It's gonna take me a while to soak up and process the insanity that was SXSW.
While I try to figure out the words, let me first say thanks to all the people who not only came to the shows, but were kind enough to share their pretty thoughts with the world: Live in Limbo (read here), Iggy/Ticketweb (read here), Glamglare (read here + here), ConcentusMusic (read here), False Advertising/Drowned In Sound.
Ok..I still haven't got my own words for this..so I'm gonna keep it visual. First thing - I went to SXSW twice on my own before (not to perform, just to soak up the madness). For those of you who don't know - SXSW (aka South By South West) is one of the worlds biggest and most influential music industry festivals in the world focussed on new music/artists/bands (read more here). I'd wanted to be an official SXSW performer for years even venturing out solo 6 years ago (before I was of legal drinking age in the U.S. - depressing) and 3 years ago.
6 years ago I'd hung out with Darwin Deez (listen) outside the Latitude 30 (British Music Embassy venue), 3 years ago I'd watched Slaves (watch on right) and Royal Blood (listen) in the same venue...and just over a month ago..I was the one on that British Music Embassy stage at Latitude 30 tearing the place up. Hashtag So Emotional #SOemotional. That was one for the bucket list, and so was riding a mechanical bull, and finally what was never on the bucket list but should have been: creeping into someones garden to jump in their pool in total darkness at 1am with the band..and jumping in the pool during our set at the Sheraton, that shoulda been on there. I guess growing up in Scotland you don't think of these things. Anyway, check it all out for yourselves with the photos/videos below. Thanks again to everyone that supported me on this ride.
My brain hits "reset" and I feel refreshed and impassioned. I'm loaded up with a new sense of wonderment at all of the possibilities and opportunities that the life might have to offer. It might be corny, but what can I say, I freakin' love a New Year!
2016 was immense for me. From my first international shows (Toronto, New York, Seoul), to Great Escape, my ExXtravaganzZa's, album launch and winning "Best Female" at the UMA's - I couldn't have asked for more (see photos here)! That's not to say that bad or sad things didn't happen along the way, we all have ups and downs and we all have our struggles - but a few "bad things" don't a "bad year" make (no matter how much the world is trying to tell you 2016 was "the worst year ever"! UGH BORING - your life/your year is what you make it). Over the last few weeks I've been reflecting on the last 12 months and dissecting what I liked and what I'd do differently. At the end of it all I'm feeling enlightened and empowered. The future is looking BRIGHT!
In 10 days I'm heading to Eurosonic Noorderslaag (Netherlands) with the band, and then up to Glasgow (Scotland) to play at one of Scotland's best venues: King Tuts. Later this year I'll be performing at one of my favourite festivals SXSW in Austin (Texas, US) and Isle of Wight festival (UK). These are things I could only have dreamt of saying at the start of 2016 but your support combined with all the hours my pals Team LX and I have put in have made these dreams a reality.
So thank you! If you came to a show, Pledged towards "Love Fuelled Hate", introduced a friend to my music (or did other awesome things) - you are an ExXterminator - and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love you've given and love you right back.
As we come to the end of the month we come to the end of my #TBTseries. Here's a video of the making-of "Hating On You". It's an insight to one of the more complex tracks on my album "Love Fuelled Hate" with at least 3 different producer/engineers touching it along its journey.
My album was my proudest accomplishment of 2016 - and also marked the completion of a New Years goal/resolution. I feel blessed to have heard from so many of you enjoying your CDs. It was my dream to create an album that people would listen to from start to finish in one sitting and I'm incredibly happy to hear that you guys have been doing that.
I hear way too many people "poo-poo" New Years Resolutions. They get a bad rep because so many of us don't take them seriously and fall at the first hurdle - but you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try. Not all the likers/fans on here are what I call "ExXterminators" but a hell of a lot of you are. An ExXterminator is someone who's killing it at life. An EXXterminator is the kind of person that makes a New Years resolution and sticks to it. My dream for 2017 is to find and celebrate more of you ExXterminators - those people that kick ass and are kind and support one and other.
