Introducing New FAC Artist Advocates - Tom Gray , FEMME & Stewart Baxter
Advocate Artists fulfill a new role for contemporary and influential artists within the FAC; advocating policy initiatives amongst the artist community, influencing policy makers in government to hear artists’ views directly and, encouraging emerging artists to pursue valuable careers by leading the FAC’s education and outreach programmes.
Introducing FAC Advocate Artists
I fell off a piano at the age of 3, leaving a large cut above my left eye. Undaunted by this, I've spent my subsequent life committed to music-making. Now with over 20 years of it behind me, my devotion to making music with character remains. As does the scar.
I'm a founding member of Gomez, a band who (I think... it's hard to tell) made their trademark out of eclecticism. We won the Mercury Prize in 1998 and then went on to become a successful live act in USA touring there consistently until the band rested in 2012 (we've since reformed for a world tour this year).
I then took to scoring: a major children’s series for the BBC, several short films, documentaries and recently completed my first feature film. I've also worked extensively in theatre and writing for commercials.
Some days I'm just an artist: I get up and perform; I argue with my management about deals and how many nights I'm sleeping on the bus. On others I'm a writer, some times for myself, some times as collaborator or as writer-for hire. This is the new reality: we do what we can to make money from our often ridiculous, once-in-a-while amazing compulsion.
However, we've found ourselves in a brave new world and yet it still seems to be regulated by the shadow of a broken system and settlement. Young artists need to know what they're up against, older artists need to have a stake in the game. That's where I'd like to try and help. That's where I hope the FAC can help. Together, at least we will have a bloody good go!
I like a challenge.. I suppose I'm still looking for pianos to fall off.
Midlands-born, London-based singer and producer will be well aware of her individual take on pop, from her retro-futuristic 2016 album Debutante , and her genre-bending collaboration with Radiohead super-producer Nigel Godrich as Ultraísta . But her latest material is perhaps her most forward-thinking yet.
Growing up in Rugby, FEMME — real name Laura Bettinson — learned piano, and devoured the “massive female voices” passed on to her by her parents and grandparents: Doris Day, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, and Carole King. As a teenager, that love merged with an ear for indie bands and catchy melodies, including anything from Smashing Pumpkins to Sean Paul.
By the time she was studying Popular Music at London’s Goldsmiths University, she discovered performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Klaus Nomi, and delved into the back catalogue of Bjork. From all this, she emerged as an artist with several sides: performer, producer, writer, voice.
Bettinson first decided to learn how to create electronic loops live when it became too much of a nuisance to drag her keyboard to the pub gigs she played while at university. From there, she learned how to produce her own songs in Logic, and it quickly became the backbone of her writing process.
Bettinson began creating her own firebrand of “bold, ballsy pop music.” Her 2014 single “Fever Boy” cleanly blended influences from M.I.A., Santigold, and 1960s girl groups, and found a fan in Charli XCX — who invited FEMME to accompany her on a six-week US tour — and several major labels.
But Bettinson found herself uninterested in the executives who wanted to mould her project, and stuck to her independent path. In 2016, she self-released the scrappy, sharp-edged alt-pop album Debutante , a tour-deforce of hooks and beats designed to make you bounce around your bedroom.
The FAC are proactive in providing essential support and information to both emerging and established artists within an industry which is notoriously non-transparent and can be at times absolutely baffling. It's a great comfort to me knowing that there's a network of music industry professionals out there happy to advise, listen and educate when you need them. It's an exciting but very challenging time to be making music and as an Ambassador for the FAC I aim to encourage young artists to find and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit to help carve long and rewarding careers for themselves.
Stewart has been involved in music for over 20 years cutting his teeth playing in various bands within the British DIY scene. This gave him a great understanding of producing and releasing music alongside extensive touring and merchandising, skills which he later brought to The Warren Youth Project where he set up the Warren Records project.
Since 2005 Stewart has worked with young people at The Warren managing a free recording studio and rehearsal space alongside a record label, talent development programme and events team which engages and mentors young people through music and helps them enter the industry. Stewart also plays drums for the BBC 6 Music Play-listed band LIFE, who have been Hull’s greatest export racking up huge press and radio plays alongside their debut album Popular Music and touring constantly with bands such as SLAVES, Nadine Shah, and IDLES. LIFE are a shining example of ‘doing-it-yourself’ and continue to hit huge achievements on their own terms embracing the DIY punk ethos through and through.
For me, every step forward into the music and the industry has been inspired by fellow artists. Soaking up the work of others and feeling their passion for the art they create is what pushes me forward. Coming from a city which has a strong independent music scene, peer support has been the key to growing a supportive artist led community. Sharing experiences, knowledge, and skills has been a vital part of my personal development. Being a part of the FAC is exciting and an honour as we are the people creating the roots to which the whole industry grows upon.