Interview with Ilana Lorraine & Nate James, founders of Sessions 58

Interview with Ilana Lorraine & Nate James, founders of Sessions 58

Sessions58 is a collective of London's emerging music talent - artists, musicians, singers, poets and songwriters. Ilana Lorraine & Nate James have been running intimate acoustic open mic sessions for 7 years giving an open platform to the best talent that London has to offer. 

Read the interview with Nate and Ilana, and join us for the celebration of their live music night troughout August.

Interview with Jack Walton

Interview with Jack Walton

Jack grew up in a UK Northern mining town, to a ‘modern’ mining family. With access to his Dad's record collection: Zeppelin, Hendrix and Prince he began his passion for music and the guitar. 

He began gigging at the age of 11 and it soon became clear that he had a natural talent for holding an audience and telling an emotive story within a three minute pop song.  

Jack has been a record labels favourite, but he decided that he would prefer and is more suited to an independent label where he would maintain creative control, working alongside his label and signed with The  House Of Nanchang. 

His impeccable and compelling vocal delivery and guitar skills will take any listener, with a love of well crafted, heartfelt tunes, to a happy place. 

We caught up with Jack ahead of his live performance at Sessions 58, Monday 23rd July. 

Interview with Laszlo Gallo

Interview with Laszlo Gallo

Laszlo Gallo is a singer / songwriter of Italian and Indonesian descent. Laszlo wanted to discover the world at an early age. She was born in The Netherlands, where she was mesmerized by her grandparents when they sang Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

With those experiences fresh in her mind she started to take piano lessons. She is in love with theatre, classical ballet and street dance. After the Italian X-Factor experience, she found herself in the big apple, New York City, on a three month exploration, were she had the opportunity to expand her network and work on her sound. 

Gallo is now based in London, where she is busy writing her first album entitled F.L.A.G. – For Love And Glory.

She will be headlining Sessions 58, on Monday 16th July. 

Interview with Toya Delazy

Interview with Toya Delazy

Chart-topper, Unicef ambassador and voice of the 4th PowerPuff Girl on Cartoon Network, Toya Delazy is a musician, from Durban, South Africa. Her music is a blend of Jazz, Electro and Hip-Hop (she calls it JEHP). 

Following the success of her debut album “Due Drop”, which got her a BET Award nomination, and the recent announcement of her voicing the first black PowerPuff Girl, Toya Delazy continues her rise as one of the most versatile and exciting new talents boasting from Africa, with the release of her latest album ‘Uncommodified’’ in 2017.

The new art piece shows Toya’s creative growth, adventuring in future bass and grime sounds, with a touch of soul. 

We caught up with Toya ahead of her headlining show at Sessions 58 on Monday 9th July. 


Interview with Cat Una

On Monday 25th July Sessions58 presents a special performance by artist Cat Una.

Cat Una has blossomed from a humble solo acoustic singer-songwriter into a mature act, adding new members to her band that have each perfected their instruments thus giving her live shows a new depth and excitement.   

"CAT has a voice that will sing you to sleep and then stab you in the heart”…” With that comes a whole new sound that is reminiscent of the smooth band you would find in a 1920’s smoke-filled jazz bar; and it’s a breath of fresh air against the hoards of alternative-indie bands that dominate the Leeds music scene. 

Following on from recently supporting the BBC 6 Music favourite Tom Williams on tour, Cat Una has released three e.p.'s on Monomyth Records and in turn gained support from BBC Introducing resulting in a live session of her own as BBC Introducing’s Artist of the week June 2018.

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We caught up for a chat to get to know her a bit more

LookingGlass: Hi Cat, thank your for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music journey?

Cat Una: Of course! So I was lucky enough to have piano lessons when I was younger but was awful and didn’t practice. I started singing when I was about 12 but just in a locked bathroom then I taught myself guitar when I was 16 and would sing covers and write poems. I only started writing and gigging when I went to uni in 2013 and it’s just been constant since then!

LG: You recently graduated at Leeds Beckett University with a BA Hons in Music production and performance, how did the educational experience prepared you to kick off your career?

CU: So yeah, the main thing was it gave me the freedom to practice and write, record, try performing at open mics, meet other musicians who are amazing and I still play and gig with, network with anyone and everyone, and I don’t feel I could have done that back in the small village I grew up in! 

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LG: What’s the funniest memory you have recording?

CU: I don’t know it’s always pretty fun but one time we thought there was a ghost because there was a noise we couldn’t make out coming to through the recording.. turns out it was the air conditioning..

LG: Congratulations on performing for BBC Introducing! What can you tell us about that experience and your latest ep?

CU: Thank you! The interview was a little scary but playing with the band is always a lot fun so we had a great time! 

