Album Review: Nathan Sykes’ “Unfinished Business”

nathan-sykes-reveals-unfinished-business-album-artwork-01I’m so excited to finally write this post! Nathan Sykes has been a favorite of mine since I was thirteen years old and he was a part of my most favorite band at the time, The Wanted. I’ve so enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a solo artist since then.

The Wanted were an Irish-British-pop band formed in 2010 made up of members Nathan Sykes, Siva Kaneswaran, Jay McGuiness, Max George, and Tom Parker. (I’ve been following this band since my love for them in middle school, so I don’t even need to research any of this information.) After five successful years, the band decided to take a break from making music together and pursue their own careers in various fields. Since then, all the boys have succeeded in one way or another–and for Nathan, his biggest accomplishment so far has been releasing his own, debut record.

Nathan has a unique vocal style that ranges from pop, R&B to soul-sounding. He never sings one song the same way each time, and his incredibly raw, natural talent really comes through in this record–he sounds exactly as he does in his live shows, which showcases rare, amazing talent. (I’ve seen him twice, and met him two different times.) Check out the live version of his single “Famous” below. (And if you want to see videos of Nathan singing live last summer in Portland & me chatting with him, click here.)

This album, “Unfinished Business,” is an incredibly strong debut. With a variety of songs ranging from ballads, electro-pop bangers, to jazzy, trumpet-filled anthems, this record has something for everyone.

img_8317The first track on this album is a great introduction to Nathan’s new style–“Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.” This upbeat, trumpet-and-drum-infused tune features a choir accompanying Nathan, which sounds incredible. (Reminds me a bit of the style The 1975 have been incorporating into their new music–especially with songs like “If I Believe You.”) (Photo on right taken by me.)

A few of the most memorable tracks on this record are: “I’ll Remember You,” “Famous,” “There’s Only One Of You,” (this one is very John Mayer-esque), “Twist,” and “Tears In The Rain.” This new album also features a few familiar faces/voices such as rapper G-Eazy and singer-songwriter Ariana Grande.

nathNathan did a bit of touring last summer in the U.K. and U.S. to promote his upcoming album, and is planning to do another tour (most likely early next year) now that it’s released. I had the pleasure of chatting with him before his show in PDX last summer, and it was a pretty cool experience to discuss this record with him. (Plus, he’s just a funny and very sweet guy.) I tried to coax the title of the new album out of him before it had been announced, but he stubbornly refused, telling me that I “probably already know the name of the record and just don’t realize it.” 😉 Nathan also talked about how much this record means to him–he put his heart and soul into producing it, and has poured his memories and experiences into each and every song. This album is just as good as I hoped it would be. I  highly recommend checking out Nathan’s music if you’re into artists like Charlie Puth, Union J, or Olly Murs. (Picture on the left: me and Nathan!)

Nathan’s album is available on CD, vinyl, and through most streaming sites. Take a listen here!

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Nina Nesbitt’s “Songs I’m Writing For You” Project

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One of my favorite UK female artists, Nina Nesbitt, recently came up with an idea that brings fans even closer to her music. I absolutely love the idea, and I thought I’d write a little blog post about it. I encourage you to check out a few of the songs she recently released for her project “Songs I’m Writing For You.” 🙂 (Photo on the left by Drew Fawkes)

Nina’s idea allows fans to submit personal stories to her, which she then transforms into songs. Fans sent a variety of stories; from breakups, dark/happy times in their lives, and tales of the people and things that mean most to them. Additionally, Nina asked fans to send bits and pieces of details that could help her translate their story into a song, such as memories of particular smells, sensations, colors, and visuals that relate to their experience. I think this is such an incredible way to incorporate the fans into her music–fans will treasure these songs Nina has written for them for the rest of their lives, and I love the idea that she is translating their thoughts and emotions into a song, which is really difficult for people who love music but can’t write their own (like me, haha) to do.

ninaSo far, Nina has released two tracks that were derived from stories submitted by fans: “Ontario,” and “Brisbane.” The titles refer to the places around the world in which the fans live, and where the stories take place. “Ontario” tells the heartbreaking story of two friends who begin to blur the lines between friendship and something more, taking place in a crowded house party where jealousy, lust, and sadness begin to taint their developing relationship. “Brisbane,” however, follows the story of a girl’s close relationship with her aging father. The young girl worries her memories of her father will fade after he has passed, and wonders if she will lose a piece of herself when she loses him someday.

