26 May 2018

May Profile - THE SINGER

May's monthly profile is here - and it's a really good one.

This year, I am interviewing a range of creative, enthusiastic and dedicated professionals, passionate about their respective areas of expertise and willing to share the love for their subject with you all.

I hope that these interviews will be inspiring, helpful for those wishing to pursue similar careers, and most importantly, an interesting and insightful read.

This month, I had a chat with the amazing Rebecca Hawley, member of uber-cool electro pop band Stealing Sheep. Photography by Mike Massaro.

T H E  S I N G E R 

Stealing Sheep - Mike Massaro
Stealing Sheep - from left to right: Lucy Mercer, Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley

When did you initially become interested in singing and music? 

Ever since I can remember! Singing has always been my fave, and I tried to play the piano a bit but never got my head around it. I finally got hold of a synthesiser when I was about 21 and that suited me much more, because I could make weird sounds with it and add effects. I liked music from stuff like the Radiophonic Workshop, so I started to replicate some of those sounds. It feels very free, like there are no rules!

I also had singing lessons and learnt musical theory - my family grouped together to teach me in shifts, as I had to learn it all very quickly to get on to my music degree course! I famously went from not knowing what a crotchet was to passing in 2 weeks.

How did you go about pursuing your interest in music? What did you study at school and university?

I studied art and performing arts at school and really loved being creative; using my imagination gave me a buzz. I was excited to go to university and study music so I did, and ended up in Liverpool which is an amazing city, and gave me new outlooks and friends and ways of thinking about music.

What sort of work do you do now? Is there a particular genre of music that you focus your time on? 

I work everyday on songwriting, production and making collaborative live shows with unusual production. We like working with a production team at our studio called The Invisible Wind Factory, and they customise lights, projections and visual effects. We make costumes and do interesting things like processions and art installations. I try to focus mainly on songwriting but the genre is tough to pin down because I’m always looking for something that sounds different and fresh - I like to try and capture a kind of zeitgeist energy.

Stealing Sheep - Mike Massaro

Do you spend your time mainly performing, writing, or a bit of both? Which performances do you enjoy the most?

I try to be varied - we just finished a project involving drumming workshops and dance choreography which took a few weeks; we are in the studio tomorrow finishing an album track, and then we have to focus on album art and music videos... I’m trying to maintain my songwriting in the background all the time, because it’s like a muscle that needs constant attention.

Are there any role models, musicians or singers who you look up to in particular?

My role models tend to be the people around me; they have a big influence and my family too - they’re very special and inspiring! I really like an artist called M.I.A because I feel like she uses music to express a manifesto and vision, so it has purpose. I like some of the music too but it’s more how she works as an artist/visionary that I like. She’s also quite political and anti-pop, does have a clear agenda, is subversive/non-conformist, and isn’t manufactured for pure commercial gain... I aspire towards this too.

Stealing Sheep - Mike Massaro

What does a typical day’s work look like?

I get up around 7, get some coffee going then do email things - I’m responsible for some of the less creative but important things like finance stuff, funding applications, and just general admin. Then I usually head to our studio at The Invisible Wind Factory,  but I have a home studio too so if I’m not working with Emily and Lucy [from Stealing Sheep] I might work from home. Then we usually play music, record, write, rehearse.

We break for lunch at 1 and head to the Factory Kitchen that our friends run, and carry on working until around 5. I usually walk home which is about 1 hour and 20 minutes... I love the walks. I get my best ideas when I’m walking! Then I like to carry on doing music in my studio until I have to go to sleep... I love it!

What are the best bits about making a living from music?

I feel happy to be doing something unconventional, and it feels special and like I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but this.

Stealing Sheep - Mike Massaro

And the worst bits...?

I don’t think you’re ever satisfied, because you finish something and your head's already moved on to a new idea, and that can sometimes be very hard to complete and fully realise in the way you desire - which on a day to day basis can leave you feeling a lack of achievement. I sometimes think it would be easier mentally and emotionally to work in something else, because if you’re a builder you can see what you have achieved and feel good at the end of it. When you finish a piece of music there is less instant gratification and it relies on your own confidence to decide if you have achieved anything. Sometimes self doubt is a big enemy. But, “sucking is the first step to being good”.

What instruments do you play in Stealing Sheep? Are there any instruments that you’d like to learn to play in the future...?!

I play synthesiser/midi and I sing. I would like to understand every instrument and know how to play it... But my heart is in singing because it’s so easy! I like whistling too but it’s not that cool.

Where did the name Stealing Sheep come from?
It means stealing ideas in the Urban Dictionary...! I like that because I think creativity is that process, and I wish someone had told me sooner. You can’t make something out of nothing. Like Picasso said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." It’s so true, but it takes so long to understand how to make something you like fresh and new and yours.

Stealing Sheep - Mike Massaro

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I love the project we’re doing this summer. 30 women honouring the centenary of suffrage with a drumming and dancing procession. It’s exciting to be part of something so big and collaborative.

Where would you like to see yourself and your work in music in a few years' time?
I’d like to be more self assured (which I think comes from experience). I'd like to know a good idea from a bad idea (cue philosophical debate) - at least, what’s good to me. I'd like to be a good songwriter, arranger and producer.

Finally, do you have any advice for others looking to pursue an interest or a career in singing and music?

Positivity is key. You have to forge a structure for thinking positively during the process of applying yourself to stuff. Don’t take anything too seriously and keep other hobbies. Focus on the process, not the product.

Stealing Sheep are a surreal pop band based in Liverpool. You can see them at Latitude  {12th-15th July 2018}, or go to their Facebook page for news about upcoming gigs. You can also tweet them here.


Take a look at the other monthly profiles here:
January Profile - THE THEATRE MAKER
February Profile - THE ARTIST
March Profile - THE DANCER
April Profile - THE BLOGGER


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