So yea my new single “Undermining Eleanor” is available on Spotify and Apple Music, it’s a little different to the my other ones! 

 

LG: Besides having your music out there on streaming platforms, you’re also signed to a label. What was the first thing you did after signing with Monomyth Records?

 CU: Yes the Monomyth Records family is just brilliant, it’s a non for profit artist development organisation and I’ve been recording my album and released ep’s on vinyl and cd as well as online like you said since being a part of it and it’s been great!

LG: Can you give us a short playlist for the Summer?

CU: Well I’m listening to these songs a fair bit at the moment:

  •  Childish Gambino - California
  •   Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Hunny Bee
  • Jerry Williams - Left and Right 
  • Rex Orange County -Television/ So far so      good
  • Zuzu - All Good
  • First Aid Kit - Postcard
  • Florence and the Machine - Hunger 
  •  Peace - California Daze 
  •  BADBADNOTGOOD ft. Charlotte Day  Wilson - In Your Eyes 
  •  LUMP - Curse of the Contemporary 

LG: If your sound was a flavour what would that be?

CU: Ahaha wow I can’t say that’s something I’ve ever thought about but I asked my sister what she thought and said smoky bacon and maple syrup which is just delicious so I’ll go with that.

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All photos credits to Jamie Corbett

Interview with byMia

 

On Monday 18th July Sessions58 presents a special performance by pop artist byMia.

byMIA (also known as Mia Nicolaï) is a 22 y/o  London based singer - songwriter. She has been very active in the scene since September last year and has ever since developed her distinctive attitude pop sound. 
She has big plans and none of them involve quitting anytime soon. 

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We caught up for a chat to get to know her a bit more.


LookingGlass: Hi Mia, thank you for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music journey?

byMia: Yes of course! So, I started playing violin and piano at age 4 but I was always way too stubborn to actually read the music sheet, so I would always just improvise rather than play existing songs - I think that’s where I got my songwriting skill from - but I actually only started to pursue my music career last September, when I moved to London. 

I grew up in Amsterdam and had a dream to become an actress so I then went to theatre school but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. My favourite classes at the acting school where the choir, singing and music classes so that’s when I knew I should focus on music. 

LG: What’s the main inspiration when you write a new song?

M: It's the most common answer but for me it's the day-to-day life. If I got hurt by something I'll write about it. It's like therapy for me! My favourite way of writing is by turning the situation around so I come out of it in a positive way. I like writing things that make me feel empowered and inspired! 

LG: What was the toughest and the sweetest moment to date since you moved to London? 

M: The toughest was the beginning. I was so overwhelmed with this big city and also so eager to get into it so I made myself too busy haha, when christmas came around I was just so tired of non-stop working and going to network events etc, I remember coming home to Amsterdam and I just fell asleep for 2 days straight!

The sweetest moment is every moment that I'm in the studio working on a song that I feel is true to me :) 

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LG: How much impact do you think personal image has on a young artist’s career nowadays?

M: From a personal point of view, I can say that I try really hard to work on my personal image - try to accept myself exactly how I am and to be myself a 100000% as an artist (whatever myself is, because what do you know about yourself at age 22?) - It’s tough though, because one scroll on Instagram can change your whole perspective on your own life when you see another 22 year old artist live the life you want to live when you're like nowhere near it yet. But I really try to put it in perspective and just see it like: hey, everybody has their own journey.

LG: With Streaming and social media, the industry has changed, it’s all a fast-paced game, with more exposure and loads of competition. How do you cope with that?

M: I'm so bad with it... all I want to do is post funny, stupid quotes or cat pictures or whatever... I really hope one day I can just post whatever I want to post and that my music will just say it all. I hate having to keep my "image" up on socials.. but the truth is that it does really help you, which I find very disturbing and sad but it’s kind of just part of doing what I do so I try and balance it out, sometimes I just post something that does not make any sense like there's a picture in there of a horse that I then compare myself to (?) yeah.. lol

LG: You have loads of talents, besides song-writing you snap photos as well.. How do you juggle those different facets and how does that ignite your creativity?

M: Wellll this really goes in phases!! Sometimes I have a week of just going out and about with my camera snapping shots of my friends on stage and sometimes I am sooo full with stress or things to do for my own "company" (aka my music bizz) that I can't think of anything else. But I try to stay as creative as I can everyday - I really believe creativity is a head space that you have to keep awake in order to get the good juices flowing :P

LG: What’s your favourite music festival around the globe? And which one would you aim to perform at?

M: To be honest I haven’t been to many festivals, I get a bit weirded out if I have to be around people for 3 days straight.. even though I'd love to see all the artists perform! 

