What is your name? Lauren Deakin Davies
How did you choose your stage name ‘DIDI’?
It’s a play on my surname. People often called me DIDI, as a nickname. They were probably saying DD, but that doesn’t really scan as a stage name! so I decided to add some vowels! I wanted something different to my producer name, but it needed to make sense, and it’s one of the hardest things coming up with a stage name, I know from other bands I’ve been in. It seemed so simple when I thought of it, and that probably means it’s the right name.
What is your genre of music?
UK Punk /indie pop.
Give us a little bio about you.
I’ve been a Hertfordshire based guitarist and songwriter in two bands, one after the other, from the age of 10. The music we played evolved from funk/grunge/indie with the first band to folk and then pop with the second. I was roughly five years with each, the first was all boys and the second was all girls, all from my school. So I’ve experienced quite a range of genres and group dynamics I would say! I dropped out of school at AS level to do music full time and started producing, self taught at 18, because I was asked to try to record some artists as a favour for someone. That worked out rather well with five albums I’ve produced getting reviews in Sunday Times Culture Magazine and Album of the Week in various other newspaper reviews! Just recently turned solo a few months ago, as DIDI. Again in a completely different genre! Am still producing independent artists too. So life is pretty hectic!
What made you go in to music?
Music itself was because I asked for an electric guitar when I was ten and didn’t want to play covers in the band I started. So I had to write the songs! I was hopeless at my guitar lessons, I couldn’t read music and kept forgetting to actually turn up, as the times seemed to differ each week. In the end I asked my teacher Ben Smith (whom I have since recorded in my studio lol!) to just help me play things that would help with my songwriting, which was great!
I went into the production side after I did a year of Music Tech AS at school. I didn’t get any further as we dropped out of school to do the band full time. That sadly didn’t work out as the guy who was managing let us down badly, but I had really enjoyed making an electro acoustic ukulele from scratch in GCSE, learning on old analogue equipment about sound waves, in fact, loved everything that was practical, and when the band went into a studio for the first time I was just overcome with the NEED to know how things worked. I was that annoying person over the engineer’s shoulder asking questions all the time. Around the same time, my mum had been promoting local musicians and putting on a festival, and had discovered a few acts she wanted to help, but they had no recordings. So she asked me if I could have a go at recording them! Neither of us knew how it would turn out, but it was one of those things that just flowed, and less than a year later I had my first BBC Radio 2 play for a track I had produced solely on my own. I have been producer for the label she set up since 2013.
My solo career only started in March of this year, when I wrote a song which I just felt I HAD to sing. And then record. And then gig live. It sort of snowballed. It took me by surprise as I’ve always been happy to be in the background, the guitarist or at a push, backing vocals. The person setting up the PA, out of the limelight, I was comfortable there. But then, after I wrote Sorry, everything changed. It was like a light switched on in my head. I have no explanation for it really. And I would never have predicted it. In fact, I had always resisted any suggestion that I might be a solo act as I actually didn’t like my voice. But with this new song, it just felt different, and my voice sounded different. I think it’s because it was written by me, for me, with no one else to take into consideration. The lyrics were visceral and I didn’t have to change them to suit anyone. It was quite liberating. Then on stage at a local open mic, I found that I really enjoyed the freedom of performing solo and not having to worry about anyone else. And I just love interacting with the audience too, and often have call and response and bits where people join in. This new single Back Off is a classic live, it gets quite rowdy and let’s just say, Back Off is the edited radio version!!
Are you a signed? No
You have a new single ‘Back Off’, tell us more about the track.
This track was written when I had just got off the train after this guy was shouting as this drunk girl on the way home from London, and he starting dissing her education and race and it really pissed me off. Really pleased to have some additional vocal contribution from Minnie Birch, Lewis Bootle, Penny Churchill and Rhiannon Mair.
Back Off followed hot on the heels of Awkward, which gained two plays on BBC 6 Music thanks to Chris Hawkins in April and June, as well as a feature in DIVA Magazine and plenty of blog love. ‘Sorry’ was the track which kicked off the whole DIDI project, written spontaneously and somewhat unexpectedly in March, which I self produced and self released and I was really amused to see reviews which regarded it as ‘kick ass’ pop punk.
This is the kind of thing that is being written about Back Off :
‘DIDI (Lauren Deakin Davies) continues her ascension to greatness with new single ‘Back Off’ , a guitar driven, empowering post/punk anthem that tackles mansplaining and the subjection of women with her usual spiky grace… punchy rifts, soaring backing vocals and killer drums… The song should be adopted as a mantra by young women worldwide’. Music Match UK.