After releasing these tracks, Nina has continued to use this project to give back to her fans. After the release of “Ontario,” Nina put a number of limited edition CDs for sale on her website which were not only all autographed, but also featured a unique lyric from the single written on each of the sleeves.

ninaI just want to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible amount of effort Nina has made over the years in connecting with her fans across the world. She is constantly giving fans the opportunity to be involved in her projects, whether that means helping her write new songs, or submitting pictures of them wearing her merchandise for a chance to be featured on her website. So cool, and such a great way to gain life-long fans.

I’m so excited to see what songs Nina will release next based on fan submissions! In the meantime, though, “Brisbane” and “Ontario” are currently on repeat. Thanks for all the cool things you do for your fans, Nina! 🙂

LISTEN UP: Leon Bridges

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Leon Bridges in concert

When I first heard “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges, I assumed he was a 50’s singer. His smooth, Sam Cooke-esque vocals mixed with some killer guitar riffs, doo-wopping backup singers and sprinkled-in saxophone solos make his debut album sound like something straight out of a 1950’s diner jukebox. (Photo on the left by: digboston)

26-year-old soul singer Leon Bridges burst onto the music scene after signing with Columbia Records in December of last year. Before that point, he worked as a dishwasher in Fort Worth, Texas, while occasionally performing at small, open-mic gigs around his city. Things have only gotten crazier for Leon since being discovered last year. After signing with Columbia, Leon played gigs all over Texas, supported singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten in NYC, received the award for Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotify for his debut single, “Coming Home” (which is amazing, by the way), and he is planning to continue playing numerous shows around the world over the next few months.

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Photo by Julio Enriquez

It’s so refreshing to see artists like Leon succeeding in the music industry today. With a truly retro voice and style, Leon sings straight from the heart. I love that he’s reviving a nostalgic genre of music in a way that’s captivated a young audience–teenagers (as well as adults) all around the world are swooning over Leon’s silky-smooth harmonies, vintage-inspired Instagram posts, and dance-worthy choruses.

Leon’s beautiful song “Lisa Sawyer,” which he wrote about his mother and her life story, was key in jumpstarting his music career. After its release on SoundCloud last year, the song hit 800,000 views and sparked the interest of more than 40 record labels.

With influences like Arthur Alexander, Sam Cooke, & Otis Redding inspiring him everyday, Leon’s songwriting centers around personal experience. I love this quote from  from his recent chat with interviewmagazine.com: “In the beginning, I was so inspired by the music. I had the option to make something modern with classic undertones, but I wanted to make something that was exactly like that old sound. Of course, it’s going to come out in my own way because I have R&B influences, but it’s cool how my songwriting works out; a lot of the time, I’m not writing just classic-sounding songs, but songs that come from experience. Look at “Brown Skin Girl,” a song I wrote about my ex-girlfriend, or “Twistin’ & Groovin,'” which is about my grandparents. I love the pioneers like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but when I write music, it comes out in my own way. ”

(Make sure to check out the full interview here!leon-album-cover)

My favorite tracks on Coming Home are “River” (the guitar intro & chorus are so lovely), “Coming Home” (Leon nails the perfect retro music video with this one) & “Better Man.”

Find Leon Bridges below, and make sure to get yourself a copy of his debut album, “Coming Home.”

 

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An Interview with Demi Louise

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Demi Louise

Demi Louise is a 20-year-old, unsigned, singer-songwriter from Australia who is making her mark on the music world. From touring with Kodaline, to winning the Australian Songwriters Association Pop Song Of The Year award, Demi’s voice is being heard around the globe. I caught up with Demi in a recent email interview, and we chatted about her inspirations, career on YouTube, what she ate for breakfast, and more!

A Perfect Playlist: How would you describe your sound?

Demi Louise: I describe my sound as folk/pop. My music is acoustic-based and something you can listen to on a Sunday walk.

APP: I love your debut single, “Ruins.” Tell me a little bit about it. What’s the story behind the song?

10934003_905493582804409_1990180738067107794_nDemi: Thank you so much! “Ruins” is written about my grandparents’ relationships. Both my grandfathers were diagnosed with Dementia at the end of 2013, and it was a really hard time for my family. The concept of “Ruins” came about because it felt like a symbol of what was happening to their minds and the relationships being affected by it.

