Talks with Anna Leddra-Chapman
Secret Garden Sessions EP
CEV: At the age of 12 most of us really werenít doing much except hanging around with friends but you were already discovering your aptitude for music and songwriting. Tell me about why you picked up your dadís guitar and what it was that you felt once you started playing.
ALC: Iíve always been massive fan of music, as a child my tape player would be on quietly all night to help me sleep. I always sung in choirs and played in orchestras, and my dad has always had a guitar in each room! So one day I asked my dad to teach me some basic chords, and I learned how to play ďCrumbleĒ by Macy Gray! And using the same chords I wrote my first song ďdidnít like you anywayĒ at 13 (heavily influenced by rock chick Avril Lavigne at the time!) I think its still floating around online somewhere ha-ha. Anyway it felt amazing to write my own lyrics and melodies- and I started to perform in assemblies at school, and it was just a relief to get the troubled thoughts of a young teenager out there! It was my way of having my say I suppose, which is very difficult at that age.
CEV: Did you ever have any formal music lessons on either guitar or piano? What are the advantages of having some kind of formal training in music under your belt?
ALC: I started learning the Flute at age 9, and achieved Grade 6 standard, and this gave me the benefits of being able to read music. Guitar and Piano was mainly self taught, with some help from my dad and family friends. Itís really nice to be able to read a piece of music and score a composition but I mainly play by ear.
CEV: Were your parents supportive of this new phase in your life and if so how did they encourage and help you along with your music?
ALC: My parents have always been amazingly supportive and they have played a massive role from the very beginning of my music career. When I played them my first song, they told me how good they thought it was, and encouraged me to share it with my music teacher. The reaction I got was amazing and I then went through a prolific writing stage- creating maybe 2 songs a week. My dad had a small recording studio in our garage, and then helped me record them. I sent some to BBC Essex, a local Radio Station when I was 14 and they wrote to me to ask if I could do a feature on their websiteÖ.it kicked off from here very quickly and my mum and dad have this knack of being supportive but firmly keeping my feet on the ground. They both managed everything from there on till it became a bit too much and on advice, I sought Management.
CEV: So how did you feel getting up in front of an audience at 14 and singing your songs?
ALC: I was so scared! I had a full band behind me and we had been rehearsing for ages! I remember being worried that people wouldnít take me very seriously and dislike my songs, but the response was amazing- I had never felt such a high! There was one special night at a local theatre when I performed 6 of my songs and as I came off the stage I had quite a crowd of people wanting to congratulate me. We had produced 100 homemade CDís at that time and I sold them all!
CEV: Tell me about the invitation the invitation to play at the In the City Music Conference. How did that open things up for you?
ALC: It was brilliant to get to play a gig outside London for the first time- I was only 15 at the time so didnít realise really until now how big a deal it was to be asked to play In the City. It opened a lot up for me as a Journalist from Music Week came to see me and put me in an article in the ďbest of ITCĒ next to guillemots, fratellis, etc. It was mainly great fun and an awesome experience. It was the same time Arctic Monkeys played there- so it was a really buzzing time in the industry.
CEV: As long as you donít want to get too elaborate a lot can be done these days with digital recording equipment at home. How much of an advantage did this give you by creating your music at home and then using a website and MySpace to get your music out to a larger audience?
ALC: Well I didnít join Myspace till much later after my first recordings- I sold cdís at gigs and online through a website called solarise records- this is one of the first places where A&R scouts discovered my music- and my mum and dad managed to book me my first live gig in London- I was 15. Then when I was 16 I joined Myspace- and was blown away by how much exposure it gets you. My dad recorded my early demos when I was 13/14, and taught me how to use the equipment- this was invaluable at enabling me to put together a few songs for sale. It was also great because I leant a lot about how a song can be constructed and produced.
CEV: What do you like most about writing and performing your music?
ALC: I love being able to express feelings and emotions through the writing. I like to create a story, something people can connect with., and itís wonderful when I perform them and people tell me they really relate to my songs- thatís really the best feeling!
CEV: A lot of us really donít like the ďjobĒ that we have. Do you ever consider what you do a job in the sense that this is how you have chosen to make a living?
