Sŵn Festival 2016: AfterDark’s 10 must-see artists

Published on AfterDark (16 Oct 2016) – click here to access article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge previews the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October) and picks his 10 recommended artists.

10 Must See Artists Swn (Copyirght AfterDark)

Cardiff‘s own curtain-closer to the festival season Sŵn Festival returns once again to numerous venues around the Welsh capital for a whole weekend – showcasing the cream of upcoming artists that are sure to be the soundtrack of the years to come.

Like the one music-obsessive in your social group that continually claims bragging rights to knowing the best new artists before anyone else does, Sŵn prides itself on bringing future headliners and chart-hasslers directly into some of Cardiff’s petite venues. Artists like Temples, Alt-J, The Vaccines and Disclosure are just some of the acts to have graced the Welsh festival on the way to the ‘toppermost’.

Now in its 10th year, Sŵn shows no signs of going stale with its ear still finely attuned to the freshest sounds – and this year’s line up is sure to have something to please everyone whatever their aural tastes. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge handpicks his own ten artists to look out for this weekend. Continue reading

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Forté Project 10: AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Interviews Spike Griffiths

Published on AfterDark (4 Dec 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge interviews Spike Griffiths, the project manager behind new Welsh music scheme Forté Project.

With precociously talented young artists and brilliant bands seemingly falling like leaves off trees from within the Welsh valleys, it is only going to be due time before the rest of the nation has to sit up and take firm notice. Just one of the people clearly recognising the growing force of young Welsh talent is Spike Griffiths – project manager of the Young Promoters Network scheme and now co-ordinator behind the latest Welsh music initiative Forté Project.

Brought to you by the minds behind the Young Promoters Network, in co-ordination with SONIG Youth Music, Arts Connect and Arts Council of Wales; the Forté Project aims to take ten emerging artists from regions which span across the areas of Rhondda Cynon Taff, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan, collectively known as Arts Connect. 

Just some of the benefits the Forte Project 10 artists will enjoy include working with assigned industry mentors, songwriting workshops, industry-related seminars, recording sessions and a range of opportunities which will be gradually revealed over the next year.

Teenage modern soulstress Kaycee (a recent highlight at this year’s Sŵn Festival) and the enigmatic electronica of HVNTER make up some of the artists (Rhondda Cynon Taf), as do the pedal-powered pop of Alex Stacey and roots-folk outit Ofelia (Caerphilly). The eclectic line of artists continues through country songbird Bryony Sier to alternative hip-hop duo Luk to socially-conscious ska collective Upbeat Sneakers (Merthyr Tydfil). Completing the cast are Bridgend indie rock bands Young Calypso and Fire Fences, alongside the soul-soaked folk of Thomas Seddon (Vale of Glamorgan).

To find out more about the project and the artists involved, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge chatted to Spike Griffiths about the origins of the scheme and plans for the year ahead. Continue reading

Review: Maddie Jones ‘Colour Me In’ EP – ‘A sonic palette of pristine rock ’n’ roll brushed with Maddie’s distinctly deft touch’

MADDIE JONES 'COLOUR ME IN' EP

Published on AfterDark (14 Oct 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the new EP by Maddie Jones (released on 23 Oct 2015).

Tracklisting: Could You Be My Rock ‘n’ Roll/Deadliest Little Fever/Push Back

Mistress-of-all-trades Maddie Jones has firmly asserted herself as the chameleon of the female singer-songwriter scene, with her debut album Vita Brevis an eclectic tapestry of songwriting that weaves in and out of any genre in distance, underpinned by Maddie’s distinct voice.

She remains as reliably unpredictable as ever with the release of her latest EP release Colour Me In, taking her sound down a more electric route with the immaculate melodies of her debut swapped for bruising riffs. Miss Jones’ faultless vocals remain as ever though, as does Charlie Francis (REM, Future of the Left, Sweet Baboo) on production duties. Whatever sound or genre Maddie can be pigeonholed into is essentially up to the listener to decide for themselves, an answer eluded to in the EP’s title and artwork.

