burgeoning Country Pop superstars, but Laura Oakes is – as always – an exception to the rule. A two-time winner of Best Female Vocalist at the British Country Music Awards and a Top 5 artist on the iTunes UK Country Music Chart, Laura has the room-silencing voice and songwriting chops to rival her heroes Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride. Support slots have include performances for The Shires, Ward Thomas, The Sisterhood, Catherine McGrath, Devin Dawson, The Wandering Hearts, Andrew Combs, James Dupre, Jenn Bostic and Hudson Taylor.
Live is where her music really take a hold of people. She’s played across the UK’s vibrant festival scene including main stage slots at the likes of Cornbury Music Festival, Camp Bestival, The Long Road, Black Deer, The Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, Buckle and Boots, C2C, Cottingham Folk Festival, Secret Garden Party and various gigs for Bob Harris’ Under The Apple Tree.
Music was in Laura’s blood since a young age and coming from a musical family where it was normal for mealtime conversations to be conducted in three-part harmony, it was inevitable that a visit to Grand Ole Opry in Nashville at the age of 18 would prove to be an overwhelming and life-defining experience, driving her to realise her dream of writing and singing country music.
She recorded and self-released her first single ‘Don’t Let It Hit Ya’ in September 2013 which featured in the top 20 iTunes Country Chart. Her second single ‘Snakes and Ladders’ followed in 2014 with similar success.
Laura released her debut Self-Titled EP to iTunes in the summer of 2015 receiving great support from BBC radio across the UK, and similarly from Digital Radio (Chris Country and Amazing Radio). Bob Harris included it in his Best of 2015 retrospective on BBC Radio 2. As the year came to an end, Laura was also awarded the prize of The British Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year and followed up again in 2016 winning the prize for a second year running.
2017 saw Laura release her acoustic EP “Nashville Stole Your Girl” which reached no.3 in the iTunes UK Country Chart and was toured across the UK. Following in the success of the tour and the EP, Bob Harris invited Laura in to his BBC Radio 2 Country show for an interview and session.
Within the same year, Laura began to run her own night ‘Laura Oakes Hosts…’, at The Green Note, Camden to much success. The night showcases talent in the song writing world across the genres of americana, country, singer/songwriter and pop which to date has hosted talent including Holloway Road, Robbie Cavanagh, Lisa Wright, Twinnie, Tim De Graaw and Kerri Watt.
Itching to get back to Nashville, Laura flew back in 2018, to co-write with some of the world’s greatest songwriters including Jeff Cohen, Beth Nielson Chapman, Leslie Satcher, Ray Kennedy, Jenn Bostic, James Slater, Philip White, Mike Fiorentino, Chris Lindsey, Ketelyn Clampett, Jason Lehning and Palmer Green. She returned to the UK armed with a bundle of fabulous songs ready to perform. Stay tuned across Laura’s socials to hear when the tracks will be ready for release.
Norwich, Norfolk. UK
Americana, Folk Rock
Morganway /UE Records
Norwich, Norfolk. UKRead More
Good Soldier Records
Band Members: Sarah Howells
Discography: Chocolate Factory Sessions EP (2015), EP1 (2016), EP2 (2016), Like An Island (2018)
It would be far to say that without meeting Sarah almost five years ago, LCM probably would never have existed in it's current form. So we owe a great deal to Sarah and her music. It's also always a pleasure whenever Sarah joins us for one of our LCM gigs. It is a very exciting time for Sarah as she is about to release her highly anticipated solo debut album 'Like An Island' as Bryde.
Sarah was born in Pembrokeshire but is now London based. She was originally part of the excellent band Paper Aeroplanes but is now forging a solo career as a girl and an electric guitar playing fierce and fragile songs. Her music swaying from vulnerable to uncompromising within one verse and chorus. Bryde's music is honest and furiously authentic. Often compared to the likes of Daughter, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard & PJ Harvey, Sarah has such a distinctive vocal and the electric guitar sounds gives Bryde a different feel to her Paper Aeroplanes and EDM music.
