24TH – 26TH AUGUST
15 OFFICIAL VENUES
1 GREAT FESTIVAL
Guest Curator – Lucy Zirins
Acoustic blues at its very best…
We chatted with the talented singer songwriter Lucy Zirins about her role as guest curator at this years festival.
Q: What can you tell us about your role in this year’s Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival, Lucy?
A: This year I am proud and privileged to be curating a stage at the Colne Little Theatre. I’ve been involved with the festival as an artist for a decade and played last year on this stage. I have curated what I think to be a wide variety of different artists for the stage, to show off the best of what the UK has to offer in acoustic blues.
Q: What helped in your decision process when choosing the artists to perform at your acoustic showcase at the Little Theatre?
A: For me it was really important to include a diverse range of acts, and promote originality in the field. I wanted to provide equal opportunities to all performers. I focused on getting some great female performers and writers, as this is something very relevant socially right now, and obviously personal to myself as a female musician. We have some amazing fantastic male solo and duo acts across a wide range of ages and genres, so there’s something for everyone and from every perspective. As a songwriter, I really feel that the most obvious step for innovation in the blues scene is through writing, and rather than promote the same old, I wanted to bring in some new blood and new voices. I’ve asked that all the acts play and focus mostly on original material where possible, with nods to older material if they would like in their own way.
Q: What is your musical background?
A: I’ve been a singer-songwriter professionally for nearly 10 years, getting my first paid gig at 15 and heading overseas by the time I was 18. In 2010 I was picked as a PRS for Music ‘Class of 2010’ for being one of the UK’s youngest earning songwriters.
I inherited my first guitar from my late Uncle Chris aged 12, and started off singing in school nativities and shows, and was really nurtured by late and very great music teacher and dear friend, Saph Wright, through high school. I was lucky enough at 15 to meet Michael Roach and Michael Messer (both highly respected musicians in the blues scene) and this led to a scholarship to European Blues Week, where I learned from the best. Michael Messer produced my first album ‘Chasing Clocks’ which received critical acclaim across folk, blues, country and Americana press and led to some really great gigs and radio play, including BBC Radio 2 and 6, and also to a British Blues Awards win in 2013. Following this I produced an EP and most recently a live record. I also completed a 3 year BA Songwriting degree in 2017, graduating with First Class Honours.
I write and release my own material on my label ‘Gingersnap Music’ – I’m a one woman machine who has been lucky to have great, great mentoring, friendships and a gig family to me support from the start – particularly support from my Dad too, who drove me around in those early days!
Q: What kind of music were you brought up listening to?
A: I was massively lucky to have parents who love a wide range of music, so on my Dad’s side, lots of rock, heavy metal and blues, as well as some amazing singer-songwriter stuff and pop too. My Mum is a fan of 60’s music and likes her pop too. My Dad’s cassette mixtape growing up was such a massive influence on me; I remember hearing Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ and just thinking there was nothing more beautiful and sad in this whole world! We recently recreated our playlist on Spotify (how modern!) and you can find it by visiting my artist page on there to hear all the things I grew up listening to. I was also really lucky to have my Grandfather and Uncle too who both played accordion, so I have memories of hearing Scottish and Irish tunes in the house when I went to visit them in Cumbria, and that folk influence has definitely peeked through!
Q: Who do you look up to as an artist?
A: I love strong female artists, performers, composers, and writers; Carole King, Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin and the late Eva Cassidy are all favourites. I love the vibe of what artists like PJ Harvey and Laura Mvula are pushing too. Writing wise, I’m a huge Tom Waits fan, I think Ian Siegal is a genius, and I just love to see other independent artists such as my friend Chantel McGregor really going for it.
Q: Which one of your songs means the most to you?
A: For me, there’s 3 and they’re all ballads (go figure!). ‘Goodnight’ from my first record was about musicians who die too young through drink and drugs and also had some personal connection in the loss of my Uncle who died much too young, but was my reason for picking up my instrument. ‘Mercy’ from my EP that followed my first album was very special to me; it’s a love song but with a deeply personal connection – it’s about asking for forgiveness for the daily niggles in your relationships (a massive learning curve for me – take the bins out!!!). Then finally ‘The Fall’ which is on my live record and upcoming studio record too. It showed my songwriting journey (I wrote it as part of my degree) and again is deeply personal.
Q: What’s been the most memorable time of your musical career?
A: I can’t pin it to one thing really! It’s such a rollercoaster and I’m always just looking forward on the journey. Heading to Italy and France and Orkney for gigs were fantastic at such a young age. I’ve won a few awards along the way and each one has been wonderful. And each time I’m in the studio; that’s time I really treasure and where you really make memories. Making the latest record – just me and my producer Jim – that’s been special.
Q: Where can people find out more about you and your music?
A: www.lucyzirins.com is my website. I’m also really active on FB, Instagram, Twitter. I have a group on FB, ‘Backstage with Lucy Zirins’ where you can find exclusive gig announcements, merch previews and me general chattering about tea, gin and biscuits… I love a natter so do join me on there!
View Lucy’s Little Theatre curated line ups just here:
Lucy Zirins Guest Curator – Line Ups