FemaleFirst gets the chance to chat to DERRY's Loui Andrew-George about forming the band, working with some big music names and much more in an exclusive interview.
How was DERRY formed?
DERRY (we use block caps to distinguish us from the city) is the baby of Tim Hegarty, our writer and producer. He came from Derry / Londonderry and always thought that it was a nice name - and anyway “Londonderry” is too long to fit on a CD cover! - Having written for Gloria Gaynor and D:Ream he was working on his new project which was an album just by him and for him. But as more people got involved and the songs came alive he basically sacked himself as the singer, got straight on to the internet and somehow mixed and mashed us all together!
He has a keen eye for talent so I take it as a compliment the fact he invited me to join his band (which is the first music project I can say I believe will be something very special).
Tim is quite full-on and his songs and personality made me want to join the band. The rest of the guys are excellent musicians who are from the “old school” of music, that is, where you play live and perform a show based around songs and singing rather than gimmicks.
When did you realise music was a passion and career you wanted to pursue?
From a very young age (I know it sounds cliché’) but my mother was a singer and my dad was and still is a sax player. I was predominantly brought up on Gospel and Soul and started singing incredibly young, probably about 4 years old. I was about 6 when I jumped on a piano and played by ear and I went on to win numerous competitions nationally for my school up until I was thirteen.
After my Mum and Dad split and my voice broke I went into my late teens without singing a single note. I just stopped. I don’t know what it was but the spark had gone. It was a difficult time for me and I was in a dreary office job shifting bits and boxes of paper about. It wasn’t a good time.
One dull, dull afternoon as I was cleaning the office I saw an article about Access To Music in Bristol. It’s like a school for the music business. I just left the office. I had to get out. I felt as if a light had come back on in my head and I wanted to sing again.
At the school I learned heaps of stuff about the industry and how many pitfalls and stuff goes on and how difficult it can be but I was in good hands. My tutor Dale Fry (from the 70‘s band Mud) was somebody I constantly tried to impress... maybe one day I will, who knows.
For the first time in my life I feel comfortable with myself and on stage with DERRY I feel right at home.
It really sounds melodramatic I know but no matter who you are or what you do you must follow your dreams. There’s no harm working in an office but when that clock ticks 5.30 you gotta put on your Superman cape or Wonderwoman hotpants (in your imagination of course!) and go out there and do something that makes you happy.
How best would you describe DERRY as a band?
I would say Classic West Coast Americana meets The Voice.
With DERRY we have developed a unique signature style which comprises of some classic Rock and fused them with modern sounds. This has worked really well as we have a cross-generation appeal so that even my little nephew and Gran both love the sound - but they would say that wouldn’t they?
We have flavours of country and Indie and I suppose with the catchy lyrics and memorable guitar riffs you could call some of it Pop! The whole band have somewhat different musical tastes; I was brought up on old Gospel and Soul whereas Will (our guitarist) has heavy inputs of Blues and Led Zepplin is his favourite. Quite a mixed bag really.
Having said that ,this combined means that we have a very definite sound and people are stopping and taking note and I have to say the public have been great with their kind comments and support! I think in a nutshell we are quite “universal” if you wanted it in one word.
Tell us about the creative process behind your debut album scheduled for release later this year.
Well Tim wrote or co-wrote all of the material but we as a band have input over our own ideas and songs also. We usually get together and lay everything out in the open and we all need to be on the same wavelength. We have all got different ideas but once again have to be unified on a decision. It does mean sometimes I’m in love with an idea and everyone just gives me that look as if to say "no no no"! From there we go to the studio and put down the track, I suppose I come in last and I can structurally change the melody or singing to fit or experiment with harmonies etc. I often have to stop myself and say, “Loui you are not a producer. Just sing”, but that’s just me hearing the sounds in my head and how I think it should be. We have a great team, all of us working together to make something special happen. We have decided on a mix of tracks from upbeat to the slower sort thus appealing to a wider audience. We have one thing in common that even though we have a variety of tracks, we are producing something with a DERRY sound that can be iconic.
Why did you choose 'Couldn't I Be The One' as your debut single?
Tim co-wrote the song along with Martin Sutton (who wrote for Lee Ann Rimes and the Backstreet Boys).
