Today’s Feature – December 17-18: Beth Rowley

December 19, 2008 at 1:37 am (Today's Feature)

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Beth Rowley is good. Scary good. So good that the little song bird from Great Britain once caused a fan to take a straight noise dive into the floor as she belted the lyric, “Lightning strikes me down” from the tune “Only One Cloud.” A beautiful voice is one thing, but the power to sweep the feet from under another through song – that’s a higher level.

In all seriousness, Beth Rowley is a remarkable talent, complete with the look and ability to do whatever she wants in this music industry. She’s come a long way since her days in a high school band and nights with a buffet of guest musicians at open mics around Bristol. She’s played with all kinds of artists; always finding a way to make it work. Today, she has a group of musicians behind her like never before, and you can hear the wonderful melodies they conjure on Beth’s debut album, “Little Dreamer.” Building on the “Violets” EP, the new collection debuted at #6 on the UK charts upon its release – already nearing Gold status. Pretty impressive, eh?
Rowley talks about the record herself, “The sound is quite glossy and clean… There is a mix of gospel, blues, country and pop too. Which is exactly what I wanted…I didn’t want to have to choose one or two of them so I didn’t.” Swing by the myspace page and sample for yourself – I guarantee you’ll be falling all over yourself to learn more. If you can’t catch Beth’s live show, buy the record! But keep an eye out for upcoming shows before they get back into the studio to record the second album. Dive into the XXQ’s for a whole lot more.

XXQs: Beth Rowley

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell us why Beth Rowley is going to make a huge impact on today’s music scene.

Beth Rowley (BR): I’m completely different to everyone else in many ways. But I’m not going to give away anything. All will be revealed!

PEV: Hailing from Great Britain, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

BR: At home I listened to a lot of blues like Leadbelly and the Inkspots,Woody Guthrie, old gospel like Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson, country like Hank Williams loads of Johnny Cash and also listened to lots of the Beatles. With my friends we were listening to old school hip hop, soul and lots of Motown.

PEV: What was it like very first time YOU turned your radio and heard one of your songs?

BR: It was amazing. Though by that point I was quite used to listening to the album because there was a long time between completing it and it’s release. It was very satisfying though hearing it played on loads of radio stations after all the hard work and knowing that so many people were hearing it.

PEV: What was it like for you when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, regular gigs and touring around the country? The struggles, the lessons learned, etc.?

BR: It was a case of perseverance.  Since I was small I’d always wanted to sing, I never wanted to do anything else, so I had the belief that I was going to do it. There wasn’t ever doubt in my mind because I enjoyed the whole thing so much. I wont lie and say that there aren’t tough times when things don’t go the way you want them to, but I believe everything happens for a reason so I try not to worry too much.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Beth Rowley show?

BR: All the guys in the band have a unique style so I feel very lucky to have found them. The album was very polished but live the sound is lot rawer – a lot more what I’m about. The live performances are special for me because that’s where I started when I was sixteen and its got lots of passion and energy.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

BR: I started singing in a band when I was sixteen with fives guys from school. We had a real mix of musical influences from classical piano to acid jazz and hip-hop. We did a few gigs and then drifted apart when people went to uni.  I then went on to sing at open mic nights around Bristol where I would go on my own and ask some one if they could play piano or guitar for me. I would sing old jazz standards lots of Carol King and Motown numbers. Over the next five years I met a whole load of other talented musicians from Bristol and we formed a musical family who played for each other a lot.
I’ve gone through various band line ups whilst experimenting with different sounds which can be tricky some times when you’re good mates with people but it’s definitely an essential part of the creative process. Today I’ve found a group of like minded people who all love music and are passionate about making the live experience as good as possible. We have loads of fun on the road together and I’m really excited with the sound which we’ve arrived at.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure…

BR: One embarrassing one was when I did a whole gig with my skirt stuck in my pants. I felt like a laughing stock. There was another time when I was doing a gig in an old church in Cardiff, I was singing a line ‘lightning strikes me down’ (from ‘Only one Cloud’) and a man collapsed right in front of me and hit his head on the stage. I carried on singing because people at the back were oblivious but the band thought I was a cold hearted Annie for not stopping and checking he wasn’t dead. I was fine needless to say, I spoke to him afterwards and he was fine. Maybe it was an act of God? I’m not sure.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

