The Unsigned Guide Spotlight: August

Blog by Stef Loukes under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding, Finance, Law & Music Business, Live, Media, Music Publishing, Music Training & Careers, Record Labels, Recording & Production, Selling & Distributing Your Music

Sarah Carton - ‘Beaches On The Thames’
This August is looking very different from the last for Sarah Carton. This time last year, she had just set off on a month long-run of her show 'Hatch' at Underbelly for the Edinburgh Fringe. Staged by a production company started with a friend, Rose Eye Productions, the show explored experiences of young women in British prisons, in promotion of the excellent work of ‘InHouse Records’. Fast forward to the first few weeks of lockdown and the preposterously talented songwriter/producer/spoken word artist has turned her attention to the effect of COVID-19 on our relationships and the environment:

"I wrote 'Beaches On The Thames' just as I’d started lockdown with my boyfriend. I was working from home, so we were together all the time - we’d never lived together or spent that much time just the two of us before so it really made me appreciate slowing down and having more time to enjoy our relationship."

'Beaches On The Thames' veers away slightly from her usual chilled electronic/alternative R&B leanings, in favour of a bedroom indie more in cahoots with the backdrop against which it was created. Its crackles and pops add to a deathly atmosphere, but there is also a quiet optimism in its synth strings that are backed up by the songs lyrical themes:

"The track juxtaposes [lockdown’s effect on relationships] with the recent news headlines about lockdown’s effects on reducing CO2 emissions and the clearing of the water in Venice’s canals due to the lack of water traffic. The lyrics explore the possibility that the lockdown could also be a chance for us to shift our attention to what’s really important and give the planet a break."

There has been an understandably strong response to the track, picking up kudos from BBC Music Introducing, Amazing Radio, Musosoup and When The Horn Blows, along with a few includes on Spotify editorial playlists. Sarah's eager to put out some follow up singles and even has an IRL gig lined up at North London's 93 Feet East on 23rd October. Tickets here.

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Sailmaker - 'Leave It All Behind'
There's a timeless quality to Sailmaker's 'Leave It All Behind' and that makes perfect sense in the context of the artists that inspired Rich Sutton's first solo project. With his alt-pop band SHIELDS (featured on this very blog back in October 2018) currently on the backburner - Rich turned to his influences along the folk spectrum. He points to Nick Drake's 'Bryter Layter' and John Martyn's 'Solid Air' as a starting point when considering Sailmaker's initial direction, along with the more contemporary influence of Father John Misty and Eels. Those touchpoints produce a distinctive folk baroque sound with an alt-pop inflection.

It is still early doors for the moniker but all the shipping forecast is looking bright and clear for Sailmaker. He's already landed a couple of spins on BBC Introducing and Amazing Radio, along with a string of positive reviews for 'Leave It All Behind' and its predecessor, the gorgeous 'Taste For The Sublime'.

Ric revels in the organic sounds made by acoustic instruments in big spaces, and in the case of 'Leave It All Behind', it was the cello that made things click:

"I had the vocals/harmonies and guitar lines all sorted, but it was the addition of the hook line at the start played by the cello that really brought the track to life for me. Lyrically the message is quite straightforward in that I had a desire to get away from some real negativity that was surrounding me at the time, but found that to be easier said than done. It was written fairly quickly, I think in a couple of hours."

After the beautifully bombastic noise of SHIELDS’ most recent release, Etemenanki EP, Sailmaker feels like a palette cleanser for Sutton - a back to basics approach with fewer bells and whistles but equally focused songs.

Sailmaker's 5-track EP, 'Endeavours' hits on 21st August. With public performances still out of the question for the time being, Rich is hoping to at least get in a few live streamed shows to celebrate the release.

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Ric Flo - 'Before I’m 25'

When he isn't plying his trade as one third of the excellent Jungle Brown, Ric Flo takes a more reflective approach to his songwriting. His solo work acts as a form of therapy, and he is proud that his own experiences growing up in foster care have made him a role model for others. This doesn't just take the shape of his music - Ric helps young people in care through creativity via rap workshops.