Championed by blogs, her music so far has been described as “tender, wiry piece of tear-jerk alt-pop” (The Line of Best Fit ) and played by Huw Stephens on Radio 1, Tom Robinson on 6music, BBC Introducing in London and cited by various blogs as ‘One to Watch’.
Sarah will be releasing her debut solo album 'Like An Island' on the 13th April followed by a full UK tour including a London date at Omeara (London Bridge) on the 1st May.
“The song is a showcase of Bryde’s impressive vocal range, although her most exceptional vocal quality lies in her ashy timbre and seemingly uncalculated vibratos. It’s these perfect blemishes that imbue her music with a certain convincing vulnerability not normally present in singles from the usual pop titans.” (Earmilk)
“A female soloist gathering a lot of interest …. helping her stand-out among a great tide of very good female artists such a Lapsley.” (Never Enough Notes)
“It bends but does not break, with the insolent sorcery of Sharron Van Etten or PJ Harvey” (Les Inrocks)
Single of the week - “[Help Yourself] glides, soaring skyward through its powerful and emotive choruses, headstrong. It’s clearly cathartic, but not just aimless and explosive, it is instead guided and direct with a complete conviction in itself. A strong but raw vocal performance only enhances the earnest lyrical sentiment.” (Cultured Vultures)
“There is so much beauty in Sarah’s voice: the huskiness of Gemma Hayes, lightness of Laura Marling and sensitivity of Jeff Buckley — beauty that is hard to define, which is a big compliment.” (Fresh on the Net)
Singer-Songwriter, Folk, Acoustic, Pop
Singer-songwriter, blues, gospel, rock, acoustic
Discography: Proof of Life (2010), I Fought Lovers EP (2013), Revolute (2019)
Record Label: Independent
Katey Brooks is a gorgeous singer-songwriter with a beautiful intense vocal. We are big fans of her music here at LCM, with her stunning song 'State of Mine' being one of our favourites. Born and raised in a commune setting between Bristol, London and Arizona, to hippy music-loving parents, Indie Award nominee Katey Brooks’ unique sound and style epitomizes the culturally diverse environment in which she grew up. Drawing influences from artists like Johnny Cash and Kate Bush, her voice is often compared to the likes of Joan Armatrading, and Annie Lennox, and has best been described as a voice “…to melt glaciers” (Venue Magazine).
Known for her powerful and evocative live sets, Katey has played a notable list of amazing shows including London 2012, Glastonbury Festival, WOMAD Festival, a BBC Introducing Stage headliner at Wychwood, several European Festivals, and supported a host of credible artists such as Newton Faulkner, Mercury nominee Lou Rhodes, Mike and The Mechanics, Grammy nominees Cutting Crew, and BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Chris Wood.
Besides her own works, Brooks’s “John Martyn-esque” (Manchester Evening News) lamenting tones have earned her features on BBC Radio 2 Children in Need album ‘Bandaged Together’, recorded at Abbey Road with artists such as Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), and Paloma Faith, as well as compilations with Ane Brun and Anais Mitchell.
Last year was fantastic with Katey being added to the Starbucks playlist worldwide and signing an endorsement deal with American guitar makers Alvarez, joining the ranks of Grammy Award winner Ani Difranco, and Joe Bonamassa. Her ‘Back to Light’ Tour in the Spring received rave reviews and write ups from Metro UK, R2: Rock ‘n’ Reel, Venue and Shakenstir Magazine.
After a summer of shows, festivals and a busy few months tucked away writing for the new album, Katey recently released a brand new EP; which has been highly praised by critics. The ‘I Fought Lovers EP’ is the follow up release to her debut album ‘Proof Of Life’ which reached No.1 in the Amazon Folk chart along with favourable press reviews and BBC Radio 1 and 6 airplay. The EP contain one of favourite songs from Katey the stunningly beautiful 'State of Mine'. The first single and title track from the EP has been featured on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show, while two tracks were chosen for 6 Music’s Tom Robinson’s mixtape – – it’s haunting, ethereal sound being a great first taste of what’s to come off the second album in 2015. Katey released her debut album ‘Revolute’ in May 2019.