It would be a huge dream to stand on the big stage at Coachella or Glastonbury. Like, how dope would it be if the act before me would be something like The Arctic Monkeys or Dua Lipa?! 

LG: At last, if your sound was a flavour, what would that be?

M: It would be sweet, sour and spicy. That’s like 3 flavours, but yeah haha sweet sour candy is by the way my favourite candy flavour, so I guess that’s why haha!

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Looking Glass at World Class Cocktail Week

We are happy to announce that Looking Glass Cocktail Club is going to Madrid, featured as one of the World Class Cocktail Week’s exhibitioners and contestants, with our very own Carlos Del Barrio Gámez. 
 

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What to expect:

This month, in the week running from the 11th to the 17th June, Madrid will become the European capital of mixology with a cocktail route that will include more than 50 locations.

Tastings, guest bartending with big names in the world of cocktails, along side the winner of World Class Competition 2018 Kaitlyn Stewart, musical presentations, and signature cocktails made with the premium distillates of Diageo Reserve, will fill the streets of the Spanish capital.

All those mixology lovers who participate in the World Class Cocktail Week Madrid will also have the opportunity to win a trip to Berlin!

Looking Glass will be present, showcasing a special menu, tailored for the occasion in partnership with World Class Cocktail Week.

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Stay tuned on all our Social Media for juicy live updates from Madrid!

Interview with Mister Lees

On Monday 11th July Sessions58 presents a special performance by funk-pop artist and producer Mister Lees.

Mister Lees is a recording artist and music producer from East London with a sound like no other. His style is heavily influenced by the 80's and 90's and drawn together by a sprinkling of modern pop. It's like Bastille met Evelyn Champagne King and they had a baby called Bruno Mars : ) Mister Lees spent years of his early life sleeping on the streets of London and Essex and refined his performance skills by busking through his darkest times. He was then given the break he so desperately needed through The Amy Winehouse Foundation and has since gone on to perform at some of London’s most iconic venues including The Jazz Cafe, The Borderline and The Roundhouse including a special performance in London’s very own, not so hidden gem, Camden Market. Check out his debut 'Where I found you from' ft. Pimms Brooke, and look out for more releases due this year on all music platforms. A  character oozing with charm and an artist more than worthy of a spot on your playlists!

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We caught up for a chat to get to know him a bit more.

LookingGlass: Hi Joel, thank you for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music journey?

Mister Lees: Yes I can! I am Mister Lees, a 28 year old recording artist/music producer from London. I create Funk/pop music as an artist, however I double up as a pop/house producer also. I have been a musician for as long as I can remember. From singing to my mum’s friends when I was younger to busking on the streets of London when I was a rough sleeper. Music is the only thing that I have always had by my side. I have now been off the streets for a few years, and I am currently doing a music production degree at ICMP in London. Life is better than it’s ever been and my music is a reflection of that.

LG: Your debut single “Where I Found You From” is out. What can you tell us about it and the collaboration with Pimms Brooke? 

ML: “Where I Found You From” is the story of a relationship break with a twist. When you leave someone but then you can’t stop seeing them or things that remind you of them. Also visiting places where you met or dated and the in-and-out period when you just don't know what is going on?!

It features Pimms Brooke who is a UK singer that lives and works in Dubai. We started recording the song years ago in a free studio session at the roundhouse in Camden. We released the video last year after a couple of years of hard work. I think we did well with this one considering that neither of us were in the position that the song states.

Some good songwriting! : ) 

LG: You spent years sleeping on the streets.. that’s a rather rough beginning. How did you cope with your personal struggle and the determination to break through in the industry?

ML: Well, sometimes I don't even know myself. I look back and wonder how I got through it. Those times taught me a lot about how tough I am. Also how determined I have always been to succeed in the music industry. I used to hug a borrowed guitar when I slept rough. Now I own a few guitars and it’s nice to think that they are safe under a roof and inside of walls. My times of struggle really give me more drive to succeed than the better times in life… We all fall down from time to time. It’s about how you stand and rebuild yourself and that’s what really matters.

LG: You are a youth worker and brand ambassador for RoundTable Global, can you introduce us to what you do together? What does it mean to you to work and inspire younger people? 

ML: Roundtable Global is an amazing organisation that does amazing things for the world we live in and the people who live here. I have aims to work closely with the organisation finding amazing young people who are doing amazing things and letting them know how amazing they are. Look out for the Global Youth Awards across the world this year. An amazing ceremony of thanks and praise to our young people.

It is extremely important to me that we as "adults" recognise the amazing potential that our young people possess. Most of them don't know how amazing they are, nor do they realise the power that they hold inside them just by being themselves. It is our job to let them know that. To teach and inspire them to realise their greatness and learn from them along the way. Young people are the answer to some of the world’s problems. They are the future. The next generation.