BR: I reckon The Black Keys would be amazing to work with. I’m a big fan of theirs.  I love their raw sound which really lets loose like a crazy dog off its leash. I just love it I’ve got their album ‘Rubber Factory’ on vinyl which I can’t stop listening to. I’d love to work with them for sure.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your debut album Little Dreamer. How is this different from other music you’ve worked with?

BR: Little Dreamer is my first album after doing 2 EP’s I self released. Ben Castle/ Mark Edwards produced it both whom I’ve known for years so it was easy and fun working them. This album was totally new experience as I was working with new producers I didn’t already know. It was a steep learning curve. Knowing when to say what I wanted and when to leave it to them was hard to balance. In hindsight there are lots of things I would do very differently now but I’m really proud of all the hard work that went into it. The sound is quite glossy and clean and I want to take the next album in a different direction. There is a mix of gospel, blues, country and pop too. Which is exactly what I wanted…I didn’t want to have to choose one or two of them so I didn’t. All eyes are on the next album!

PEV: How is Little Dreamer different from other music out today?

BR: I think the mixture of influences will make it stand out. I’m at the beginning of my recording career and I’m still experimenting, which I think will never stop. I’ve not pitched my tent in any particular camp yet because I love so many types of music. There’s still so much I want to do.

PEV: Out since May, Little Dreamer debuted at #6 on the U.K. charts the week of its release and is fast approaching Gold status. What was it like to see the album do so well, right out the gate?

BR: Of course it’s good! A very nice feeling when so many people like what you’ve been working on. The label was right behind me and did a really good job on their side. You never count your chickens because you never know what’s gonna happen but by any standards having an album go into the top 10 is pretty cool.

PEV: When you sit down to write, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

BR: Normally when a lot is going on around me. I write poetry a lot then songs come from that…on the tube or during rehearsals. I take stories from the papers and make them into poems etc. I like to hear the music too when I’m thinking of the lyrics so jamming with the band is a good way.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success? What is it like for you when you get to go home?

BR: My Grandmother, Ivy May, who I’m very close to, was most excited. She’s 93 and my dad took her on a tour of all the billboards in the local area. I couldn’t go though which I was sad about! It’s always nice to go back to Bristol from London we’re a real close family, which is good because they have been there for me all along. I don’t think my feet will be getting too far off the ground that often!
PEV: When you are not touring and performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

BR: I love films. Foreign films, films by the Coen Brothers, Dogma films, Old black and white films, girly chickflick films too.  I love camping too, me and my brother go camping in Wales it’s nice to go into the hills and get away from the city.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts? Any fun stories? Or favorite hang outs along the way?

BR: I love touring. It’s like going into a time warp. Ireland is great for touring. The people are such huge music fans and travel for miles to see you and really get into it. I like it when people bring presents too…flowers are nice, chocolates etc…but I especially love charity shop trinket things that I can add to my collection of ornaments I have on stage with me.

PEV:  In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

BR: We did a gig in Berlin recently and the audience were amazing. They really don’t care how they look, no ones thinking about themselves they just get right into it. Which for us is what its all about. There was a guy dancing near the front pulling some unusual moves…I was very impressed I couldn’t stop watching him.

PEV: Saturday Night Live calls and asks you to be their musical guest, who would be your dream host for the show?

BR: I’ve only ever seen a couple of episodes because it’s not on tv here…so I don’t really know, but someone like Andy Kauffman would have been good. He started off on Saturday night live didn’t he?

PEV: So, what’s next for Beth Rowley?

BR: I’m writing for the new album! I’m planning for it to be out mid next year time 2009. I’ve been working on tunes with some amazing people who I’m big fans of so expect something different from Little Dreamer…. more raw and a lot more loud!

For more information on Beth, check out: www.BethRowley.com

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