Singer-songwriter Bella McKendree will be releasing her debut EP, Waiting, later this month. Out on 18 August, the four-track EP features the forthcoming lead single, Grieve, seeing Bella and her band combine a darting piano melody with the singer’s tender, emotional lyrics.
Says McKendree: “In this song, I’ve laid out my heart, truly transparent about my own experience of loss. The reality is that sometimes you have to confront that dark place so I didn’t sugar coat the truth. It is the most vulnerable record I’ve written.”
Having grown up in the countryside, McKendree moved to London last year to start a band, perfecting her own material at various Sofar Sounds gigs across the country, as well as support slots for the likes of Ryan Keen, Martin Luke Brown and Keaton Henson. She also started working with Grammy Award-winning producer Brett Shaw (Florence & The Machine, Daughter) on the upcoming EP and is currently touring the UK. Among other dates, catch her at The Half Moon, Putney (7 August), and the Sunrise Celebration Festival, Hereford (19/20 August).
Bella McKendree – Grieve
British singer/songwriter Tom Forest returns with the second release from his upcoming debut album Hope. Believer has all the soulful, uplifting brilliance of previous song Summer.
It has a simple melody, with a sincere vocal delicately delivered and totally compelling. Of the song, Forest says: “Last year I was in a dark place with music. It felt like life was telling me it was time to stop, even though it was something that had always been second nature. To make an album took a huge amount of support from friends and family – many people contributed to that process and I’m so grateful.
“Sometimes the value of dreams is not in whether you achieve or fail, but in the belief in that it brings out in those around you. If you find yourself fighting a battle, even if you lose, you see who comes to join you.”
Tom Forest – Believer
Rising Irish artist Ailbhe Reddy has unveiled Fingertips as the lead single from her new EP, Attach To Memory, which is out this week (24/5). “This EP is an evolution of my first, Hollowed Out Sea,” says Reddy. “Most of these new songs are more up-tempo which shows the fuller sound of my live shows.”
Influenced by the likes of Liane La Havas, Fiona Apple and Hundred Waters, Reddy impresses with an EP built on solid song writing, intricate melodies, and addictive radio friendly hooks – best illustrated on the lead single, Fingertips – albeit with the ‘clean version’ for radio purposes no doubt!
She has been making waves in her native Ireland, ever since a homemade demo of her song Cover Me was used in a Today FM radio advert in 2014. Later that year her first single, Flesh & Blood earned rave reviews and was featured as Song of the Day on Folk Radio UK. She went on to feature on a host of Irish festival line-ups last year.
Reddy has a headline London show this week at The Slaughtered Lamb on 24/5. Tickets here.
Ailbhe Reddy – Fingertips
Here at Sync, we’re proud of our cross-genre track record, but we have to admit, folk probably hasn’t been given due prominence on our playlists. But even if it’s not normally your thing, it would take a pretty hard heart not to fall in love with Almost Home by Keston Cobblers Club.
It’s the joyful title track from their album which came out at the end of last month and is well worth having in your life. And if you like what you hear below, check out another beauty of theirs – Bicycles.
Keston Cobblers Club – Almost Home
New from Tom Speight is this truly beautiful song. Featuring the equally beautiful voice of Jessica Staveley-Taylor from The Staves, Willow Tree is the lead track from an EP of the same name which is due for release on 10 March.
Now we know from experience of seeing Speight live – supporting Turin Brakes on tour last year – just what a class performer he is. If you’ve not had the good fortune of seeing him yet, then get yourself down to one of his forthcoming dates next month when he plays a trio of shows in London (5 April), Manchester (6) and Bristol (7).
Tom Speight – Willow Tree
Get It Loud In Libraries have been running for nine years now and can boast the likes of Florence + the Machine, Adele and The Vaccines in its history books – pun intended – so it seems apt that Lucy Rose embarks on her own library tour as it’s the perfect setting for her folk-rock sound.
The audience at Liverpool Central Library was treated to 90 minutes of stunning acoustic playing from Lucy and band member Alex, warmed up by Annie Eve. It’s refreshing to see a female singer-songwriter support another which Lucy later points out herself. She says she purposely wanted other women on the tour because it doesn’t make sense that it should always be women supporting men or vice versa.