“Love this lady’s voice” (Joss Stone)
“Heartfelt English Gospel” (Tom Robinson BBC 6 Music)
“We’d even compare it to the impact of Jeff Buckley” (Supajam)
“Blown away” (Clare Anderson Late Lounge Show (Jazz FM))
Band Members: Jökull Júlíusson (Vocals, guitar), Davíð Antonsson (Drums, vocals), Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson (Bass) and Rubin Pollock (Lead guitar)
Home Town: Mosfellsbær, Iceland
Discography: A/B (2016)
Record Label: Atlantic Records
For a few years now Iceland has been creating some great musicians and music. One of my current favourites is Kaleo, a wonderful four piece indie rock/blues band. who we think you will hearing a lot more about this year. Firmly a phenomenon in their home country of Iceland, the four-piece band Kaleo is set to descend upon foreign shores in 2015, bringing their gorgeous blend of folk, blues, country, and rock to a wider mainstream audience in America. Their isolated heritage inspires a unique take on familiar sonic elements, resulting in diversity and freedom on each and every breathtaking track.
Best friends since attending elementary school in the small town of Mosfellsbaer outside of Reykjavik, bandleader JJ Julius Son, drummer David Antonsson Crivello, and bassist Danny Jones began playing together at the age of 17. Honing their skills, they played countless shows around the nation’s capital for a few years before adding guitarist Rubin Pollock to the mix in 2012.
They named the band Kaleo, which means “the sound” in Hawaiian, and started their career in earnest with a handful of well-received shows at the 2012 Iceland Airwaves music festival. They recorded their first pair of original songs in early 2013, the fiery “Rock N Roller” and laid-back, bluesy “Pour Sugar On Me,” which earned Kaleo some radio airplay and press in Iceland. Then, that spring, their cover of the traditional Icelandic ballad “Vor í vaglaskógi” during a live radio show was videotaped and posted to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. The band recorded a studio version of the song in June, which went straight to Number One in virtually every radio station in the country. “It’s a different kind of cover, more dramatic and the tempo is taken down,” says JJ. The buzz for Kaleo had begun.
The band signed to Iceland’s largest record label, Sena, in the fall of 2013 and recorded their full-length debut, Kaleo, in just six short weeks. Five singles would reach Number One and the album would go Gold, receiving high praise and sending the band to shows and festivals in Europe over the next year, including an appearance on the biggest stage in their home country, Culture Night, where they played to 100,000 people and reached 90 percent of Iceland’s population in broadcast. Then, in the spring of 2014, Kaleo recorded the lush, introspective song “All the Pretty Girls” and in one night their destiny to outgrow their small, island nation was cemented.
“It’s a very delicate song. It seemed to speak to a lot of people,” says JJ. “From there everything started to happen. We got contacted from other places: managers, labels, publishers—they all went crazy over one night.” Drawn to Kaleo’s multi-layered dynamics, their ability to play different genres with equal skill, the vocals and mood reminiscent of everything from Bon Iver and Iron & Wine to Coldplay and David Gray, and wise-beyond-their-years songwriting, the world came calling.
Now, signed to Atlantic Records in the US, Kaleo has moved to Austin, Texas, and will begin recording new material with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg) in London for an EP due this year. Get ready for the sound.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
WM Benelux BV
Band members: Marijn van der Meer & Jorrit Kleijnen
Discography: Eyes Closed (2018), Symphonic Tales (2019)
HAEVN was founded by songwriter Marijn van der Meer & film composer Jorrit Kleijnen, working from their studio in Amsterdam. Before releasing any material they teamed up with Tim Bran, the acclaimed producer behind London Grammar and Birdy. This collaboration resulted in the singles 'Finding out More' and 'Where the Heart is' and immediately attracted the attention of two major car brands who used HAEVN's music in their advertisement campaigns. This massive exposure gave the band a headstart and touring was the next step. Soon Marijn and Jorrit found their musical wings in guitarist Tom Veugen, drummer David Broeders and bass player Mart Jeninga. In September 2015 HAEVN gave their first live performance. The unique combination of cinematic melodies performed by Marijns warm vocals has conquered the hearts of many music lovers across Europe.