The song is about unrequited love and the heartache and longing it can cause. The music is actually quite clever but very catchy and I was singing it from the first listening. We have recorded a few tracks in all honesty but this one stood out. We have found that people have been hooked on the song and it has cross generational appeal working for audiences at both ends of the spectrum. It can be quite hard to find a track like this sometimes. The reviews from the public have all been positive, I suppose the appeal is there and appreciation of the track must mean something is right musically.
What was the experience like of filming the music video for this track?
The storyline is based loosely on the lyrics of the song and was devised by Bristol based producer Dan Edney. There is something nostalgic about using Lego - a toy we all used as kids - well in fact I read the other day that David Beckham is a Lego fanatic so maybe he is a big kid as well - and there’s something about the colours and texture of the famous blocks that are timeless.
So I suppose Dan wanted to create that feeling to tie in with the sentiment of the song. It is not sentimental though and the video is quite funny - you have to look closely at what is happening in the background when the little lego characters are moving around - so there is humour in it as well. It was recorded live, with stop/gap recording (which is the way Wallace and Gromit is shot) and then a whole load of Computer Generated Images so it all looks very professional indeed. It takes about an hour to make a one second stop/gap shot to make it look smooth - the sheer time and effort that goes into a video like this is unfathomable. They did such a great job.
In fact if you look at a couple of the scenes I am holding a Lego box and later holding the female character and placing her into the set. You would never believe how long it took to get it right for just a split second viewing in the video. It is funny though watching the video and thinking that the little male character is meant to be a mini-me! It really is great.
What was it like working with people including Alex Pilkington and Ali Staton?
To work with people like Ali Staton and Alex Pilkington really blows me away and makes me think about how fortunate I am to work with such great people. I mean Ali has mixed with the likes of Madonna and Simply Red so he knows what he is doing and we have complete faith in him. He has perfected our tracks in such a way helping us get that unique sound across.
Alex is the producer (the man in charge of what is finally recorded) and he is what I can only describe as a gentleman. I have been in and out of studios for various projects over the last few years and some producers can get uptight or might barely speak to you. The great thing about Alex is that he always makes you feel completely at ease when recording and somewhat aims to bring the best out of you.
I remember the first time I met him, his warm approach and the compliments of my vocal ability put me at ease - he’s such a smoothie. For a singer being cooped up in a studio this does wonders and if you make a mistake he brushes it aside and sets you on your way. My goodness I should be his PR with all these compliments!
How has the whole experience been of gelling as a band so far?
The band are all great and we do the typical band things like moan, laugh and then all go out and roll in late!
But no in all seriousness the guys are a great bunch to work with and all have that desire to make it a success in the industry which I believe is vital. If you all have the drive and determination then what can stop you! We all love socialising and we just hide the odd stuff from our manager in case we get a ticking off! We have a great unity on stage and love the vibe of playing together and we are also incredibly open with our views and opinions which means we aren’t holding back or hiding anything!
Do you have any plans to tour in the future?
Yes we have to because that is where musicians earn their trade. Record companies are reporting that the sales of CD singles in the UK are dropping off a cliff and just yesterday I read that people are even stopping buying downloads now.
Just our luck! We finally get to release our lovely debut single and the whole world stops buying singles! Maybe if everyone goes out today and buys our single we’ll be the last ever CD sold in the world!
We are very excited at the prospect of a UK tour but we are also in talks about the US also as the few Americans that have heard us so far just love our music.
If you could work with anybody going forward who would you choose and why?
We already work with amazing musicians like John Baggot (Portishead) and James Eller (The Teardrop Explodes) who have all contributed to making this happen but you can never know too many helpful people.
I may need some help with someone like Gok Wan because it is a complete headache before a gig trying to find something to wear!
Where do you hope to be by this time next year?
We hope to have moved from our independent label to a major one with all the support and exposure only a major label can give you. We believe we have the musical talent, and so do the fans who have heard us, to really merit this. W
e currently have radio pluggers and PR for our first single so by next year we hope to hear ourselves in the car... I think that’s every musicians dream.
The whole festival side of working in the band is great too and playing at the big, major festivals like Glastonbury etc. would be a dream come true.
So please buy the world's last ever CD and our dream might come true!
“Couldn’t I Be The One” by the band DERRY is available now on iTunes - price 79p.