I love you all and wish you the best for 2017.
Seoul was food for my soul. Yeh I said it. Earlier this year a little birdy told me one of my songs charted out in South Korea (I still don't believe it!). I never imagined I'd be heading 5000+miles to play my new music to hundreds of fans in a foreign-speaking country.
The first show was part of Zandari Festa (잔다리페스타). I'd spent the first night there checking out all the other bands and was in love with everything I was hearing. [Big kisses to the British bands supported by Liverpool Sound Cit and PRS Foundatio I met out there <3 ]. One of the best things about my "job" is that I can end up anywhere in the world at a music festival hanging out with like-minded music lovers and inspirational artists.
I saw a band called The Dizzy Brain who were from Madagasca and absolutely tore the roof off in one of 홍대 Hongda's hottest venues. The lead singer was like a metal version of Prince. Everyone went absolutely mad for them, with people stage diving and crowd surfing and circle-pits galore. So..unsurprisingly when I was told I was going to be performing AFTER them, I was a little anxious (not least because I saw the singer stick the microphone down his pants...was I really going to have to put my mouth on that?!). Anyway I learnt a few words in Korean and my first show went down a treat (#RELIEF!). We didn't have to go far for the after party - in Hondae (Seoul's music capital) they have live music, bars, clubs, arcade and restaurants on every corner.
Some say New York is the "City that Never Sleeps"...but I can confirm it's actually Seoul. Their clubs (and arcades) are 24 hour. We maybe got 5 hours sleep a night max' for the 10 days we were out there. There was so much to do..not just in Seoul but my album "Love Fuelled Hate" was released while we were out there and I was working on that up until the very last minute with a massive time-delay back to the UK.
The final show was a celebration of the release of "Love Fuelled Hate" and I couldn't have wished for anything better. The room was packed, the lights and sound were on point and even though I was 5000 miles from home there was a big group of ExXterminators singing my songs and connecting with me; it was beautiful.
I could talk all day about Korea but I'd rather be writing songs, so that's what I'm gonna go do. If I've learnt anything worth sharing from that trip my advice would be: be brave enough to try new things, never be scared to go on an adventure and sleep when you're dead.
p.s. I'll be back next Thursday with my final #throwback of the month
New Yoik baby! YEH! #TBT2
There’s a blog on my website about my first international shows this year in Canada (http://www.elleexxe.com/blog/2016/5/17/the-first-international-shows), but New York came next and it was equally mind blowing. The city has a special aura about it for musicians, so much so I’d say it’s one of..if not THE music capital of the world. Gaga, Run DMC, Madonna, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Billie Holiday - there are so many more but need I say them all?!
My manager Umong, DJ Samer, promoter Igor and I stepped off the plane at JFK airport and headed straight for some Monster cocktails at GaGa’s family-owned restaurant “Joanne Trattoria’s”. After this we ventured South-East towards The Delancey - a venue I was booked to play at later that week. I craned my neck round the door-frame to see if we were in the right place and was immediately greeted by a traditional hipster rocking a twisted-moustache and striped T-shirt. I joined him at the bar as I waited for the others and it felt like I was the only one there..until I turned to my left and saw a bad ass punk rock chick stripping off to The Kinks with mascara all over her face dancing her ass off on a tiny little stage. The others arrived and we stood and we stared and we wondered if this New York adventure could get any better?
Well, it could and it did. We found an art party downstairs with everyone painting, DJ's spinning hip-hop, happy people dancing and free pizza meanwhile upstairs there was a roof terrace with palm trees. What an incredible introduction to New York City.
There are far too many stories for me to share right here right now but one of my favourite moments was standing at the top of Google HQ with my friends feeling like we couldn’t get any higher. It was an absolute dream and privilege to be invited to do what I love, in a city I love, with the people I love. Next time I just hope I can bring more of you with me :)
I’ll be back next Thursday with more unheard stories, unseen photos and videos.