ALC: Itís amazing to do what I love day in day out! I am also studying music so am a student too so have a great job and social life. Although sometimes it can be hard, my parents have always taught me that itís good to work hard at your career or job, and then in your spare time you can pursue hobbies etc but this is my hobby! So it never feels like a Ďjobí as such. Itís just what I do because I love it.
CEV: Do you like being able to communicate with your fans directly via the Internet? How involved are you with your web presence and sites like MySpace?
ALC: Iím 100% involved! I try to reply to every email and every friend request too. I love it when I get friend requests from all over the world. I like to make the effort and translate my comment into their language! Using an online translator obviously! A lot of people take time to write to me in my language, so I think its only right I should do the same back!
CEV: You are currently working on your debut album how is that coming along?
ALC: Amazing! I am doing the album with the wonderful Peter Vettese- who is ridiculously talented. Iím sorting out the track listing at the moment- then going back into the studio to record new songs and old songs and I just canít wait!
CEV: As you are writing songs and recording do you have in mind a theme that you are shooting for and do you write material to fit that theme?
ALC: It completely varies!! If Iím writing one of my story telling style songs I love doing real research around them and if itís based around a certain time then itís awesome to get that period of time captured with in the production if that makes sense? I think my best songs have been accidents- song writing is like a release from reality sometimes- like putting something into a diary- its very sad when sometimes Iím worried more about ďis it 3 minutes 20 seconds long?Ē , ďis it catchy enoughĒ Ė and when I think like that nothing solid ever really comes from it. So I try not to think too much about themes when I start writing a song,, I just like to let it flow really and it comes more naturally to me, and I think the song itself is much more genuine- and more people can relate to it.
CEV: Most artists donít create music in a vacuum. Who are some of the people that you have surrounded yourself with who you are working with to create your debut album? (players, engineers, producers etc)
ALC: I have worked with some of the best songwriters, producers and engineers around and have been really spoilt! Each experience I have had I have thrown myself into- some have inspired me more than others but Iím delighted to now be finalising the album with Peter Vetesse.
CEV: As to the debut album do we know a title or a release date as of yet?
ALC: No not yetÖ.any suggestions??
CEV: Do you feel that you are competing against other women performers for a limited amount of listeners or is the field big enough for everyone?
ALC: I try not to think too much about this as it could easily block you. When I was first picked up by the music industry there were a couple of female artists in a similar position to me, one of them has since lost her recording contract the other has just sold two million albums! Iím happy that I am still on that journey and want to make an album Iím proud of.
CEV: What do you listen to when you want to relax or be entertained other than your own music?
ALC: I genuinely love all genres of music so itís a real mix and match! I adore Regina Spektor, Damien Rice, and more recently Bob Dylan- I also love Pendulum, Snow Patrol, and I find listening to older sounding productions sooo relaxing! But when being entertained my favourite music to dance to has to be drum and bass! I told you it was contrasting! You can just loose yourself in it and not care how silly you look when you dance because everybodyís going crazy!
CEV: With the Internet being what it is how important is it that radio play your music? Does it still have the same impact as it once did?
ALC: Itís still really important that radio stations play my music. The Internet is great for lots of things in music but I still think the majority of people listen to the radio tooÖwhether it be in the car, at work or at home. And there are loads of great radio stations out there with good presenters who appreciate and understand good music. Theyíre the people who can make a difference to an act if they get behind you.
CEV: Do you do a lot of live shows during the course of a year? Will you be doing even more once your album is out?
ALC: Iím always playing shows Ė itís my life now. Iím taking a small break at the moment as Iím doing exams at London College of Music and also working on the tracks for my debut album, but come Spring and Summer Iíll be out there more than ever. Once the album is out I would like to be touring the whole time and take the live shows abroad too.
CEV: Any final thoughts about your upcoming debut album and what your listeners can expect to hear once they are able to pick it up for themselves?
ALC: Well this album has been long in the waiting! So I hope it lives up to its expectations! Expect plenty of story telling and hopefully many songs people can relate to! I want it to be an overall feel-good album though.
CEV: From what I have seen and heard of your music on your MySpace page I'm sure that the final result will be spectacular. I wish you the best of luck and be sure to let us know when it is available so we can enjoy it as well. Thanks for your time.