You love someone your whole life and watching their minds crumble as they become less of themselves is a hard thing, but beautiful at the same time (like ruins are) where you can elicit a whole new love in a relationship because of it.

So that’s what “Ruins” is about. The lyrics ‘we were in love once you know’ is about my grandfathers’ memories of knowing they were in love once and even though they may not always recognize that now, they always remember that the love they shared with my grandmothers was greater than any other–even amongst all the confusion.

APP: Tell me what it was like opening for Gabrielle Aplin & Kodaline last July! Kodaline is one of my favorite bands. So cool you got to hang out with them.

Demi: Ah it was amazing, as you can imagine! I got to perform with Gabrielle Aplin through an online competition she was running, which was amazing. She’s so lovely and the show was the biggest I have ever done–over 2,000 people was crazy! And such a prestigious venue as well…Nottingham Rock City.

Kodaline I got to meet through one of my YouTube covers–and it was SO amazing. The show was sold out at Whelan’s in Dublin and the venue was so Irish. It was so fun!  Kodaline are incredible live. It was so great meeting them and just hanging out after the show, too.

APP: What’s it like being a young, up-and-coming musical artist in Australia? Was it difficult to get started? Tell me a bit about how your career in music took off.

201592_205481526138955_1399331_oDemi: It’s so fun! I just love every second of life, and I’m so lucky to have the experiences I have had. Australia is a long way away from the rest of the world, but I love that there is a turning focus on our industry at the moment. It makes it a special place to be a part of.

I started my music career really organically, to be honest. I began writing songs as soon as I started learning guitar. I never played covers… it was always about writing. I had always written poetry, so it was a natural progression when I started learning guitar. Then my parents encouraged me to go and start playing open mics– from there I started to get bookings, and then I started doing the whole YouTube thing!

I was really lucky when my manager came on board at the end of 2013–he has truly changed my life and it’s hard to believe we have only been working together for a year. Before that I really had no idea what to do in order to move forward in the industry, but now I feel more confident and I’m constantly learning!

APP: Who were your influences when you were younger, and who are they now?

Demi: When I was younger, my mum and dad always had music on, but neither of them are musicians. Mum was really into country, so maybe that’s where I got songwriting from. I think Colbie Caillat was who I listened to a lot when I was 16 and when I started playing guitar. So she shaped my sound a bit to start with!

My influences now are so broad. I listen to so much music. I love the singer-songwriter scene, and listen to a lot of Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Hozier, etc. But  I love pop, too. I just try and explore all those avenues.

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APP: What has been your greatest achievement so far?

Demi: I would say my greatest achievement would be the song that I co-wrote on the APRA-AMCOS Songhub with Joe Killington and Neil Athale. It’s called “Rivers Run To Red.” It was my first ever cover, and it was released by Charley-Ann who won the German Voice. It also won me my first award at the Australian Songwriters Association. It got Pop Song of the Year which was INSANE!

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APP: Are there any women in the music industry that really inspire you?

Demi: Yes! To be completely honest, Taylor Swift has to be one of THE most inspiring women in the industry. She has an open nature in all aspects of herself as I do (she writes songs about real-life situations) and she has a team around her who completely understand what she is trying to accomplish. I believe it’s because she knows how to communicate with people to take control of what she is doing. She hasn’t been taken in a direction that isn’t convincing, and that is very powerful for a woman in this industry. I think she’s great.

APP: I love your acoustic EP, “Songs From My Bedroom.” What’s your favorite song off that album?

IMG_6151Demi: I would say probably “Mood For Love,” purely because of the reaction I get when I play it–people seem to really like it. And even though I feel like I have grown up 10000000% since I wrote that song, there is something about it that is so simple. I can remember writing it so vividly. (Right: Demi with singer & YouTube star Troye Sivan.)

And finally…

APP: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Demi: Smoothie with banana, cacao, almond milk, dates and spirulina!

APP: Who was your first celebrity crush?

Demi: HANSON!

APP: Favorite candy/dessert from when you were a kid?

Demi: It was, and always will be…chocolate.

11230223_968808159806284_3793851648435827058_nThanks, Demi!

Find Demi:

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