After the success of my recent features on Ian Todd & Chloë Boehm, here is another one I think you'll find interesting & I think topical.
The journeys of artists interests me & no two are the same. The other interests of their's can be just as fascinating & simply by listening to them, it is not always possible to discern what else they are up to: some evangelise from the stage, other compartmentalise, often for entirely understandable reasons. Some even use different names for different activities.
One person who is very open & articulate about her range of talents & interests is Naomi Beth Rogers (I hope you downloaded her track "Run" from ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two').
I have mentioned in previous reviews of her work, both of her live performances & of her ‘Parallel Lines' EP that among her many other facets are other art forms notably dance & poetry but also mental well being: indeed she even had some shows on local radio talking about this in great detail. To that end, I thought it might be timely now to both delineate her career to date for you & share her thoughts on good mental health during the current adverse situation.
Currently twenty three years old & coming from Warwick, Naomi Beth played some local open mics in her early teens but has been playing more intensively over the past couple of years after training in musical theatre. Moving to Barcelona at eighteen to study at their Institute of Arts, she found the stimulating environment & experience helped her begin writing songs seriously. However the story is not that simple nor benevolent as during her time at university Naomi Beth developed mental health issues & her music both created a safe space for her which helped as did the multiple friendships generated by performing them.
It was after her return from Barcelona that she recorded the ‘Parallel Lines' EP with David John of Stone Bear Records which in turn has launched a virtuous spiral of success & development as more & more people have appreciated her skill, leading to her own headline gigs, playing festivals, local radio appearances on Radio Abbey & HillzFM "...and most importantly the music community gave me a sense of home after I moved back, new friendships, inspiration and support"
In her own words: "I spent the year travelling a lot ... and then coming home and the music was always there
For a long time I'd wanted to use the arts to help others. I volunteered at a refugee camp in Greece and after seeing the way sharing music, dance and art with the kids positively impacted their lives, I decided to train as an arts psychotherapist so I can make this passion my career. I'm in my first year.
Whilst learning songwriting is still my biggest outlet, and I plan to continue to record, play live and write.
Self isolating is a tough time but it's amazing to see how the online world has kept me inspired, even brought me two new writing partners and reminded me of the beautiful human spirit!
Music wise I've started collaborating and working with some new people and have a lot of stuff to record, so hopefully there will be new songs from me soon".
I took the opportunity of asking her which other artists she was currently really impressed with & could recommend to "Hot Music Live" readers. As the list potentially was too long, she highlighted Taylor Louise, Antonia Kirby, Chloë Boehm, Ellis Bloom, Curious George, Chessi O'Dowd, Merrymaker, Joe Dolman, Evergreen, Aaron Dudfield, Project Blackbird and Hannah Woof.
Turning next to the challenges of these days, we discussed the issues of anxiety around "fear about income, grief for life as we know it, loneliness" and that while potentially "everybody is susceptible, I think if you're self employed or perhaps already struggling with your mental health, you are more vulnerable in this circumstance"
Naomi Beth suggested these ideas from her own experience
"Knowing it's okay to feel some sadness, worry and grief. I try to let my feelings be, and not squash them"
"A sense of routine and daily exercise that I enjoy"
"Taking time to be excited about little things such as food, how my bedroom is, nice cups of tea"
"Accepting that I maybe won't be as productive as usual. But enjoying what I can do and focusing on that"
"FaceTiming friends, making time to support other people and check in, setting up little online projects such as writing with other people!"
To make matters more tricky, getting help when isolated & with many organisations either closed down or overwhelmed may itself be more limited than usual, so Naomi Beth suggests:
Mental health.org.uk This has a section of resources directly related to the climate at the moment,
Tara Brach has a series of talks/ guided meditations about self isolation, fear, creativity and mindfulness- she's amazing https://www.tarabrach.com/
"100 Days of Songwriting" has an awesome online community if you just want to stay motivated and creative and chat to other people too https://100daysofsongwriting.com/
Hopefully few or none of our readers will need these strategies but I'm really grateful to Naomi Beth for sharing her experience & insights: just in case they can make the difference with anyone. Don't forget too to check out her own website at https://www.naomibethjourney.com/ for myriad aspects of her activities.
Naomi Beth at the Magic Lantern
This gig was, for me & I know many others (the venue was packed), including the star, an eagerly anticipated one.
Ever since I first saw Naomi Beth perform as support for Taylor-Louise at this venue in February, it was abundantly clear that this was a special talent emerging in our midst (the audience that night certainly thought so) & it was great that she was able to return so soon to headline her first major gig.
As noted in my February review, she started that night expressing trepidation & grew enormously over the course of only a few minutes: soaring in fact. Last night again she expressed initial nerves & again she transcended them at once. In fact it was an astounding feat especially given the context of her career. Naomi Beth completely owned the space, the audience & concert. She had two "support" acts: local star Taylor-Louise & her friend from studying in Barcelona, Isabel Horner: however neither performed solo sets: each dueted with Naomi Beth (to excellent effect), so she sang every single number in the whole gig. Now how may performers of considerably greater live performance experience carry that off?
