Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Air Studios with J.R. Richards

A few weeks ago, myself and mum were invited to Air Studios in London as part of J.R. Richards' pledge. You might not be familiar with J.R., I certainly wasn't until mum introduced me to him and his music. He is an American singer songwriter and used to be the lead singer of Billboard award winning band Dishwalla. 

Like many other bands/artists we follow, J.R. has decided to release his latest album through Pledge Music, allowing fans to get involved by pre-ordering a copy as well as pledging for some brilliant exclusives. As her Mother's Day present, I pledged for mum and myself to visit the studio with J.R. and his wife Min, along with a small number of other fans.

Having been in a studio session with Kingsland, I guess we had some idea of what the evening would be like but in all honesty it exceeded any expectation that I had! We were greeted at Air Studios by J.R.'s lovely wife Min who is a film director/photographer. She welcomed us into the holding area where we got to meet J.R. as well as being reunited with the Britroyal twins who we hadn't seen in over a year! We certainly got given an American welcome by Joni (J.R. and Min's personal assistant) who poured me the most lethal vodka and coke I think I've ever had haha! We got chatting to some of the other fans whilst we waited for the rest of them to arrive.

Once everyone was present we went into the studio, firstly into the area where all the mixing happens. All I can say is WOW. What a place! I've never seen anything like it and probably never will again, if I was an artist I would kill to be able to work in such an incredible studio!! We were told that Coldplay would be working in the exact same room the next day which was a crazy concept for me to get my head around!

so many speakers and buttons and all sorts of important stuff

We then went into the actual recording area itself. There were chairs laid out for everyone with a set of headphones on each seat. Firstly J.R. gave us some of the history behind Air Studios (for example, it was founded by Sir George Martin, legendary producer of The Beatles no less!!!). He then explained what we would be doing in the studio that evening but before we got stuck in, we had an opportunity to further chat with J.R., Min, Britroyal and the other fans over some food. It was amazing to see the variety of people that were there - one fan had flown in from Holland whilst three men from Wales (who only live around 40 minutes from us, small world!) had come as an alternative stag do as one of them was getting married!

Then it was time to see the man at work! J.R. recorded a song on the piano and we got to sit inside the studio with him whilst listening through headphones. By doing so we could hear the instructions given to J.R. by the sound men. It was so difficult trying to stay still, I desperately wanted to tap my foot along to the music but any noise would have carried onto the recording!

J.R. then sang a song acoustically to us briefly, then we got to hear what a mixed version of that song would sound like. It's amazing to see all the work involved in recording a song! J.R. also recorded his version of Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah for us. He does such a haunting version of a brilliant song!

JR preparing for his performance of Hallelujah 

Finally came my favourite part of the night, where I got to relish in the fact that I am tone deaf yet still got to sing group backing vocals on a song for J.R.! I genuinely thought he was kidding when he said we would get to sing, but then he played us a beautiful song called Tug of War and showed us the "aaaah, aaaah, oooooooh" bit that we would be singing (I wish I could sing it now to show you how it's supposed to sound haha!). 

myself and mum in our element ;-)

We had a few practice goes then recorded it for real. We also got to listen back to it in the mixing area and for 15 amateurs we didn't sound too bad!!! We actually had to sign consent forms to allow our voices to appear on the song, it felt like we were signing a record deal! Apparently our names will appear on the credits of the song which will be an awesome reminder of a brilliant night at the studios.

signing away!

all smiles at our first contract ;-)

To end the night, we all got to have our pictures taken with J.R.. As a photographer, Min was so professional and made sure we all had a fantastic keepsake of the evening. 

myself and J.R. (photo credit: Min Reid-Richards)

We also had a group picture which was taken by Joni (unfortunately the three welsh men had already left by then). We couldn't have asked for a nicer bunch of people to spend the evening and share the experience with!

the crew! (Photo credit: Joni DeLuccio)

We also had the opportunity to chat more with Britroyal as we set a date for our day out with them (another pledge, I should link my bank account direct to the site I think haha!).  It was nice to have a catch up with them as well as having my first picture with them!

myself and Britroyal aka Kais and Mazin (photo credit: Min Reid-Richards)

myself, mum and Britroyal (photo credit: Min Reid-Richards)

I genuinely had a brilliant night.  It was such a fantastic pledge and a night I will remember for a long time.  It was a surreal experience to be in such hallowed studios and it was fascinating to get a small insight into the making of an album.  The fact that we actually got to be involved by singing backing vocals just added to the experience.  I'd like to thank J.R. and Min for such a lovely welcome and for being so kind to us all.  Pledge is a marvellous concept as it allows fans to experience things they could only dream of doing otherwise.  It was an honour to be a part of the making of J.R.'s album and I look forward to hearing it when its released!

