Spotlight with Vic Allen
It's Saturday afternoon at the Green Note in Camden Town, in 90 minutes or so, Vic Allen will be playing her debut show at the Green Note and indeed her first as a sole headliner. All in all she seems remarkably calm and able to spend some time talking to W21Music. The show is to launch her new EP, produced by Kaity Rae, it's an amalgamation of the last few singles in one neat well presented package. Sitting on two big armchairs at the front of the Green Note, there seems only one place to start.
#TEAMw21: We go back a long way to Buckle & Boots 2 - you seemed to arrive fully formed with an EP - Had you been playing much before that festival?
Vic Allen: I'd been doing lots of little local home shows, theat was the first ever festival that I'd done, I didn't know how to promote anything I just put my debut EP out and said "Hey It's out!". You guys were the first to ever do a review of like ever! and I hadn't even asked you to I just saw this review and wwa so excited that someone had reviewed my EP. Buckle & Boots was a really cool thing, the first real country thing that I did, and I met loads of people through it and led to me getting into the scene.
#TEAMw21: I remember you turning up with about 10 cd's, sheepishly handing them over and saying "I don't think i'll sell any"
Vic Alllen: I think I sold about 7 on the day and I was so excited
#TEAMw21: The moment you had said that you were always going to sell at least one - I couldn't bear the thought of handing them all back to you! The other thing I remember about the day is that you played with a violinist?
Vic Allen: That was a good friend from back home who i've not played with for a while
#TEAMw21 I'm pretty sure you were the only one from the whole weekend with their own violin player and that helped make you stand out
Vic "Oh cool"
#TEAMw21 What would have been your influences at that time, listening to you music it is hard to tell of a direct influence?
Vic: Ooh that's interesting, my first big influence on the music I make now would be John Mayer, he's the reason I started playing guitar, not that i'm anywhere near as good as him. Then I started writing, and the first time I went to America, I was working on a ranch out there where everyone listened to country music and it was a whole genre that i'd never listened to, people like Miranda Lambert. II discovered the old Taylor Swift stuff, she massively inspired me, I got home and found all her albums, it was when "Speak Now" had just come out and I realised, "I love this music" and they inspired me to write and then sing, to get the songs out. Kacey Musgraves is someone I listen to a lot now .
#TEAMw21: That first EP was great - was listening to "Bird Of Prey" on the way in, i'd forgotten how almost punky it was, Have you ever played with a full band?
Vic Allen: That's so old ( laughs ) - Not a full band as such, it is something I want to definitely do in the future, I'm working towards it ( later she'll play with an additional guitarist and a cajon player)
#TEAMw21: The other thing that came on was the Pledgers only acoustic vesion of "Blinded", it was interesting quite how fully formed it was even at the acoustic demo stage. when it came to doing the actual track there wasn't a huge amount to be done.
Vic Allen: Yes just a few little twiddlies
#TEAMw21: Have you got a mountain of archives from those days or are you just constantly writing?
Vic Allen: I do have a lot of songs that I wrote in the past, a lot of them I still want to do something with, though there are loads i'll never do anything with as I think they're rubbish!
#TEAMw21: it always seems to me that you have a kind of vision as to how the end product is going to end up sounding even in its earliest incarnation
Vic Allen: Yes, Often when I write something I know. Some songs I have no idea about, but most of the time I know the vibe I want, I hear the melodies or the backing vocal bits that I want in there, cool little bits I want to add, I think I can hear the produced version before i've actually done it.
#TEAMw21: Is the same true of the videos? - you love a video
Vic Allen: Yes, I always have a vision of what I want. At the level I am I don't have a huge budget for amazing videos but I like to have a visual to go with the song. I like the home made ones in different styles
#TEAMw21: One of the things that I think sets your records apart from other artist is something that you mentioned earlier, the backing vocals, there seems to be an awful lot of attention paid to things that are buried deep in the mix
Vic Allen: (Laughs) Oh cool - I do love the backing vocals, I think they add the most to a song,
#TEAMw21: As reviewers we have to listen to a lot of things, and the deeper you listen to one of your songs the more little bits you notice hidden in the background, The new record has lots of them and we can't mention the new record with out mentioning your Producer and Co writer, the ever talented Kaity Rae - what does she bring to the table?
Vic Allen: Oh she brought everything, she co wrote two of the songs as well as producing the whole thing. she had a massive part in it, she's really helped me with the way I want my sound to be. For example on the current single "Ghost Town", I wanted it to be finger picked on an electric guitar not changing much and she said "You've written a pop song!"
#TEAMw21 Who's idea was the backwards guitar?
Vic Allen: I wanted the back bit in the intro, I knew I wanted those swirly noises, the way she created them was so good, I didn't need to explain it much she just did it and it sounded really good. The way she produced it was so much beyond what I thought it could be so i'm really happy.
#TEAMw21: The aim originally for the EP was for it to be an album wasn't it? Are the other tracks already recorded?
Vic Allen: They're not all recorded yet, but they are all written, and i'll probably write some more and maybe replace some. I know which ones I definitely want to record and I know how the album will sound, it is just getting it done, getting the studio time and money and then promoting it right.
#TEAMw21 It's amazing quite how many genres you've touched in a relatively short recording career
Vic Allen: It's nice to do different things, I write a lot by myself, so the risk of that is that songs could sound similar, so it is nice to produce them in different ways.
#TEAMw21 The other string to your bow at the moment is the "Write Like a Girl" movement which seems to have gone from strength to strength?
Vic Allen: Yes - I'm really please with how that has gone, Beth Keeping does a lot of the work for it, she's kind of in charge, the name was her idea, and she's been great at building it up. I love being involved with it and Emily Faye as well. It is so great how it has built and become recognizeable and that people want to be involved and come to the shows again and again.
#TEAMw21: There's another Write Like a Girl tour coming soon
Vic Allen: Yep its coming up in November with a London show at the Water Rats, it's just a small 5 date affair.
#TEAMw21: That first tour seemed to go everywhere?
Vic Allen: We were a bit more ambitious, this time it's a bit smaller.
#TEAMw21: The last couple of times we've crossed paths have been at live shows, the Jillian Jacqueline / Lisa Wright one being an example. Are you still able to enjoy them as a fan or are you watching for which chords they are playing?
Vic Allen: No I do still enjoy it, I guess I often look at the way people perform and almost get little tips from them, forinstance if someones energetic it seems so great - I look at them and think maybe I should have some more passion on stage. When I used to go to gigs as a teenager, I'd be rocking out at gigs in the LCR in Norwich, I do still enjoy them now though.
#TEAMw21: So what is your focus for 2020 - what can we expect?
Vic Allen: I really want to release some music and get some more support slots, a work with a band.
#TEAMw21: You've got a lovely venue for your launch and a stellar supporting cast
Vic Allen: I'm really excited, all of the online tickets are sold out, the EP's are here, the posters are up
#TEAMw21 and its an afternoon show
Vic Allen: Yes, often people have trouble getting home, this has worked out really well I think.
The afternoon does go exceptionally well, starting with excellent sets from Poppy Fardell and Abby Inez before Vic took to the stage with her backing group. Maybe it was from watching the likes of Jillian Jacqueline or the confidence that comes from being a headliner but this appearance really saw her leading from the front, looking authoritative and confident in both her singing, guitar playing and all round stage craft. With a well crafted set featuring songs from throughout her career, including a promising batch of unreleased material, 2020 should be a big year for Vic Allen.