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SXSW 2018: Wednesday night with artists from the UK, America and New Zealand

 
By on Thursday, 12th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My first stop on the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2018 was at the Townsend for the highly anticipated Focus Wales showcase. The Welsh lineup would prove to be a popular one, starting with a pair of singer/songwriters before moving into heavier rock and dance music as the night progressed. I stopped in for the early part of the show, and editor Mary took the reins for the later acts, which you can read about in her Wednesday night recap. Unfortunately the fates conspired against us, and we both missed up-and-coming alt-rocker Stella Donnelly. Donnelly is definitely one to watch: you can read our preview coverage back here.

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First on the Focus Wales bill was Americana singer/songwriter Christopher Rees, who dressed appropriately for his part in a distinctive Western-style shirt. Rees has been around the country music scene for quite some time, but this was my first real exposure to his songs. I have to say that his cowboy vibe didn’t quite ring true for me, though I do understand the difficulty of capturing it in such a contrived setting as SXSW. Putting him in comparison to some of the truly amazing country/folk singers I heard through the rest of the week, I can’t really say that Rees struck me as outstanding. He did, however, appear to have a few dedicated fans in the audience, and I feel sure that they would have a different take on his performance.

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Next up was alt-rock songwriter Dan Bettridge, with whom I had a quick one-on-one chat before the showcase began (stay tuned for that interview, to post as our SXSW 2018 coverage continues). I was intrigued by his in-depth description of his current project ‘Asking for Trouble’ and eager to hear a few of the songs in live performance. Bettridge was affable on stage, even a bit goofy at times, which unfortunately distracted a bit from the music he played. But getting beyond that, his songs were emotional and engaging, even pared back as they were from their soulful instrumental arrangements to single voice and guitar.

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Though the remaining bill at the Townsend was a promising one, I was eager to head to Swan Dive to see American alt-rock band Field Report, who have been on my radar since I first saw them back in 2013. Frontman and songwriter Chris Porterfield has a very understated but viscerally effective way with a lyric, and he didn’t fail to bring me to tears here. Their new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is out now on Verve Records, and I can report after-the-fact that it’s a stunner. Their set at the Swan Dive was no less brilliant, encompassing several of the new songs, including ‘If I Knew’, which you can hear below courtesy of Baeble Music.

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After taking a moment to pull my wits back together, I peeked back into a favourite spot of my mine during SXSW, the Victorian Room at the Driskill, for a quick taste of a more local flavour. Texas country rocker Colin Gilmore seemed pleasantly comfortable and very much at ease on the stage, inviting friend and fellow musician Betty Soo to join him midway through. The smattering of fans in the small crowd were clearly happy to have him there, a couple of them even daring to shake up the formality of the room with a bit of country dancing to his tunes. Though the Victorian Room is a nice venue for singer/songwriters, I couldn’t help thinking that Gilmore’s jukebox sound might have worked better in a more casual setting. If you get the chance to see him play in a bar or pub, bring your two-stepping shoes along for a spin around the dance floor.

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My next stop was a bit off the beaten path at the Iron Bear, where Scottish rocker Emme Woods was on the Glamglare showcase schedule. It was late in the evening by this point, and unfortunately Woods didn’t appear to be at the top of her game. The combination of alcohol and her thick Scottish brogue rendered her between-songs banter almost completely unintelligible to my American ear. Musically, her songs were sensual and bluesy, and the added brass instrumentation was interesting, but the band’s performance felt rather sullen and uninspired, and I was just as happy to duck out after 3 or 4 songs. Still, I could see that this might have gone differently on another night, and if you like sultry rock led by a rich female singing voice, you’d do well to give Emme Woods a listen.