‘Finding out more’ received airplay on all major Dutch radio stations and got played over 7 million times on Spotify. Volkskrant, Trouw, and Spotify elected HAEVN as 'one to watch' for 2016.
HAEVN received a nomination for an Edison Award and 3FM Award in category 'Best upcoming act'. Their headliner show in Paradiso and other venues across the Netherlands all sold out in a few days. Soon after that, they were part of the headliner acts at festivals ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Concert At Sea’. Their second single 'Bright Lights' again received much airplay on the Dutch radio. In 2017 HAEVN played in a sold out Carré, TivoliVredenburg and Oosterpoort.
Please also check out their excellent debut album ‘Eyes Closed’, which was released in May last year.
Photo credit: Eveline Vroonland
London and Cambridge, England. UK
Folk, Americana Singer-Songwriter
Blue Rose Code
Leith, Scotland. UK
Celtic lullabies and Caledonian Soul
Band Members: Ross Wilson
Discography: North Ten (2013) Julie EP (2013) Whitechapel EP (2013) Ballads Of Peckham Rye (2014) Live at SPOC (2015) Grateful EP (2015), Lo! The Bird Is On The Wing (2016), Live At The Convent (2016), The Waters Of Leith (2017)
One of our favourite Scottish singer-songwriters is the very excellent Edinburgh born Ross Wilson aka Blue Rose Code. A wonderful writer of Caledonian Soul whose live performances are not to be missed. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Ross' music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records. His last album has just been released on vinyl (14th October), preceded by a double A-side single to promote the release, 'Chasing Sunlight/Rebecca'.
'...AND LO! THE BIRD IS ON THE WING' is the new album from Blue Rose Code. Previewed to a sold out theatre at 2016’s Celtic Connections, released on 4th March and supported by a UK and European tour. Recorded at Gran's House Studio in the Scottish Borders and written between the Shetland Isles and rural Dorset, '...AND LO! THE BIRD IS ON THE WING' features the finest Scottish Jazz and Folk musicians, Nashville Gospel singers, The McCrary Sisters, British music legend Danny Thompson and Hollywood A-lister, none other than Ewan McGregor.
Of the new record, Ross says, "It's an album for music fans and musicians, a challenging record. I'm passionate about that fusion of folk and jazz and where it intersects with songwriting. Working with these musicians has been a game-changer. I may have cut my throat because there's not really a single on here but, this is the album that I've written and it's just as I wished it to be."
In the space of only a short few years and two stellar albums Ross has gone from song-writing in the obscurity of an East London flat to being celebrated by the industry and fans alike as a legacy artist whose work stands alone. As BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Mary-Anne Kennedy said recently, “Blue Rose Code is one of those rare artists whose work makes you sit up and listen”.
The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, Blue Rose Code’s second record, was nominated for the prestigious Scottish Album Of The Year Awards in 2014 and featured a roll-call of remarkable talent, including Danny Thompson, Karine Polwart, John Wetton, Aidan O’Rourke and Kathryn Williams.
'GRATEFUL', the first single from the new album was released at the end of 2015 and was playlisted on BBC Radio Scotland for a full five weeks. Truly remarkable for an act without the backing of a label or a heavy management deal.
Further praise has come from the most unexpected of quarters in Hollywood A-lister, Ewan McGregor. Ewan explained, “My uncle Denis Lawson, (star of Local Hero) gave me a copy of The Ballads Of Peckham Rye, it’s beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it.”
Performing live he is stunning, and this reputation led Edith Bowman to personally ask Ross to perform on the launch show of BBC At The Quay with Texas and Stornoway. Edith described Ross’ performance with a nine-piece band, including guest Karine Polwart, as “truly special and beautiful”.
