• Jordan Millar

"When I started out the women playing music were novelties." - Becci Wallace Interview

I am so excited to share this week's interview with the incredible Becci Wallace! I have been a massive fan of Becci's for a long time so it was great to have the chance to ask her all of my burning questions! We chatted all things her new single 'Focus', being a woman in music in the local scene and the music she is excited about right now!

Let's jump into it...

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me Becci! Your most recent release ‘Focus’ is such a beautiful and emotive piece of work and is definitely one of my favourites. Could you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind the song and how it came to be?

Thanks so much. I guess in some ways, Focus is a bit of a call to action- for myself as anyone who it resonates with. In the context of the story of my album, which has themes of motherhood, postnatal depression and really just becoming comfortable with your ‘new’ self, focus is like the chapter in the book where I lay it all bare and say- ‘it’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to get stuff wrong, learning how to be honest about that is the most important thing’. I think for me, writing it there was a lot of catharsis, I had things I needed to let go of. It’s actually the only rap piece I have ever released, but I find that format really freeing for just saying what you need to say.

How did you first get involved in music? Were there any specific influences that inspired you to start playing and writing?

Well!- I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to sing. My mum is such a gorgeous singer and she always sang to us and often sang in harmony. I was just fascinated by harmony and would push myself to be able to sing along to anything. My mum’s dad wrote songs for the Salvation army and he played piano in the band. He was a proper dapper guy who loved swing and close harmony, so again, he would play a lot when we were younger. My dad’s mum was all about Julie Andrews and Judy Garland so she taught me all the show songs and I think that is where I first started to actually perform. I was in little drama groups and stuff as a small kid and it was musical theatre that I ended up learning the craft of performing through stage school am dram and eventually an HND in theatre.

Writing was just a compulsion. My mum played Stevie Wonder and The Carpenters around the house a lot and I could feel the pain and expression in their voices and music and that really rung true with me. I always wanted to be able to make feelings come to life through music so it was only natural that to really do that I would need to write my own words. I was writing songs from a crazy young age. I still have them all and they are hillarious!

I know that you have been involved in the local music scene for a number of years, I was wondering how the scene has changed over time in regards to the number of and treatment of women in the local community? Do you think that we are heading in a positive direction?

I think we are. And I also think there is a long way to go. When I started out the women playing music were novelties. Its almost cliché saying it now, but the girl with the guitar was met with a kind of sympathetic acceptance. I was usually the only one wherever I played and in a weird way, it both pushed me to be better and stopped me from ever making real connections in the gig scene. Of course, there were other women in the scene but we were all isolated in our own bubbles. That’s clearly not the case now. However, those cliches still exist. Before I had a wee bit more success, I used to busk on Sauchiehall street every Saturday. I could make my rent in one afternoon, so it was a great way to practice, warm up and earn some money. However, it was also a very clear example of unfiltered sexism in music. A lot of my time was spent dealing with men trying to ‘teach’ me about music, guitars or give me a lecture on pop culture. Others would just marvel at the fact I knew certain songs or played at all. I learned to be ruthless both in my art and in who I give my time to.

I can see a real change now and I think a lot of it is to do with musicians of previous generations noticing the issue and affecting that change through local groups and educational institutions. This example has led to a new wave of exciting female artists who have had access where there were barriers before. I do think in general there are large pockets of intertwined scenes now which also helps to present a much more rounded perspective on who’s doing what. Scotland has an amazingly dynamic scene. Sadly though, the ‘gatekeepers’, whether consciously or not perpetuate the image of a male, guitar lead music scene, which doesn’t represent the local culture at all. This is totally evident in all the festival posters still doing the rounds with predictable line ups. I think it is quite patronizing to imagine an audience aren’t ready to hear a more gender balanced perspective.

I would love to learn about your songwriting process, do you have a specific way that you go about writing?