And I love this one : ‘Meet DIDI, an artist who, in less than six months, has attracted attention from the great and the good of the music business. Her music – feisty, provocative and exciting – demands a hearing. And her energy, well, that’s something else. Not only is every note, every word, delivered with guts and gusto, but her writing is rapid-fire, creating enviable momentum. Jump on and enjoy the ride. Complete with her now-signature punk-angst, delivered with humour and relatability, ‘Back Off’ pushes against the in-your-face everyday abuse that takes place on public transport, or in cafes, stores, high streets and…well..everywhere. Grabbing the zeitgeist of assertiveness, DIDI provides an anthem for anyone who is fed up with victim-blaming and being told to ‘suck it up and move on’. There’s musical fun to be had here too. Blazing guitars, crazy percussion and multi-layered vocals that swoop from angry to sweet and back again. The subject may be serious, but the music is cheeky, chatty and engaging enough to keep you singing along to the end…’ Angry Baby Blog
Tell us more about the writing process.
I tend to write most of my songs in the Den, my studio. But really, ideas can come at any time and I even woke up with a track fully formed in my head once. It can be pretty inconvenient, when the ‘muse’ comes – take Back Off. I was pretty shattered, had just got the last train back to Stevenage from London and when I got in, I just HAD to write about the thing I had witnessed before I went to bed. I don’t have any particular formula for writing – it can start with a lyric, or phrase, or a riff that I just stumbled upon while messing around on the guitar. I’ve had a lot of experience writing with others in a collaborative fashion, and generally will go with whatever method is making sense at the time. Might be a fragment of a song which is developed, or some words which are crying out for a melody.
Tell us more about the recording process.
Because I am a producer, I worked on my first two singles myself, it seemed a natural thing to do. And I really enjoyed myself.
With my solo project, I knew what I wanted, I knew how I wanted it to sound, look and feel. I always strive for perfection, and make sure everything is just right when I am playing guitar for someone else or recording someone else’s music, but when it comes down to mine, I just want it to feel right. I think people who know my previous work or have heard my recording will be a little surprised with the production style I decided to take, but I wanted to do what I liked and I guess it has just come out a little different to what’s in the charts at the moment! Something a bit more real and raw is what has emerged. Something a bit more me. A bit punkish and passionate. . Perhaps it’s an antidote to the ‘pretty and perfect’ expectations that girls in particular seem to be subjected to every day!? I was inspired most recently by working with Kate Dimbleby on her layered a capella album Songbirds, which was pretty ground breaking. There were no rules, we just did what came naturally, and because of this, it was uncharted territory for both her and me. The resulting album gained rave reviews in all the main newspapers and Tom Robinson from 6 Music is an unexpected fan, so the ‘let’s see what happens’ approach we took paid dividends and that approach has been evident in her stage shows too, which also inspired me to think I could perform solo. The fact that my second single Awkward also gained two plays on BBC 6 Music is a dream come true.
I have my own studio called ‘The Den; and that is where I have been doing most of my recording, although for the drums in Back Off we went to Urchin Studios which is a really awesome studio. I found out about Urchin when I got invited to work on Laura Marling’s project Reversal of the Muse. Rhiannon Mair produced my third single Back Off and it was good to have a different person’s perspective on the track, as well as her production and drumming talents.
Describe the track in three words?
Honest, unapologetic and fun.
Will we see an EP or album? if so what can you tell us?
I am planning to record and release an EP before the end of the year, so watch this space!
Do you have any gigs or tours coming up?
I am always gigging it seems. Sometimes they are packaged up into a ‘tour’, other times they just happen. Some are quite last minute as I am such a new artist and people hear me and then try to get me onto their events, which is really generous of them. I’ve got two more festival slots coming up in my area, Hertfordshire, in the next couple of weeks – Wilkestock near Watton At Stone on Saturday 2nd Sept and the following weekend I am at Balstock, in Baldock, again in Herts. The White Lion has a stage and I am playing for Denise Parson’s stage mid afternoon on Sat 9th and headlining the stage for Helen Meissner’s Folkstock on Sunday 10th. I am not folk (obviously) but I’ve been producer for her label since it started in 2013 and she wanted a lively act to round off the stage for her, which is going to be fun.
Do you play any instruments? I can properly play guitar and bass guitar, but if asked I can also play Keys, Percussion, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin, Cello. I add these to people’s recordings in the studio, I’ve not done any proper study on most of them but can get by! I don’t read music, I do it by ear, which has worked out ok so far!
Who are your influences?
These develop I think, it used to be Ellie Goulding, Two Door Cinema Club and Haim, but now it’s more Hole, Declan Mckenna, Marika Hackman, The Big Moon and the new wave of guitar based, energetic no holds barred female acts who I love to see live. Managed to see both The Big Moon and Marika at Reading the other day and also got to help with the sound for TDCC, so that was certainly a festival highlight for me and I wasn’t even playing!
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
My lyrics can range from the completely personal experiences, such as in Sorry, to talking about a very specific event that may have affected me such as Back Off, which was written after I witnessed an abusive situation on a train from an overly aggressive man and felt the need to write a song about it!
I regard ‘Back Off ‘ as the big sister to my 2nd single ‘Awkward’ as it has a similar theme, but Back Off has a lot more guts and anger in it!