Upminster, Essex. UK
Virgin EMI Records
Discography: Little Love EP (2018)
Essex based James Smith is a very talented and fast rising young singer-songwriter. With over 2M views on YouTube and over 20M streams on Spotify James is quickly establishing a loyal fan base. He also recently signed to Virgin EMI Records. The 19-year-old James is definitely one to watch for the future.
The Black Feathers
Cirencester, Gloucestershire. UK
Americana, Folk, Country
Bird In The Hand Records / Blue House Music
Band members: Ray Hughes & Sian Chandler
Discography: Strangers We Meet EP (2014), Soaked To The Bone (2015), Live At The Convent (2016), Holy Water EP (2017), The Ghosts Have Eaten Well EP (2018)
The Black Feathers are an award winning duo from Gloucestershire in England. The perfectly paired voices of Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes intertwine effortlessly to create a genre defying sound, combining elements of folk, roots, Americana, and southern rock. The duo have been touring all over the UK for the past 4 years, winning over new fans of all ages everywhere they go.
They married in 2012, which also marked the beginning of their musical adventure as The Black Feathers. They designed the band logo on honeymoon and the music soon followed. This close collaboration became the backbone of The Black Feathers’ sound. Whether playing to a 1,500 strong audience at the Colston Hall in Bristol, or to 80 crammed into the Green Note in London, The Black Feathers give an intimate performance that draws the listener in to a special, strong and unique bond between two people.
They have performed at festivals all over the country, including the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival, Stroud Folk Festival, and Maverick. They were awarded the 5 Valleys Folk Award in September of 2013, and the Folkstock Arts Foundation award for Best Live Performance in February the following year.
In May of 2014, they embarked on a 7 week tour in the US, including shows at Club Passim, Caffe Lena, the Red Clay Theatre, and a sell out show at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
2014 also saw the release of 'Strangers We Meet', the duo's debut 5 track EP, garnering national airplay on BBC Radio2, as well as regional play across the country and warm reviews from the music press, including The Telegraph, fRoots Magazine, and Acoustic Magazine.
With a fantastic debut album 'Soaked To the Bone' released in 2015 and multiple tours of the USA, the future is looking very bright for Ray and Sian. Watch out for new music coming this year.
Cirencester, Gloucestershire. UK
Americana, Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Everyone Sang / Linn Records
Band members: Emily Baker
Bands and collaborations: Applewood Road, Vena Portae, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, Marry Waterson + Emily Barker.
Discography: Welcome To the-low-country (2003) The Dark Road (2004) Photos.Fires.Fables. (2006) Despite the Snow (2008) Almanac (2011) Dear River (2013) Vena Portae (2014) The Toerag Sessions (2015) Applewood Road (2016) Sweet Kind Of Blue (2017)
Our next LCM featured multi-award winning singer-songwriter is often described as one of Australia's finest exports. She is also one of our favourites. This Western Australian native from Bridgetown, has now made her home in the UK. Emily travelled to the UK in 2002 and was first based in Cambridge where she collaborated with guitarist Rob Jackson. They formed a band called 'the-low-country' which released two albums, Welcome to the-low-country (2003) and The Dark Road (2004), tracks from which enjoyed plays on John Peel's BBC radio show.. In October 2005 Emily won Country Song of the Year and Regional Song of the Year awards at the annual West Australian Music Songwriting Awards. Also in 2005, Emily started work on her debut solo album, 'Photos.Fires.Fables'., released on Emily's own label Everyone Sang. The release of this album saw the birth of The Red Clay Halo, an all-female trio of Anna Jenkins (violin, viola), Jo Silverston (cello, bass, banjo, saw) and Gill Sandell (accordion, piano, flute, guitar).Emily released three full albums with The Red Clay Halo: 'Despite the Snow' (2008), 'Almanac' (2011) and 'Dear River' (2013).