It is clear that Lucy has a great connection with her fans, from stories about how she stayed at South American fans’ houses on her tour, to giving a job on her European tour to a fan who said she wanted to become a tour manager one day, and her interaction with the crowd in Liverpool which is so effortless with no airs and graces or scripts. She also takes requests throughout the night playing the likes of Night Bus, Shiver and Be Alright, despite a bit of a groan and regret at opening up requests, as she wants to play some of her more uplifting songs but she doesn’t disappoint as she kicks off with My Life and continues to play some of her best from album’s Like I Used To – this audience are keen to hear the bonus tracks in this rare live opportunity – and Work It Out.
She says she won’t talk between every song but that’s part of her charm on a live stage, between stories about how she’s the worst child out of her siblings because she sang at one of her sister’s wedding and not the others, as well as forgetting to record a ‘happy birthday’ message to her mum’s friend Jackie who she’s met once in her life. But then the crowd join in the recording as Lucy quips after that she’s now gone from the worst to the best child thanks to the audience participation.
The singer-songwriter has two studio albums under her belt and a recent live release Live at Urchin Studios which she is showcasing on this library tour but she says she has had doubts about recording another album with new material. However, fortunately she teases Liverpool with some new tracks including the wonderful Fernando which was inspired by her tour in South America.
It is fitting then that she wants to end on positive song Like An Arrow, a track which showcases the singer’s voice as she hits the stunning high notes despite asking the crowd to sing-a-long during the chorus because she doesn’t think she sings it very well. It is a lovely moment as the singer connects with fans in what was already a solid set.
Perhaps the doubts of LP number three come from the music industry today and the pressures to secure a multi-million selling number one album, but there is definitely a place for Lucy Rose in the music world and I’m sure the crowds at all the library shows will agree.
Review & Photo by Jonny Yates (@)
Lucy Rose – Like An Arrow
Given their regular appearances on Sync and our Soundcloud playlists, we were somewhat excited to get the chance to catch brother and sister duo Ardyn live for the first time when their UK tour saw them stop off in Bristol.
They certainly didn’t let us down – it was a great set full of promise from a band which so far has just a couple of EPs to its name but for whom the potential is huge. Their sound is folk at heart, but with a real twist. Strong songwriting and Katy Pearson’s hauntingly beautiful vocals combine to great effect and as a live proposition they are accomplished multi-instrumentalists.
A regular on these pages has been Wolverhampton-based singer-songwriter Penny Bridges, whose distinctive voice adds an enthralling quality to her well-written and neatly-produced material.
New track Tomorrow has all of the attributes of her previous work that has appeared on Sync (see Discover…). It is stand-out folk/pop with strong hooks and a lightness of touch that lets the song seep into your consciousness.
Penny Bridges – Tomorrow
There has been a handful of artists that we’ve followed since the very beginning of Sync and which have simply not put a foot wrong. Gloucestershire duo Ardyn are a particular favourite of ours, having created some beautifully rich sounds with real depth and atmosphere.
Brother and sister Rob and Katy Pearson have been developing their enthralling folk-infused material over the last couple of years, releasing EP The Universe last year and most recently fine tuning their live act with an expanded line-up for a string of performances across the UK at festivals of all shapes and sizes.
New song The Valley (featured below along with previous single Over the River which we’ve been listening to pretty much non-stop for a couple of months now!) shows further progress and is sure to help to expand their rapidly growing fan base.
Sync caught up with Ardyn ahead of their show at Farmfest in Somerset this weekend…
SYNC: So what’s the background? When did you start making music and how has it developed over the years?
Katy: We started writing music from an early age. It started off pretty stripped-back, but in the last two years we brought a band in so we could expand our sound.
SYNC: Your music has an ethereal sound that is reminiscent of other artists and yet at the same time sounds totally original. Who are your musical inspirations and influences both past and present?
Rob: Kate Bush has been a massive inspiration to Katy and the Beatles Revolver album to us both. We are a big fan of The Maccabees and The National. We have both been listening to a lot of Father John Misty at the moment – we caught his set at Latitude last weekend, which was great.
