Roar writer Matthew Seaman interviews up-and-coming young artists Laurel Smith and Bliss Williams about their visions and inspirations.
In a world where an instant anthem is defined more by what forms the accompaniment to a TikTok trend, than what tops the charts, the music industry appears to be in a strange place. The term ‘big break’ never seems to have been so relevant, but the competition and pressure that comes with that is elevated too, especially for the younger generations. I spoke to two rising artists, Laurel Smith and Bliss Williams, to hear about their visions for the future, to find out what inspires them to make music, and what it really takes to make a single.
At just eighteen, Laurel is balancing her education alongside her musical ambitions, and I was particularly interested to hear about how music fit into her childhood.
Roar: Laurel, tell me a bit about your upbringing, where you grew up, and what role music played in that.
Laurel: I grew up in Crouch End in North London, I’m an only child… so I’m a little bit odd. I had a really nice upbringing, it was very music-oriented. My parents really liked me playing music, and my dad always used to play me tapes in the car.
R: I’d love to know what your inspiration is, and who you look up to within the industry.
L: I think Charli XCX is a really big inspiration for me, because she just grinds so hard, and she built herself up from nothing, and she also made that transition from British music to American music; they just love her over there.
R: Please could you tell me about the process of putting your single together, what was the recording process like, and how much help did you get?
L: ‘Candy’ was inspired by the movie The Florida Project, and the relationship between Moonie and her mother Halley. The song was about the lengths a mother will go to to provide for her child. I usually like to do a lot myself, so I came up with the chord ideas on my own, and I basically wrote the entire song myself. Then I got in contact with Moflo (producer) from Detroit, and I sent him across my ideas, and told him I wanted it to be guitar based. Then he made the beat, sent it back to me, and I recorded my stuff over it and mixed it.
R: What is your musical vision, and where do you see yourself taking your music in the future? What’s the plan going forward?
L: My plan going forward… I’m finishing up my A-levels at the moment, and that’s obviously very difficult to balance with music, but I’m trying my hardest to do both. I’m just focusing on steadily increasing what I put out, but I think that the most important thing right now is networking, collaborating and meeting new people, and developing my sound. I’m thinking of going to BIM, which is a music school, to do a three-year degree in song-writing and popular music performance, but I’m still not sure about that. The main end goal is to be a big successful musician – in the least arrogant way possible.
Bliss Williams, another young artist, recently released his debut single ‘Thought I was Young’. I spoke to him about his upbringing, inspirations and process.
Roar: Bliss, tell me a bit about how music fitted into your childhood.
B: My first memories of music are the tapes in the car when I was very young – including Cat Stevens, The Zombies, a healthy dose of Motown, The Beach Boys, Desmond Dekker and Small Faces. I grew up in the West Country around a dearth of good local music, but I picked up the guitar at age 10, and played constantly at home. From then on, I immersed myself in great guitar music as a teenager – The Smiths, The Clash, Oasis, Weller – and created a musical world for myself. As I got older, I explored everything from Bert Jansch to Sister Sledge, and have absolutely no allegiance to any particular genre.
R: Do you tend to take inspiration from other artists, or do you find inspiration from within?
B: I don’t know why, but since I picked up the guitar, I’ve always had the urge to write my own music, rather than learn other people’s. Even before music came along, I always wanted to draw something. I have always looked up to artists who are individuals and ignore trends – Amy Winehouse, Richard Hawley.
R: Tell me about the process of putting your debut single together.
B: I wrote my debut single: ‘Thought I Was Young’, a few years ago, when I was playing guitar in bands. Next, I recorded a rough demo on my own, and left it alone for a while. I then decided to do my own thing and moved in with a mate who’s a talented musician and producer Calum Waite, who helped me bring the finished article to fruition. He perfected the beat, I laid down the guitars, keys and vocals, and he mixed it. All recorded at home, in between episodes of Heartbeat and chippy teas.
R: What is your musical vision, and where do you see yourself taking your music?
B: I’m not sure if I have a defined musical vision, but I want to make music I’m proud of and be free to work on whatever interests me. I’m an independent artist, so I don’t have to answer to anyone else. For the time being though, I’m looking to put out a few more singles over the 2020/21 season, before releasing the debut long-player, which I’m working on as we speak.
It is quite evident that both artists have a passion for what they do, and it is inspiring to see them translate this passion into original music. You can listen to Candy and Thought I Was Young on all streaming platforms now, and we look forward to seeing what Laurel and Bliss do in the future.