SO MUCH FOOTAGE, SO MANY PHOTOS. Where do I begin?!
I’ll start with the photo at the top - this is my manager Umong (pronounced Oo-mong) and I during one of the final sessions finishing my album “Love Fuelled Hate”. We were laying down drum tracks with Andy Wilder (drummer) and Simon Morgan (engineer who lectures at the uni Umong and my incredible bassist Samer went to).
The process of making an album isn’t easy, especially as an unsigned artist. I went in pretty ambitiously (AKA naïvely) with the goal of creating a seamless and dynamic concept album telling a story that would sit alongside a short-film (still in the works). My intention was to create something I could be proud of no-matter the commerciality of it.
I booked in 2 weeks with Ross O’Reilly (the main producer for the album and cowriter of “Home With You”). In the beginning we’d all thought this was plenty of time because at least 50% of the tracks had been recorded previously to some degree. But more importantly it was all I could afford. So..to cut a long-story short, after 14 days of intense work all the tracks were recorded nicely but I still didn’t have the seamless story-telling album I’d felt so strongly about creating.
So, what was I to do? Release the album as it was? It was unfinished to me but that’s only because I knew the goal - nobody else did... How the hell was I going to finish it? I couldn’t afford any more time in the studio. So my natural response was “OK, I’ll do it myself. I’ll produce the rest.” but I was totally overwhelmed and was unsure whether I really had the skills..I didn’t even have a studio set-up at that point. It seemed almost impossible.
A couple of months slipped by and I was still sitting on an unfinished album feeling deflated and defeated. To be frank, most of the time I felt I’d fucked up, that I wasn’t good enough, that I’d never be good enough, that I was wasting my time and that I’d been kidding myself to think I could ever have done it. Daily I felt ashamed and embarrassed to have told people I was gonna do something as I started to realise it was beyond me. It had been weeks since I’d listened to the album but I’d decided it was shit, that everyone would know it was shit and anyone who thought otherwise had shit taste...my brain was being a real pain in the ass. But amongst all of that demon-talk I still had a flicker of hope. It’s something I’ve always had and something that’s always kept me going - that tiny little thought of “maybe I can do it, maybe it’s possible” and “what if this is the final test?”. So I went to my room, turned down the lights, stuck my headphones on and played the album in order from start to finish. Lo and behold I was overcome with a warm sense of pride. OK it wasn’t finished, but it was sounding incredible already and it was only going to get better. Immediately I listened to it again but this time I took notes and then broke the notes down into tasks.
The to-do list was long but that hopeful naïve ambition had returned and suddenly everything felt achievable. Any obstacle was just a problem waiting to be solved. For some reason I’d been battling the album on my own for months..and all of a sudden I realised I didn’t need to face that challenge alone. I had friends, a manager, a team, fans, family - why was I torturing myself when all I had to do was ask for help? I put a call out on Facebook asking for help recording interludes, live drums and backing vocals - and guess what? The album was finished within the month - and what a fucking kick ass album it is.
I think every songwriter/performer must remember the first time they see a crowd singing their songs. I'd seen it a little at Koko and 229's anniversary show in London...but I'd never expected it at The Great Escape.
The show was exactly 6 months to the day since I lost my dad, the entire 24 hours felt like I was repeating every final moment I had with him. I had 3 interviews and a show to do, keeping busy was the best thing, but in every quiet moment I was gritting my teeth and forcing back the tears.
That night I had no idea what to expect. I knew the venue I was playing in (Concorde 2) was awesome but it was miles away from the main strip...was anyone gonna show up? I thought it'd be an industry heavy crowd - they see multiple shows every day of the year - would they respond to me? Would they get involved? I wanted it to go well so badly but I swear I was on the edge of a very well hidden nervous breakdown.
The seconds counted down on a TV screen but I was on another planet. My band stepped on stage while I was pacing backstage psyching myself up...I almost forgot to go on, I ran on just in time for my first lyric but I'd forgotten to plug my in-ears in #RookieError.
