It took more than a decade of honing their craft before singers/multi-instrumentalists Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West found chart success as indie-pop duo Oh Wonder.
Anthony had played in bands such as Tonight is Goodbye, Futures and We The Wild while Josephine was a solo artist initially performing under her own name and later with the moniker of Layla. Many of Josephine’s songs as Layla can still be found at (no www.) soundcloud.com/listentolayla
Meeting through a mutual friend changed their lives. Josephine and Anthony not only became a couple but also formed a musical marriage.
“It was the first time I’d ever met someone and thought they were a mirror of me,” Josephine recalled. “Our outlook on life, our interests, the songs we listened to and what we like to do to wind down and be creative is identical.”
“You normally have to compromise a little bit when you’re writing songs with someone,” Anthony remarked. “There was none of that with us. We were just bouncing ideas off each other. It was like I was talking to myself in a mirror. We just had this amazing chemistry between us.”
Their backgrounds were completely different. Josephine is a Londoner who had piano, violin and singing lessons from the age of five.
“I loved performing from a really young age. I enjoyed pop but predominantly played classical music until I was about 14. That was when I found people like Norah Jones and Vanessa Carlton.
“I absolutely loved Vanessa’s Thousand Miles song. I so much wanted to play that. This was the turning point in my life. These phenomenal women were writing their own songs, singing their own songs, playing piano on their own songs. This gave me the idea that I could be self-sufficient. I could write, sing and play my own songs.”
“I had a rural childhood,” Anthony stated. “I spent my first nine years living on the Isle of Man, a small island between England and Ireland. My family then spent a year in Canada before we moved to a small village in the English countryside.
“My connection to music was through my uncle who is a bluegrass musician. He lives in America but always played a European tour when I was a kid so I saw him once a year. He gave me lessons on his guitar. I didn’t have my own guitar but I was always interested. He obviously saw something in me because he gave me one of his guitars and said I could become a musician if I wanted.”
Josephine and Anthony joined forces as Oh Wonder in 2014. Beginning on September 1, they set themselves the task of self-releasing one single on the first day of each month for an entire year.
“We did the project as a way to create a showreel of songs because we wanted to be songwriters first and foremost,” Josephine affirmed. “The one song per month deadline was a way of disciplining ourselves.
“It’s important to have structure, goals and deadlines. People put things off. Artists wait years before even thinking of making a new album. Setting ourselves the monthly deadline, and sticking to it, meant we had a catalogue of quality songs after one year.”
Only one track, Lose It, released on February 1, 2015, made any impression on the charts. But it was a different story when Josephine and Anthony issued all the monthly songs, plus two additional tracks, on their self-titled debut album.
Positive critical reviews helped Oh Wonder to peak at number 26 in Britain and number 80 in America. The album also fared pretty well in numerous other countries with a high point of number 19 in Canada. It has now sold well in excess of 500,000 copies and amassed around 550 million streams.
Having been comfortably self-releasing their material and enjoying the freedom to do things their own way, Josephine and Anthony were wary about signing with any of the interested record labels.
“We chose to sign with Republic because they were happy for us to continue doing whatever we wanted,” Anthony explained. “They admitted they wouldn’t have advised us to release all the tracks as singles before our album was available but said it worked last time and proved everyone wrong so we could do whatever we liked with our future albums.”
The duo decided to adopt a slightly more conventional approach with their smash hit sophomore album, Ultralife. After playing 162 shows across the world in 14 months, Josephine and Anthony recorded the album at The Pool Studio in London last December before adding the finishing touches in their home studio earlier this year.
The title-track was issued as the lead single on March 30. Four more singles followed but there were still seven previously unheard tracks before the album was released.
“Making the new album felt different,” Josephine reflected. “We did the first one as a means of creating a profile for ourselves as songwriters. You could say that we became a band by accident. Having built a following, we felt an obligation to all of those people to make a good second album.”
The critical acclaim and chart success suggests they have certainly achieved their goal.
Swedish pop-punk trio The Magnettes recently released their debut album, Ugly Youth.
Hailing from the northern Swedish town of Pajala, they were originally a duo made up of Rebecka Digervall, 23, and Sanna Kalla, just turned 24. The girls have been friends since the age of six. They were joined in 2014 by producer and multi-instrumentalist Tomas Backlund who was the sound engineer at the studio where Rebecka and Sanna recorded their demos.
“The songs on our album deal with everything we never dared to say as teenagers,” Rebecka stated. “We just scream it all out on this record. It’s very much about adolescence, growing up and the pressures put upon us by society.”
Since becoming a trio, The Magnettes have issued five singles. All but Hollywood are included on their album which can be heard in full at (no www.) soundcloud.com/themagnettes Earlier songs are also posted here.
Videos have been made for each of their singles. The latest release is So Bad but all official videos, audios, live performances and vlogs can be accessed via www.youtube.com/user/themagnettes/feed
The ever-growing popularity of folk music in Britain bodes well for the future success of Lucy Rose.
Rather than take up her place at University College London, where she was supposed to study geography, Lucy began performing with a variety of musicians. She quickly became a highly respected figure among her fellow artists across different musical genres.
Promoted with a solid concert schedule and numerous festival appearances, her 2012 debut album, Like I Used To, was lauded by critics and reached number 13 on the UK chart. The follow-up, 2015’s Work It Out, did even better peaking at number nine.
Both albums are posted in full online. Like I Used To is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIe1Dt15hbM while Work It Out can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFvZ4YJDCYI&list=PLXad0Y7zO2Ym_p0u2k9C6pHjqwCPrXwBo
After spending two months backpacking around South America playing free shows and staying with fans, which she chronicled in the documentary film Something’s Changing, Lucy is back now with her newly released third album, also called Something’s Changing. Videos for three tracks, Floral Dresses, Is This Called Home and No Good At All, can be accessed from www.youtube.com/user/LUCYROSEMUSIC
Who could imagine a Spanish language song with just a few words of English becoming the most streamed track in music history. The original recording of Despacito, plus assorted remixes, has so far notched up not far short of five billion streams and still remains hugely popular.
It has topped the singles chart in 45 countries. One of these is Venezuela where President Nicolas Maduro used it to call for voting in the Constitutional Assembly Election. The song had already been used by political leaders of Argentina’s Justicialist Party, Cambiemos and Citizen’s Unity Party in advertisements for the 2017 midterm elections.
While songwriters Luis Fonsi, Erika Ender and Daddy Yankee apparently expressed no disapproval of Despacito being used in Argentinian politics, they have denounced the remix for President Maduro who wishes to establish a dictatorship in Venezuela. Luis Fonsi used an online post to make his feelings clear.
“At no time I’ve been consulted, nor I’ve authorised the use or change of Despacito’s lyrics for political purposes, much less in the deplorable situation that a country I love as much as Venezuela is in. My music is for all those who want to listen to it and enjoy it, not to be used as propaganda that tries to manipulate the will of a people who are crying out for their freedom.”
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