To start with, I’d like to say congratulations for being selected for C2C this year. How excited were you when you found out?
I was so excited! I’ve been here for the last couple of years as a fan. I’d been to the Arena shows, but had so much fun walking around and seeing all of the upcoming acts. I just wished it could be me one day and now it is, so it’s awesome.
You’ve had an incredibly busy weekend with four performances in all, including three earlier today. How do you think it went – and do you now need a coffee or a stiff drink?
You know what, every crowd was different and every venue had a different vibe. I did change my set around to play different songs, depending on whether there was a more intimate feel, like in the Water Margin, or at the Big Entrance, where I tried to make it a bit more upbeat or uplifting. I think I now need to go and have a big pizza or something!
Give us an insight into your early career. You made the move from Scotland to California at the age of 16 to study at a performing arts college. A brave move at that age?!
Yeah, I mean everyone says that but I think I just had stars in my eyes at that age, it just seemed like the most exciting move. I went over and studied at a performing arts school and that’s where I got my basis for moving onto music and I used to do drama and dance. I started earning money in musical theatre and that’s when I made the transition into music. It’s weird, because I have ties to California and that’s what I hold onto forever – a lot of the friends I studied with are either musicians or in film and TV, so there is loads of scope to collaborate with them.
If you had to describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before, how would you describe it?
It’s like a nice mix of folky country with a poppy edge. I try to include a bit of my Celtic routes, while the songs are feel good and heart felt and all my lyrics are written from personal experience.
In the last few years you’ve appeared alongside a number of great artists – Starsailor, Mike and the Mechanics and Nina Nesbitt to name but three. You’ve also appeared at festivals such as Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight. What do you learn from experiences like these?
I think I’ve been really lucky that everyone I’ve toured with I’ve actually been a fan of. It’s been amazing to out night after night on tour and watch how they interact with people. Coming from a musical theatre background, I was performing material that had been performed a hundred times before, so you know people know the songs and they like it. So I had to learn, doing these tours and these festivals, how to draw the audience in and get them on your side when they’re listening to brand new music.
You recently collaborated with Embrace on the song ‘Never’, an absolutely beautiful song I have to say. How did this partnership work – and you’ve also appeared on stage with Embrace supporting one of the planet’s biggest bands?
Yes, Coldplay yes – those guys! (Strangely we were standing right in front of a picture of Coldplay as we were conducting the interview). I was introduced to Danny, the singer, a few years ago by a friend and he was one of those sort of early mentors for me. He would come to my gigs and give me advice and then when I wrote the song ‘Long Way Home’ I played it to him and he said ‘I think you need to play this song to my brother, Rick, who is the guitarist in Embrace, he’s the producer and I think he’d smash this and make it sound amazing ’. I met with Rick, he loved it and he produced it and from then on I wanted to work with Rick all the time. I built up a really good relationship with the brothers and then Rick would bring the rest of Embrace to play on my songs, they’re the band that play on all my recordings.
They wrote this song called ‘Never’. At first they said they weren’t going to record it as a band and would I like to record it solo – and then they were like ‘Wait a second, this is a great song and we want to release this, but we’d love to have you duet on it. It’s been an amazing journey with them, getting to perform at the Cardiff Millenium stadium two nights in a row and in a couple of weeks we’ll be doing a TV performance (details to come!)
Your songwriting process? Do you have a set routine or does it change from song to song? And do you prefer solo writing or co-writes?
It changes from song to song. Sometimes I’ll have a lyric idea pop into my head, which I’ll note on my phone for later. Sometimes I’ll sit at the piano or on the guitar and work out a little progression – it’s always different. As for co-writing, I was really against the idea when I started out, I didn’t want to share any of my ideas (laughs). But since I embraced it, I really got into it. Of course, two minds are better than one and some of the greatest songs ever written were written by song writing partnerships. So I think co-writing is amazing yeah.
Which artists have influenced you in your career so far?
Well starting out when I was really young, I absolutely loved Leanne Rimes, Shania Twain and Celine Dion. I actually got to see Celine Dion here last year. As I’ve got older I’ve discovered so many different acts like from old guys like the Rolling Stones and new acts such as Maren Morris. A lot of the British country music acts right now are really inspiring and making the scene grow – I’m constantly inspired by new people I see and hear.
To finish, what are your plans and dreams for the rest of 2018?
Well I think it’s probably about time I got an album out. I’ve been on the scene for four years now and I’ve never had an album. I’m gonna be touring in May and June with the band Curse of Lono who are a country-rock band and promoting this track with Embrace. But my focus right now is getting the album together and doing this new radio show which I’ve just started in Glasgow with Pulse FM which goes out every Wednesday and spreading the word about country music.
Inteview conducted by Nick Cantwell (twitter.com/nickbelles_gals)