Emily is also the songwriter and performer of the theme to BBC TV’s 'Wallander' starring Kenneth Branagh. Her music is a blend of roots influences from country to English folk via 60s pop. Alongside the Wallander theme, Emily has also provided the theme music to BBC TV drama 'The Shadow Line' (which won an Ivor Novello for best TV soundtrack for series composer Martin Phipps) and has recently (in collaboration again with Martin Phipps) composed music for Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room (Sam Worthington, Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld) as well as her first feature length soundtrack, for Jake Gavin’s UK road movie Hector starring Peter Mullan.
Emma Ballantine (Miyo)
Shut Up Jo Records
Discography: Flying Machine EP (2012), Tourist EP (2015), Somebody's Story EP (2017)
Emma Ballantine released her excellent EP called 'Somebody's Story' in April 2017, based on stories sent to Emma by other people. Featured by Q Magazine and tipped by Glamour as 'One to Watch in 2016’, Emma Ballantine is rapidly gaining recognition for powerful songwriting and a ‘shapeshifting vocal gift’ (Gigslutz). A finalist in the UK Unsigned Songwriter of the Year competition, Emma’s music has been played by BBC Radio 2, BBC 6Music and BBC Introducing and she has been described by Resonance FM as ‘a unique voice among modern songwriters’.
Emma has toured around the UK and Germany, playing at festivals including Glastonbury, Sidmouth Folk Week and Home Farm Festival. Originally from Salisbury and now based in London, she has played some of the capital’s best known venues, such as The Bedford, The Troubadour, The Barfly and Hard Rock Cafe. Emma’s latest EP, Tourist, reached no.15 in the iTunes charts
Artist: Fiona Bevan
Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Acoustic
Location: London, UK
Discography: Talk To Strangers (2014) Wild Angels Sweet Demons EP (2018)
Record Company: Navigator Records
Fiona Bevan’s bewitching music has roots that run deep. They stretch as far back as the Suffolk-born singer’s childhood home, in which her family sang songs from black and white films and old musicals around a piano and her parents played her Cole Porter and Doris Day. They snake through her spell as an English literature student, several years spent perfecting her craft on the London club circuit and an extraordinary career as a writer that ranges from commissions for film, classical compositions and a Tate exhibition to co-penning a multi-platinum chart-topping hit, ‘Little Things’, with Ed Sheeran, for boy band behemoth One Direction.
That Fiona describes her debut album as ‘pop in disguise’ makes perfect sense. The dozen, dynamic songs on 'Talk To Strangers' have hooks, harmonies and melodies that linger from first listen, but they are defiantly timeless as opposed to time-bound, as rooted in the past as they are in the present and purposely hard to pin down. Among the guitars, drums and piano, you’ll hear violin, double bass, accordion and harp, all played by Bevan, a hapi drum played by producer Shawn Lee and birdsong, some of it real, some of it whistled by Bevan-as-bird.
“I didn’t grow up on pop,” says Fiona. “I heard The Beatles and Hendrix for the first time at 15 and they blew my mind. But by then I had found my own way of using my voice. I have a high voice that’s not particularly fashionable, but it helped me channel my songs. I’ve made all sorts of music in the past, but I’ve always known how I should sound.”
The album’s storytelling lyrics are as crucial as their impeccable settings, their meanings central to the songs. A relative of Robert Louis Stevenson (he was her great great grandfather’s cousin), Bevan grew up immersed in books, began writing poetry aged eight and stumbled in to her first band at 15, having joined to play bass, but been promoted to co-writing and singing the songs by the group’s first gig.
“I love clever, interesting pop and I adore storytelling,” says Fiona. “It’s important to me that no words are wasted. I write about real things that have happened to me or my friends. I try to find the focus of a story and work from there.
“My writing process is really an attempt to understand who I am and how not to be walked over in the world – as a woman, as a shy person, as someone doing something different. I’d say it’s about finding myself, if that didn’t sound so terribly cheesy.” Talk To Strangers’ first single, The Machine, is about… well, everything.