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My favourite new act of the Wednesday night came at the very end, when I hit the Palm Door on Sixth Patio to hear New Zealand crooner Marlon Williams. Williams was predictably smooth and suave on stage, with a retro rock style that felt at once fresh and vaguely familiar. The younger women in the crowd were especially taken by Williams’ flexibility, which he displayed both in his serpentine dance moves and his remarkable singing voice. Taking full advantage of the breezy outdoor stage, Williams and his band played a brilliant high energy set that came as a most welcome surprise in this notoriously difficult 1 AM time slot. Watch for him to make waves with his recent album ‘Make Way for Love’, out now on Dead Oceans/Caroline.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: UK singer/songwriters showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 9th March 2018 at 11:00 am
 

The list of solo singer/songwriters showcasing at SXSW 2018 is predictably lengthy. Festivals lend themselves easily to the traveling troubadour types: setting up shop with a single person and instrument is easier than carting a full band’s worth of gear around town to play show after show. However, the singer/songwriter genre is becoming increasingly diffuse, as its definition expands to include a wide array of different instrumental and vocal sounds.

The singer/songwriter acts representing the UK at SXSW this year are broad in their stylistic scope, from unassuming acoustic balladeers to rising mainstream pop stars to eclectic avant garde musicians. Many of the acts on this year’s list are artists we at TGTF have covered extensively in the past, including Frank Turner (pictured at top) and Lucy Rose, but there are a number of new-to-us acts on the bill as well. We’ve covered a fair few of those in our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch features, including Jade Bird, ONR, Rhys Lewis, Chloe Foy, Allman Brown, C. Macleod, and Sam Fender. Read below for a brief rundown of the remaining UK singer/songwriters heading across the pond to SXSW 2018.

Christopher Rees – We featured Welsh singer Christopher Rees in the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2013, but haven’t heard much from him since that time. He heads to Austin this year with a new Americana album called ‘The Nashville Songs’ in tow. Take a listen to the chilling single ‘I Shiver’, just below.

Dan Bettridge – As we previously mentioned, Bettridge missed out on SXSW 2017, due to visa issues which his management has discussed in detail here. Bettridge will release his debut solo LP ‘Asking for Trouble’ later this year. Along with Rees, Bettridge will be proudly waving the Welsh flag in Austin.

Dan Lyons – Margate alt-pop singer Dan Lyons has spent the past four years primarily as a drummer, but he’s now stepping into the spotlight as a solo songwriter. His single ‘Big Moon’ was released at the end of February on Shaker Records.

The Dunwells – While obviously not a solo act, Leeds rock duo The Dunwells have nevertheless been classified as singer/songwriters at this year’s SXSW. They released a new EP called ‘Colour My Mind’ back in December, which included the track ‘Diamonds’, playing just below.

Elle Exxe – This Scottish pop singer is no stranger to SXSW or to the pages of TGTF. She recently teamed with MAC Cosmetics to promote her latest single ‘Catapult’; watch her exotic visuals in the promo video just below.

Emme Woods – Another Scottish songwriter, Woods’ singing voice belies her youthful 22 years of age. The level of musical sophistication in her single ‘I’ve Been Running’ is also well-beyond what you might expect of a musician so young. Check out the PledgeMusic campaign for her debut EP just through here.

Frank Turner – We’ve covered the indefatigable Mr. Turner and his merry band of Sleeping Souls extensively here at TGTF, including a lovely interview at SXSW 2015. This year, Turner is showcasing his forthcoming seventh studio LP ‘Be More Kind’, due out on the 4th of May via Polydor/ Xtra Mile. We’ll be looking forward to hearing the new songs at SXSW; in the meantime, you can take a listen to the album’s title track just below.

Gaz Coombes – Another artist we’ve featured in live coverage on TGTF, alt-rock songwriter and former Supergrass member Gaz Coombes will travel to Austin with a set of new songs from his forthcoming LP ‘World’s Strongest Man’, due out on the 4th of May.

Harry Pane – This Northamptonshire indie folk singer broke onto the music scene in 2015 and released two EPs, ‘Changing’ and ‘The Wild Winds’, in the following 2 years. He comes to SXSW 2018 with a pair of new singles, ‘Here We Stay’ and ‘Beautiful Life’. Listen to the latter just below.

