Rebekah Smith joined local upcoming jazz singer Beckie Rose in the lead up to one of her first gigs as part of local band Velvet Sound at an event held to showcase local talent.
Usually in the lead up to an open mic night — or in this case a showcase of upcoming talent in the newly relaunched The Castle & Falcon pub in Moseley — Beckie Rose can be found tuning her acoustic guitar or making herself comfortable behind a keyboard or piano — but not this time.
For one of the first times in her music career the Birmingham artist is required to perform in a band made up of fellow talented musicians from her music course at university, and is currently watching a rock-inspired band of first year students perform.
She comes from a musical family — many of her family members will be in the crowd supporting her tonight — and it was their influence as well as her competitiveness with siblings that kickstarted her musical talents as a child.
“I actually got into music in a bit of a weird way. My brother started to have piano lessons when I was younger and I always wanted to be just like him and got a little bit jealous that he was having lessons and I wasn’t! So I begged my mom for lessons and have carried on with my passion in music ever since.”
Jazz music is not a particularly common music genre amongst students and teenagers, but for Beckie who spent her childhood listening to jazz, the genre’s diverse instruments and soulful melodies amazed her.
As a jazz singer she is inspired by a range of R&B, jazz and soul artists, but is drawn to iconic female vocalists, their harmonies and meaningful and passionate lyrics.
“But also I love listening to local artists who have such talent that’s undiscovered”
Even though she has performed as a solo vocalist for the majority of her budding singing career, her music course has forced her to go out of her comfort zone and collaborate with others who are interested in a variety of music genres.
Through the Access to Music course she has formed Velvet Sound with other talented musicians, and it has been a rewarding experience for her to share the stage with others. She believes it has brought another element to her performances.
“Being part of a band always somehow gives me more confidence. I always feel like our positive energy bounces off each other, and a live band always sounds better than a backing track in my opinion.”
She believes there is a growing number of people getting involved in open mic nights to showcase their talents, and even though the local music scene is large, there is a community aspect to it.
“I think the Birmingham music scene is bigger than people realise. There are a lot of different genres that people perform, especially at open mic nights, and it’s interesting to see how artists from similar genres recognise each other from performing at the same shows.”
Prior to Beckie starting her vocal warm ups and exchanging some last words of encouragement with her band mates before taking to the stage, she reflects on some of her experiences at open mic nights and performing in Birmingham.
As well as building up her confidence and developing her performance she believes that online platforms such as YouTube and local events are instrumental in opening doors for providing local talent with professional experience and contacts.
The uncertainty of not knowing who could be in the audience during pub gigs like this is something that excites Beckie, and as the previous act leaves the stage, she and the four other members of Velvet Sound are about to showcase their musical talents in front of their family, friends and lecturers.
“You never know if the person you’re talking to at a gig is a huge music scout or someone with a lot of contacts for whatever you need in the Birmingham music scene.”