How long is a piece of string!? Haha. Yes and no! It’s a case of learning the rules before you break them I guess. For me, I usually start with a killer line or I will have a melody in my head that wont leave. I build a song around that often. When I am all out of ideas, I have a little tool kit of methods that I use to keep me fresh. Because for me its all about lyric and melody creating feeling, I like to free write and get a good bundle of words out. From that I will build a melody and more and more now I am writing using electronic production or my loop pedal. I like writing with the loop pedal as there is a real necessity to keep melody interesting when you can’t change key- that takes you to lots of cool places. I would say the only thing I ALWAYS do when I write, is allow myself to be vulnerable and go where the song takes me.

Also, I’m doing more and more collaborations these days. I find this amazing for writing as working with new people means always seeing another perspective. Got some great collaborations happening at the moment, all very unique and exciting.

Is there a moment within your career so far that you would say was your most rewarding experience or something that you are significantly proud of out of all your achievements?

Well, I’m getting old now so there are a few! My most recent album was the BBC Scotland 'Record of Note' on the Roddy Hart show which was cool and Roddy has been a great supporter of my music, as have BBC Scotland in general. Being a speaker at the UWS inspiring Women Festival was cool too, although it was long before my lecturer days so I was super nervous!

I also had great fun devising at directing the 2018 A’Capella Choir at Paisley Abbey for the Paisley 2021 bid.

But I guess, the stuff I am really proud of is my work to normalize songwriting in the community. I co-created and facilitate SongSeeds Online Songwriting Retreats which has become a successful music business, as well as creating Songs From Lockdown- as well as That's What She Said- a series of podcasts for women in the music industry. Most recently I started a PhD researching hip-hop and community music education. All of this has helped me to create a network of creative practitioners and artists which I feel strengthens the Scottish music community and the work done to bring music to young people across the country.

Is there a way that you think that as a society and a community that we can work towards creating a more equal and diverse environment within the Scottish music industries?

Yes. Some of it is down to us as artists- to be supportive of our peers, open minded and community driven as well as listening to and nurturing young voices. We also need to speak out where we can and encourage our fellow musicians, events organizers, bloggers, reviewers etc to practice a more balanced representation across the music industries. This involves talking to new people, creating new networks, reaching out AND listening to new music!

We also need to make music education more accessible which includes modernizing how we deliver music to young people in school and how we present the arts as a future prospect in general. The arts should transcend class, race, gender and social differences and if we shape young minds to feel this way, it will trickle down into the future of the music scene.

Lastly, I was wondering what female or non-binary Scottish artists are you most excited about right now?

OMG where to start!? There are just so many amazing female artists at the moment and I have had the pleasure of working a lot of them. I am excited about all of them!

SO, in the interest of not missing anyone out I am just going to mention the ones who are just starting out, on their first Eps and releases.

Jigsawtiger has such a fresh sound- a mix of disco and electronica she is very cool. Ember Quine is bringing really dark bass beats and soaring vocals and just has a phenomenal vocal range. Jen Athan is an absolute force to be reckoned with, she is such an excellent producer and the music she makes is sassy electro pop- very cool. Nova Scotia the Truth has already proven what a legend she is by winning the SAY award but her music if you haven’t listened needs to be heard. Mima Merrow has the most beautiful folk sound and a very gentle and considered lyricism, Minerva Wakes has tapped into some dark ethereal techno which is super hypnotic. Mayah Herlihy is just an amazing young woman who is writing gorgeous country pop at the moment with a great future ahead of her! Silvi absolutely blew me away at the Sunny Govan fundraiser- Jodi the lead singer has an old soul!- Her vocals mix Jazz and rock and she has a touch of Janis Joplin in there along with a healthy dose of modern pop.

Honestly, I have probably missed some folk out so apologies if I have and those are only the womxn I know who are just starting out. I would be here all day talking about the dynamic womxn in this scene!

There you have it! Thanks so much to Becci for taking the time to chat with me and for answering all of my questions!

Make sure to go and show Becci some love!

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