Watt's the story: The Music Week Interview - Iain Watt

He’s the East End boy gone up West in search of fame, fortune and international success. A fresh talent, who helped a small team punch above its weight, and is now trusted with taking an outfit full of Galacticos to ...

Hitmakers: The songwriting secrets behind Tom Walker's Just You And I

With Just You And I, Tom Walker achieved that rarest of feats for an artist in 2019 – a 100% self-written Top 3 hit. Here, Walker takes us back in time to tell the story of a tune inspired by sleepless nights and long distance love... It was two o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. I had this chorus running round and round my head and it just wouldn’t fucking go away, so I thought, ‘Do you know what? I’ll go downstairs and quickly [record it], and it will be sweet’. I was singing it really quietly because my flatmates were asleep, but I ended up sitting down there until 8am. The sun came up and I’d written the whole song. My missus and I had been doing a long-distance relationship for ages. We’d go two weeks at a time without seeing each other and then I’d drive from London to Sheffield, where she was studying at university. We’d make the most of every weekend – go out, drink loads, go for nice dinners and have a really good time, and then it would all be over in the space of two days. I’d be driving back and another two weeks would go by – it was just really tough. Just You And I couldn’t be any more honest – it’s literally the story of that whole journey – and it was the easiest song I ever wrote. Most of it came out in about five minutes because I really had it on my mind. It was written three to four years ago; I could find out the exact date if I looked through my emails because I sent it to my missus. She was getting the train to see her mum and burst into tears when she heard it. The first version we put out was an acoustic version, but my missus and I got engaged before the album came out and I thought we’d re-release it to celebrate, and the label wanted to go with it because they really liked it. I put out a song called My Way after [breakthrough hit] Leave A Light On and then after that we re-released Just You And I. That song has changed so much over time. It was quite slow to begin with and we wanted to speed it up to give it a chance to do its thing on radio, because it’s really hard to get slow songs across sometimes. Changing it up and making it sound a bit more modern did it a few favours. We’d always planned on doing another version, but I had my worries because we’d released it once already. It had done well on Spotify, but the radio world is a different place. I always thought it was a good enough song to connect with people, but it’s not one of those that instantly grabs your attention. It’s just a good tune, and I try just thinking about the tunes rather than where it’s going to sit in your career and how it’s going to do. That’s all a bit stressful and I leave that to the label. But [Just You And I] seems to have grabbed people’s attention now, so that’s cool. There is no method to my songwriting; it’s all madness if I’m honest! Sometimes it starts with the guitar, sometimes with the lyrics, sometimes I’ll just have a melody and other times I’ll start with a beat. I haven’t found the [magic] method as to what to do, I just like having a guitar and singing – it’s nice. When you’re touring loads, you want to be in the studio and then the minute you’re in the studio, you want to get out and play the songs you’ve just recorded. It’s a double-edged sword, but a mix of both is good. I like that I wrote Just You And I on my own. It’s nice to have a song in the charts that I wrote in my basement. Writer’s Notes Publisher Universal Music Publishing Group Writer Tom Walker Release Date 24.01.19 Record label Relentless Total UK sales (OCC) 803,173

