Josephine Sillars has, despite her tender years, has been an active member of the local music scene for quite some time (she started playing at Coffee Shop sessions at the age of nine). With her forthcoming gig at Glachbeg looming (details here) we thought it would be nice to catch up..
Looking at the gigs that you have played, Hootananny (Brixton) jumps out at us, how did it come about, and how did it go?
Getting the gig in Brixton all started with someone handing me a leaflet for free cake. It sounds bizarre, but hear me out! I was handed this leaflet which led me to a restaurant on Church Street -which was indeed offering cake. As my friends and I waited to be served, I noticed a piano, and absently mindedly started playing. The woman working seemed impressed and said I’d be welcome back the following week to play properly – an offer which I took up.
The restaurant (The Joy of Taste) is owned by Kit Fraser, the owner of Hoots both here and in London. I told him I wasn’t really a pianist, but a singer-songwriter, played him some songs, and the next you know- he called his daughter, the manager of Hoots in Brixton, who slotted me in! Angie Fraser is a wonderful human being, and I was very grateful to be asked back. I found it quite difficult playing in Brixton. It wasn’t too bad the first time, it was apparently a “quiet” night, which was because I was playing just after the riots. I got a warm reception and everything was lovely. The second time however was a lot more rowdy! There were a lot of drunks and it was a challenge trying to win people who clearly weren’t there for the music. But again, set wise, everything went smoothly, and I got a lovely reception.
Are there any other gigs/playing experiences that stick out for you?
Gigs that stand out? Besides Brixton, because they were pretty spectacular – the whole atmosphere of London is fantastic, and it’s a pretty groovy feeling to actually play there – I’d say playing in the Market Bar was brilliant. I was a bit worried at first because the venue is really tiny, but some friends of mine came along as well as some people I don’t know, and once I got started it was great. Playing in a small space really makes it more personal, and is just as much fun as playing bigger venues.
Can you tell us a bit about your sound and your influences?
My sound is completely different from my listening taste! That normally surprises people – they hear my music and expect me to listen to softer sounds. But I’m really into rock. I like pretty much all genres, literally anything from Alternative to Scream. But, I sound nothing like that. It really is only me and a piano and I’m very lyrically focused in my songs. I like telling stories to me, song writing is just that.
What do you think the challenges are for a young singer song writer like yourself?
I think the biggest challenge out there for singer songwriters is that there’s so many of us! There are millions of people trying to break into the music industry and it’s the sheer competitiveness which is the biggest challenge. In saying that, I’m a very competitive person myself. Music is all I want to do, I’ve never wanted anything as much as this. The second biggest challenge is the song writing! It’s brilliant fun, and I love doing it, but it’s difficult! Writing a song is hard work. Hard work which hopefully will pay off.
On your Facebook page there are some nice photos of you playing with your sister and your dad, is that something you want to continue with?
I’m trying to break away from playing with my family. Although I like playing with them, my dad and I have different musical styles. He’s a blues musician and although I want to, I don’t really get the blues. I love listening to it, but I’m not a natural when it comes to playing it. My sister and I don’t play together often enough for us to ‘work’. Whenever we do play together, I’m ashamed to admit, I get very controlling and turn into a bit of a slave driver. I’m not opposed to compromise, I’d just rather play with someone it feels natural with. I don’t like being forced into playing with people, because then the music sounds laboured. I’d love to play with someone else, but only if it feels and sounds completely natural.
You have a couple of songs on soundcloud and a taster CD floating around, is there a song that best represents you and your style?
The song which best represents me and my style? I’d listen to “PleasePlead and Don’t Tell (Three Years Past)”.
That was one of the first songs I wrote the music and lyrics for myself, and it was one of the first that made me take song writing more seriously. I actually wrote it about a film called “District 9”, which, if you’ve not seen it, deals with some very powerful themes, and I tried to get the same emotions across in the song. However it’s a pretty subtle song – even people who have seen the film don’t guess what it’s about! Also, the ending is always fun to sing live. I really enjoy playing it.
I’ve got a few more songs scattered about – one in particular, “Middle Class Pretenders” which I’m going to get recorded in the next few weeks.
Questions asked by Chris Lemon
Photos by Matt Sillars
Thanks to Josephine Sillars
Jospehine can be seen at Glachbeg on the 15th of November from 730pm.
Need a taxi, use Happy Cabbies, phone 01463 717777
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