Hilang Child – Hilang Child is the stage name of half-Welsh, half-Indonesian dream pop songwriter Ed Riman. Currently based in London, Hilang Child has recently signed on with Bella Union for the release of his debut LP, which will include the calmly introspective new single ‘Growing Things’.

Jerry Williams –  This 22-year-old Portsmouth alt-pop songstress has already captured the attention of BBC Radio 1 in the UK and KCRW in America. She has recently collaborated with fashion brand Topshop to market her new single ‘Grab Life’, ahead of her scheduled appearance on the BBC Introducing showcase on the Tuesday night of SXSW.

Jonny 8 Track – Brighton’s Jonny Aitken, aka Jonny 8 Track, is the first UK signing to Austin record label Chicken Ranch Records. His back catalogue includes ‘All America Taught Me’ from back in 2013.

Joshua Burnside – We covered this Northern Irish avant/experimental songwriter last year around the release of his debut album ‘Ephrata’, which won the 2017 Northern Irish Music Prize. Just below, check out the Ryan Vail remix of album track ‘Blood Drive’.

Lion – London alt-rock singer/songwriter Beth Lowen became known as Lion due to the rough and raspy tone of her singing voice. She’s so fresh on the scene that she has yet to officially release any music, and her SXSW 2018 bio links to an amateur video of a live performance at Shepherd’s Bush Empire from back in 2016.

Lucy Rose – We recently featured Rose’s new single ‘All That Fear’ as our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #2801. Rose will be showcasing that single along with her recent album ‘Something’s Changing’ at SXSW. She is also scheduled to speak in a panel session titled ‘It’s a Fan’s World: The Life of Superfans’ on Friday the 16th of March.

Lucy Spraggan – You might remember Manchester songwriter Lucy Spraggan as a former X Factor contestant from back in 2012. Just last year, she released her fourth studio album ‘I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing’, on her own label CTRL Records. The LP features the track ‘Fight For It’, streaming just below.

Nilüfer Yanya – This youthful West London songwriter brings a unique sense of irony and bemused detachment to what might otherwise be dismissed as standard indie pop. Her breakthrough single ‘Baby Luv’ is out now on Blue Flowers/ATO Records.

Nina Nesbitt – It’s been a day or two since we heard from Scottish pop songstress Nina Nesbitt, but she is heading to Austin with a potential new album in the works. No details have been shared as of yet, but Nesbitt did recently release a new single written in Nashville, ‘Somebody Special’.

Non Canon – Bristol alt-folk songwriter Non Canon takes his stage name from the idea that “anything described as ‘Non Canon’ exists apart from the story we know and love. A concurrent storyline, a different perspective, the world we experience through someone else’s eyes; familiar but insightful for its new dimension.” He comes to Austin as part of the Xtra Mile Recordings troupe; the label released his debut LP back in 2016.

Only Girl – South East London pop-soul artist Ellen Murphy, known on stage as Only Girl, has recently released a personally poignant new single titled ‘Mountain’, which deals with her husband Jamie McKechnie’s assault and traumatic brain injury, suffered back in 2011. Murphy says of the track, “I wanted the video for ‘Mountain’ to really convey Jamie’s journey through recovery since he suffered the brain injury. I think his story is so inspiring and shows how he really fought for his life against all the odds.” She speaks of her husband as the inspiration for the song: “If I could focus myself on climbing this mountain alongside Jamie, I could force myself to stay strong for him.”

Pete Molinari – Veteran folk and blues songwriter Pete Molinari is one of the few artists appearing at SXSW with nothing new on offer in terms of recorded music. He is set to play the We Are Hear Records showcase on the Tuesday night, alongside the aforementioned Lion.

Will Varley – This Kent singer/songwriter and Xtra Mile Recordings artist will bring his brilliant new album ‘Spirit of Minnie’ to Austin this year, on the heels of an American tour with label mates and fellow SXSW 2018 artists Skinny Lister. We featured the video for album track ‘Seven Days’ back in January; you can listen below to the gentle but poignant ‘Let it Slide’.

Please note that all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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