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I'll Cover You - Liv Austen, Kaity Rae, Lisa Wright & Clara Bond - Hackney Empire Bar

It’s tricky to know where to start on a review of this kind. First up this was, ostensibly, what is becoming a fairly common kind of gig in the UK in that it was a song-writers round. We were presented with four of our finest UK Americana artists, all on stage at the same time, with a couple of backing guitarists thrown in for good measure. Usually, in these situations the acts take it in turns to tell you a story about the songs they’ve chosen and then proceed to play it acoustically. Tonight, however, was the same set up but with a unique twist, for tonight we were here to listen to cover versions, not cover versions of hits off the radio or big-hitter US country acts, but covers of each other’s songs! Liv summed it up perfectly in her intro, she thought that the other three were brilliant songwriters and wanted the opportunity to have a go at singing their songs.

It was clear from the out-set that all four girls were incredibly nervous, not just that they had to perform a cover, but that they were performing it in front of the original artist/writer. It was also apparent that the logistics of putting together this kind of show were understandably quite complicated – who was going to sing what and when!

Ordinarily in a live review you’d expect to see a run-down of the songs played and how they fitted together and as a result whether or not you liked the artist and would be tempted to go and buy the recorded versions. Given that the artists were performing someone elses music that seems to present a slightly strange situation but here goes.

Kaity accidentally volunteered to start the round, she’d chosen her favourite Liv song to begin with. Anyone who has seen Liv live, will know that “Train of Thought” is an up-tempo, upbeat song with lots of effects, backing and production. I can assure you that stripped back, slowed down and played as a ballad, which was Kaity’s interpretation, is an equally impressive and unusual take on the same song! The second song, Clara singing Lisa’s “In The End” and I found that I spent most of it watching Lisa listening to her own song. It was obvious how much of an impact this had on her, and as she said afterwards, “She’d never heard anyone singing her songs before”. Suffice to say both Lisa and Clara ended up in tears by the end of the song!

Liv’s first song was to be a cover of one her and #TEAMw21's favourite and as yet unreleased Kaity songs, “Somebody Else’s Problem”. It is as Liv said in her intro , a simple and brilliant song, which is all about the phrasing. To add to the mix we got Kaity adding backing vocals!

Final song of the first round left Lisa with a Clara song to pick up. She’d chosen “Tambourine” because she was obsessed with the music video. A little tip, watch out for the man’s hand changing the gears, let’s just say, it doesn’t belong the guy featured in the video!

After the first round the girls seemed to relax a little and we got an insight into the reasons for some of the nerves. Essentially they’re all there trying to do justice to the other person’s song, and unlike when you normally perform a cover, the original artist is there, leaning over, to observe. At this point it was also good to introduce “Help Musicians” which is a charity set up to do just that. Throughout the gig we were given an insight into some of the challenges faced by artists in the industry these days. Be it worrying about keeping your Instagram up to date or panic attacks when you’re performing live, all things that the charity has been set up to help with...

Now we were into the flow of the evening and the pressure was off a little we learnt a few interesting things:

Kaity picked Lisa’s “Never Gonna Fall In Love” because she listens to it on the Tube (when she’s out of signal) because she only buys her friends music, so that it does well in the charts. Clara was nervous about doing one of Kaity’s songs (“Spare Room”) because it’s got difficult time-signatures and complex lyrics. We also found out that this song was about the friend of a friend – moral of the story, be careful what you tell a song-writer… Liv wanted to make Clara’s “Love Can’t Stay” which is upbeat on recording but more chilled live, as sad as possible, because she could! And finally for Round 2 that Lisa found Liv’s “A Moment of Your Time” a little too saucy while listening to it on the train and catching the eye of a fellow traveller!

Moving into Round 3 and the home straight of covers we got Kaity’s version of Clara’s “Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Single”, a sassy song about a long distance relationship, potentially to be re-launched as a Xmas song “Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Santa” – you heard it here first! Clara chose “The Next Time” from Liv for her last cover, which left Liv (and the audience) to add the backing vocals, which even she admitted weren’t as easy as she thought! Liv’s last cover was “Before I Die” by Lisa, which she chose because it mentions Norway and repeats Liv(e) lots. This is a song about stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the leap. Final song of this set was Lisa with one of Kaity’s songs that even Kaity doesn’t play much any more. “Up in Smoke” was nominated for a songwriters award, which is where Lisa heard it first. After tonight’s performance maybe the recorded version will be one of Lisa’s, who knows!

For the final round we almost went full circle and were back into the usual songwriter’s circle territory as they each performed one of their own songs. At this point the shackles were off and it was clear that they had relished the evening but could now perform without the added pressure of the scrutiny of the others. Kaity’s song,"Her" was very upbeat. Clara, couldn't tell us who her song was about... but managed to say it was about someone who tried to turn her into something else and about protecting her music. "Crown" had even more attitude, was upbeat, with guitarist Olly on vocals too. Heavy is the head that wears the…. Liv closed her set with Window Shopping, co-written by Kaity... complete with full backing vocals. Finally we had Lisa with her latest single Tennessee, also co-written by Kaity. All in all an excellent way to round off the night.

Fair to say that this was an unusual evening and a fascinating concept and I, for one, can’t wait for the next one!

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