I spun into auto-pilot for a second but when I looked up I saw the room was full and you guys were going IN 100% with me. You sang all the words (I have absolutely no idea how you even knew my songs?!). YOU DANCED YOUR ASSES OFF. There were so many photographers in the pit, I milked the shit out of that 😂 (evidence below). I loved every minute of that night. I didn't forget my loss, but instead of mourning I was able to celebrate all that I'd been given. I didn't sleep and was buzzing for days with the feeling re-enforced by each and every tweet and photo I was being sent, especially from MTV and The Great Escape themselves 😵
I still can't get over the beauty of that night. To be going through that deep heart-wrenching pain then be gifted with a dream come true was unexplainable. It was the sweetest and greatest escape I could ever have imagined and is a night I will never forget.
A surprise soaking, an Uber-driving raccoon, no sleep, 4-nights-4shows, 24-hour restaurants, and friendship pretty much sums up my recent whirlwind Toronto tour.
When my manager and I received the incredible invite to play 4 x shows at Canadian Music Week we were tickled pink. Quite quickly our pink-tickly feelings turned to a sickly-muddy-purple as we realised how many dollar$ the trip would co$t. So after applying for funding from the PRS Foundation you can imagine how stunning it was to hear the news we* were going to be awarded funding to cover our costs! Thank you #PRSF #ISF <3 This blog post wouldn't be possible without you.
So - on 4th May I got up at 6am and flew out to Toronto with 5 of my favourite people: my manager Umong, guitarist Archie, bassist + MD Samer, drummer Andy and booking agent Debs. Our first show was that night (at the equivalent of 4am British time); performing after being up a solid 22 hours with a faulty power supply wasn't a dream come true, but I figured it could only get better from there! And it did..after 23 hours awake I thought my eyes were deceiving me when our Uber driver arrived with a racoon on his lap - evidence of Archie with said raccoon above!
A few blinks and a sunrise later Archie and I were taken to h̶e̶a̶v̶e̶n̶ the Gibson Showroom to record an acoustic session on the axe of our choosing 😍 The place was glorious - we goggled at guitar after guitar and played in total privacy with the hours flying by. It was perfect. I'll share the video we made as soon as I've put it together. That night we enjoyed a set at Studio Bar and were fortunate enough to watch The Tourist Company (an amazing band from Vancouver).
What I love about travelling is you can meet some amazing people. The rest of the trip sped past with new friends, great shows and maybe a drink or ten here and there (a classy lady never tells). Thank you to everyone who made it to the shows and an extra special thanks to those of you who came to every single one! You are mind-blowingly-awesome.
The tour was rounded off with a trip to Niagara Falls, it was freakin' wondrous. I felt on top of the world as I took stock of every moment that lead up to that point - all the hours writing songs, writing emails and general hustling, and all the support friends, family and strangers have given me to allow me to get to that stage. The band, Debs and Umong took a leap of faith for me joining me on the trip and I'll never forget it. I don't believe in luck but I wanted to commemorate the trip with a wish. I was under the falls clutching my silver coin ready to chuck it whilst repeating the words over and over in my head (you've got to be careful what you wish for!). At the exact moment I was lifting my hand to toss the coin, I was struck! Hit full frontal by a Niagara Falls WAVE! I was drenched; soaked from head to toe. This was likely the first time in history someone was hit by a wave in a cave at the Niagara Falls while making a wish for a sold-out world tour. That's gotta be triple bonus luck! So hopefully I'll be coming to a town near wherever you are soon <3
* I talk a lot in "we"'s and "our"'s - a lot of the time I'm just referring to me...but I have so much support from my manager, my band, my friends and family..it never feels like it's just me.
Before you start blogging you have to announce that you’re going to start blogging. It’s a vital and courteous warning allowing humankind to prepare for the load of crap you’re likely to spray into their beautifully weaved interweb. You have been warned..however there's no need to be too afraid, my posts will be sporadic as I far prefer living my life to writing or reminiscing in this pretentious manner.