Interview: Baxter Rhodes

Baxterrhodesweb

Photo by Lloyd Willacy 2014

Oasis and the Smiths are just a few Manchester bands to help establish the city as a home for great music.

With such heritage, it’s no wonder that PRS for Music turned to the city to showcase the power of the song. The collecting society’s new campaign sees five fast emerging, local songwriters spending the next month travelling around the city and writing songs about businesses which support songwriters through buying a PRS for Music licence. Click here for the full story.

We’ve been quizzing the songwriters about their involvement in the project and to find out more about their music. Baxter Rhodes is the first artist in a series of profiles, a new songwriter to be gaining kudos via well received mini-albums Safe and Sound and Endeavour as well as live sessions for local radio…

What made you first start writing your own songs?

I’ve always loved music as a kid and I had a little classical guitar in the corner of my bedroom, but I didn’t start seriously learning to play until I went to university in London, aged 17. My mate lent me a steel string guitar and a chord song-book and I was hooked. Writing songs just seemed like a natural step, and I found I really enjoyed the writing process, turning words on a page into something musical. My mates were really supportive and encouraged me by coming along to open MIC nights and asking me to play at house parties.

How did you get involved with Songs for Manchester?

I was asked by the organisers after they found some of my music online. I liked the sound of the project and I’m familiar with the role that PRS for Music plays in supporting independent songwriters. I’ve been a member since 2012. I felt that the campaign championed songwriting as a profession and it was an opportunity to write songs in response to a specific brief, something I’d not done before.

Could you explain a little about your campaign songs – which businesses did you choose to inspire your new compositions and why?

I’m passionate about supporting independent shops and businesses in the face of competition from big chain stores and out-of-town supermarkets. It’s inspiring to visit someone’s pride and joy, whether it be a clothes shop or tattoo parlour. I have a soft spot for vintage shops, so performing New Vintage in all the cool vintage stores around Manchester allowed me to indulge in a bit of treasure hunting while I was there! Manchester has a great vibe, and the people and streets were a great source of inspiration for writing.

What are the challenges of writing music for the project?

The nature of the project has meant that sometimes the turnaround time for writing has been quite short. I’ve had to adapt my approach to songwriting, and it’s been a challenge to write to a specific brief. The songs I’ve written for the campaign have been quite different from my usual style, but I’m happy with what I’ve contributed.

What are your favourite songs written by Manchester artists?

A tough question, as there are so many! If I had to pick a few I’d say Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, North Country Boy by the Charlatans, and pretty much every song from Urban Hymns by the Verve.

How would you describe your local music scene?

It’s difficult to generalize as it can feel very different from venue-to-venue and town-to-town. From my point of view as an acoustic artist playing original songs, it seems like the ‘scene’ comes down to the passion and attitude of the venues and promoters. The good ones put on great nights that people want to come and listen. As a performer, you hope for a receptive audience and nice atmosphere. The bad ones can leave you feeling pretty disheartened, but after you’ve got a few gigs under your belt you learn to just get on with it.

What’s been your most memorable musical moment to date?

Playing the support slot for Jon Gomm in Clitheroe earlier this year was pretty cool. He’s a bit of a living legend, so I was pretty nervous beforehand, but the sound was amazing – the sound engineers at The Grand are top notch – and I was buzzing after I came off stage. I got a smile and ‘well played’ from Mr Gomm so I was happy with that. Also playing at Bristol Folk Festival was pretty special. I got a great reception from the crowd and they’ve asked me back next year.

What are you working on next?

As well as gigging regularly, I’m writing songs for my debut album, which I hope to record early 2015. I’m also planning a UK mini tour for later in the year to support my next single release.

baxterrhodes.com

Visit the PRS for Music Facebook page to find out more about the campaign and how to enter the Songs for Manchester competition.

Watch Baxter perform his song New Vintage below;