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Freya Roy: Glastonbury star makes Sheffield debut

by Now Then Sheffield
505 1560189412
Freya Roy plays the Cellar Theatre on 20 June.

We caught up with Glastonbury Emerging Talent star Freya Roy to talk about her debut album AHLKE, her time out from writing, and the British music scene. Freya's UK spring tour will culminate in a live performance at the Cellar Theatre, in the basement of DINA, on 20 June.

How did you find out about the Cellar?

When planning my UK tour at the beginning of the year I was looking around for an intimate venue in Sheffield to play with my band. A friend mentioned that she had just been in the city helping build the bar at the Cellar Theatre and recommended getting in touch and now here we are!

Have you played in Sheffield before?

No, this is my first time in Sheffield and I'm really looking forward to it. I've heard all sorts of great things about the music scene here, and it's always refreshing bringing my music to a brand new city and audience.

What are your influences?

Anything from Jill Scott and Angie Stone to Joni Mitchell and John Martyn. I grew up on an eclectic mix of music, including a lot of Pink Floyd and David Gilmour, before studying jazz and immersing myself in the neo-soul scene.

This album has been my first release in five years so it's been an exciting time for me

My time spent studying in Leeds fuelled a lot of the writing process for my debut album but I feel that growing up in the countryside in Suffolk has shaped a very particular sound in my music. I would say my writing is influenced a lot by culture and society and how I fit within these elements as a person.

Talk us through your debut album, AHLKE.

This album has been my first release in five years so it's been an exciting time for me. Unfortunately, a few years ago I experienced trauma to my wrist and had to take time out from playing: writing, gigging and everything in between. I pretty much went silent on the music front and people thought I had given up on the idea. But in the background I was recovering from my injury and almost retraining in my guitar playing too. I was still writing a small amount but wasn't in a place to be able to develop it. The five year hiatus in retrospect has served me well, and it has allowed me time to really think about the music and let my sound develop.

In my final year at Leeds College of Music I studied with Abstract Orchestra's music director and saxophonist Rob Mitchell, and it was around him that I developed a large amount of the material on AHLKE. After graduating I really worked hard over some of the tunes and brought a few old tracks to the table, as well as a few brand new songs, and the material for the album slowly came together. After successfully crowdfunding the recording process in October 2018, and then receiving funding from the MOBO Help Musicians Fund at the end of 2018, I was able to finish and release AHLKE.

I find that the more I write the easier it is to generate new ideas and put the pieces together

I certainly feel that it is a body of work that represents a specific time in my life where I am working through things, talking about my sexuality, but also speaking from a happy and content place. I really loved making the record and it was great involving some amazing musicians: Taz Modi on keys and synths, Simon Beddoe on flugelhorn and Dom Howard of Submotion Orchestra, as well as Leeds-based Sam Williams on bass and Alex Fisher on saxophone.

What inspires you to keep creating music?

Playing live is a huge thing for me. Being able to get feedback from the audience is really important when I am getting a track towards recording it, and I try and keep the audience in mind when I am writing. I listen to loads of new music every day, which plays its part in inspiring my writing.

I think it's a really great time for British music at the moment

I find that the more I write the easier it is to generate new ideas and put the pieces together. But I do feel that I have only really touched the surface with my writing and production and am excited to see what the next year brings!

What's your view of Britain as a place right now?

I think it's a really great time for British music at the moment. The jazz and neo-soul scene is booming and there are some amazing artists really pushing the scene forward, such as Ezra Collective, Jordan Rakei and lots of the artists on Brownswood Recordings. We are very lucky to have such an array of musicians here in the UK and should take the time to seek them out, catch them live and support their music.

Sam Ward

Catch Freya Roy at the Cellar Theatre on Thursday 20 June.

by Now Then Sheffield

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