His self-exploration has struck a resonant chord within the industry too, landing him exposure from BBC Music Introducing and leading to airplay from the likes of Twin B, A Dot, Mim Shaikh, Yasmin Evans and Huw Stephens for his track, 'Do You'. 'Fam', another viscerally poetic profession of a life in care, has gone down a storm across streaming platforms.

The deeply personal nature of his songwriting is never more apparent than in his recent single, 'Before I'm 25'. The track is a shopping list of Ric's twenty-something goals:

"Quit my job and pursue music more seriously, go skydiving, meet my dad for the first time, and the realities of making that all happen."

Opening with a gentle, almost Flamenco, guitar line and backed by a chilled beat; the song doesn't feel like it belongs within the 'alternative rap' bracket that Ric Flo is often pigeonholed. Still, he has come to accept this association even if it isn't his preferred label:

"I have come to terms that’s what I would be categorised under, and that is cool.. But I don't think that it helps to describe my vibe beyond the fact I don’t chat about cliche topics."

His love of 90s rap shines through, and he'll often throw a jazz sample into the mix. However hard to pin down, his sound undoubtedly works, with the vocal placed front and centre of the mix to ensure that Ric's storytelling gets the prominence that it deserves.

There is more Ric Flo music on the way; his next single, 'Never Grow Up' is out tomorrow (6th August 2020), followed by the release of his next EP, 'Rise Of The Phoenix' in September.

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Brosnan - 'Octopus'

Staying put over the summer hasn't been easy for the itchy-footed indie three-piece, Brosnan. 2019 was a big year for them on the stage as they began to throw the net ever wider with their touring, and August's Humber Street Sesh in their native Hull is always a highlight for the band.

Their recent single ‘Octopus’ asks: “How does it feel down there at the bottom of the ocean?” It is probably their most polished effort to date, fusing their 80s and 90s influences (they name Pulp and New Order as notable influences) with tight, modern production and songwriting. Although the song was first put together a few years ago, it feels especially pertinent in the current times.

"Lockdown happened while we were gearing up for the release and some of the lyrics coincidentally felt very relevant to the moment - 'I don't go outside because it's bad for my health'."

The lockdown restrictions meant that the band had to get creative when working on the video, with each of the members filming their parts separately in their own homes. The end product is a psychedelic, cinematic submarine ride:

Brosnan's next release is for a worthy cause. 'Being Alone' is out in September as a feature single from The Warren Records ‘Three Minute Heroes’ album - a project that encourages school children to write about mental health before bands turn their musings into a song to make their voices heard. You can watch the video for that track on the Three Minute Heroes Facebook page.

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Tsharna - 'Four Walls'
After studying at London's BIMM, Tsharna was quick to work in launching a music career informed both by the reggae, soca and dancehall of her Jamaican and St. Lucian roots, and her later infatuation with contemporary R&B. Her soulful sound has been championed by BBC 3CR, most notably by the Jaguar and Danny Show who had her in for a 30 minute live performance earlier in the year.

Staying at home amidst a global pandemic may not be the 23rd birthday celebration that Tsharna had envisaged, but she aired her grievances like all the best songwriters do - by picking up her guitar and writing a heart-wrenching ballad:

"I wrote ‘Four Walls’ during the lockdown to represent couples all over the world who are being challenged in their relationships everyday to maintain a two-way effort relationship. It can even speak to those who have found themselves in unhealthy situation-ships, where quarantining has helped them see the bigger picture... The other person may not think about you, or want you as much as you think."

Tsharna co-produced the track with Solikeys, and the pair do well to keep it low key. A deliciously old-school R&B melody floats over soft, delayed guitar tones. It all slides down smoother than your morning coffee.

We're led to believe that are a few incoming singles and a debut EP hidden up Tsharna's sleeve. Until then, check out the video for 'Four Walls' - a real family affair as her sister and cousin got involved with its filming.

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How can I get featured on the Spotlight blog?
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