FIVE FAVOURITES: Grace Savage

Grace Savage is a four-time UK beat-box champion turned electro-pop artist. With her ability to produce catchy beats and write witty relatable lyrical content, her live shows are an impressive spectacle; and her performance at Loud Women Festival last year made a mark in our musical memory. She’s set to release her new EP Cracks on 17th May and will pre-empt the launch with a headline show at Bermondsey Social Club on 15th May (tickets available here).

We caught up with Grace to ask her about her “Five Favourites” – five albums that have influenced her songwriting techniques. Check out her choices below, and make sure you listen to her single ‘Snowflake’ at the end of this post.

Amy Winehouse – Frank
I heard this album for the first time when I was 14, hanging out in my friend’s bedroom. I instantly fell in love and knew this woman was something special. The tone of her voice, the sensitivity and intelligence of the lyrics, the infectious melodies..I didn’t know much about music technically at the time, but I just felt the soul of this album to my core and I still listen to it today as much as I did back then.

I learned the song ‘Fuck Me Pumps’ on the guitar and it was the first song I ever sang in front of another human being. It was a producer who’d seen me beatbox in a talent competition, and then invited me to her studio; she asked me to sing something for her and I was absolutely terrified. I sang Amy’s song and she must’ve seen something in me because we then worked together as a songwriting partnership for four years. So this album will always have a special place in my heart.

P!nk – Can’t Take Me Home
I cannot even begin to explain the level of obsession I had with P!nk as a young girl. Posters on the bedroom wall, dyed my hair pink at 13, got my tongue pierced at 15, my email address for most of my teenage years was pink_b!tch@hotmail.com – it was a LOT. She was this bad ass lady with bright pink hair and so much attitude and I just wanted to be everything she was. She was a great role model for me as a young girl who didn’t fit in with the ”girly girls” and this album (although when I listen to it now sounds SO dated) was a big part of my teenage years. I’ve followed her career ever since and I’m seeing her live for the first time this summer….I think I might explode with nostalgia and happiness.

Nirvana – Nevermind
This album inspired me to learn the guitar. I went through the classic “grunge girl” stage for about a year (black nails, big nose ring, nirvana hoodies, eye liner, really bad skate boarding) and it was all heavily influenced by this album and Kurt Cobain’s genius. I was always such a hip hop head/r&b and pop music girl, but something about Nirvana really got me. The guitar riffs, the husky tone of his voice, the weird lyrics and the “don’t give a f***” attitude of the whole band was really refreshing against the shiny manufactured pop bands I was exposed to in the 90’s and early 00’s. This album introduced me to a different kind of music and really let me indulge my emo side.

Ms Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Ahhh it was so close between Lauryn and Missy Elliot because both had a huge impact on me growing up, but seeing as this is about ALBUMS and not ARTISTS… I had to choose this one. I remember I was about 14/15 and my mate said he bought this album and didn’t like it so he gave it to me to try. I’m so glad he did, because BOOYYY it is ICONIC! I fell in love with her voice watching Sister Act and I fell in love with this album the moment I heard it. Triple threat: singer, rapper, writer. There were really no other artists around like her at the time and her voice is unparalleled in my opinion. I still can’t think of anyone who sings, writes and raps as fluently and excellently as she does. She is one of a kind. I saw her perform the 20 year anniversary of this album in London last year and it was a beautiful experience.

BANKS – Goddess
This is the only “modern” album on my list but no less impactful and meaningful to my life. This is my break up album. I must have listened to it and cried to it and ran to it and danced to it and slept to it and then cried some more to it almost every day for about a year. When it came out, the production was like nothing I’d ever heard before and her lyrics and tone were so unique and dark and sexy, I was immediately like “WOAH” who is this girl? I’ve seen her live a few times now and she never fails to disappoint. ‘Waiting Game’ and ‘Brain’ still continue to be some of my favourite songs in existence – the slow driving kick drum, the long builds throughout the whole song, the deep driving synths and the tribal feel to her vocals drenched in reverb. Beaut. Thanks for getting me over the worst break up of my life. I owe you one BANKS!

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Interview and Playlist: Amahla

Having played legendary venues such as The Jazz Cafe and The Roundhouse, and garnered support from the likes of BBC Radio 1 Extra and 6Music’s Tom Robinson, Hackney native Amahla was also been a recipient of the second ever MOBO Awards X Help Musicians Grant for her exceptional voice. Following the lush sounds of last year’s ‘Old Soul’, she’s now returned to grace our ears with poignant new single ‘Dorothy’s Verses’.