'It's only getting bigger': Inside the booming classical scene and 2019 Proms

The Classic BRITs might have taken a fallow year, but the genre it celebrates is in the midst of an Indian summer. Classical was the fastest-growing genre in 2018, with sales and streams up 10.2% on the previous 12 months, according to the BPI. The genre outperformed the overall 5.7% rise in UK music consumption in the period, while those all-important streams rocketed by 42%. The good news doesn’t end there: Andrea Bocelli scored a No.1 album, Michael Ball & Alfie Boe have attained back-to-back platinum LPs and breakout star Sheku Kanneh-Mason gained international attention for his performance at the Royal Wedding. All in all, things look to be shaping up rather nicely. “Streaming is definitely bringing in a new generation of fans, because they’re discovering music they might otherwise never have been exposed to,” Decca Records president Rebecca Allen tells Music Week. “There is a brand new energy with young artists coming through like Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Jess Gillam, who just look like normal [20-year-olds], but are playing phenomenally well and the media is embracing them. “Young people can associate with them more. Classical music has had quite a ‘stuffy’ image at times through the years, and I think that has changed.” Bocelli’s chart-topping Si, released via Decca/Sugar, was the best-selling classical LP last year and has shifted 253,023 (93.7% physical) units to date, according to the Official Charts Company. Last year saw a 6.9% increase in classical CD sales, which still account for nearly 60% of consumption, but Allen is confident the fanbase will adapt in the longer term. “I don’t believe classical music will die out because streaming has come along,” she says. “Classical music has survived every format so far and I don’t believe streaming is about to kill it. Streaming is a massive opportunity for us to grow this market even more.” The popularity of soundtracks by composers such as Ludovico Einaudi and Max Richter have helped broaden the genre’s appeal, alongside less obvious sources. “Our client Sebastian Plano recently scored the soundtrack for the award-winning PlayStation game Everything, alongside Lukas Boysen,” explains Heulwen Keyte of United Talent Agency. “Another artist Tina Guo, who records extensively for gaming, just performed her first UK shows and a significant portion of the audience was made up of gamers who had never been to a cellist performance before. “Classical music is also often used for major adverts. The Kingdom Choir are featured in the 2018 Coca-Cola Christmas advert and Alexis Ffrench has just announced a Skoda campaign.” Keyte credits streaming’s discovery platform mechanism with helping the public to identify new artists, adding: “Streaming has had a huge impact in expanding the classical sector. The fact that fans are able to communicate and buy directly from the artists now creates a stronger connection to their audience. “Alexis Ffrench appears on numerous piano playlists which have elevated both his brand and his streaming numbers considerably.” In a major vote of confidence, Bauer debuted new classical music station Scala Radio in March in what was billed as the biggest launch in UK classical music radio in nearly 30 years. However, the seeds of the genre’s resurgence were sown in the live business, which has experienced a consistent increase in ticket sales for classical and crossover artists. “There are more mainstream promoters booking classical/crossover artists now than ever before,” says Keyte, who represents established stars including Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe, Aled Jones and Nitin Sawhney, alongside emerging talent such as Ffrench, The Kingdom Choir, Laura Wright and 2Cellos. “Twelve years ago, when we started the classical and performing arts division at UTA, there were very few commercial promoters who were open to booking the genre – with the exception of Harvey Goldsmith promoting Luciano Pavarotti [see feature on p22]. Now, all the major global promoters are booking in this market. “Promoters are more willing to take a risk on artists that may not yet have signed with a major label or have any album-selling history to date, but have a high level of digital engagement and streaming figures,” she adds. “The majority of the live music sector has come to trust that these numbers, often backed by data analysis from our research division, UTA IQ, will translate into solid ticket sales. This is something that promoters previously needed much more persuasion on, even as recently as two or three years ago.” The older guard have been among the chief beneficiaries. Legendary Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer curated The World Of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration, which toured UK arenas in March and comes to The O2 in London this November. John Williams was also celebrated with a show at the Royal Albert Hall last October (Williams was originally set to conduct but was forced to withdraw due to illness) and his music will be featured at concert halls later this year. Ludovico Einaudi, the most-streamed classical artist of all-time with two billion streams, will perform seven shows at London’s Barbican Centre next month. Ennio Morricone, meanwhile, performed his last ever UK concert at The O2 in November 2018, with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus. “We’re entering an era of composers,” suggests Allen. “Beethoven and Mozart were like the rock‘n’roll heroes of the time and you’re now seeing fantastic composer artists coming through. “You only have to look at John Williams and Hans Zimmer still churning out amazing music; Morricone wrote