interviews

Young, Gifted And Black: Women In Music x YouTube Music - Ella-Bonai Gordon

Music Week is teaming up with YouTube Music for the Women In Music Awards in October - Black History Month - with a content series and webinar event, Young, Gifted And Black: Women In Music. Here, Adenike Adenitire meets artist ...

Young, Gifted And Black: Women In Music x YouTube Music - Namywa

Music Week is teaming up with YouTube Music for the Women In Music Awards in October - Black History Month - with a content series and webinar event, Young, Gifted And Black: Women In Music. Here, Adenike Adenitire meets Namywa… Namywa, 27, is a recording artist, musician and songwriter whose approach to her music and lyrics is regularly described as ‘fearless’.  Her distinctive style, which merges jazz, soul, R&B and pop, has caught the attention of many, as has her unique voice, whether she’s performing with her all-female band or with just her guitar for support.  Music greats Joan Armatrading and Laura Mvula are two famous names she has been likened to, but Namywa is definitely her own artist. Fresh off an acclaimed sold-out show at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, as the support for Paloma Faith, fans will be thrilled to hear she recently finished recording her debut EP, which will be out in January 2022. Outside of her music career, Namywa runs Girl Grind UK, a CIC (Community Interest Company) she founded out of a deep desire to support Black and Asian women and girls at crucial stages in their development and help them along their personal and professional path. The company is part-funded by charity Youth Music’s incubator programme, an initiative backed by YouTube. Here, Namywa discusses her company and her career as an artist... Everyone looks at London as where it all happens, so what was it like growing up as an aspiring artist in Birmingham? “Yeah, I think the more I got into my career I felt the challenges. I think at first I just had the, ‘Oh yeah, this is great’, as you don't really know the scale of the industry, like you think it’s all the same. And then you start noticing that certain things are not happening where you are, but you just get on with doing what you've got to do. As you progress and do more shows and connect with radio, that’s when it starts to pop into your head, ‘Okay, this industry is massive. How do I move forward?’” How have you managed to make progress in the past couple of years? “Yeah, so I had a rebrand around 2020, changing from Namiwa Jazz to Namywa and in that time I got some amazing funding from Help Musicians and MOBO Awards as one of 55 artists, to write and record my debut EP. That's finished now and I'm working with PR agencies to build my campaign from January to March. And it's been a beautiful process to just write with no restrictions or proper timescale. My producers are based in Sweden and some really great music has come out of that. In between that time of rebranding, I went on a few songwriting camps with Tileyard and this opened up the songwriter in me. I’ve got the bug and I want more of it.” You’ve also changed some things in your band, right? “Yeah, I've reshaped and remodelled my band and I've now got a female bass player, female guitarist, two female backing vocalists and a female pianist. My drummer is the only male in my band, he’s also a multi-instrumentalist. So, I wanted to switch things up because there's not many women in that space, so it took me a long time to find those people. But it's a good example for people to look at and be like ‘I don't just have to go with what's easy, but what’s right’. I previously had a band of 10 musicians, most of them male, and I could have just stayed with that. But I made the decision to go out and do something that felt more right for me.” You also balance your career running an organisation called Girl Grind UK, can you share a bit about the work you do? “Girl Grind UK supports black and Asian minority ethnic women and non-binary people based in the West Midlands on their personal professional pursuit. The company has also opened up a space for me to actually do the other part of why I feel I’m here on this planet, which is to help and empower other people, and to be a plug and make connections.  “We've done six, almost seven, projects this year, one in which we partnered with the PRS which was on some ‘How To’ events. We also partnered with music charity B:Music, which was a sold-out live music night where we commissioned artists to write about their personal experiences of institutional racism. This Youth Music and YouTube project that we're doing is called She Done Did It and, essentially, it's a six-month programme that encompasses my last two years in the industry. Participants get time with a band, time in the studio, and then we are going into London next month for a songwriting camp with Tileyard Education and then a work placement and sessions with MNEK and other songwriters through Tileyard Impact. So, I wanted to create a quicker route for them where it doesn’t take two years like it did for me, and it doesn’t take three grand to go on a writing camp when it can be done a lot easier.”  How did you get involved with the charity Youth Music, which provides access grants to create employment opportunities for young creative talent across the UK? “It was through their incubator fund, which I realised after I applied was really competitive. I applied in the first round, and no joke, when I didn't get it, I fully cried. Then I had a meeting with them, and they told me the reasons. I also looked at the first wave of people they funded, like Girls I Rate and SBTV, who were all very deserving. And I just looked at that calibre of people and I thought ‘Where do I sit in that?’ and ‘What am I trying to do that's different to them?’ So, I went back to the drawing board, we applied and then got it the second time. Now I'm really building the relationship with them and reporting and evaluating this project like crazy, because every month I want to prove its validity.” What are you optimistic about in the industry for the next five to 10 years? “I'm excited for the industry to see who I am, for my space to be created and supported and embraced. I am genuinely excited for what I hope to happen in terms of labels and industry focus and some more attention on Birmingham. I'm excited for things like the MOBOs as I think their last awards online were sick. Kanya's team is absolutely nuts, those performances were mad, and I feel like they had such a short turnaround time, so just watching things like that happen and the quality still being there… That for me was a big deal. I also liked the winners of the BRITs this year. Griff was the first Asian artist to win the Rising Star Award and that for me is timely, but it's different. I like those things.” Stay tuned to musicweek.com for more interviews during Black History Month as part of Young Gifted And Black: Women In Music x YouTube Music. And click here for our YouTube channel.  