We had a little chat with Amahla to find out more, and asked her to pick a few of her favourite songs for a special guest playlist…

Hi Amahla, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
Hey, I’m Amahla! I’m 22 and I’m a soul singer-songwriter from Hackney. Some of my music branches into folk because I write primarily with guitar but it’s definitely in the bracket of soul. I’ve been lucky enough to play some amazing venues so far, like the Jazz Cafe and Roundhouse main stages. Usually I play with my band but I’ve also been doing more intimate acoustic shows recently.

Your new single ‘Dorothy’s Verses’ is out on Friday, can you tell us what it’s all about?
‘Dorothy’s Verses’ is a story inspired by my grandmother. She came to the UK with my mum and Grandad in the early ’60s from Guyana. She’s always been super independent but three years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had to change her lifestyle. Since then my family and I have had to learn to see her world through this new lens. ‘Dorothy’s Verses’ is about her reflecting on her life, but also about the need to push women’s stories to the forefront into all of our collective memories more generally.

You’ve been compared to the likes of Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, but who would you say are you main musical influences?
Have I? That’s nice! It’s hard to say who my main influences are, but here are a few on my mind at the moment… Amy is a huge one, I was 11 when Back to Black came out and she showed me that I could sing soul but still retain everything that makes me a London girl – the accent, the honesty – and not compromise my identity. Listening to Etta James taught me how to sing with conviction, plus the phrasing of lots of the early Jazz pioneers like Ella and Nat King Cole is just exquisite and has fed into the way I now write my melodies – it’s all about intention.

You graduated university with a first in Anthropology, how would you say what you’ve learnt about this feeds into your music?
I wrote my final thesis about the impact technology (particularly camera phones) has in recreating an archive of violence against the black body – one that the US government sought to repress after the civil rights movement. I think this thesis broadened my mind in terms of how I think about social movements, how they occur and why. These topics consumed my life for a year and I think you can hear its impact on my upcoming EP Consider This – thematically I explore similar themes of memory, justice and using one story to tell many.

And how important do you think it is for musicians to use their creative platform to address issues of politics and race?
At the moment it’s important for me to address issues of politics; I’ve always wanted in some way to impact social change in my lifetime. I don’t know how yet, but for me putting my thoughts into my music is a start. But, as much as music is a place to dissect these issues, it’s also a place to escape from them. Having the freedom to create and innovate is the most important thing.

And would you say movements such as Me Too have allowed more musicians to be more honest in their songwriting?
It’s an interesting question, I don’t know how anyone would go about quantifying its impact yet. I think that the impact of Me Too as a movement won’t really be felt on a broad level for a few years still.

 

We’ve asked you to pick some songs by artists and bands you admire for a special playlist, can you tell us a bit about each of your choices?

Miss Jacqui – ‘These Walls’
I’ve known Miss Jacqui for a while now, she is a songwriter and poet. She performed at the 2012 Paralympics ceremony but hasn’t released anything officially ’til this year. She’s exceptional. We need more voices like hers in the music industry.

Hejira – ‘I Don’t Belong To Anyone’
One of the most underrated bands in my opinion, their sound and visuals are so unique – every single is fire. The rhythm of this one particularly, captures you from the beginning.

Cosima – ‘Hymns For Him’
Cosima is uncompromising in her sound and has such a cutting tone to her voice, she reminds me of Prince. I love this song!

Fatima – ‘Westside’
The bassline in this track is something else and Fatima’s low register is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to support her at her Roundhouse show last month, she’s even more magical live. Her music came alive and her voice and presence filled the room, I haven’t been able to switch it off since.

Nai Palm – ‘Crossfire/ So Into You’
Her voice of course is out of this world, but there is nothing conventional about her songwriting. The way she uses guitar as harmony and percussion to complement her vocal lines is something I’ve admired for years.

Shae Universe – ‘Tell Me The Truth’
Shae’s voice is simply incredible. I’d love to write a song for her catalogue, the range and melodic possibilities with her voice are just gorge.

Massive thanks to Amahla for answering our questions! Listen to her guest playlist here:

 

And you can catch Amahla live at The Roundhouse on 19th February.