SONGWRITING SHORTLIST 2009 FELLOWSHIPS EMILY BAKER Emily has been a self-employed session musician for the past eleven years providing vocals for a wide range of genres. Her training in Music and Media at the University of Sussex and Brighton Institute of Music and Media concentrated on songwriting and production techniques, skills which have enabled her to record and produce her own material. Her own songwriting technique is story-driven, taking a story or event that has sparked her imagination and that contains depth of emotion and dramatic qualities. The lyrical ideas that arise drive tempo and chordal progressions which then leads to melodic themes. Although her initial interest was to write songs for others to perform Emily’s confidence as a performer has increased over the past two years. She now cherishes the experience of live performance and has recently performed in the Opera House, Bournmouth and Hackney Empire supporting Pete Doherty. She is passionate about production and produces songs in her home studio, which, although effective, limits her ability to use live instrumentation. Through her site on ‘myspace’ she has developed a network of 3,000 followers of her music, an achievement which would stand her in good stead should she realise her aim of setting up her own record label. If Emily won the fellowship she would record her first album in 2009 enabling the necessary time and resources to produce her work to a professional standard. ADRIAN BURKE Adrian Burke aka Witness is known as a gospel and social justice artist that has a string of awards to match his 14-year career. He grew up in Birmingham listening to artists such as Papa San, Shabba Ranks, Tiger and Lieutenant Stitchie, leaving him with a keen interest in reggae and dancehall. The lyrics however to his songs have been inspired from an inner desire to create positive and thought-provoking songs for listeners of all ages, messages which prompted both faith, community and voluntary organisations such as the police, DFES and NHS to commission his writing for a string of campaigns. His songs have targeted areas such as gang violence, internet safety, sexual health, bullying and knife crime and are incorporated into workshops for schools, youth clubs and youth offending prisons through his Mentoring Through Music company established in 2003. He has performed at numerous events such as the ‘Enough is Enough’ concert at Aston Villa Football ground, Guns and Gangs conference at the NEC and the Hurricane Ivan Charity Gala, London and also won the Best British Gospel Artist at the UMA Awards and was a winner at the London Peace Awards in 2004 to name a few. His desire is to create a social justice record label for aspiring artists that want to make a change within their community and nation. MARA CARLYLE Mara has been writing songs from the age of six when she formed Rock Guys, a punk band with her brothers. As a singer she has performed a variety of musical genres including jazz, country, music hall, electronica and early music, a mix which has informed her songwriting style often described as ‘uncategorisable’. Although she reads and writes music, Mara writes mainly with her voice, arranging by ear and tweaking the arrangements on her computer. Her material is impressively diverse and has at times included rearrangements of classical themes by for example Schumann and Purcell as well as using unusual instrumentation such as in the song It’s Time which overlays cello drones with electronic blips. She wrote songs in an amateur capacity until in 2004 when she released a wellreceived solo album ‘The Lovely’ with the left-field electronica label Accidental Records. In 2007 after being signed by Angel/EMI she recorded another album with producer Dan Carey using the string section of the RPO but it was never released due to the take-over of EMI by Terra Firma. ALEXIS STRUM Since she wrote a UB40 rip-off aged six, Strum has been studying and dissecting pop songs in the quest to make her music as immediately pleasurable as possible. After being introduced to Joni Mitchell at 14 she started writing songs with a nylon string guitar bought from Loot although it would be another seven years before her brought her to the attention of the record industry. Making one last call to a couple of ‘real published songwriters’ advertised in the Melody Maker heralded a turning point in Alexis’ career. After co-writing a few songs with them she was signed on the spot by their publisher Warner Chappell. The deal, which lasted six years, enabled her to establish her own song writing business and co-write with a variety of well-known songwriters in London, New York and Los Angeles including Guy Chambers, Paul Herman and Brian Higgins. Her song ‘Still Standing’ was recorded by Kylie Minogue and another self penned track was picked by Rachel Stevens for inclusion on her album ‘Come and Get It’. In 2006 ‘obsessed with The Strokes and The Stooges, electric guitars and cityscapes’ Alexis started writing songs under the name Bo Pepper and with an NME-enlisted band she launched herself onto the UK scene. With influences ranging from the Pretenders and Simian Mobile Disco through to PJ Harvey and The Stooges the band has received critical acclaim winning Q magazine’s Best Unsigned Band competition and a PRS grant to play at the SXSW festival in Texas. Her first EP ‘Blinkandyou’llmissit!’ was recorded in Alexis’s home studio and has been played on Radio 1, 2 and 6 as well as band performances on TV. Should she win the fellowship she would use it to develop her band project and buy recording equipment. ROBERT THORPE London-based singer/songwriter Robert has been writing for his own groups since the early 80s. These have included ‘I am a Kamura’ and ‘Orchestre Murphy’ whose recording was described by one journalist as ‘…truly eccentric and absolutely out of step with any known fashion, past or present, though obliquely familiar to many of them.’ Robert agrees that he never writes songs in any particular musical style but is influenced by all the music he likes and is interested in. He has never had had any formal music education but it is this limitation as a musical practitioner that he says has created his own identifiable sound. He uses the studio to write music which, before the advent of computer made this process undemanding, resulted in working at a low-level of technical sophistication. However the challenges of the process led to some unusual solutions and happy accidents. Encouraging musicians to bring their instincts to the music has led to a fluid process and Robert is happy if a song never sounds exactly the same twice. In the last few years his lyrics have moved from purely political issues to writing love songs which nevertheless have either a political undertone or if humorous, contain poetic intent under the frivolity. He stopped writing verses to ‘block in’ a song many years ago and has never cared if this results in a 1 minute piece with 15 words as long he says ‘as it contains the essence’.