Celebrating Manchester’s Music Scene
International Women's Day 2021
It’s been a strange old time over the past twelve months and the crippling pandemic has affected the arts in a big way. There have been a few silver linings along the way for independent musicians like myself, with the time at home providing an opportunity to write and create new music, and even do gigs virtually and build an audience through the means of technology. However, being thrust from our comfort zones has definitely had its difficulties and for many artists it has been hard to find inspiration and motivation, especially when we are being urged to retrain in cyber… We miss those days of standing in front of a microphone and singing with conviction across a sea of faces, we even miss awkwardly avoiding eye contact with the creepy guy in the front row (okay, maybe we don’t miss that so much..) With Boris’s loose promise of normality come June, some of us are preparing for live gigs again and in celebration of IWD 2021 I have been chatting to some of my favourite female singer-songwriters on the Manchester music scene. If you don’t know of them already then this is your opportunity to discover new artists, buy their music and get excited to see them live in and around our great city when the time is right.
She’s from Bolton and she’s a badass. With idols like Joan Jett, Alice Cooper and Led Zepp, are you surprised? I suspect witchcraft 'cause Toria has a magical ability of transporting you back in time with her 70s folk-rock vibes and her captivating storytelling, she really is something special.
One of my favourite tracks of hers is For Liam (Soulja) from her Badlands EP. I heard it for the first time when I was sitting at the back of a busy Art Of Tea cafe in Didsbury, straining my neck and stretching my ears just to hear Toria play. Her whole set was stunning but that song was something else. We swapped EPs that night and I remember feeling a bit starstruck, for me her music is on par with the the legends that we both look up to such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Fleetwood Mac. Also, the strings in the EP version produced by Sloe Flower Records are gut wrenching, in a good way. It’s in all of my playlists. Give it a spin.
I managed to steal Toria away from her writing, painting and candle making to ask her what she’s been up to during this wacky year. Toria, how have you found lockdown & what have you spent your time doing?
It’s been very difficult for many different reasons but I tried to make a concerted effort not to push myself. I felt that having the time to kill gave me a sense of urgency with my music like ‘you have all this time, you can be so productive and creative’ but that outlook seemed to hinder me. I began to write a lot again during the second lockdown and feel like I now have a good balance. I’m really excited by what I’m creating again!
I’ve struggled at times during lockdown to stay inspired musically, how have you found it? I’ve been inspired by a lot of things but at points seemed to lack the motivation to turn my notes or ramblings into anything cohesive, especially after the loss of my friend in October. I’m feeling ready to grab it by the horns recently, though!
Is there something that you’re really looking forward to doing once restrictions have been lifted?
I can’t wait to hug my friends and talk to strangers in bars. I want to play gigs and jam with people and drink too much! How amazing will it be when we can all sing together in the same room?
What are the next steps you are hoping to take in your music career? I hope to grow my following and connect with people all over the world. I have a lot to say and I’m not afraid to say that I want it to be heard!
Do you have a motivational IWD shoutout?
Shoutout to all the women who are owning and honing their sound and their craft. The world needs you and every baby step you take is huge for the women who will come after you. Toria has a string of singles coming out this year, she’s just released her own take on Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’ and you can see her playing at Gullivers on 4th July - all being well! Go check her out: @toriawooff on Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, Twitter and YouTube!
I’d say that Heidi is one of my oldest acquaintances in the music scene. We go way back to my days starting out in the music scene, nervously dipping my toes into the open mics of Didsbury and Chorlton. I’ve always admired Heidi’s raw, stripped back delivery and her truthful, traditional folk singer sound. I love to try and decipher her lyrics and my favourite tracks of hers are January and Kimi. (January stays in my head for days after I listen to it!) Heidi is also the force behind Manchester Women Songwriters, a community group which aims to celebrate and showcase the extraordinary female talent we have in the Greater Manchester area, she champions talented women and we love her for it! Hey Heidi, what has lockdown been like for you?
Oooh.. every emotion one after the other! I was furloughed from my day job during the summer, but have been working full time from home since September now - it's stressful but I'm just very grateful to have a job, it's not been so straight forward for a lot of others. In the evenings and at weekends I've been trying to get back into my music after a long spell of writer's block and am finally feeling my inspiration coming back. I have been able to host a few online showcases and play the occasional FB live open mic.
Who is your ultimate female icon?
Big. Question! Probably Michelle Obama, but as a fun suggestion - Villanelle from Killing eve - I would love to be able to speak all those languages!
What’s the first thing you’d like to do once it’s safe to venture out again?
Go 'out out' for a right bender with all my friends, haha!
What are the next steps you are hoping to take in your music career?
I'm currently recording my first album. I have previously released a 6 track EP but this is going to be the first full length LP (10 tracks- all older songs of mine - I plan on keeping my newer ones for a future project.) My boyfriend is recording and producing the record at home and as we are both rather perfectionist, it is taking a good while! We're really proud of how it is coming along so far though and can't wait to share the finished article at some point in the not too distant future.
Care to share some words of wisdom?
