Meet Shiraz Hempstock, winner of a competition we’re doing with our friends at Radio Airplay! Shiraz’s track Simmer Down was featured in Radio Airplay’s top 40 tracks in January and we loved Simmer Down so much we had to get in touch.
Hi, my name is Shiraz I am a 17-year-old singer-songwriter based in Worcestershire, UK. My distinctive voice and unique style has opened up many an opportunity both on stage and in the studio. Andrew Marston of BBC Introducing Hereford & Worcester said: “Her Amy Winehouse-esque vocal maturity makes her one of the newest shining lights on the local scene.” My sound is a mixture of jazz, soul and RnB, but I’m working on tracks which are a little different from my normal style.
At just 14, I began playing open mic’s at venues around Worcestershire, before taking my music further afield, capturing the attention of strangers on the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham. I secured a place at BOA performing arts school at the age of 13 and came away with a BTECH in music. I started classical singing lessons at the age of 9 and later wanted to do more contemporary stuff.
My first solo performance was put on by my singing tutor at StarBucks coffee shop, were I sang two Adele songs. Then at the age of 14, I started performing at Worcestershire live music venue the Marrs bar, Brian Mayer was very supportive of unsigned musicians and would regularly attend Open mic nights. At the age of 16, I was spotted busking in Birmingham City centre by an A&R rep at Secret Sessions, which seek talent and open them up to networks and immersive events, though my age made this a struggle.
After impressing crowds and officials at Open-Mic UK, I jumped at the offer of a music development course to develop my talent as a songwriter. Since then, I have released my debut single ‘Rain’, co-written with local artist Sam Robinson, which became track of the week on BBC Introducing Hereford & Worcester in both November 2017 and March 2018 and gained radio play on a number of stations.
I have since then released two new singles called ‘Done The Dirty’ and my latest ‘Simmer down’ from these I have gained recognition from BBC 1 Xtra, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 3.
I have worked with music producers near and far and my conclusion is that not all of them are great, but some will go out their way to support you. My advice to any artist going into a producer’s studio is to outline what you want and take a contract so it’s down in writing from the start. At the age of 9, I joined Kidderminster young voices choir and travelled round the county performing with them, which included performing at the Birmingham Rep [Theatre]. The same year I started classical singing lessons with local soprano Russell Painter and gained my certificates with the globally recognised board, ABRSM (Associated Board of Royal Music). After a couple of years, I decided I wanted to move over to more contemporary music, I suppose like most young girls do. Most of my inspirations come from a home filled with music, such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Stevie Nicks. I think my biggest child inspiration was Miley Cyrus, watching Hannah Montana in the Disney productions most mornings and singing along with my hairbrush. Instrumental lessons were also part of my childhood. I had violin lessons at school and then started guitar lessons, I should play like Jimmy Hendricks: a great learning curve for me!
I wrote simmer down with a local music producer Ben Stancombe (of AMS Music Group Bromsgrove Worcestershire), who helped me find my own style of music. He’s a great music producer and helped me discover myself. We also wrote Done The Dirty. I love performing in the studio round a great team and listening to the end product of something you’re part of.
I approached Ben with a track called ‘Heart Beats Slow’, a track that I had written and then had produced by a nominated Grammy award music producer in the USA. However that didn’t work out, so I approached Ben Stancombe from AMS Music studios a local producer with good reviews. Ben and I sat down, we talked about my style of music and where I wanted to go with the track. Over the space of a few days, we managed to rewrite parts of the track and put my own style on it. We renamed the track ‘Done the Dirty’. I decided I wanted to work with him on the next track and went into the studios and started working on simmer down. This track was put together pretty quickly and lyrics came together during the day. Ben is a great music producer and I am thankful that he helped me find my own style, which is a mixture of more soul, RnB, Jazz. The team down there is amazing and it’s a great recording environment.
I write or co-write most of my tracks and that’s been a slow progress at the start, because at the age of 14 you don’t have much history or experiences to add, but I have slowly learnt the art of writing. The music producer always helps me with the sound to get the best from the track, but I have worked with other musicians and we have produced our own.
I have worked with various producers both local and far and wide. A track I wrote when was 16 has just been signed to Pussyfoot records, which is a label by Howie B and Nick Young. This came about after being discovered by Mick Park, electronic producer TILT and should be out in March sometime. It’s an electronic mix, a little different from my normal style, but it’s going to be a banger! It has been reproduced and sounds amazing. This is going to be really exciting and working on a few more tracks with the label. The label has been great pointing me in the right direction and giving me guidance on registering tracks and contracts. This is going to be the highlight of my year I believe and the start of new things to come.
I have had lots of luck with Radio Airplay, with local and international radio stations playing my music. I’m a 100% uploader on BBC music Introducing, (I listened to that in a radio interview). They have given me so much support. I have gained from fans from all over the world and it’s an amazing opportunity to get your music heard near and far. I’ve not had much of chance with MusicGateway at the moment as I have only just signed up, but there seems to be plenty of opportunities.
My advice to anyone who wants to try and get into the music industry is don’t give in and surround your self with positive people. Work hard and remain true to your self. There will be times when you think nothing happening, but it will all come together in the end.
My advice to anyone is work hard, don’t let people take away your shine. Surround yourself with positive people that believe in and want to grow with you. I have worked with plenty of different artists and producers over the last 3 years and most you meet will want to take something that’s yours and make it theirs, instead work with you on your own ideas and theirs some that will help you grow and inspire you to be the best you. The climb is an uphill struggle, but it’s so important to have a good team around you that believe in you. The sad thing I have met on the way is music producers putting high price tags for their royalties on my music and that’s before it’s gone anywhere. That can make you resentful and it has prevented me from releasing a track that I loved in the past. It makes me sad if a producer would not make changes or reduce their royalty fees to make it work for everyone, especially an unsigned artist making their way. My advice is a producer can only make magic happen if they got the right artist, so ride the storm, find what fits you, work hard and remain true to you. I have always walked away from those people that are not walking the same line as me because there’s no point if you don’t have believers.
For instance, I have worked with local experienced musicians, that I could not rely on to make it to a gig and support me, regardless of how small or big an opportunity. So I called on my BOA colleagues from school and said: “how would you like a chance to play at the o2 Academy Birmingham?”. They jumped at the opportunity to support me and it was a great chance to support a local band CityLightz, which was headlining the evening. It went down with a bang. Giving those people opportunities that share the same goal or see the bigger picture is important to me. Thanks, Jarvis White on bass, Anderson on Guitar, Dontay on Keys and James Friday on Drums, all my old school buddies. This is my surman; a real artist is someone who allows room to explore their talent, supports fellow musicians who support them and lets their mind take them anywhere no matter no matter how good or bad it may be. Remain humble and allow those you support to shine. I want to thank those who have supported my music and believed in me from day one.
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