Winner Sigrid was joined by Pale Waves, Not3s, Yxng Bane and Rex Orange County, while 2015 champs Years & Years rolled back the years with a closing set. As London shivered in freezing rain outside, industry types and fans milled around in the BBC’s warren-like studio complex, snapping photos and fiddling with wristbands.
Trestle tables topped with drinks, plastic cups, crisps and chocolate bars made it feel like quite a lot like a youth club, with cool kids clustered in every corner. Annie Mac was enthusiastic as ever and Huw Stephens cracked jokes. BBC Radio 1/1Xtra head of music Chris Price milled around between studios too, nodding approvingly during Yxng Bane and joining the throng to see Sigrid, whose vocals provided one of the night’s resounding memories. In Dynamite, Don’t Kill My Vibe and Strangers, the Norwegian has quite the pop arsenal.
The singer could later be seen dancing in the corner as Rex Orange County revelled in his brass-filled, hermit love songs from behind his piano and guitar. Pale Waves returned the favour, rushing off after their opening set to watch Sigrid in the room next door.
These five acts are hardly into their 20s, and a sense of excitement and newness was easy to get caught up in. Rex Orange County matched effortless musicianship with restless energy, Pale Waves hid their nerves and Sigrid confessed to being “honoured” more than once. Not3s, who was joined by Music Week coverstar Mabel, has hundreds of thousands of streams to his name, but live radio is altogether different. “This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this,” he smiled at one point.
To get an artist’s perspective, we sat down with Pale Waves singer Heather Baron-Gracie (who appeared on our cover alongside Mabel) in Studio 1, with the strains of a choir singing audible in the distance…
How was the show?
“To be honest I was really nervous. It’s just a bit surreal being on Radio 1 with the band that we started two years ago. We’re really happy with how it went. We’ve not been live on Radio 1 before. There’s more pressure when you know loads of people are listening, you cant really mess up and start again. We’re new to this.”
Is there extra pressure because of the poll?
“You’ve got to live up to it. We feel honoured to be a part of it, especially being a band, and in the Top 5 as well, it’s pretty special and insane. The other artists on the list are amazing; there are a lot of great artists. I wish there were more bands… I love bands and we’ll always fight for bands, so being surrounded by lots of solo artists meant it was really special.”
“I saw that, that was amazing. Everyone was pretty shocked by that! It’s really hard to understand the position of your band when you’re in it. It’s hard to see from the outside. When the media supports us so much, I guess you realise. Maybe it’s because we’re a band that plays pop music? It’s hard to say when you’re talking about your own band, I think people think we’ve got something different to offer.”
What do you think of the idea of tips lists?
“It makes people more aware of artists; so it’s doing no harm. We just watched Sigrid, she’s phenomenal, her voice is unreal. To have a voice like that when you’re so young… And she has so much confidence, I admire that. If I was a solo artist I definitely wouldn’t have as much as her. But then I’m used to being surrounded by my three best friends, that’s my comfort.”
You’re recording your debut album at the moment, how’s it going?
“We’ve got half of it pretty much done, then we’re touring Europe, the UK and the US and going back into the studio to finish it off. It’s sounding really great; obviously I’m going to say that because it’s my band. I’m very excited, it shows lots of different sides to us, the emotional, really intense sides. There are a lot of songs that people haven’t heard that are going on the album, we’re playing two of them on tour. There’s one called Noises that’s pretty old, no one’s heard that one. We’ve been at the studio every day, weekends too, from 11 in the morning until 12 at night. You have to commit to it if you want a great album, and I want the best album. Some songs fall together instantly; some take so much time and attention. It’s not a set thing.”
How important is the BBC for new artists?
“Very important, especially BBC Introducing, that’s how we started. BBC Introducing in Manchester really supported us so much, right from the start. Natalie [Eve Williams] and Michelle [Hussey] played Heavenly and The Tide… they supported us all the way, so it was really beneficial. The BBC been pretty generous so far; I guess I wouldn’t mind a Live Lounge… But it’d probably be pretty terrifying.”
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