Naturally this meant that her voice was in great form with exquisite melodic singing again accompanied by her own effective guitar playing, with, as noted in February, the former given (rightly so) precedence and even the odd a cappella passage. This was an excellent opportunity too for her to display her full range of original material (plus some delightfully arranged covers) beyond the limited number she had time for in her earlier appearance & encompassing more than the tracks on her "Parallel Lines" EP which was reviewed in this magazine (it was good how she gave such detailed credit to her producer, David John of Stone Bear Records and of course "Hot Music Live Presents")
Between songs Naomi Beth gave us equally detailed descriptions of the genesis of each original song (another aspect of her rapport with the audience) and this was a good reminder of the very many layers of Naomi Beth beyond her music. She is passionately interested in mental health issues & their interrelation with music and the other arts (in fact check Naomi Beth out on Abbey Radio from 12-2 on a Friday where she has started (co)hosting a show on mental well being & music etc: you'll find it fascinating & perhaps helpful. I do) and this very firmly informs her writing. The beauty of the songs, the beauty of their performance & the meaning within them, amplified by the intimate space, is capable of having a transformative effect on one's mood & mindset. I can testify to that.
This is an artist on a swiftly moving upwards trajectory. Bearing in mind her many other interests & talents including dance & poetry, her broadcasting commitments and everything else, I hope she can fit in many more gigs like this & that if you haven't yet experienced one, that you may. I know I certainly intend to.
"Parallel Lines" EP by Naomi Beth
I suppose that a very traditional & perhaps sometimes overlooked route to discovering new favourite music is by going to see an artist you admire & check out their support act (whom you have never previously seen) and getting hooked on them too.
So it was with me when I went to see Taylor-Louise at the Magic Lantern (see my review of 10th February) and discovered the work of Naomi Beth.
Her set was certainly as stunning as I hope my review adequately captured, and based as it was around her "Parallel Lines" EP (of the three songs I singled out for especial mention in my review, two were from this release & the third is a recent composition), I am really pleased now to be able to review it.
My response at the gig was far from limited to me: by considerable public demand, Naomi Beth was requested to return to the Magic Lantern as a headliner, which she has kindly agreed to do on Saturday 13th April. You can also hear her being interviewed by Toni Peach on HillzFM between 2 & 3 on Monday 11th March.
This is an artist of many interests & talents: a poet (how can that not help write great lyrics), a dancer and as she puts it herself in her blog (do read it) "with a passion for mental health and empowerment". Listening to her songs, although one obviously enjoys them for their own merits, I think it is helpful to have this broader context in mind too (as I did), so I've raised the issue with you before exploring each track.
As I also stated in the live review, in terms of performance, the key element is her beautiful voice: there is excellent instrumental (guitar) accompaniment, but it is essentially accompaniment and offers a framing for the singing which I find wholly appropriate. As you might guess from my opening remarks, there is a quality of apparent vulnerability throughout, but that is probably more to do with the nature of Naomi Beth's voice: I'm not sure, given the lyrics, that one should read it as being a deliberate voicing of a state of mind. Equally I'm going to dispense with the term "fragility" straight away. If you possess a clear high voice which floats & soars above the arrangements, it is a term you may have applied to you: I just don't necessity think that she is herself fragile (I detect much steel) although describing fragility from an objective perspective at times. It's never wise to assume singers are always singing in the first person....
And so to the songs themselves. The title track was one of those which hit me at her gig. A really well constructed & delivered piece, which if one had to pick a "single" off the EP, might be the one. I imagine that the lyric has a personal genesis but as all good songs of this nature do, has been fashioned to have universal applicability. Well it resonated with me at the first hearing.
"As Days Go By" sounds very different (if you didn't manage to read the afore mentioned review, I noted how she has an approach of changing her guitar technique for different songs: a subtle idea but it does work really well in terms of producing variety of sound without massive changes in instrumentation.
"Honest Love" is another sort of song again: almost pastoral in tone yet lyrically a mixture of confessional, philosophical & emphasising both the uncertainties of love & the need to see it as a journey rather than a fixed state.
"Humans" expresses more philosophical insights but given the pace (it's the nearest track on the EP to a dance song) and urgency of both singing & playing, it is more of a plea from Naomi Beth advocating action rather than just musing...
Finally (and I've left it to last deliberately) is another of those which hit me at my initial hearing: "Run" & I'll state right away that hearing it again just reinforces its impact. Much longer than any other song (over seven minutes), it sort of reminds me of those long compelling tracks Dylan tended to place at the ends of his albums (not that this sounds remotely like him): propelled by a hypnotic beat & riff which cling to my mind like all great epic songs, despite its length leaves you wanting more.