I also work with a company called The Young Urban Arts Foundation. We drive a recording studio bus around the country and teach young people music production, DJing, street dance and much more. Letting young people find something they're good at from a young age and teaching them how to enjoy doing it and use it as a release from life. I believe we all need that!! 

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LG: Talking inspiration, what/whom was yours, and how do you embody values for the kids you work with?

ML: Musically, I was first inspired by my dad who is a singer and songwriter. I have also been influenced by artists such as MJ, Plan B, Dr Dre, Chase and Status and Bruno Mars. (There are many more) I take a lot of inspiration from life and what get on around me, and as I previously stated, the harder times inspire me to be better. 

In terms of my youth work I was inspired by The Amy Winehouse Foundation who helped me to see my potential when I needed it the most. They helped me to see how amazing I am and what I have to offer the world. Now I do that for others : )

LG: Between your 80s’-90s’ influences and pop-funk Bruno Mars style, if you could have a baby with any artist, whom would you pick and what music would it be making?

ML: Well......
If I could have a BABY with any artist it would be Rita Ora with no hesitation. If I could make a MUSIC BABY with any artist I would choose to work with Chase and Status. I listened to them a lot when I grew up and it would confirm to me just how far I have come. Bit of a self pleaser that one. We would mix their dance music style with some old school funk and maybe some 90's garage or house at the same time. I LOVE to mix it up like that. To me that’s what music is all about.

LG: If your sound was a flavour what would that be?

ML: OOOOhhhhhh!! tough one! Seen as you didn't ask for a type of flavour I would say Vanilla. It’s plain and simple with a hint of something else. Everyone thinks that vanilla is ordinary or normal until they really know vanilla. Vanilla tastes SO GOOD. Vanilla is amazing. My sound is also : )

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Interview with Kristina Lao

On Monday 2nd July Sessions58 presents a special performance by multi-hyphenate artist Kristina Lao.

Kristina Lao is folk-pop singer-songwriter and actor. Her music features rich Brit-lilt vocals and long, lyrical walks in a poetry park. Adoring Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and a well-brewed cup of tea, Kristina recently finished her latest artistic challenge "First Take Songs". Her EP is in production with Fiend Recordings, and she is currently on tour with 20th Century Boy, the Marc Bolan and T-Rex musical. 

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We caught up for a chat to get to know her a bit more.

LookingGlass: Hi Kristina, thank you for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music?

Kristina Lao: Hi Looking Glass team! I'm a nerdy, wordy singer-songwriter whose mission is to inspire the world through the love of words. My heroes are Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor and various local artists (a lot of whom play at the Looking Glass with Sessions - Gareth Esson, Ciara Vizzard, Declan Carrier and more). 

LG: Hong Kong born, raised between New Zealand, UK and Canada. You’re a globetrotter citizen of the world, how was it to grow up exposed to so many different cultures?And how did it affect your creativity?

KL: It has been, and continues to be a gloriously tumultuous journey into my own identity. Sometimes, I think it's hard to articulate how it felt to be a trans-national and mixed heritage kid, because, as human nature goes, I tend to surround myself with fellow world-wanderers and global citizens. 

Both of my parents moved a lot when they were growing up, so they did an amazing job of taking the geography out of 'home'. Being immersed in different cultures had a profound impact on my emotional development. Some phases of life I felt so ostracised  - as if I could never 'fit in'. I wasn't Chinese enough to be Chinese (or Nepalese, for that matter). I wasn't British enough to be British (nor was my father - he's half Polish). Despite that, I fully embrace my cultures, my heritage, and my family history. They're mine to have, and to love.

 The languages around my family table range from Hindi (my mother was born in Calcutta) to Cantonese, to English, and French. I learned how to be good at observing and adopting behaviours, accents, and idiosyncrasies, but I always felt like I was either trying to convince everyone else, or myself. 

When I was a teenager, at a time when so many of us can be our most cruel, I finally asked my father how he defined himself.  He told me that he picked values to live by, and let them, rather than geography, culture, or society, dictate his choices. It allowed me to take control of who I was, past belonging to a 'tribe' or a 'way of being'. 

So, I carefully chose, challenged, and decided upon my values, which have lead me well through my continued shapeshifting: Freedom, and Honesty. 

Creatively speaking, I think my joy in observation has been a great outcome of a culturally dissonant childhood. A passionate curiosity and flexibility defines me, as well as an appreciation of language, of our differences, and our similarities. Music can transcend those differences and remind us of those similarities, and is a wonderful medium for freedom of expression. That's an exceptionally long-winded way of me saying I've grown to like me more over the years, despite being rather weird and ambiguous-looking and more than a bit odd. 

