She features on Steflon Don mixtapes AND has been No1 in 13 countries, having penned a One Direction hit, with Ed Sheeran: Salute Curator, Fiona Bevan.
Fiona’s appreciation of grass roots music is part of her essence as a songwriter. Exploring the terrain for songwriting hopefuls today, we started out by asking about the barriers Fiona has perceived, and what advice she has to offer.
Whilst on a double-header tour, Irish songstress Kal Lavelle and our Fiona decided to do a workshop at every stop. Called Song Sisters, the workshops were exclusively for women and girls, and part of the motivation behind setting them up was to find out why so few female songwriters are active; women make up just 15% of PRS members!
Fiona really got into the experience, and found out a fairly depressing reality wherein women felt less empowered to take to the stage, or to engage with music generally owing to a lack of confidence. Acknowledging that a lack of confidence affects women in many different areas of life, Fiona cited cultural factors that make a difference:
“There’s something about the X Factor culture, where you’re slightly judged on how you look, or, or you’re expected to be a singer, an amazing singer, singing someone else’s song.”
It’s still quite rare to see a woman on stage, singing her own music, Fiona points out. As a gigging musician, Fiona really notices that, over the years, women and girls would approach her and ask ‘Did you write that? I’ve never seen a girl singing her own songs before!’
Of course Florence and Adele are helping to open things up, and whilst times are a changing, and there are really inspiring women out there now, more than ever perhaps, it takes a long time for those changes to happen.
Fiona acknowledges that males can have the same problem with confidence, but not to the same extent. J Hus can happily rap about being ugly, andgetting all the girls! It’s easier for males to dominate any kind of space, or so it seems…
In citing positive examples of female empowerment in the field, Fiona celebrates the likes of Australian songwriter Sia, whose projections on stage often see her stood orchestrating an amazing showcase, featuring music and dance, whilst singing from the shadows.
And Salute supports that. It’s not about how you look, how well you perform live; it’s about how good your songwriting is! We asked Fiona, how do you get to work with Ed Sheeran?
“Everything that’s happened to me has happened because I haven’t sat at home on my computer. Ed’s first ever London gig was with me, and we did lots of gigs together.”
No stranger to pushing beyond comfort zones, and saying an emphatic Yes to new opportunities, Fiona has featured in a punk rock girl band, and made great efforts to launch herself amongst her more junior self’s young singer-songwriter cohort.
“When you collaborate, you learn!”
Some people in the competition minded Fiona to propose some collaborations. “I thought, oh, if I could put this person together with this person, that would be a collab worth more than the sum of its parts.” It’s why she has always loved co-writing, and learning from unusual, impromptu situations all the time.
There’s something about meeting people and the chemistry you experience then, she says. If you’re a performer, that helps, because you can go out and do open mic nights. But if you’re not: Go find performers! For example Naughty Boy went to open mic nights and found Emilie Sandé. He went and found somebody who could sing really well, and they ended up collaborating and making incredible music together. Music is chemistry, remember?
Fiona now has a manager and publishing compmany who can walk her into certain rooms. But she doesn’t let them lead her, as such. “You have to be at the helm,” she insists, “You have to be at the front, you can’t be passive!” And that’s why she rates Salute.
“Salute is a way to be heard, and to actually have an audience let you know what they think.”
As a feedback mechanism, Salute can really work for artists at the early stages of their career. It aids discovery, and you can get feedback and see what’s working.
“Salute is like a pre-Spotify platform. Whoever wins, it will change their lives and their career”
Fiona views Salute as a testing ground. In a few years, she says, the really brilliant Music Makers are gonna be the ones who are going to have their music well-supported on Spotify. It’s like a training ground, or testing ground. And, for the general public, she says, who love discovering new music, the breadth of experimentation and genres on there is just breath taking.
“The public love discovering new music. With Salute they can really find some incredible stuff!”