Sheffield I Heart You
A few days ago I announced the launch party for my very first album, Last Decade of Love. It’s happening on the 14th September at Yellow Arch studios in Sheffield and if you want to come and celebrate you’ll be very welcome.
It’ll be a proper full band show with a lot of brilliant musicians on the bill, and I’ve even managed to cajole some of my friends into being backing singers for the evening. Headlining with my very own backing singers – truly, I have arrived where I am meant to be.
Everyone’s first record is special, of course. It’s the first time you’re putting something out into the world, the first time you get a chance to make the announcement and say: this is me. In many ways, it feels like a statement of existence.
Last Decade of Love was an unlikely statement from the start. Four years ago I was just coming to Sheffield, having being itinerant and aimless for a few months. I’d made the rather abrupt decision to leave London without any sort of contingency plan, and found myself of no fixed abode, all my stuff stashed with a friend, pinging back and forth between different cities and picking up scraps of work where I could.
Somehow, I ended up in Sheffield. Obviously there’s more of a story to it but I’ll save that for another time.
What switched me on to the city was the welcoming spirit. I arrived with no money, knowing no one. I started playing the open mics and was overwhelmed by the friendliness that greeted me.
In Sheffield, it feels like there’s a sense that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from – if you come just as you are, willing to give it your best shot, you’ll be alright. I found an immediate connection that I’d been chasing for years in London to no avail. This doesn’t mean it isn’t there – it just didn’t work for me.
Cut forward four years later and I’ve crafted a solo album that I’m beyond proud of. It’s definitively my own style, but it’s also the result of the collaboration that’s happened since I came to this city. Since being in Sheffield I’ve played in bands from synth to folk, worked with poets and filmmakers, made a racket and made many, many mistakes – but it all becomes something coherent in the end.
It might sound odd to go from London to Sheffield – to some people it might sound like a downgrade. But for me, Sheffield was the place where I finally, to trot out a hackneyed phrase, found my voice – literally. I barely dared get onstage to sing in London: here, music has become my whole identity.
I believe that Last Decade of Love is a thing of beauty (I know they say you always think your own children are beautiful but it’s true). And the beauty isn’t just because of the songs I wrote – it’s the work of everyone who’s helped me along the way, however indirectly.
It’s the other musicians who’ve given their time and brilliance to take the music to the next level; it’s the producers who’ve honed and shaped it; the designer, photographer and filmmakers who’ve given it a striking visual style.
But it’s also everyone who came before the album itself: it’s the other musicians and artists I’ve worked with, the people who’ve supported and shared and introduced me to new sounds and ideas; it’s the people who run music nights across the city and continue to welcome new talent, to give people a platform, to be willing to hear what someone has to say.
I meant to write this as a brief hey-album-launch post but it’s turned into a gush about my adoptive home. Visual (or textual) displays of emotion make me cringe – I am a white middle-class girl from the South, emotion not my strong point – but sometimes there’s no way around it.
Of all the places I thought I’d find my feet, Sheffield was not on the map. But life’s a funny bugger and you’ve got to roll with it.
Come and join the fun on the 14th September if you can, it's going to be a very fun (and probably emotional) night. in the meantime, you can catch me playing a few gigs over Tramlines Festival - I'll be putting up details on my Facebook page.
I promise to blog more about the album-making process too, the other people whose talents have helped make it what it is, and more salacious details about how I got here (in music terms - I'm not about to give a detailed breakdown of the birds and the bees).
See you all soon, and take care xx