Giles Martin, Orla Lee-Fisher & Jonathan Clyde reveal all on The Beatles: Get Back documentary

It’s a big couple of months to be a Beatles fan, with a new album reissue, book and the extraordinary Disney+ documentary series The Beatles: Get Back on the way. Here, producer Giles Martin, Universal Music’s Orla Lee-Fisher, and Jonathan Clyde of Apple Corps reveal all on a multi-faceted project that unravels the myths and mayhem of the Fab Four’s final LP, Let It Be…  WORDS: James Hanley    PHOTOS: Ethan A. Russell /©Apple Corps Ltd When The Beatles convened on the rooftop of their Apple Corps HQ on January 30, 1969, it was one of the most legendary gigs of all time; a moment so iconic, it was parodied on The Simpsons. Yet only a precious few actually witnessed the group’s live swansong in the flesh.  “It’s funny, because it’s such a famous gig,” muses Grammy-winning producer Giles Martin, speaking to Music Week at Abbey Road Studios. “But there is footage of people down at street level and they don’t even know it’s The Beatles, because they couldn’t see them. And if you imagine being down on the ground while someone is playing on a rooftop, the sound is not going to be very good for an audience – apart from just being loud – and that’s when the police stopped them.” While the show was curtailed due to noise complaints, to those stationed five storeys high, the sound was near perfect. Several of the rooftop recordings (Dig A Pony/I’ve Got A Feeling/One After 909) made it on to the band’s 12th and final studio LP Let It Be, with the hastily arranged 42-minute set going down in history as not only the Fab Four’s first concert since quitting touring in 1966 but – more pertinently – their last live performance together ever. “Let It Be was going to be a live album of these new songs they hadn’t written yet,” clarifies Martin. “To give some context, the whole idea behind Let It Be was, ‘We need to find our spark, we need to find the magic that we had.’ They’d done a performance with Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the video for Hey Jude, and they liked the idea of performing because they’d stopped playing live. So they said to themselves, ‘We’ll rehearse and write songs and document that, and then we’ll go and do this live show in front of people.’”  But why the unorthodox setting? The answer is surprisingly straightforward. “They couldn’t decide on anywhere else,” laughs Martin, son of the late Beatles producer George Martin. “They went from saying it was going to be on an ocean liner to then saying it would be in an amphitheatre in Tripoli. For me, the reason they played on the rooftop is exactly the same as why they took a photograph of themselves on the zebra crossing for Abbey Road. They had all sorts of ideas for that cover, like being on a mountain top and calling the album Everest or something like that. There were all these theories, but Abbey Road was just the handiest place to do it.” Showcased in its entirety for the first time, the rooftop gig forms a tent-pole of the remarkable upcoming three-part, six-hour Disney+ documentary The Beatles: Get Back, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson. Martin has remixed the music for the series, which premieres on the streaming service over three days from November 25-27.  “We actually mixed the rooftop concert for the film before we did the record, and you kind of want The Beatles to be in your face,” he explains. “Their performances are amazing considering it’s cold, it’s January and they’re singing harmonies in tune on a rooftop without proper monitors.  “Part of our job is putting the energy back into it, because familiarity can breed contempt and people start writing about this stuff more than they listen to it. So it’s just re-stimulating it, shaking it up and going, ‘You know what? They were great.’ And this is great.” The Beatles: Get Back is compiled from footage shot by Lindsay-Hogg in January 1969, some of which first appeared in the pioneering director’s original 1970 film, entitled Let It Be. Cameras followed the band’s every move over three weeks – initially at Twickenham Film Studios and latterly at The Beatles’ own Apple Studio in Savile Row – as they plotted their live comeback and accompanying album.  “There has always been an awareness that there was nearly 60 hours of unseen footage, shot in 1969, from which the 80-minute film was edited and released,” says Apple Corps director of production Jonathan Clyde. “It just had to take its place in a number of other projects that have come along in the meantime. Timing is key with all these projects and when it’s not its time, it’s not its time. For instance, with [Ron Howard’s] Eight Days A Week film, that idea started to percolate around 2003 but the film didn’t come together until 2016. And that’s the case with everything really, it’s all about timing. If all the pieces don’t fit together then you don’t do it. The Get Back film, again, was a question of timing. Peter Jackson homed into view and suddenly it clicked.” Clyde says enticing the Lord Of The Rings director on board gave them the missing piece in the puzzle. “The timing was extraordinary,” says Clyde. “He was actually in England working on [WWI documentary] They Shall Not Grow Old, which had incredible reviews, and he said, ‘I’d love to do this project.’ And one knew that he would bring all that expertise that had gone into They Shall Not Grow Old, into the Get Back project.” Jackson is the only person in half a century to have been given access to the private film archive and has spent the past three years on the production, which was intended to commemorate Let It Be’s 50th anniversary in 2020, before the pandemic pushed things back a year. Newly mixed by Martin and engineer Sam Okell, the chart-topping 1970 LP is the latest Beatles record in line for the special edition treatment and will be re-released in multiple formats via Apple Corps/Capitol/UMe on October 15. “We don’t do things by half with The Beatles,” explains Orla Lee-Fisher, Universal Music Group International’s SVP marketing. “They are global superstars and they resonate everywhere, but the advantage of having the Disney+ three-part series is it gives us an elongated campaign. We will have a sustained campaign through 2021; it will be wall-to-wall Beatles from now until the end of the year, which is really exciting and gives us lots of opportunities to keep driving new consumers to The Beatles. “At the heart of it, is being true to their original spirit and craft,” she continues. “It’s not about changing their legacy, it’s about enhancing it and presenting them to new mediums without taking away anything from the magic that has existed for the last 50-odd years. They are a timeless band, who appeal to every generation, so it’s about carrying on that legacy and using new technology to keep it updated and fresh.” All the new releases feature the fresh stereo mix, while the physical and digital super-deluxe collections include 27 previously unreleased session recordings and a four-track Let It Be EP. “They didn’t really have a manager at the time because Brian Epstein had passed away, so they did it with almost a student mentality of, ‘This is going to be great,’ without any real plans,” suggests Martin. “So they went to Twickenham Studios and didn’t have that many songs |at all, but they still plannedon playing a live gig and recording it.” Martin surmises the short turnaround time was a conscious move to get their creative juices flowing.  “They needed to almost create pressure for themselves to write,” he opines. “Famously, they did a film called Help! and someone said, ‘We need a song for it.’ And the next day John had written a song called Help!. That’s what their abilities were. But I think that you get the sense with Let It Be that Paul was trying to drive it while the rest are going, ‘We’re just tired of all this and want to do something different.’ “Let It Be was a crazy project. I mean, imagine a band now saying, ‘Listen guys, we haven’t got any songs, we’ll get together for three weeks and then we’ll play a massive gig somewhere. And we’ll decide where it’s going to be while we’re rehearsing.’ It was a bonkers concept.” Of particular fascination to Beatles die-hards will be the never before released 14-track Get Back stereo LP mix, compiled by engineer Glyn Johns in May 1969. The Beatles elected to ditch Johns’ version in order to focus on Abbey Road, which followed that September.  “Let It Be is an interesting project, but I didn’t really know that much about it before doing it,” concedes Martin. “I didn’t realise it was only a period of three weeks, for instance; I thought it went on for much longer. I didn’t realise the chronology of it, where they went to Twickenham, then to Savile Row and then played the rooftop, and that was Let It Be. Then Glyn Johns mixed an album and they were like, ‘Oh... this isn’t really what we were looking for.’ Poor Glyn was like, ‘This is what you wanted!’ And they said, ‘Well, not quite. What we wanted was a live album; this is a collage of what we we’ve been doing.’ And so they scrapped it and went and made Abbey Road.” By the time Let It Be finally dropped alongside Lindsay-Hogg’s film of the same name in May 1970 (the band won an Academy Award for Best Original Score), The Beatles had split.  Despite containing top-tier Beatles classics such as the title track (the third most-streamed Beatles song on Spotify, at 390m plays) and The Long And Winding Road, Let It Be is one of the quartet’s most controversial records and continues to divide opinion among critics and fans alike. But Clyde is quick to leap to its defence.  “It’s an incredibly important album,” he offers. “It doesn’t seem to be as popular as some of their others, but there are some stunning songs on it. I think it’s associated with the break-up and that somehow casts a slight shadow over it in people’s minds. Some people say it’s not one of their very good albums, but I think any group would grab that as their best any time! It’s a really interesting record.” Let It Be has sold 322,647 copies UK sales since Official Charts Company records began in 1994. A stripped-down version, Let It Be... Naked (281,488 sales), was released in 2003. Notably, Paul McCartney objected to the overdubs inserted on the original album by infamous Wall Of Sound producer Phil Spector.  “Allen Klein, who became their manager, got Phil Spector in to finish the record with John and George, but not Paul, and that created the problems,” says Martin. “When my dad was approached by EMI about the credits, he said, ‘Why don’t you say, “Produced by George Martin, and overproduced by Phil Spector.’’’ I think Phil Spector was a genius, but I’m not sure whether, stylistically, he was very ‘Beatles’. All of the arrangements are a bit Hollywood.”   On the whole, however, the new Disney+ film promises to dispel a few myths about intra-band relations during the era (George Harrison briefly quit the group in the middle of the sessions).  “When the project was put to bed back in 1970, it was against the backdrop of The Beatles having announced they were disbanding,” elaborates Clyde. “And when we started looking at the assets back in the early 2000s, I saw some of the footage and thought, ‘There is some amazing material here that didn’t make the original Let It Be film.’  “Peter went through the process of looking at everything and was pleasantly surprised to find it was not the depressing mood that is the received version of what those three weeks were. On the contrary, the atmosphere was actually pretty good. Like any group of creative people working together over three weeks, there are moments where they disagree with each other. But that bond between them is still there all the time and so the idea that Let It Be broke up The Beatles is a misconception, because they went on to make Abbey Road. How can a band who are breaking up go and make Abbey Road?” Lee-Fisher was comforted to discover The Beatles’ brotherhood still largely intact.  “It’s not as people thought it was,” she says. “Peter has looked at all the footage on the tapes and has seen what really happened, as opposed to the story we were all taught. It is not rewriting history, it’s seeing it laid out based on footage.” “I had this opinion of Let It Be being a problematic, argumentative time for The Beatles,” admits Martin. “But I’ve been through 52 hours of footage and George does leave the band, but in a really funny way. John and Paul were struggling with songs so were ignoring the other two, and George just goes, ‘Well that’s it, I’m leaving the band.’ And then he came back two days later. I remember working on the George Harrison documentary [2011’s Living In The Material World] and he actually wrote in his diary, ‘Got up, went to Twickenham, left The Beatles, went to the cinema...’  “There’s a famous scene in which Paul says to George, ‘Don’t play that’ and George goes, ‘I’ll play whatever you want me to play. Or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to.’ Now I was in a band and we’d have much worse arguments than that. I don’t think they had enough songs and I think they were cold in Twickenham, but they seemed to have quite a good laugh – especially when they went to Savile Row with [keyboardist] Billy Preston. I think they needed someone to perform to. My dad wasn’t heavily involved in Let It Be and so they didn’t have that figurehead. But then Billy Preston came in and they suddenly had this great musician in the room and had to pull their socks up a bit. But the biggest revelation for me was that it was a bunch of guys jamming, as opposed to a bunch of guys fighting. What’s quite nice to hear is the development of songs and what Let It Be shows you is the way they functioned and collaborated. Even though they were slightly tired of each other, there was an open-mindedness to each other’s ideas.” As with the previous anniversary projects, Get Back has received the full blessing of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison. “The entire Beatles team are involved and nothing would happen without their involvement,” stresses Lee-Fisher.  “It always starts with them,” adds Clyde, who worked for George Harrison’s Dark Horse Records label in the ’70s. McCartney expands on his feelings on the era in his foreword for the Let It Be Special Edition book.  “I had always thought the original film Let It Be was pretty sad as it dealt with the break-up of our band, but the new film shows the camaraderie and love the four of us had between us,” he writes. “It’s how I want to remember The Beatles.” “Paul and Ringo are happy with the film,” affirms Martin. “I think they get tired of the amount of people making so much money out of speculating about what The Beatles were doing at the time. Paul told me a story about when they went to meet Elvis, and Priscilla Presley opened the door. And when they got back to the hotel, none of them could remember what she was wearing. Paul thought she was wearing a gingham dress, Ringo thought she had a tiara on, and he goes, ‘If we can’t remember what happened, how can other people remember what happened to us?’ And because the movie cut was a bit weird, I think they had forgotten what Let It Be was.” Martin, who is head of audio and sound at Universal Music Group, has previously worked on remixed and expanded 50th birthday editions of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (White Album) and Abbey Road – released in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively – as well as the Grammy Award-winning Love album (2006) and Live At The Hollywood Bowl (2016).  “You have to get into the vibe of the project you’re doing. Not that we took hallucinogenic drugs when we did Sgt Pepper, but you have to get into what it is,” he deadpans.  The annual re-releases have introduced new waves of music lovers to The Beatles, who have become one of the most popular bands on DSPs since their belated streaming debut in December 2015. Their monthly Spotify listenership now exceeds 25 million, outranking modern greats including Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and The Killers, as well as rock legends such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana and AC/DC. “The global footprint of The Beatles really helps with the numbers, but it’s about sustaining them,” suggests Lee-Fisher. “With our new Disney+ partnership, I think there will be a huge scope to expand that to a whole wider audience, so that’s what’s really exciting about it. It’s just about enhancing what we have, building it and broadening that appeal.” Spotify statistics released for Abbey Road’s 50th anniversary in 2019 showed the leading demographic for streaming the band’s music to be 18-24, accounting for approximately a third of all Beatles streams. “I remember being one of the people saying, ‘Listen, if we don’t go on streaming services, forget about how many box sets you can sell, there will be a whole generation that doesn’t know The Beatles exist,’” recalls Martin. “They have consistently been the biggest box sets sold every year, which is great and lovely. I think what happens is that people start talking about them and then they start listening. The story of The Beatles is so compelling, because it’s so unbelievable. We’re talking about three weeks being the beginning and the end of the entire Let It Be project. The Beatles lived their lives completely in fast-forward.” With Let It Be marking the conclusion of the 50th anniversary reissues of the final four Beatles records (Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road both returned to No.1, incidentally), the fascination with the Fab Four shows no signs of abating. But the team are keeping tight-lipped on what happens next. “There are discussions going on,” remarks Clyde. “But there’s nothing decided and that’s all I can say.” “Watch this space,” grins Lee-Fisher. “We have an always-on approach with The Beatles and are always looking at new ways and ideas to keep the catalogue moving forward. We have plans, but that’s for another time.” Beatlemaniacs will note that 1965’s Rubber Soul and 1966 masterpiece Revolver are still ripe for repackaging while, in terms of future milestones, the group’s debut LP Please Please Me turns 60 in 2023. Martin stresses that updating the group’s earlier work is more complicated because of the antiquated recording technology employed at the time. But never say never... “I’d only do them if it was meaningful, as opposed to as a marketing tool,” he insists. “But don’t get me wrong, we’re looking at ways in which we can do stuff that will be cool.” The rest, quite literally, is history.

Special Report: the major players on the future of royalty collection

subscribers only

Q&A: RCA President David Dollimore on working with Cre8ing Vision

subscribers only

Spotlight: Kilimanjaro Live's CEO Stuart Galbraith

subscribers only

MORE Music Week Features

Show More
Loading
subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...