Music: Unsigned 2020/21 is helping Amelia find who she is as an artist

Picture of Amelia (artist)

Amelia Stephanides is a little confused where she fits in genre-wise, just one of the things the Unsigned course is helping with says the NUA drama student and The Garage team member. 

How do you feel your music / skills have improved so far since starting the course last September?

I’ve learnt lots more about recording and creating my own music. Millie (Manders) had also done scales with my voice and I now practice them three times a week. I can notice the difference in my ability just by training my voice more.

I feel I’ve been quite blessed with my songwriting. I can write on the spot very easily. If someone played me something, I’d be able to write something there and then. If I haven’t written it down the chances of me remembering what I’ve just sung can be difficult. I’ve had blanks where I’ve written a verse and a chorus and then haven’t been able to write a second verse for a couple of weeks, then suddenly I’ll get inspiration.

I’ve a few (unused bits and pieces), they’re mainly just choruses and I’m just waiting for the right music or something. There’s been cases where musicians have come to me and played something and I’ve been like “oh my God I have a song that fits perfectly with that sound”.

I play guitar but only basic chords to write music to. Performance-wise I’d rather have musicians there with me, even though as a kid I’d play open mics. Progressing further I want to focus on my voice and my performance on stage. Blocking that with an instrument.

Do you feel you’ve grown in confidence as a performer / musician?

I already had a lot of confidence when it came to being a performer, but I certainly do feel more confident as a musician. I’ve learnt to trust my own thoughts and feelings when it comes to my music, rather than listening to others’ opinions on it.

What do you enjoy about the mentoring process?

I enjoy the support given and feedback from two incredibly talented musicians (Millie and Ben Street) who both have many stories about the music industry. The knowledge they have about the music scene as well as just the theory… I also enjoy the encouragement.

Sometimes as an artist I can get myself in circles worrying about a certain song etc. The mentoring process allows someone else to unwind me and make me see things from a professional point of view. In my first session we bullet-pointed the things I wanted to focus on. For me that was discovering my image, becoming more of a solo artist and building my portfolio on social media. We’re working from there and it’s gone really well.

There have been many changes due to Covid19 but you were able to continue the mentoring online. Have you felt able to adapt to these changes and how have you been impacted as a performer?

Lockdown gave me lots of free time to create music. I even collaborated with other musicians which was incredibly fun. Having a mentor session every week was so good. It certainly gave me a kick to make sure I had developed something during the time since I last saw them. Although there was only so much I could do alone, it’s definitely allowed my brain to relax and just focus on what I love, which is writing songs.

You mentioned you’ve been able to connect with other artists on the programme over the last year? Do you hope to be able to work that way over the next year?

I already had a bond with the lads in Jøra the Førtuneteller, we studied together at college. They are like family to me. We did a collaboration of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and it was so much fun. I couldn’t of been prouder of us all. It showcased everyone’s talents so well.

We are all very supportive of one another over social media and I hope to be able to get to know the other two artists (Blux J and Ella Massingham) even more over the next year and possibly help one another out creatively. We’re very lucky, all of us have strengths in different areas, so definitely having an exchange of skills would be brilliant. It will help us better understand working relationships in the music industry.

What are you looking forward to about continuing the Unsigned programme this year?

I’m looking forward to developing my production skills and developing my EP, created during lockdown with Kro Magnon, in the process. I’m also looking forward to hopefully being able to perform a gig alongside other incredibly talented musicians.

How did you get into performing?

I grew up in my dad’s circus. He used to play music and guitar and I used to sing in the shows with him and do performances which involved singing or playing instruments. He used to take me to quite a lot of gigs and open mics. It started from there. I was six when I wrote my first ever song which I still have, which is about loving my dad.

Why did you get involved with Unsigned?

Millie taught me at college so already knew me, my style and had heard a few of my songs. It’s time to focus on me and to realise the image I’m going for. Unsigned is helping me discover my genre. I’m a little bit confused as an artist at what genre I place myself in. I sing and write all sorts of music. I do go for a bit of an ambient vibe, quite chilled out, dreamy music that connects with people. But I do have a couple of songs that are more upbeat, a few I rap in. I’m a bit of a genre-bender so I need to discover my genre or not, maybe I just stick at it and just keep dipping.

I’ve been in a few bands over the years. When I was 14-15 I played with two lads who I met on a course run by Community Music East. We performed at Latitude Festival, on the Inbetweeners stage which was amazing. That was the first proper big gig I’d done.

I’ve performed at The Waterfront a few times, Tribe Norfolk Festival, Norfolk World Music Festival, Maui Waui but they’ve all been with bands. My reason for joining Unsigned especially was so I could focus on myself as a solo artist. I get a little bit scared when I don’t have a load of people there to support me. This will hopefully build my confidence more so hopefully one day I’ll be performing at those festivals by myself.

Millie and fellow professional artist Ben have been working on song development, social media necessity and construct, branding and image, set list development, vocal and performance techniques plus press packs and biographies with all the artists.

Millie said: “All the acts have been amazing to work with and they are all very different to each other. It’s been great to work with musicians who take direction well and are willing to try things differently even if they are a bit ‘out of the box’. Their attitudes towards the work they need to put in has been exemplary and we have been really enjoying the process.”

Ben added mentoring during the pandemic was challenging.

He said: “The process changed quite substantially. When face-to-face mentoring became impossible, we began to utilise Zoom to allow us to continue with the Unsigned sessions in a virtual manner. This presented its challenges with regards to aspects of the course – such as physical performance analysis and feedback. But it allowed us to focus more on song production techniques and a wider understanding of the industry and its terminology such as publishing bodies, royalty acquisition and distribution deals etc. I feel this period has been hugely beneficial for all of the artists involved with this project.”

Unsigned is a night of music from up-and-coming-young artists. Part of The Garage’s Musicians Development Programme, it’s funded by the National Foundation for Youth Music and the Norfolk Music Hub.

The project was launched to give young musicians the chance to take their music, performance and professional skills to the next level with the help of experienced professional music artists. Due to Covid19, the current cohorts got the chance to continue their mentoring into the coming year. The Waterfront gig, recording session and photoshoot will be rearranged when restrictions allow.

Love music? Check out our new Rock School for beginners and improvers which meets every Monday during term time.

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