Teenage singer songwriter Aimée Mackenzie can't wait to return to Purbeck Folk Festival - because whenever she plays there amazing things happen for her.
After her first show as a 16-year-old solo performer in 2012 she so impressed headliner KT Tunstall that the Scottish star offered her studio time and has taken an interest in Aimée's progress ever since. She came back last year with her younger sister Freya and brother Ross in tow and dazzled revered headline act Show of Hands to such an extent they booked her on the spot to play their summer family show at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, prompting Steve Knightley to pronounce them "Just about the best young English acoustic band I've heard." Praise indeed.
Hampshire-based Aimée started performing at just 13, reaching the national finals of the Live and Unsigned contest and finishing in the top five for her genre. She has since released three EPs of original material and has more planned this summer as she and her siblings strive to turn their buzz into a resounding bang.
Purbeck Folk Festival runs from August 21 to 24 at Wilkswood Farm, Langton Matravers, near Swanage.
Also appearing are Lloyd Cole, Eddi Reader, The South, Chris Wood and Spiral Earth award winners Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo.
You're back at Purbeck Folk Festival this year, that's three in a row I believe, what have you got in store for us time?
Well, we've spent a lot of time recently writing new material and working on adding instrumental sections for our live sets. We've also been recording songs for a new EP, which you can expect to see on sale at Purbeck this year.
Is Purbeck special for you; if so, what is it about Purbeck that seems to suit you so well?
Purbeck is a folk festival and we love folk music! I wouldn't say the music we make is strictly folk music but it definitely has a folky vibe. Purbeck is a very special place for us, lots of great things have happened to us there, we've never had a more enthusiastic audience and the weather (fingers crossed for this year!) has been great which makes the whole festival even more enjoyable!
After impressing KT Tunstall on your first appearance, Show of Hands offered you a couple of big gigs after your show last year, what could happen next?
It's a question every musician gets asked and I'm pretty sure all of them give the same answer. Who knows? All three of us just feel really, really, really lucky to have been offered these amazing opportunities and we're just taking everything as it comes and hoping and praying that it pays off eventually.
How has your sound developed from your early solo shows to your current line up as a trio with your younger brother and sister?
I've definitely come a long way since my first gig six years ago. Not only have the songs developed, but so has the sound. For a start, my voice has matured a lot, my writing has grown just through experience and practice and critical feedback from those around me. As soon as Freya and Ross joined the band, the sound completely changed. Freya brings a more intense folky vibe to the group, whereas Ross adds a very contrasting R&B/hip-hop style of drumming which, as a whole, gives the band a much fuller sound.
Being in a band can be quite intense, how well do the three of you get on?
It's very intense. Band practice is a mixture of un-productivity, arguments and a small amount of actual music making. I think being siblings makes it considerably harder to be professional and concentrate on the music because we all have very similar personalities and there are certainly a lot of clashing head moments within each practice. In the end it's all worth it because we know that as long as we keep trying and keep writing new material, we'll create something to be really proud of and have a lot of fun at the gigs. Music is certainly something that unites our entire family, so being in a band just makes it all the more fun. :)
Who's in charge? I think I'm in charge, but now Freya's overtaken me in height, I'm pretty sure she's trying to take authority. Ross doesn't care at all… he just does what he's told!
How did you get started as a musician and writer?
When I was eight, I got a guitar for Christmas and wrote my first song, called See The Sea, shortly after that. Looking back, it is absolutely dreadful and pretty embarrassing. I basically continued from there, simple as. My songs have gained in maturity as I have and over the past year with Freya and Ross accompanying me, the music has grown in itself and I think we definitely have an individual sound now.
Which songwriters inspire you?
I don't really feel like I'm inspired by songwriters specifically. I definitely like to listen to a lot of music but I think, for me, it's more about the styles and playing techniques and lyrical arrangements of other artists. Gabrielle Aplin is my all time favourite singer. I think her songs are beautiful and the way in which she writes them is beautiful too. But I don't feel like I use her as an inspiration for my songwriting. I just think I write songs through how I see them in my head, basing them around subjects that affect me and my life and the people around me. There's no real method to my songwriting and certainly no sense of order, I just simply write songs. I've definitely become more conscious of structure and arrangement since Freya and Ross joined the band because I tend to have to write/help to write their parts. Overall, I think this has made us all better musicians.
You've earned the praise of some highly respected musicians and writers, do you have your own sense of how good your material is?
I'd like to think that the material I write and play is of a relatively decent calibre, but with every new song I write, the older ones become less and less to my taste and I begin to wonder why I wrote them in the first place. I know for a fact that in a few years time, the songs I'm performing around at the moment I will hate and my writing will have grown and matured even further.
What happens next; what's the plan?
Well, we're playing a tonne of festivals this summer including the massive Abbotsbury gig with Show Of Hands. I am currently writing an array of new material for gigs and am hoping to record them all at home ready to go on new EPs for the summer. It's going to be an exceptionally exciting year for us, so very much looking forward to it! :)
The Purbeck Pieces series is highlighting Purbeck Folk Festival, the current Fatea Countryside Festival Of The Year and designed to cast a spotlight on the wonderful array of talent appearing there this year.
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