As part of Kettle's student life series, music editor Lorna Holland interviews a selection of up-and-coming bands and artists about their student days and how the student years shaped their music. This time, she's chatting to another Lorna, from six-piece folk act Skinny Lister.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up with my brother Max in a very folky household. We attended folk festivals every summer and did our best to avoid the folk sessions and finger-in-ear singing that is the staple stereotype of the folk scene. As a teenager I rebelled, ditching my ukulele for a can of cider down the local park. I studied psychology at Leeds University, not really knowing what my future heId. After university, I moved to London where I started hanging out with my brother in Deptford/New Cross. We started singing and playing together in a family band. Meanwhile, Dan and Mule were singing shanties in their local pub and Dan was writing songs. The different influences started to merge together and I thought, hey, this could be a way into festivals for free. So I joined the band – that’s when it all began. Now we travel all over the world, meet interesting people and get paid for it too! We’ve played at festivals in Japan, California, on cruise ships in the Bahamas, and all across America and Europe.
What was your experience of university like?
I went to Leeds because it had a great feel to it and I felt immediately at home in a northern town. In the first year, I lived in halls and I’m still friends with some of the girls I met there. In fact, at one point I had them as dancing girls for Skinny Lister so I could get them into the festivals for free too. Those were fun but mad times! I spent my time socialising, going out and seeing bands, but did try to work too. I really had no idea what was next for me. I didn’t sing or play an instrument at the time, I just knew I wanted to move down to London as I wanted a new creative environment.
What are your fondest memories of your student days?
Making lifelong friends and achieving good grades. I definitely picked up skills that help with the ‘behind the scenes’ work being in a band brings, like tour management, networking, business meetings etc.
Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your student days.
Not sure I can talk about this here, but there was an incident where a ‘friend’ of mine did damage a housemate’s computer accidentally when drunk. I was mortified as she was just finishing off her end of year project. Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular in my house for a while.
Did you study music at all?
I didn’t study music but did always sing, though not seriously until I started hanging out with my brother. He went to college with Dan and Mule and they studied music technology so I’ve kind of piggy-backed on their hard work! I always felt a kind of envy when my brother would bring home his assignments and my parents could easily show enjoyment at his work. I, on the other hand, would be showing them essays – not so fun!
Did university help to shape your music career in any way?
I guess every experience you have creates who you are as a person. I always knew I was a bit weird. School friends used to take the mickey when I danced like I didn’t care if anyone was watching, and teachers always had to keep me in line and focused otherwise I’d be chatting, dancing and singing. I guess I was a bit of a nightmare: hyperactive and always looking for an opportunity to have fun. Not much has changed in this regard!
In your opinion, is it better to study music or focus on getting practical experience?
Oh gosh, it obviously depends on the individual. I know Paul McCartney is scared to study music as he always wanted to push the boundaries and do stuff you wouldn’t normally do. I know that I have sometimes influenced arrangements and suggested weirder ways of doing things that wouldn’t normally work, that the lads have at first thought that’s not right but then tried it and liked it. I guess it depends what sort of music you’re making. I do wish that I’d got more serious about singing earlier on, but there’s no point looking back. Forward is the only way to go. Practice and hard work will always continue to pay off.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
It’s a difficult business to be in but very rewarding if you can make it work. Studying music certainly doesn’t guarantee you success but I’m pretty sure it can’t hinder it either! I guess my main advice is to hang out with people that also play music as for me this is when things got exciting. Be true to yourself, follow your ideas through. Something that can seem so small and insignificant can become something if you pay it enough attention and develop it.
Where can our readers go to find out more about you and your music?
Skinny Lister are all over the internet. Our website is www.skinnylister.com. We also have Instagram and Twitter where we put up other more backstage stuff.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us!