SYNC: How does your songwriting process work? Is it purely collaborative between you both or does one take the lead in some respects?
Katy: Our songwriting process is so varied. Sometimes it’s a balanced input from both of us, and other times one of us will come to the other with an almost finished song and just add some last little bits to it. Or Rob will have a riff and come to me to add a melody.
SYNC: Live performances vs studio work: which do you prefer and how have both been going for you recently?
Katy: I love both aspects, but recently I have really been enjoying playing live. We have got to a good place with our set and everyone’s feeling much more confident with the songs.
Rob: I love both, but there’s a great feeling that I get from playing live that I haven’t had in the studio yet.
SYNC: We gather you were in the States recently. Was this an escape for working on new material?
Katy: Yes, we went out there to do some writing and just get out of our comfort zone. It was an amazing experience such a different vibe out there.
SYNC: Closer to home, what is your local music scene like? Has it been an important testing ground for you?
Rob: Our local scene has been really supportive to us over the years, there are a few pubs where we sometimes play low-key gigs to test new songs out.
SYNC: What are the next steps for Ardyn? Are there any live shows are in the pipeline – and can we expect an album anytime soon?
Katy: We have 4-5 more festivals this summer including Green Man and Farmfest and yes, definitely an album in the near future!
Ardyn – The Valley
Ardyn – Over The River
Hailing from South Wales, Hannah Grace has the strength of voice that belies her 23 years. This fiery title track from her new EP Mustang, released earlier this month, shows this only too well and explains why established acts Gabrielle Aplin and Hozier invited the talented singer onto their recent tours as support.
Hannah Grace hits the road for her own UK tour soon with dates in Nottingham (26/9), Birmingham (27/9), Manchester (29/9), Bristol (30/9), Cardiff (1/10) and London (3/10).
We were lucky enough to catch her a few weeks ago when she supported Seal at Bristol’s Colston Hall and she captivated a large audience with her powerfully soulful voice. Expect to hear a lot more of her in the not-too-distant future.
Hannah Grace – Mustang
Jolé is the moniker of Brighton-based solo artist, Josh Oliver, whose brand of subtle lo-fi pop has earned comparisons with the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Keaton Henson, and Bon Iver.
“I left the UK for a year to write and travel with the intention of gaining new experiences and influences on my music,” he explains. “I wanted to take a break from performing and just write music as in my previous band we had toured solidly around the UK and Europe for 5 years.”
We think his upbeat track A Year of Ages sounds great and look forward to hearing more of this particular talent.
Jolé – A Year of Ages
With an ambitious ‘#OneSongaWeek’ project in which he wrote, recorded and released a song a week for an entire year, and an EP recorded on the London Eye with a string quartet in the time it takes to go round once (28 minutes), Frank Hamilton is not one for doing things the easy way.
Ahead of the launch of his new album later this year (Songs to Make Life Slightly Less Awkward, out September – see website for more details), Sync caught up with Frank to find out more about his inventive – and very personal – brand of creativity…
SYNC: For those who are not aware, what was the background to #OneSongaWeek – and what made you want to tackle such a tough creative challenge?
FRANK HAMILTON: Truthfully, there wasn’t much forethought at all, which was probably for the best or I might have talked myself out of it! I had the idea on January 2nd and released the first song on January 6th. Everything happened so quickly and most people were sceptical about it, which only made me more determined.
As for the why, I suppose it was a mixture of ambition and desperation. I’d tried and failed to land a ‘proper record deal’ (whatever that is) and I didn’t want to be another one of the thousands of artists who just plods along releasing EP after EP.
I always had faith in myself and the way I write songs but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of doubt and worry surrounding the project. It wasn’t until week 30 or so that I realised it was actually a good idea!
SYNC: Your material comes across as ‘soul-bearing’. Is that how it feels for you, and how crucial is that aspect in making your songs work as well as they do?