LG: What is ‘home’ to you?

KL: I believe home really is where the heart is.

I think that the concept of 'home' is truly fascinating, and it means different things to me at different times. At this point in my life I'm learning how to be at home in so many new places, and am teaching my heart to stay open, loyal, and to get along with my guts (they tend to argue over who's right, and it becomes absolute mayhem when my incessantly chattering mind gets involved).

When I'm feeling successful in my emotional endeavours, home is wherever I am. When I'm failing, I miss the roaring hum of the Hong Kong hustle, the growing local art works from various adventures sprawled across every spare inch of wallspace of my Vancouver apartment, and the smell of macaroni and soup wafting from my mother's magical kitchen. 

LG: From Theatre stages, compositions for indie films, TV acting and session vocalist.. performing  must have a deeply layered meaning to you. What can you tell us about the similarities and differences across those artistic expressions?

KL: In theatre school, one of my teachers once reminded me when I was delivering a particularly wooden experience: honour the words. I got so caught up in showing that I was telling the story that I had forgotten to just tell the story. Songs are stories. Films, TV shows, theatre performances, they are stories.

The differences lie in the technicalities - angles, dimensions, culture - but the core is the same. We're in the business of telling stories. It's an age-old, honourable profession to serve... it's also immensely satisfying to play, dress-up and wrench, sing, or pour my bloodthirsty heart out for a living. 

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LG: What’s the connection between words and melody in your music?

KL: While I like to pretend to be musically savvy, my honesty prevents me from saying that out loud. I do much of my music-based writing subconsciously (although the recent Artist Development Course I did helped me immensely with improving my musical craft).

I am testing the boundaries of my melodies these days, because I used to live in a smaller, more comfortable range with my songs, spending more time warring with words. Now, I like to spend time playing once I have developed the theme. After all, the melody is the vessel that carries the words to new ears. I'd like to make sure that the ship is beautiful, easy to steer, and the words live in harmony with it. 

LG: You are currently on tour with 20th Century Boy, the Marc Bolan and T-Rex musical. Can you give us three survival tips for the road?

KL: Haha, I can now! The three essentials for myself were my notebook, my travel guitar (Snapdragon - they're AMAZING and fit in my suitcase), and my electronic devices (boring, but essential, especially to record new song ideas and take slow motion videos of things that nobody will EVER find interesting). 

The three things I would say as survival tips: 

1. Be healthy. Plan simple meals - otherwise, you'll have a mount of crisp packets, chocolate bars, and a stomach full of regret (and not enough protein) to keep you feeling human. This is especially true on travel days. Stay strong - work out (suitcases are HEAVY), and keep fit. Travel takes its toll, whether you're touring by train, car or plane. I underestimated this at the start. I'm only just getting back on track.

2. Be organised - book your travel and accommodation as far ahead as possible (it saves a LOT on travel fares, which fluctuate a lot!). I have a spreadsheet. It's nerdy, and I LOVE IT. Give yourself WAY more time than you think to get everywhere. I'm writing this on a train - we had a cancellation today. 

3. Be sympathetic. Perhaps most important of all is to remember your cast, your crew, your production team, are all working long hours, often under challenging and time-sensitive circumstances. It takes a whole team to put a show on the road. Coupled with spending an inordinate amount of time together, emotions can run raw. It has been my greatest joy on this tour to see how well everyone takes care of each other, and how supportive people are. Be one of those people - it will be remembered. 

LG: As an actress you are accustomed to fit different roles, and often singing requires intimate storytelling, there can be a dissonance in the way art is experienced and perceived. Where does artistic identity lie? 

KL: Wow, that's an epic question with so many facets. I think I'd need to do a lot more time and reflection before I could give you the answer I'd like to. However, I'd like to refer back to our earlier conversation about living all over the place, and defining yourself by your values. With artistic expression, I find that my artistic identity has relied, at its core, on my love of words. It was so important to me to have spent the time becoming more conscious of it, and to honour it in my work.

Artistic identity for me is an evolving concept - it should grow and change with me, woven in and around the shared experiences of not just myself, but those who I work with on each job. If it's not my own gig or production, I spend the time to understand and honour the identity of that show, and the vision of the creatives behind it. I learned early on that my experience of performing art needs to be based on that core love of words, regardless of the medium. How audiences perceive it is always a joy for me to discover, but is not something I can try to control or base my artistic decisions on. 

LG: If your sound was a flavour, what would that be?

KL: GREAT question! I know you asked for a flavour... but I can't think of one specific one right now (although I now have an instant hankering for cookies and cream ice cream...). 

I like to think it would be my favourite breakfast dish - congee. It's like porridge, but savoury.