The chugging blues-rock riff of Could You Be My Rock ‘n’ Roll gets the ball rolling with Maddie delivering an ultimatum to the listener as well as the lyrical subject of her affections. “I came out with an aching in my chest/I wanna find someone who’s different from the rest”. It’s as effective a call-to-arms to the dancefloor to join Maddie in shaking the dust off and dancing the blues away as any opening lyric. The presence of co-writer and guitarist Matthew Evans from Welsh garage-psych wizards KEYS certainly sprinkles a further dosage of 70’s dust over this four-minute stomper of a track, and you can almost smell the scent of bourbon and leather jackets throughout. Continue reading

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Amy Wadge

Amy Wadge & Pete Riley

Published on AfterDark (28 July 2015)

Prior to sensational songwriting duo Amy Wadge & Pete Riley‘s recent performance at St David’s Hall (26 June), AfterDark’s Dean Hodge managed to grab a quick interview with Amy Wadge – herself one of the most prolific songwriters in the music industry today as well as an established solo artist in her own right.

She has famously co-written with Ed Sheeran including their global smash Thinking Out Loud which reached number one in the UK Official Chart last year has now spent a full consecutive year in the UK Top 40 chart alone. But Amy can boasts working with a stellar amount of names from her impressive repertoire – including the likes of LeAnn Rimes, Janelle Monae and Birdy to name just a few.

However, the Bristol-born artist has always called Wales her home and her involvement in the Welsh music scene is just as profuse. In the last few years she has co-written for, produced and mentored numerous up-and-coming artists including Gabrielle Murphy, Kizzy Crawford, Delyth McLean, Maddie Jones, Remembering August and countless others. However, it is with fellow songwriter and touring partner Pete Riley that she has enjoyed a particularly fruitful collaboration.

Amy and Pete first came together in 2010 and immediately clicked after many years performing in various bands. Since then they have written together, toured and released a pair of highly acclaimed albums – Rivers Apart and Afterglow.

Read the full interview here in which Amy discusses how her partnership with Pete first came about, how Thinking Out Loud was born, balancing her currently hectic workload with family life, and why Wales will always be home to her. Continue reading

Horizons 2015: AfterDark Talks With Dan Bettridge – ‘My parents’ record collection was the primary influence on my musical upbringing’

Published on AfterDark (23 June 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Dan Bettridge, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.

Dan Bettridge

The power of music partly lies in the pure, unabashed escapism it can offer and its ability to transport you to another time and place, regardless of where you are and when. It’s a philosophy that Welsh warbler Dan Bettridge fully embraces.

His husky, bourbon-soaked vocal and raw delivery instantly – the voice of an old soul placed upon young shoulders – sounds like more something born out of a smoky jazz or blues bar in late 60’s or early 70’s deep south America than like anything else today. You can almost feel the warm glow of sunset and the scent of smoke when you listen to his irresistible brand of Americana-infused Celtic soul, delivered with a voice which echoes the spirit of Van Morrison and Otis Redding but refines it within a Welsh lilt. Continue reading

‘S4C to shine spotlight on Cardiff’s buskers and music scene’ (Article for Wales Online)

Published on Wales Online (17th March 2015)

This is my very first article published on Wales Online. As of this week, I am doing a work placement with Media Wales in Cardiff. My first piece for them focuses on the IronHeart CS project by Stewart Leigh-Firbanks, which involves filming music sessions with buskers performing in the streets of Cardiff. One of the sessions with Cai Maxwell will be broadcast on S4C tonight. Additionally, I touch upon The Safehouse Hostel sessions project by Stewart, Daniel Wimpelberg and Tom Hughes.

The project, which was created by student Stewart Leigh Firbanks, will be broadcast on the channel tonight.

A montage of music sessions showcasing the talent of Cardiff’s performers and buskers will be broadcast on S4C tonight.

The footage, which was filmed and produced by University of South Wales student Stewart Leigh Firbanks, puts the spotlight on local artists and will feature on Heno from 7pm.

Firbanks, a third year Media Technology student at the Cardiff campus, established the Buskers project under his production company IronHeart CS, which he launched earlier this year.

The 20-year-old came up with the concept alongside the owners of newly-opened Safehouse Hostel, Daniel Wimpelberg and Tom Hughes, as a way of promoting the capital’s thriving music scene. Continue reading