Introducing New FAC Advocate Artists - Tom Gray , FEMME, Stewart Baxter & Terri Walker
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.
Fearless, that’s how Terri Walker feels. Sixteen years into her career, she has come full circle, having worked with some of the biggest players in the music industry, gaining unrivalled insight and traversing her way through some incredible highs and lows, but fearless or not, it was time to return to the blueprint and go it alone.
The news she was leaving Lady – the deftly executed foray into classic soul with Nicole Wray, which picked up critical acclaim on both sides of the pond - broke on Twitter and marked the return of Terri Walker the solo artist. The love and excitement is uncontainable, she is back and ready to join the independent world in control of her own destiny. This is the space where she thrives, without the claustrophobia of the majors, and it is now once more her home.
Terri dropped ‘Untitled’ her critically acclaimed debut album in 2003 – featuring a collaboration with Mos Def – and was nominated for the Mercury Prize and four MOBO awards. As the second album ‘LOVE’ approached, the label were keen to explore a different route – a direction she was uncomfortable with – and whilst reviews were positive, Mercury were unhappy with the commercial success and she departed the label aged 26. ‘I Am’ – Terri’s third album – won fans in The Guardian and BBC, with some claiming it crystallized her position as one of the UK’s leading artists. She toured the album extensively, but exhausted from her intensive work schedule, she took a hiatus from music, questioning the industry, its output and the perception of her as an artist.
A meeting with Queens NY born producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas, Miguel) sparked a working relationship that once ignited would endure. Whilst recording backing vocals for the likes of Nas, Cee-Lo and Jennifer Hudson, Salaam and Terri collaborated on ‘Hey Baby’ for the Sex & The City soundtrack and also started work on a side project, the concept album ‘Champagne Flutes.’
Four years later, she began work on what should have been her fourth studio album with US producer Ski Beatz (Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Jay Electronica). Slated for release via Damon Dash’s BluRoc, the material is still to see the light of day.
“The morning I woke up and I was out of my deal was confusing. I’d waited so long to be in this position but equally, I didn’t understand why I had to go through so much just to get back to the beginning, being free and able to make the choices I wanted to,” says Terri.
Any lesser artist would have taken their leave a long time ago, but if the music is your driving force, no amount of running will lead to solace. “It’s about the love of the music,” says Terri. This may sound cheesy coming from any number of recording artists, but with Terri, there is no subtext, the words hide no thirst for fame, it simply reiterates her position as an artist.
“I always thought, ‘I’m a singer, that’s all I want’, but I have stories to tell, people to inspire, people who feel like I once felt. I’m not just a singer. I’m an artist.”
From the artist whose voice had been quieted by the power of industry gods, Terri went to work to ensure she was heard no matter what deal she was tied into. Along with the likes of Paul McCartney, Rizzle Kicks and Spoek Mathambo, she was a passenger on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, which saw her and fellow Brit stars collaborate with African musicians for a train tour whose passengers would perform nightly shows whilst spending days visiting schools, hospitals and bandstands to play impromptu pop-up gigs. There have been collaborations with one time grime whizz kid turned house saviour T Williams, Rinse FM resident Brackles and Donaeo.
A recent EP with Joe Buhdha (Klashnekoff, Rodney P), which has seen support from Mistajam’s Radio 1Xtra show, and recent performances to intimate London crowds have been warming Terri up for her fourth studio album proper. She has also been collaborating with film-maker and photographer Kevin Morosky. “We met years ago and clicked instantly. He understands me. I’ve never had anyone capture me the way I see myself. He does that. He’s directing my visuals, videos, artwork, everything.” Terri is back in control, realizing her vision, her way.
“The album is pretty raw – hip-hop and a bit of rock with my soulful blend,” says Terri. “I’ve been working with a collective called Sticky Blood, made up of ex-Arctic Monkey bassist Andy Nicholson and Jamie Shield, plus Baby J who produced Skinny Man and remixed Amy Winehouse. And of course, Joe Buhdha.”
The album is all informed by Terri’s experiences. “There’s been self-doubt and feeling misunderstood, but also that moment of clarity. Celebrate the obstacles as much as the wins in life; that’s what makes us who we are.”
‘Feel It In The Water’ is the moment you realize the people around you are good people; they understand you, it’s a celebration. “‘Paranoia’ is one of the first songs I wrote with Joe,” says Terri. “I’d left Lady and was in a strange place, it took a while for me to learn to control my own destiny.” ‘Thunderdome’ focuses on Terri’s journey to maturing as a woman. ‘Skin I’m In’ documents the search for the sanctuary within, encouraging everybody to love who you are. Meanwhile, ‘Testify’ is an ode to those nights out that never end. ‘Open Your Mind’ explores the self-doubt we all have and addresses those moments when you stand in your own way. ‘Bad Boy’ reflects on those who feel they have no choice: “It’s easy to feel doomed by circumstance, but listen to yourself, be better, work at it.” ‘Loose Twice’ is inspired by a David Lynch quote which says that you loose twice when something fails and it wasn’t your idea. When you fail and it was on your terms it’s not a failure. Trust your instincts, you will never loose twice. ‘Already Told Ya’ sets out the parameters – “You know what my goals are, don’t be surprised when I go out and work for that.”
They say timing is EVERYTHING! It really is! I am so excited to be joining the “FAC” team at this stage in my career and life. I have learned so much by standing my ground to never compromise again but keep it as authentic as I could. Now it’s time to pass it on to a community of like-minded so we can continue to provide shortcuts and a safe haven for the truly passionate creatives. CAN NOT WAIT TO GET TO WORK!