Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Huw Stephens

Published on AfterDark (28 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio Cymru presenter Huw Stephens during the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 sessions at BBC Maida Vale.

Huw Stephens (Copyright BBC Radio Cymru)

Last month saw the new wave of acts from the Horizons/Gorwelion scheme descend on the iconic BBC Maida Vale studios over the course of two days. There to preside over these sessions was BBC Radio 1/BBC Radio Cymru/C2 presenter – and new music connoisseur – Huw Stephens. As a member of the Horizons panel for the previous two years, Huw has lent his support for new original music to helping uncover the most exciting new talent in Wales. Here, Huw speaks to Dean Hodge about why a scheme such as Horizons is so important for Welsh music, his thoughts on the class of acts this year, and how he thinks the Welsh music scene can get bigger. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Dan Bettridge

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Dan Bettridge about his Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Dan Bettridge (copyright by Horizons)

The term ‘rollercoaster’ has been used a lot by some of the Horizons 2015 artists to describe their past year, but it perfectly epitomises the dozen months endured by Welsh soul singer Dan Bettridge. The high point of being picked by Horizons earlier last year was interspersed with a severe back injury sustained by Dan, which left him barely able to write and play music for a long period.

The Ogmore-by-Sea native has faced these obstacles with the same grit and gravitas that courses through the veins of his music. Having completed the road to recovery, the rising singer-songwriter is now firmly on the prosperous path to wider popularity. His powerful voice – a devastatingly heart-tugging weapon of bourbon-soaked beauty – is one that merges musical generations old and new. Melodies reminiscent of the Stax-era soul and R’n’B sound are infused with lyrics full of modern-day musings on love and loss – and distilled through Dan’s soulful rasp.

Half a year on from their previous interview, Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge about his up-and-down year, his plans for 2016, and performing at BBC Maida Vale – twice! Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Hannah Grace

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Hannah Grace about her Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Hannah Grace (Copyright by Horizons)

The voice of Welsh chanteuse Hannah Grace is imbued with both a dreamy delicacy that matches her namesake, and a bruising power that can erupt seemingly from out of nowhere and floor you when you least expect it to. Her music is just as full of crafty contradiction. Melodies and lyrics that are derived from the deepest realms of the heart, are further embellished and enhanced by ambitious production that enable it to transcend any genre – folk, jazz, blues, any conceivable journalists’ label and any musical form yet to be given a label.

Take Meant To Be Kind which starts off as an acoustic ode to heartbreak from the viewpoint of the person doing the heart breaking, but soon elevates into a gospel-soul mantra of self-defiance. Then Walk Away (The City) – as much a lament on inner-city isolation as it is an escapist’s anthem.

When Dean Hodge last interviewed Hannah Grace last year, she has just earned a place on the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 scheme – a nod which further cemented her as an artist to keep a close ear out for. Here, the Bridgend-based singer-songwriter speaks to Dean about how Horizons has helped her over the year since then, what people can expect from her new sound, details of her upcoming release, supporting Gabrielle Aplin this year, and her recent performance for Horizons at BBC Maida Vale. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Aled Rheon

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Aled Rheon about his Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Horizons - Aled Rheon (Copyright by Horizons)

Whatever language that folk singer Aled Rheon chooses to sing in – whether in his mother Welsh tongue or in English – either way his cotton-tone voice and radiant melodies speak directly to the heart and from the heart. The Cardiff singer-songwriter spins simple stories of life and love into timeless sounding folk tunes that are an aural remedy for the soul.

Both musically and personally, 2015 was a big year for Aled Rheon in many ways, topped off by being selected for last year’s Horizons 2015 scheme. For his recorded session at the legendary BBC Maida Vale studio, Aled was joined by his recently-formed new band The Gorgeous Charge. That perhaps is why his three performed tracks have a much fuller sound to them, and the air of an artist growing in maturity and ambition. I spoke to Aled about those sessions, his year with Horizons, and how he intends to balance new music with new fatherhood. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Violet Skies

Published on AfterDark (14 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Violet Skies about her Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Violet Skies pic (Copyright Horizons)

The searing voice of South Wales singer-songwriter Violet Skies is one that fails to leave you the minute your ears are exposed to her breathless tone, and the hairs on your neck brought to standing point. Such is the emotional pull of it that she could even sing the phone dictionary and it would still sound like a hymn. Those gold-dusted lungs are aligned with an ear for a lingering melody and a curiosity for the more leftfield musical realms.

You may hear her name roll off the tongue of many pundits picking their tips for the musical success stories of 2016. I spoke to the rising singer shortly after her sessions for Horizons 2015 at the legendary BBC Maida Vale studio. She explains her unlikely choice to cover Justin Bieber‘s number one hit Sorry, her highlights with Horizons, and what we can expect from her in 2016. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with HMS Morris

Published on AfterDark (14 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to Heledd Watkins from HMS Morris – one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists about the band’s Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Horizons - HMS Morris (Copyright by Horizons)

Even if you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly Welsh psych-indie trio HMS Morris – comprised of Heledd Watkins (vocals/guitar/synths), Sam Roberts (bass/synths/loops/backing vocals) and Wil Roberts (drums) – sound like or what similar artists they remind you of, there is something darkly hypnotic about their music that pulls in from the first listen.

Murky guitar riffs and sentimental lyrics are filtered through a prism of technicolor electro-pop soundscapes and Heledd’s divine vocal. What can be agreed on is that the resulting sound is pure melodious bliss.

The band recently performed a handful of cuts at the iconic BBC Maida Vale studio as part of the Horizons 2015 scheme. Heledd Watkins spoke to AfterDark’s Dean Hodge about performing at Maida Vale, the band’s year with Horizons and their advice to the soon-to-be-announced Horizons 2016 acts. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Cut Ribbons

Published on AfterDark (14 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Cut Ribbons about their Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.

Horizons - Cut Ribbons (Copyright Horizons)

Turning bittersweet lyrical themes and dense harmonies into soaring synth-pop anthems is what Llanelli indie darlings Cut Ribbons do best. It’s a simple formula that works well for them – one which has resulted in a critically acclaimed debut album, extensive airplay on Welsh radio, growing fan support and a coveted spot on the Horizons 2015 scheme last year.

Last month saw them play three tracks from their inaugural album We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn at the iconic BBC Maida Vale studio. Following their session, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talked with them backstage about their song choices, their year with Horizons and their ambitions for 2016. Continue reading