It's essentially over-boiled rice. You eat it when you start the day, sometimes with leftovers, or whatever you have around you to throw in. Sometimes you can sit quietly, and eat it plain. Other times it's eaten out with friends or family in a bustling restaurant. Everyone prepares and eats it in a different way. But it has the same core values: it's a simple, warming dish that you can take, and make, however you like. 

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All photo credits to Mark Maryanovich

Interview with Light Army

Sessions 58 presents a special performance by London based artist Light Army.

Light Army is the brainchild of London based multi-platinum selling singer/song writer, Katerina. For the debut single 'Want You', she has enlisted the talents of Grammy Award winning producer Paul Harris, with James Hurr and Si Hulbert, to deliver an eclectic hybrid of pop, alternative and house, unique to Light Army.

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We caught up for a chat and got to know her a little bit more.

LookingGlass: Hi Katerina thank you for catching up with us. Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music?

LightArmy: Hi, I’m Light Army and my debut single ‘Want You’ is out now :)

LG: How was Light Army born?

LA: My background as a professional song writer let me explore my creativity within different genres, allowing me to recognise which influences and styles resonated with me. I then decided to create a project which would enable me to come out of the shadows and be in the light. 

LG: For your debut single you scored some impressive collaborations, what can you tell us about the process of recording the song?

LA: The Light Army production team ( Si Hulbert, James Hurr & Paul Harris) for this single and my forthcoming EP individually have very different production styles. I wanted to fuse their talents together to create something unique to Light Army. As soon as I heard the riff on ‘Want You’ played by guitarist Arno Spires I immediately connected with it.

LG: When it comes to writing about personal experiences, it can be tough to share something private. How do you cope with exposing yourself to the public?

LA: I’ve been used to other people singing my lyrics and telling my stories so I’m still adjusting to people knowing it’s my story. I’m enjoying the creative process as I can say exactly what feels authentic to me without having to shape it to suit another Artist. 

LG: What’s the first song that inspired you to become a singer-songwriter? And why?

LA: Mariah Carey was my idol when I was young and I’m sure she influenced my career path but to chose one song is difficult. I used to write poems and stories as a child so I think it was a natural progression to write songs. 

LG: Since James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome sang “It’s a Man’s World” in the ‘60s, a few things have changed.. What’s your experience being a woman in the music industry?

LA: I think women generally have it tougher in all industries but so far I have been lucky enough to not experience any real sexism or lack of opportunity by being a Woman. Going forward I think the only way the balance could be redressed is to see more female authority figures in Management, A&R and publishing . 

LG: And last, if your sound were a flavour, what would that be?

LA: It would be a Tutti Frutti/dark chocolate & chilli  combo. 

Interview with MJ Ultra

Sessions 58 presents LA based artist MJ Ultra.

MJ Ultra is an LA based alternative-R&B artist. He’s presently promoting his debut independent album, 'Ocean Drive', and he’s just completed an extensive European summer and fall tour in 2017. His music has been featured in multiple feature films and television shows. Most recently, he scored two original songs and music videos for Universal Pictures’ “Bring It On: Worldwide”, A Netflix Original “#RealityHigh”, Justin Timberlake’s “Friends With Benefits”, and Kevin James’ “Here Comes the Boom”. His music was twice featured on Dancing With the Stars and America’s Got Talent. His latest feature collaboration, “Black & White” for Barcelona-based DJ duo, Boxinlion, has amassed more than 14 million YouTube views and 8 million Spotify plays.

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We caught up for a chat and got to know him a little bit more.

LookingGlass: Hi MJ, thank you for catching up with us and welcome to London! Can you briefly introduce yourself and your music?

MJ Ultra: Hi, thank you! I’m a singer/songwriter from Pittsburgh, PA. I moved to LA to pursue an acting career and while I was on set of my first movie, I was bit by the music bug. After I got my first song in a major movie, I figured, “hell, maybe I can do this for a living.” My music pulls from all my early influences, with elements from soul, hip-hop, and folk. So it’s a nice blend of acoustic R&B and hip-hop. 

LG: How would you describe the London scene compared to the LA one? What’s the main influence and difference you can spot between the two?

MJU: It’s pretty easy to compare LA and London for me. LA is so saturated that people tend to try to compartmentalize you. So you have to really dig deep to find your niche and a community that supports you. I feel like London tends to have a more sophisticated ear. I almost peed when I heard Musiq Soulchild on the radio in London last year… and his old stuff. You’d never hear that in LA. Londoners seem to appreciate good music for what it is, as where Angelenos seem to yearn more for the “scene” that’s associated with your music. I think that’s why my favorite artists love to tour here. 

LG: Your music has been featured on screen a few times now,  what does it mean to you to create music for cinema?