I have only just realised this myself, but I am telling everyone I meet whenever I get the chance - there are no rules in art. Do what you want. You don't need anyone's permission! (Imagine Kate Bush or David Bowie playing it safe.?!) I can’t wait to get my hands on the upcoming album, Heidi! Follow Heidi on social media to stay updated: @heididewhirst on Facebook, Instagram, Souncloud and Spotify!
I’d never heard a voice like Katie’s before, and i’m not talking about the Rochdale accent. Her vocal quality is unforgettable, seeped as it is in character and honesty with a raspiness that nods its head to the great Janis Joplin. Although Katie’s musical style is an Americana/Rock blend she grew up listening to soul legends such as Etta James and Otis Reading whilst also admiring the songwriting of Bob Dylan and Laura Marling. I’ll confess, I’ve only ever seen Katie play solo but I’m really excited to see a show with her full band as apparently this is where the rock really does come out - it’s on my post lockdown to do list!
Impressed by her music releases during lockdown I wanted to ask Katie how she has stayed inspired and consistent whilst also balancing music with her day job.
Hi Katie, you seem to have been really productive in a time where others have struggled to make music, can you tell us your secrets?
I found I was really productive at the beginning with my writing but less so as lockdown went on. I've managed to release some music which I recorded a few days before we went in to lockdown, which was really lucky! I've made a few music videos too, which was a challenge with the restrictions. I've been able to get some better recording software too and collaborate with other artists from home which has lead to a few releases but finding the right balance with my 'normal job' as a nursing assistant is hard sometimes. I have done some shows online but I've tried to balance it out with creating content too. Especially more recently with TikTok.
Who is your ultimate female icon? Oh this hard! I love different ones for different reasons. I love Stevie Nicks for her style, her etherial way and powerhouse vocal. I love Janis Joplin for singing so hard and from the soul. I love Suzanne Santo for writing in such an honest way and just being badass!
Is there anything you’re really looking forward to once restrictions are lifted?
Playing live! Of course it's the obvious answer but it's true. I can't wait to get back on stage with my band again! There's no other feeling. + having a beer in a social environment! Can't wait!
What are the next steps you are hoping to take in your music career?
I think just increasing my awareness to an audience other than Manchester. Being on Spotify and having an online presence has helped with this, as well as playing festivals in new places - so hopefully things like this will still be able to happen this year. I'm also looking to go to the US for a show I've been invited to play - which is really exciting!
Do you have a motivational IWD shoutout?
For women to celebrate each other. Be kind to one another and support each other. I think that's key.
Katie has just released her new single ‘Taste the Dirt’ along with a cracking music video. With all being well her next gig will be at Knutsford Festival on June 12th - go and see her!
Follow Katie on social media: Facebook https://www.facebook.com/katieomalleymusic
Izzie Walsh ‘100% Original, 100% Organic, 100% Manchester Accent’ I love this description of Izzie taken from her website and I couldn’t agree with it more. Izzie is such an exciting emerging artist, unafraid of self-expression and relentless in the way she puts everything into a performance and into a career in the music industry. I admire how Izzie is willing to cross the boundaries of genre that sometimes shackle music makers. She is fierce, fiery and absolutely lovely at the same time. My favourite track of Izzie’s is Clouded Mind, it sits towards the end of my running playlist and when I am sweating and panting for breath on the verge of giving up this track helps me push on and keep going to the end! Thanks for the inspiration, Izzie! Hi Izzie, how would you describe your musical style?
Eclectic and honest with no desire to follow any rules or genre.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Always a super tough one this, I am going to answer in terms of the past week or so as my influences are always changing! I loved Margo Price’s last album That’s How Rumors Get Started and Jason Isbell’s Reunions so I would have to say them two at the moment. I know Jason is a guy but his lyrics definitely reference his relationship with Amanda Shires so it’s all about that team work.
Do you have an ultimate female icon?
It would be wrong to pick one, any female who pursues her dreams on a day-to-day basis with hopes to better their life gets the vote for me.
Lockdown has been tough in regards to live music, how have you found it?
I have found Lockdown particularly testing in terms of the financial aspect, I think the government have forgot just how important art is to culture. Lockdown has really highlighted how vulnerable grassroots music is and how help and opportunities are not transparent enough.
What are you most looking forward to doing once restrictions have been lifted?
Going out with friends and having a Blue Moon on draft knowing that my pension isn't looking pretty.
What does the future hold for you as an artist?
I would love to establish myself in different corners of the earth and discover new music along the way, especially music and talent that doesn’t get the press and acknowledgment it deserves. Balcony is Izzie's latest single, stream it here and keep updated with Izzie on social media: @izziewalshmusic
Once we can, we need to get out into the city to support our local businesses! Here is our ultimate guide to an evening out in Manchester...
From what I’ve gathered I think it’s safe to say that we all just want to go out and have a drink (or ten) with our pals in our beloved city, before going on to take over the world with our music. I have every confidence that we will do just that.
These women are just a handful of Manchester’s amazing up and coming artists. Check out my Spotify playlist Local Legends to listen to more. & if you have any suggestions of artists to look out for on the Manchester music scene then please let me know!
Chloe Jones is a singer-songwriter from Greater Manchester. Listen to her latest single Damsel - it's available on all streaming platforms and you can check out the music video too. www.chloejonesmusic.co.uk