his best work ever when he did The Hateful Eight while in his late 80s and then you’ve got new ones like Max Richter writing some incredible works. Then you’ve got Einaudi and people like Clint Mansell coming through and, although they’re already quite established, you still can see massive opportunities for them.” Cuffe & Taylor director Peter Taylor began his promoting career in the classical realm, staging the Lytham Proms Festival in 2009 with headliner Lesley Garrett, and has gone on to work with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. “Ball & Boe’s chart success was huge but then you’ve got someone like Andre Rieu, who is probably among the Top 10 artists in the whole live music world in terms of ticket sales,” says Taylor. “We look after Collabro, who came out of a TV talent show. Their music is very much classical crossover and musical theatre and, five years on, they are still selling out the Royal Albert Hall. “When people think of classical, they think of The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and that is as popular as ever, but there is this sub-culture around classical music and it’s only getting bigger.” Speaking of which, the BBC Proms – the world’s largest music festival – returns to the Royal Albert Hall this Friday and runs for eight weeks until September 14. “The Proms bring classical music to the forefront in London, if not the world,” says Royal Albert Hall artistic and commercial director Lucy Noble. “They’re very good at bringing in new audiences, people who might not have integrated with classical music before.” The iconic venue, which also hosted last year’s Classic BRITs, has offered a pathway to the genre through events such as Hacienda Classical and the upcoming Garage Classical, presented by DJ Spoony, which will feature composer and conductor Katie Chatburn and her 36-piece Ignition Orchestra. Looking ahead to the Hall’s upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations in 2021, Noble reveals she is hopeful the venue will host a series of concerts by iconic artists performing with orchestras. “That would be cool,” she smiles. “There is an appetite for classical music to be delivered in a more accessible way. That’s why things like Garage Classical work. We also do something called My Great Orchestral Adventure, which introduces children to classical music in a fun way. It’s very participatory, yet at the same time they’re hearing some of the most serious classical music.” Noble is keen to stress, however, that the decline of music in secondary schools is likely to have long-term negative ramifications on the genre. “There is a danger that, because music isn’t being taught in schools as much now, people aren’t learning instruments, therefore they aren’t getting into classical music at the grassroots,” she warns. “My biggest concern is that, later on in the day, that will affect our orchestras and affect the more serious side of classical music.” One strand still going from strength to strength is the Hall’s wildly successful film and live orchestra series. Debuting in 2009 with The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, it has allowed the public to witness classics such as The Godfather, Aliens, Star Wars and Titanic in a unique environment. “People are probably coming along to those for the title of the film but, unbeknown to many of them, they’re having their first introduction to a classical orchestra as well,” grins Noble. The trend has stretched beyond the silver screen. “We have seen a consistent appetite for big orchestral versions of much-loved DJs and bands, much like [UTA client] Peter Hook presents Joy Division Orchestrated,” adds Keyte. “This wave of classical productions is also being booked across festivals including Hacienda Classical opening the main stage at Glastonbury in 2017.” Taylor points to Cuffe & Taylor’s Music From Downton Abbey concert last month at Highclere Castle (where the TV series is set) as another example. “There is no pigeonhole for the audience now, which makes it more difficult to try and target those people,” he says. “In the old days we would put an advert on Classic FM and the job was done, but we’re now using different mediums. “I say ‘classical music’ in inverted commas now because it is so vast. I think the word ‘classical’ has connotations that aren’t justified. Sometimes if you say, ‘Do you want to come and watch a classical concert?’ People would say no, but if you say, ‘Do you want to come and see Last Night Of The Proms or movie scores played by an orchestra?’ people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I do.’ So we almost need a new name.” As far as Keyte is concerned, the only way is up. She cites Decca’s post-classical imprint Mercury KX, which launched in 2017, and Bauer’s Scala Radio move. “Investment in the classical sector is increasing and the market will continue to grow,” she says. “The emergence or rebrand of labels like Mercury KX is also embracing the next generation of artists and their followers. “Festivals are also continuing to broaden their programming across genres. This allows artists such as Alfie Boe to not only perform at the prestigious BBC Proms In The Park with an orchestra, but also on the main stage at Cornbury Festival with his band.” “It’s just going to continue to grow,” agrees Taylor. “These big orchestral pieces are very popular so taking contemporary artists and putting them on a stage with an orchestra is something we’ll probably see a bit more of.” “Once we get our audience onto streaming, the discovery model will be huge,” concludes Allen. “They’re going to have this incredible catalogue of music to discover and that is just the beginning for us.”

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