Here at Fresh On The Net we’re all about promoting new music to the masses. It’s something that we’re passionate about. But we’re not alone in feeling that way. There are plenty of others out there working tirelessly to find the next big thing, push the best emerging artists and develop new talent. So, for a new year we’ve got a new feature celebrating those unsung heroes, the people rarely thanked and less often congratulated who make it their life work to help new artists realise their potential. Over the coming months we’ll be talking to industry insiders from Radio Stations, Magazines, Record Labels and Management Companies to get insights into what makes them tick, what they look for from new acts and who they’ve got on their radar.
First on our list of the great and good, we caught up with Ruth Kilpatrick, A&R Scout and Content Creator for the Robin Hood of radio stations, Amazing Radio. Consistently at the forefront of the most inspiring and innovative new music, Amazing Radio dedicates its entire schedule to the best new music uploaded to sister site AmazingTunes.com. This year alone they’ve given first plays to the likes of Alt J, Azealia Banks, Aluna George and Angel Haze (and that’s just the A’s). The whole team at Amazing Radio are deserving of a pat on the back at the very least.
First of all, tell us how you came to work for Amazing Radio? Do you have a background in radio or A&R?
I’d been involved in local music for years, in one way or another, and it’s something I think I’ve always known would be important to me, no matter which career path I took. I’ve worked in venues, written for different publications and photographed countless gigs – from mate’s bands in tiny pubs to big tours, just because I could really. I’ve always felt the need to document things. People ended up liking my pictures, I helped some friends out for free, for years, anything to give them a head start really, writing their press packs, putting shows on, having zero musical talent myself meant I could concentrate on helping others utilise theirs. With regards to radio, it was always a bit of a dream but never one I thought would be possible, as I’d never trained in that area. I did as much work experience as possible and thankfully a friend of mine would let me help out on their alternative show for one of the networks, sourcing unsigned bands and so on. I knew then that I wanted music as my job, and being that I was so integrated into what was going on, I guess other people found my knowledge quite useful.
Basically a friend of mine who I knew as a budding sound engineer years ago, ended up being in a band I love and then running his own studio. He worked at Amazing as a scout and suggested that I come along to the first ever live session, as the band playing were also people I used to put gigs on with, it was a no brainer. They needed photos taken and I’d made myself known as a live photographer and therefore was a good choice to do it. I also did a write up of the day for them for their website and a few days later had a call from their boss. Couldn’t have been happier to quit my temp job and say yes.
What does being an A&R scout for Amazing Radio actually mean on a day-to-day basis?
The scouting part of my job is one of my favourite things. I get to listen to countless new artists and then push them for airplay. In terms of the day to day, I follow up on artists I’ve seen live, or been recommended, I mail the bands themselves or the management and encourage them to upload to our site at amazingtunes.com – therefore making them eligible for airplay across our shows. That’s often just the very first step. Popular bands can then be invited in for a live session, or given extra exposure, often resulting in them then playing one of our live events or being invited to play our stages at different festivals. Scouting is only one part of my job role but one I relish. Seeing scouts like Luke Sital Singh (below) doing so well, as well as a lot of the heavier stuff like Single Mothers, it’s pretty rewarding.
What tools do you use to find independent bands?
I’ve been going to gigs forever, so there’s always some new support band, or some friend who’s seen a new band and are excited by them, I LOVE getting a message from someone saying ‘You have to hear this band…’ I also love being the one to make those calls myself, as is more often the case.
I listen to podcasts online, from ones with thousands of listeners to independent little bloggers with maybe 6 subscribers… As long as it’s exciting, or moving, then it’s worth the time. I listen to different stations whenever I can too; underground shows and various clubnight lineups are often a really good source of what’s happening away from the mainstream. Those at the very first step and without hired help – that’s where we come in. It’s all easy to find when you take the time to look. I have certain labels that I’m a fan of whose taste I trust, I make sure I keep in touch with those in areas different to my own and find out who’s exciting them – making sure I take the time to follow up on different genres, different ‘scenes’ (I hate that word) and hearing what it is that’s happening. I guess you learn to have a good ear as time goes on, to a certain extent anyway.
Music aside, what do you look for in new artists?
It sounds cheesey as hell, so forgive me, but I know it’s going to be good when there’s something that just MOVES me. Now that can be a ‘what fresh hell is this?’ response, to a ‘thank the gods this song exists, I must listen again’ response – with one of my favourites often being me headbanging at my desk without having realised I’m doing it. I often laugh when I’ve found something I know is good, especially if its out of the ordinary, as I just know it’s going to incite a volatile ‘conversation’ in the office, as all of the best things do…
Amazing Radio have recently released a list of 12 new artists to watch in 2013, who are you personally most excited by?
On our own list, it would have to be Marmozets, I caught them live and they lived up to the expectations from the first tracks I’d got them to upload. We’re all hoping they do really well and excited for more from them. Luke Sital-Singh is one I’m really pleased is on there – hearing his track for the first time was a strange moment for me back at the start of 2012, I had to listen to it again and again as it felt too special, there’s something unique about his voice that I find really endearing. That and the delicate way he tells a story. It’s also good for my ego to see another of my scouts on our Tips For 2013.
Away from our list, I’m excited about bands like Kaatskill Mountains, these Canadian old schooler guys called Single Mothers (below) who fucking rule – can’t wait for them to come to the U.K – they manage to make the kind of articulate punk rock with a decent vocal that’s been missing for a while, such a good voice. Haleek Maul is pretty exciting too, he’s like this 16yr old wonderkid I’ve been trying to get tracks from as I don’t think he sounds like anyone else. There’s a band called Olo Worms who are insane and I love it. I’d have loved Blacklisters to be on there too as I think they’re just so exciting – there’s just zero bullshit with them, which I find incredibly refreshing. Trickfuck is probably one of my songs of the year, though we’re still waiting on that radio edit… If you’re yet to see it then do go and watch the video, although probably not at work…
Who’s been your favourite new artist in 2012?
So many. It’s too hard to pick just one, and all different styles too. Daughter was a big one for us, Elena came in for a session and at the studio that day there was just something incredibly special. Effortlessly heartbreaking just by opening her mouth, and yet so sweet too. I’m so pleased at how things have gone for her this year. Azealia Banks was huge too, us being the first to playlist her, to A-List her was a big deal, and as usual, around 3 months later the others follow suit… It’s rewarding to see something we’ve all had faith in just go absolutely huge. Same goes for brummy boys Swim Deep, King City is such a good pop song, so is Honey, and I think they’ve got a huge amount of promise. There are some really good lines in those tracks and I’m really excited to hear the album they’re recording. Charlie Hugall is producing it and I have a lot of time for his stuff. I’ve really enjoyed Tall Ships doing so well this year too, it’s been a long time coming for them and they totally deserve to be huge. Also, Dry The River were a favourite of 2012, there are a fair few moments of the last few months that stand out thanks to their tracks. Lyrics are incredibly important to me and I think they have some of the absolute best. Speaking locally for a minute Nately’s Whores Kid Sister should be something that everyone experiences. Not just listens to, or goes to watch, but fully experiences – they’re the weirdest and best thing I’d seen this year, despite often risking injury to do so.
I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed out, and I’ll no doubt be kicking myself once I’ve pressed send on this to you chris, but it’s been a brilliant year for new music, I could go on and on.
Feel free to get in touch @_RudieCantFail.