FH: I was asked to describe my music in three words once and all I could think of was ‘far too honest’, which I guess could be construed as ‘soul-bearing’? I’ve always been a bit embarrassed by the hyperbole that goes along with that because I feel like being honest should be a given for artists, but you only have to take a quick look/listen to radio and the charts to know that it isn’t. At the end of the day, I’m just a bloke who feels things and writes about them… and maybe I take that to the extreme sometimes but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
SYNC: Your career to date could be described as somewhat ‘unconventional’ (whatever ‘conventional’ is supposed to be!). It sounds like the new album still follows the DIY style but have you changed your approach to the process both in terms of ideas for songs and the actual recording aspect?
FH: In terms of ideas for the songs, not much has changed. I’m still the same person (sometimes confident, sometimes insecure, always over-thinking) and the approach is no different – I just write about whatever things happen to be floating around my noggin. Circumstances change though, and the last few years have seen me grow up a bit and look beyond trying to find a pretty girl to hang out with. Don’t get me wrong there are still love songs on the new record, but it also tackles themes like depression, addiction and existentialism which are things I never really thought about back in the day.
In terms of the sonics and recording, I didn’t set out with a plan but the songs I was writing seemed to lend themselves to a different, more upbeat style of production. Also prior to #OneSongaWeek I’d never produced anything and naturally I’ve learnt a lot since then. If I’d tried making a record with drum machines and lo-fi electric guitars four years ago I wouldn’t have known where to start but this time I was more confident in being able to capture the noises in my head on record.
Also I’ve always wanted to be in a pop-punk / indie band, so once I started going down that route I didn’t need much encouragement to carry on. It feels a bit like the record I’ve always wanted to make, if that makes sense.
SYNC: What other artists out there are you currently enjoying at the moment?
FH: I’m a big fan of Vant, although I’ve only heard a few songs. I don’t know how they write but I’d be surprised if they weren’t mostly down to the singer. The lyrics and concepts stand head and shoulders above similar sounding indie bands, which makes me think he stays up until 4am overthinking things in the same way I do.
SYNC: Are you a festival kind of person or do you prefer your own shows? What have been your live show career highlights so far?
FH: Festivals are great but unless you’re Ed Sheeran or Coldplay (by that I mean everyone’s heard of you and knows your songs) they can also be hit and miss. The banter’s great, it’s a nice day out and I enjoy the challenge of winning over a bunch of people who had no idea I existed until 10 minutes ago, but if I had to choose I’d always pick headline shows.
The fact that people spend money and leave their houses to come and see little old me play some songs I wrote in my bedroom still blows my mind. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a stage in front of those people, seeing the joy in their eyes and hearing them sing along to every word as they smile and hug the person next to them. I know every artist says it but I really do feel like I have the best fans in the world… and I also feel really lucky to have sold enough records to be able to experience that properly – most artists don’t ever get to.
SYNC: What plans do you have to get on the road and tour the new album? And – early days yet we know! – are there any plans you can reveal yet for this year’s Christmas show?
FH: I can actually answer both these questions in one! This December will be the first time ‘Crikey, It’s Christmas’ (my annual Christmas show) goes on the road – London, Manchester and Bristol.
As for the album, who knows! I’ll do something but it might not be a conventional tour so to speak. As always I’ve got some ideas. We’ll see what happens!
Hailing from New York but now based in London, Norma Jean Martine is a prolific songwriter with a host of wide-ranging credits to her name – including co-writing this year’s Italian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest!
This track of her own though is having another run-out having first appeared in 2014. No Gold was co-written and co-produced by none other than Joel Pott, frontman of the much missed Athlete. Whilst that band is on long-term hiatus, Pott has been busy in recent times, writing and producing for a wide range of artists including George Ezra, London Grammar, James Bay and Shura.
No Gold is taken from Martine’s forthcoming debut album Only In My Mind which is due for release in September 2016.
Norma Jean Martine – No Gold
Here’s another band we think we’ll be following pretty closely over the coming months. Ardyn – twins Rob and Katy Pearson from Cirencester, Gloucestershire – will be appearing at the Green Man festival this summer and their EP The Universe is well worth checking out, especially for tracks The Garden and this cracker Help Me On My Way.
Ardyn – Help Me On My Way
Here’s one to get stuck in your head. I Should’ve Known is a track from acoustic-indie three-piece Narrow Plains.
The song is taken from the London-based band’s self-titled debut album released last month.
Narrow Plains – I Should’ve Known