MJU: I had an amazing year last year with the film and TV placements. I find that doing music for the screen is much easier than creating music for an album. They usually give you some kind of prompt, and a sound they are looking for. It’s fun because you end up creating music that you wouldn’t otherwise. For instance, I just cut a track for a movie that wanted some old school 90s rap verses and an En Vogue type chorus... it was awesome.

LG: Visuals have quite a relevant space in the music industry, how do you think it impacts the way we experience new music? 

MJU: Visuals are paramount. It’s almost a no-no to release music without an accompanying video or visual of some kind. Video killed the radio star, and it holds true even more today. I’m not totally happy that this is the reality, but at least it forces the artist to use another medium to express themselves.

LG: You scored some impressive collaborations in your career already, where do you set the bar to “success”?

MJU: I’ve worked with some wonderful people and I’m grateful for those opportunities. Success to me is being able to have my records hold their own, without a big name artist or producer attached to it.

LG: Tour-life can be quite stressful for artists as well as creatively productive, What’s your experience with being on the road? Do you have a fun anecdote to share with us?

MJU: Touring is different for everyone, but since I’ve only toured by myself, without my band, I think I have an easier time doing it. One time I had a 14 hour layover in Iceland, on my way to Dublin. The funny thing about the airport in Iceland is that it closes after midnight so I was forced to leave the airport (with all my bags) and get a hotel. Unfortunately the closest hotel was 45 minutes away and I was in no hurry to go to there, so I found a local pub near the airport. Almost immediately the folks at the bar had me taking out the guitar and playing my songs. Long story short, the bartender covered my tab, gave me a cozy bed to sleep in, and got a ride to the airport in the morning… the power of music.

LG: What can you tell us about your new video “Converse” and your up coming releases? 

MJU: I’m super excited about Converse. I wrote the song with Phil Margaziotis and Harold Lilly, who won a Grammy for the Alicia Keys stuff, and we recorded it a Capitol Records in LA. We sat on the song for a few years and it ended up just collecting dust in my catalog. My manager caught wind of the song and said “what are you doing with this?” So we bit the bullet and just wrapped up the video in Los Angeles. I’m looking at an early June release of the song and the video, and I could not be more happy about it. It’s essentially a song about what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes.

LG: At last, if your sound was a flavour, what would that be?

MJU: Ha! I don’t eat sweets, but maybe something like coffee and caramel chocolate ice cream. Is that even a thing? 

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Interview with Jimmy Harvey

Sessions 58 presents folk-pop artist Jimmy Harvey.

Jimmy, is a folk-pop artist based in London, recording one song at a time in preparation for the release of his first EP. His main influences include - Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac, and Leonard Cohen.

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We caught up for a chat and got to know him a little bit more.

LookingGlass: Hi Jimmy, thank you for catching up with us. Can you introduce yourself and your music journey?

Jimmy Harvey: My name's Jimmy Harvey. I'm 22 and from a desolate little town called Lincoln, technically the Midlands, none the less I like to consider myself a northerner (anything north of London is northern right?) 

I moved to London in November 2016, after studying a drama degree. For the first few months whilst finding my feet, I did a lot of writing. Sessions 58 was actually the second open mic I ever performed at in London (The first so tragic that I can't even speak of it) Sessions 58 is where I started to gain confidence in performing my original songs live. So now I'm slowly building my portfolio of songs, trying to get them recorded one by one collaborating with as many artists as possible, whether that be producers, musicians or writers. 

LG: What defines great music nowadays?

JH: I think it's simply down to a cracking melody, relatability and individuality. 

LG: In the process of writing a new song, does it come easier to you to find the melody or the lyrics?

JH: It differs from time to time, I tend to write more so when I'm annoyed or upset etc. I struggle to force myself to sit down and write a song if it's not a situation I am physically going through. Generally, I start with chords on my guitar and improvise until something sticks and then I'll take the melody or lyric and work around that. A lot of the time I begin with the chorus and then write the verses and bridge separately, probably a strange way to do it but alas! I often drunkenly decide I'm a musical genius and record voice notes of little ideas and melodies when I'm out and about....... which prove to be quite hilarious and not so genius the next day. 

LG: If you could choose a different time to live in, that inspires you musically, what would that be and why?

JH: Without a doubt, the late 60's and 70's, The majority of my music heroes are from this era. Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen. I creatively try to filter these influences into my music. The music back then, slow rock, pop and folk was full of soul, lyrics seemed more personal and intense. A huge generalisation of course; but popular music now (the charts especially) seems to be simplified, and for me lacks the depth and layers that these artists created with their music.

LG: Pick a colour, an animal and an object that reflects your music

JH: This question I have tried to answer for bloody ages, eventually I put one of my songs on, closed my eyes and I could see green/turquoise... I couldn't tell you why! 

