Teenager Ella Massingham is tired of singing other people’s songs. She told us how Unsigned is helping her express herself through music her way.
How do you feel your music/skills have improved since starting the course last September?
I feel my music skills have improved by having a better view of the industry, but most importantly my live performance skills have come far. I have learned how to perform better on stage to give a much better performance, as well as things like where to stand, look and where to put my hands etc.
Do you feel you’ve grown in confidence as a performer and musician?
I have definitely become more confident, especially by meeting others in similar situations as me, and getting all round support when I need it to help me move forward. It’s a comforting and supportive environment, therefore helping with confidence.
What do you enjoy about the mentoring process?
Everything – social media, performance, advice production-wise – has been really good. Like it’s always really important on the writing side of things if you think of a hook or anything to record it or put something down in your notes.
I enjoy sitting down and going through in detail what I want to achieve and how I’m going to do it in the mentoring process. It’s a great feeling being led in the right directions by professionals in the business, as well as sometimes not knowing what direction to take, being given experienced guidance.
There have been many changes due to Covid19, but you were able to continue the mentoring online. Have you felt able to adapt to these and how have you been impacted?
The pandemic was really hard for everyone and not being there in person or with the group facilities was tricky. However, doing the online session was a great chance to catch up and know what can be done from home that can help and develop our skills and artist socials/music. They (mentors Millie Manders and Ben Street) were really easy to reach out to and very appreciative of those current situations.
Have you been able to connect with other artists on the programme over the last year? Have there been any opportunities for collaboration? Do you hope to be able to work that way over the next year?
There have definitely been great opportunities to connect with the other artists, from supporting each other on socials to collaborating on future songs. We were all able to help and support one another and I’m so happy we all had the chance to connect.
What are you looking forward to about continuing on the Unsigned programme this year?
I’m looking forward to finding my next step as an artist and getting back out there actively after the pandemic difficulties. It’s been hard for me to stay focused with all the issues recently, so I’m looking forward to really getting back on track!
How long have you been singing and writing songs?
(Singing) since I was 10, possibly before. Ever since I can remember really. My dad’s a singer, that’s how I got into it. In some ways our style’s the same, but we do different things, he was more a wedding singer. He loved acoustic things. I still love singing things like that, but that’s not as much of what I perform now.
I’m more RnB, contemporary pop. I like producing that kind of music. With acoustic I like singing it because I like the way the vocals and the guitar go together. But I like producing my kind of music because I think it’s more exciting and more creative for me that way. I’ve tried learning piano and guitar and never got hooked. I need to try harder.
(Songwriting) since I was about 13-14. I was invited to be sponsored by these people in Southampton, so I’d drive six hours each way for a 12-hour session every month. I’d write music there and work with a producer, but I think I was a bit too young. I don’t think I knew what I wanted to sound like yet. Being able to write your own music and to express your own music in your own way is really important and I’ve developed some of my stuff I used to write then and will perform it at The Waterfront.
My style now is similar, less poppy. The producer I worked with was a dubstep producer so it was a bit electronic, but it’s a bit different now. (Being involved in producing early on) was really handy because I know where I’m going now. I’ve been singing Amy Winehouse because I’m quite good at singing that kind of style. My inspiration for music and vocals is a bit different. I like people’s production, as in like The Weeknd. For vocals, people like Jorja Smith.
Why did you get involved with Unsigned?
Millie is my college tutor at Access Creative. I mentioned to her I wrote my own music and wanted to work towards being a solo artist, so she recommended it and I came for an audition. Ever since I was little, it’s always been music for me. I knew I had the ability to make my own music, but I didn’t know who I wanted to be yet and I’ve figured that out now.
Millie and Ben have so much experience. They can help you in every single aspect you need whether it’s production, the business side, legal issues, social media or just an idea of where you’re going to go from here – they help you become your own artist.
Millie was saying how I’ve been really nervous about coming out as an artist and being my own person. She says as the person on stage you can be a different person almost, so you can just perform the way you want to perform without worrying what people are going to think. I still get nervous, but I try to turn it more into excitement.
You mentioned you were going to perform some of your own material at The Waterfront?
I’m nervous because I’ve never performed my own material before, but I’m excited. For so long I’ve wanted to not sing other people’s music, I’m sick of singing things other people have written, I want to do my own stuff.
Millie and fellow professional artist Ben have been working on song development, social media necessity and construct, branding and image, set list development, vocal and performance techniques plus press packs and biographies with all the artists.
Millie said: “All the acts have been amazing to work with and they are all very different to each other. It’s been great to work with musicians who take direction well and are willing to try things differently even if they are a bit ‘out of the box’. Their attitudes towards the work they need to put in has been exemplary and we have been really enjoying the process.”
Ben added mentoring during the pandemic was challenging.
He said: “The process changed quite substantially. When face-to-face mentoring became impossible, we began to utilise Zoom to allow us to continue with the Unsigned sessions in a virtual manner. This presented its challenges with regards to aspects of the course – such as physical performance analysis and feedback. But it allowed us to focus more on song production techniques and a wider understanding of the industry and its terminology such as publishing bodies, royalty acquisition and distribution deals etc. I feel this period has been hugely beneficial for all of the artists involved with this project.”
The project was launched to give young musicians the chance to take their music, performance and professional skills to the next level with the help of experienced professional music artists. Due to Covid19, the current cohorts got the chance to continue their mentoring into the coming year. The Waterfront gig, recording session and photoshoot will be rearranged when restrictions allow.
Love music? Check out our new Rock School for beginners and improvers which meets every Monday during term time.