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
Ah the classic question – well I want to take this as far as it can go. There is nothing stopping me. So who knows where that is? It would be great if DIDI was able to headline a tour and get it sold out in nice venues around the country. I am assembling a band who will be able to beef up my sound live at festivals for next year and I am very excited about the lovely people who are going to be part of that.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do? I am a producer, in that this is how I earn my living. And my solo work fills all the other time. So really, everything is music in my life. I also co write songs with people, and as an active member of the Music Producers Guild and a Beats Board member of the FAC (Featured Artist Coalition) I am often in London at meetings and networking events, as well as going to gigs of my friends. So really, there’s no time for anything other than music. My guilty pleasure however is watching documentaries on engineering, History and randomly, making bricks (a recent example ) and I love a dose of SuperGirl !! And I love playing board games – used to make them up when I was younger, all the pieces, everything. Settlers of Catan is one I play with my brothers and sisters and anyone else I can rope in, a couple of times a year. If I find I can combine my woodwork/tech needs with music needs then that’s a bonus – loved making my pedal board from scratch earlier this year.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene? It wasn’t a song actually, it was that I was given an electric guitar by my dad when I was 10. I had no idea how to play it but decided that I should form a band (I was the only girl)! I knew hardly any of the current music at the time (2005) and didn’t like to play covers, so the obvious step was to write my own for the band! So that’s how I got into songwriting. Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkey, Muse and Feeder were the acts I loved when I finally got into other bands music, a couple of years later. And I was then in bands for ten years, with the last two years being session musician for other people, usually the acts I’ve been producing, as it makes sense as I know their tracks, and I’ve often played on them in the studio too. It was while playing for these acts, that I realized I still LOVED performing on a stage, and once I’d written the song Sorry, in March this year, there was no stopping me!
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
You either have to be the best at what you are doing or the weirdest’ Isabel Gracefield, RAK Studios.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and not just as an artist?
1) Get someone to film your live performances on a simple hand held camera and make some snappy showreels to show how great you are live – pretty essential for getting bookings and for encouraging reviewers to come to gigs. 2) Persuade your friends to borrow a nice camera from their parents to take some happening pics of you which stand out from everyone who does standard ‘bored in front of a wall’ shots. 3) Contact local press by phone and say that they really should do a feature about your great new band/act, and tell them about gigs you are playing locally. 4) Follow music blogs and playlist creators and share their posts, tweet about the acts they promote, help them and then contact them when you have some nice recordings which are radio worthy and you’ve put them on spotify and the like. 5) Upload your tracks to BBC Introducing, Fresh on the Net (if you are in the UK) or Amazing Radio or other supporters of new music 6) Be active on twitter especially and support other artists who are similar to you, 7) Try to get support slots on their tours, after you’ve established some twitter contact. That will usually be through their management but it will help if you’ve got their support. 8) Seek out independent radio shows which have control over their playlists -that’s most regional radio shows, and listen to their shows, make sure your music would suit and then send them a nice tweet or email – they will know of your name by then and will be more receptive and most likely listen.
There’s loads more to do with videos, gifs and art etc but that’s the nuts and bolts which I’ve found works for me. Hope it helps reassure someone else that they are on the right lines? It’s nothing ‘magic’ but I’ve found that if you put the effort in, it usually pays off but not in the areas you expected. Everyone’s path is unique!
People have a very narrow view of what it means to be an artist and an even narrower view of what it means to be a successful one! The truth is everything is connected, you get connected by doing lots of different things, there are people I have met that have changed my life that I would have never have met if I was only gigging, playing in my bedroom or spending all my time in the studio.
There are a million and seven opportunities out there, you just have to notice them, keeping your eyes and ears open. Overall it’s about connecting with people and keeping to your roots, (as corny as it sounds!). You know, your core self and identity. Don’t be tempted to blow with the wind just because that’s the new sound everyone likes, if it’s not you, don’t do it. It won’t come across as genuine. Don’t be afraid to fail because you probably will be caught out a couple of times but there is nothing wrong with that, you just have to keep going, respect where you have got and respect how hard the people around you have tried to get where they are.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
‘Sweat the small stuff’ Chris Hatfield (astronaut) because then you are prepared for anything. And then you are never going into a situation blind. Awareness of the possible outcomes is very helpful I find, helps reduce stress and experience has shown that if you are positive, especially in difficult situations, things seem to work out. I think trusting that things will work out in the end is very important.
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
The Witches shack in the village I live in. Did you know we had the last witch trial in the UK in my village lol!
Which tv show would you like to see your music on?
The L Word!!
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
That no matter how big, small, rowdy or quiet the venue is, you are there to entertain and you can ALWAYS put on a good show if you try hard enough. Everyone matters. They’ve turn up, you owe them a show
Remembering that everything could still go wrong but if you have the songs and the right attitude you can make any gig good.
Always thank the sound engineer and the venue/promoter who has put you on/anyone else involved in putting on the event
Make sure you tell people your name and you social media handles, clearly and more than once!
and for me gear wise I bring anything I might need, which means an XLR lead, 2 jack leads, a mic and a pop shield, a power supply, my amp, pedal board, strings, extra pic and a cappo!
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?
Thanks so much for these lovely questions, I had real fun answering them xx