I'd say for an animal it would be deer - because they're timid, delicate and have very pensive eyes.

An object reflective of my music would be a cup of tea because I'd like to think some of my music is relaxing/peaceful/comforting... and there's nothing more comforting than a cuppa tea and a biscuit. 

LG: If your sound was a flavour, what would that be?

JH: My music is sometimes a little sweet with a bitter aftertaste, so I'm gonna go with passion fruit!

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Interview with Liska

Sessions 58 presents North-London based artist Liska.

Liska is a Irish/Swedish singer songwriter originating from Cork. Gaining influence from artists including Kate Bush, Amy Winehouse and Lykke Li, Liska has found her flair in the darker tones of eclectic pop. While working on her own material for release in the coming year Liska is playing intimate gigs with Sofar Sounds in and around London. 

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We caught up for a chat and got to know her a little bit more:

LookingGlass: Hi Liska, thank you for catching up with us. Can you introduce yourself and your music? 

Liska: Hi guys, I’m Liska. I’m originally from Ireland but right now I'm living here in north London. I came here originally to study Musical Theatre and then ventured out into song-writing. My music is based around my poems and essays, you’ll hear that most of them are telling a story, based on my own personal experiences.

LG: Describe your sound in 3 words: 

L: I write in a wide variety of styles, so I’m trying to hone in on a sound that combines them all but on a general level I would say: Smooth, Cinematic, Contemporary pop

LG: How much influence do your Irish roots have on your song-writing? 

L: Going to school in Ireland gave me exposure to many of the great poets and storytellers. I had a fantastic English teacher who always encouraged me in my creative writing and a music teacher who instilled in me my love for singing and songwriting. I come from a musical family so it was inevitable for me that I’d end up pursuing it. 

LG: What’s the most meaningful place you’ve performed so far? And why? 

L: ChaChaCha Vintage in Muswell Hill. I moved into the area last summer and stumbled across this sweet vintage shop on one of the side alleys and instantly fell in love with the owners, demanding I become part of their lives. They are two extremely talented ladies and have been such a great support to me, so performing there will always be special.

LG: If you could take any artist, alive or dead, on a drink night, who would you pick?

L: Stevie Nicks, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday…is that too many, because I have loads more. 

LG: If your sound was a flavour, what would that be? 

L: Thats a hard one. Blue Raspberry 

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Interview with Dana McKeon

Sessions 58 presents Maltese artist Dana McKeon.

Dana is an international singer-songwriter and beatboxer, ranked in the Female Top 5 at the Beatbox World Championships. Being a versatile touring artist, Dana has performed at high-profile events for the British Royal Family and large-scale concerts such as MTV Music Week, the London Paralympics and Lovebox Festival. Her songwriting and production credits include two No.1 hits in Europe and song placements in short films and on TV networks including BBC, NBC Universal and ABC. To date, Dana has featured at live shows with the likes of Bruno Mars, John Newman, Rudimental and James Arthur.

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We caught up for a chat and got to know her a little bit more:

LookingGlassThere are a couple of areas we'd like to explore: Where does your artistic identity come from & What’s the main influence behind your music?

Dana McKeon: I’m very inspired by catchy melodies, rhythms and emotional lyrics but my taste in music covers a wide variety of genres from acoustic pop to EDM and HipHop. Each one expresses a different aspect of my personality so I draw elements from all these different styles to create my own blend of beatbox-infused pop.

LG: How did you start making music? 

DM: I picked up the guitar and started writing poems at a very young age. I remember sitting in my room playing and writing for hours, but it was only in my late teens that I started putting the two together in the form of songs. It was around the same time that I discovered vocal percussion, which opened up a whole new world of musical expression for me as an artist.

LG: What excites you in the music scene right now?

DM: It’s so inspiring to watch artists push the boundaries of music technology in the live music scene, especially when it comes to beatboxers manipulating the human voice! 

LG: Can you tell us about your debut EP “Street Art”?

DM: I got to work with a lot of talented people on my debut EP and learned so much from immersing myself in its release. The debut single was published internationally and hit the No.1 spot in Malta’s radio charts, and stayed there, for a few weeks. The music video for “Street Art” was also incredible to shoot as it featured innovative art-forms such as Reverse Graffiti by the world-renowned artist Moose Curtis and Glow-In-The-Dark Body Art which took hours to wash off after filming!

LG: How was it for you to jump from the Maltese scene to the London music scene?  

DM: It was initially a massive culture shock but it’s been instrumental in my growth as an artist and the amazing musical opportunities I’ve been able to experience. 

LG: If your sound was a flavour, what would that be?

DM: Passion fruit - sweet, but with a kick!