“Before I play it at gigs I say it’s a song about everything,” laughs Fiona. “It sounds really big, but in fact it’s about the small parts of a machine – the pistons, the cogs, the fuses. It comes from being angry and frustrated about the state of the world and from my feelings of powerlessness to do anything about it. Within the song, there’s a shift – that’s about breaking out and finding how you can have power in your own life, in everything you do.
The industrial theme is mirrored in The Machine’s hypnotic rhythm and clanging percussion, which are in vivid contrast to the spritely vocal and the frisky, looped acoustic guitar. The almost conversational, Sondheim-esque shift sees Fiona urging herself – and her listeners – to take control.
Talk To Strangers is littered with references to film and literature. The jazz-tinged Rebel Without A Cause was written after the London riots – James Dean being a metaphor for listless youth – but it’s also a love song that offers a fleeting glimpse of a relationship at a specific point in time. Or as Fiona puts it, ‘It’s a let’s go somewhere else sort of love song’.
Bluesy piano ballad The Exorcist nimbly nails a lover’s jealousy of their partner’s ex and borrows from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.
“It’s about purging your life of jealousy and paranoia,” explains Fiona. “In the middle eight, the ex appears to say she’s not a threat. She says in another life, we’d be friends, not enemies, so it’s also about female solidarity.”
The album’s gorgeous closing track, the lush The Last Days Of Decadence, was inspired by both the financial crash and a flyer bearing the same name that Fiona was handed in the street.
“I had no idea what the flyer was for,” says Fiona. “On it was a line drawing of a beautiful building and a date. I put it on my wall, looked at it every day and decided to write a song about it. A year later, I was on a bus going through Shoreditch and I saw the building. It was a bar. I thought, ‘Oh shit, I’ve written a song about a bar’. But now, because of the crash, that bar has gone out of business.”
Among a handful of heartbreak songs on Talk To Strangers is the stunning Us And The Darkness, which first appeared as the title track of an EP Fiona self-released in 2011, but has since been rerecorded. The beautiful melody, beguiling vocal and twinkly sounds belie the circumstances in which it was written.
“I was living on Brick Lane, my heart had been broken and I couldn’t sleep at night,” recalls the singer. “I looked out at all the city lights and thought about the other people still up. So it’s an insomnia song that, again, is about solidarity. A lot of my lyrics are about people being connected, whether they know it or not.”
Talk To Strangers was recorded entirely on analogue equipment with artist and producer Shawn Lee at his Bloomsbury studio in short bursts throughout spring last year.
“The idea was to capture the energy of playing live,” says Fiona. “Nothing is digital or sterile; it’s golden and human. We recorded everything live and not to click and captured something that I’ve never managed in a studio before – the magic of live performance.”
Playing live has been the cornerstone of Bevan’s career since she first stepped on stage in Colchester aged 15. Her teenage band lasted four years, after which she moved to London to study and went solo with her guitar. Along the way, she has played with dozens of other artists in all sorts of genres of music. There was even a brief spell as a bassist in a band mentored by Adam Ant and fronted by Georgina Baillie (the woman at the centre of the Sachsgate scandal).
The song she wrote with a pre-fame Sheeran (the pair used to play the same club nights) spent years lost thanks to a misplaced mobile phone before Fiona came across the lyrics on a piece of paper. She sent them to Sheeran, who remembered and recorded the music. One Direction overheard Little Things, insisted they have it and took it to the top of the charts in late 2012.
Last year, Fiona wrote, recorded and toured with jazz vocalist Gwyneth Herbert. Reviewing the show in London, The Guardian gushed that “Fiona took us on startling odysseys that suggested Erykah Badu, Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush spine-tinglingly joined”. More recently, she has been in L.A. co-writing with Grammy Award-winning producer John Shanks.
Talk To Strangers was entirely composed by Fiona over the past four years and recently mastered in San Francisco by the legendary George Horn, who has been cutting vinyl since the ‘60s for musicians including Paul Simon, Sly & The Family Stone, Bob Dylan and John Coltrane. If the album feels like a long time coming for an artist already established live, it’s been well worth the wait. Those deep roots have spawned something truly special.