Interview with Roxanne De Bastion

“Thanks for not asking me what it’s like to be a woman in music”

Such is my dedication to Girls That Gig that I missed the interview I was supposed to be doing with Roxanne De Bastion before her High and Lonesome show at the Brudenell whilst another task ran over. Well, that’s just being a boss-ass bitch Girl That Gigs for ya. Thankfully, my partner in crime Megan is always here to help, so she stepped in to do the interview whilst I was busy running stuff elsewhere.

I was so gutted to miss this interview, however, because Roxanne De Bastion is a phenomenal folk musician and I was excited to pick her brain about this specific industry, how she managed to self-release her music and create such amazing songs.

As a testament to her achievements, her new album Heirlooms & Hearsay has already achieved 100% on her crowdfunding campaign after only a few weeks. If that ain’t incredible, what is?

Here is what she has to say…

Tell me a little about Heirlooms & Hearsay. What was the inspiration?

Well this is my second album and it was inspired by my grandad and his story. My dad’s side were originally from Hungary and they were refugees in WWII. They survived the war and moved to England and landed in the West Midlands.

My grandad was a pianist and I’ve always felt really connected to him even though I never really met him. I think it’s the music thing and there’s just so many survival stories like his. They’re just incredible and it’s difficult to get your head around how people can be so resilient and go through so much and still function at the end of it. With travelling and making music now, I’m just so amazed at how short our collective memory can be and this is only two generations ago when all that shit happened and so here we are again. I just felt I compelled to write about it. It’s from a very personal point of view, it’s not what I’d call a protest album.

Why did you choose to Crowdfund as apposed to more conventional sources of fundraising

Cos’ I need money! It’s actually just a pre-order so it’s through my website. I was thinking about going through Pledge [music] or Kickstarter but at the end of the day, it didn’t feel right. I’ve had my reservations about Crowdfunding before, so really what I’m just doing is asking people that would buy the album anyway to just buy it in advance. It covers the costs of the manufacturing of the CD and vinyl. I do music full time so it is my only income. There are moments when you need to invest y’know: you record and then you need to press up the thing and then you need to market the thing, it’s a lot. Until you can go on tour and sort of make the money back, so I’ve just started doing it and it’s scary! It went off to a good start.

So for those that may not know this, you’re an advocate for artists’ rights, especially the independent artists. Could you tell readers a bit more about your work with the FAC.

Well the FAC invited me to join their board two years ago, which I have to say was super surprising. The FAC is a really great organisation from artists; it’s literally just artists coming together to give back to the community. Historically there was no body that represented artist’s right’s. There were bodies that represented major labels, publishers, but no actual representation for the artists when it comes to actual law making. The FAC does that and they lobby and make sure artist rights are represented, it’s a place where you can call if you have any questions, they do a lot of educational events. It’s a really great organization and I’m pleased to be part of it.

Have you got any advice for those young musicians who are trying to make it in the digital age?

Well that includes me! I think it’s a great time to make music, I don’t buy the whole, “before Napster everything was better.” It may have been much better for some, but the internet has been a complete game changer and the fact the industry is de-centralised. I make music full time and I could have never done it, my business model now wouldn’t have existed a couple of years ago, I couldn’t do what I do now. There aren’t sort of as many middle-men and gate keepers, it might be more difficult to reach big numbers of people, but you can definitely find people that can support your music and your sort of niche audience.

But my advice would be that you kind of have to be a jack of all trades, everything that you don’t do, you’re gonna have to pay someone else to do […] It’s always YOU driving the thing, so unfortunately you’re always going to have to work this hard, it doesn’t get easier. But it’s great that we live in a time now when we can stay in control of our art and we don’t have to sign our soul’s away. My advice would be to just keep at it, keep in control of all your rights and to know that the digital stuff is just as important as actually physically being out there. You need to play the gigs, you need to meet people and then you need to stay in touch with them online.

This is a question, I’ve been inspired to ask just now, what is folk music to you?

It’s an interesting question because it [folk] means everything and nothing, people are so lazy with genres and you get booked for Folk nights just because you’re playing an acoustic guitar. My music is really varied, so I do have songs that could pass for folk and then I have songs that could pass as punk.

The thing Folk music unites or has in common is a message, it’s telling a story so that I can latch onto because that’s what I’m all about about. My songs have to have a story and have to say something, so that is Folk music to me.

Literally it is music of the people and so technically you could say, if people like your music then that’s Folk.

When I caught up with Roxanne later that evening, she said, “Thanks for not asking me what it’s like to be a woman in music.” Whilst it’s important to acknowledge the difference of experiences that women and men have in creative industries, gender shouldn’t automatically be the thing we pick up on first: talent should come first and foremost.

Vicky Hollingworth and Megan Roe

Image: Facebook

Pre-order Heirlooms & Hearsay by clicking this:

Check out Roxanne’s music here:

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