Here are some links so you can check out both J.R. and Britroyal!

J.R. Richards - Pledge
Twitter - @JRRichards
Facebook - J.R. Richards

Britroyal - Pledge
Twitter - @BritroyalMusic
Facebook - Britroyal

Please check out these amazing artists and if you enjoy their music, please pledge for their albums or other mementos/experiences that are on offer.  Your support would mean the world to them!

One of our next adventures will be the day out with Kais and Mazin - I'm so excited to spend the day in London with them!

Hwyl am y tro ✌️

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Rant || Fangirls v The Rest Of The World

Many things annoy me greatly, but something that drives me absolutely insane is when people make fun or have a go at fangirls for being "obsessed". We are constantly ridiculed by others for our love of music and the lengths we go to in order to support our favourite bands, which to me is unfair when most of the time the people that are laughing at us are hypocrites.

Why is it that it's one rule for fangirls and another completely different rule for everyone else? Why is it socially acceptable for someone to support a football team and go to all home and away games, but it's frowned upon if someone goes to multiple shows of the same tour? Why is it fine for people to camp for days in order to buy the latest iPhone but not for people to camp to get barrier for a concert? Why is it newsworthy when people from across the world camp outside a hospital for a week in order to catch a glimpse of the new Royal baby, but it's ridiculous if us fangirls stand outside a venue all day to try and meet our idol?

It's just pure bigotry in my eyes. I don't understand why fangirls are considered crazy or obsessed when our actions are all too similar to those of many football fans, technology buffs or royalists! 

An incident which happened a few weeks ago spurred me on to write this blog. After seeing Take That in Manchester, we went back to our hotel and had a drink in the bar. We got chatting to two girls who'd paid for VIP tickets in order to get some of the best seats in the venue. We had pit tickets and queued from 9:30am in order to try and get front barrier. The other people in the bar were a couple (drunk but pleasant to begin with). The woman joked at first that they hadn't been to the gig, then we gathered that they had but had been sat right at the top/back of the arena and a child with a flashing toy had annoyed them all night. They were talking fine at first then all of a sudden the woman turned on us and kept asking questions as to why we queued for so long, why spend so much on tickets, why would we go to multiple shows etc. We answered her politely yet she was getting very aggressive, as if it was any of her business anyway!!

Her husband calmed her down and that was it for the time being. We continued to chat to the two girls about how good the show had been however all I could hear was the husband muttering to wife about us all being "obsessed" and that we "weren't right in the head" - when tackled on it, the man actually kicked off and started swearing and shouting at us, whilst continually drinking pints of beer.

I've genuinely never met such a pair of ignorant people in my life. People question us all the time, "why do you go to the same show more than once, it's exactly the same!!" "gosh you must be rich to go to all these concerts" etc but I've never had anyone be so aggressive when it's none of their business really. As an avid concert goer, I want to be in the thick of the action - I've been front row before and once you experience it, you don't really care much for seats right at the back of the arena like they had! I'm a self confessed ticket snob, and sometimes you have to pay more or queue in order to get the best tickets/view but for me it's so worth it in the end! More to the point, the atmosphere is almost always much better nearer the front - I would do the pits a hundred times over, being amongst people with a genuine interest for the music. I couldn't imagine anything worse than being sat up in the gods next to potential miserable sods like that couple - it would completely ruin the experience!

As for going to multiple shows, particularly with someone like Take That, their shows are so overwhelming that you can't take everything in and you always spot different things and see it from a another perspective when you watch it again. Also there's always the uncertainty of when they might tour again - Take That's last tour was 4 years ago, we wanted to go more than once this time as god knows when they might tour again! We did 3 dates each for both JLS and The Wanted's final tours as a reunion is never guaranteed. 

There's also the issue of queuing to meet your idol. "Oh they're just a normal person like you or me!!!!" - yes, they are a normal person but they happen to have a positive influence on hundreds and thousands of people and there's nothing wrong with fans wanting to meet them to say thank you! I've queued for hours to try and meet my favourites in the past, or bought meet and greet tickets when possible, and when you succeed in meeting them, there is no greater feeling in the world! I waited years and years to meet Gary Barlow - the last unsuccessful attempt saw me stood outside Cardiff Arena for 7 hours. However in December, a 4 hour wait outside Radio 2 meant that I finally got to meet him, as well as being fortunate enough to meet the whole of Take That at a signing later that afternoon. I don't regret a single minute wasted waiting because it was one of the most unreal moments when it happened!

There's no doubt that there is some obsessive behaviour within fanbases (how many times has #Cut4CurrentControversialPopStar trended on Twitter?) and those kind of things are without doubt abnormal and nonsensical. Just as idiotic as something like football riots! However it enrages me to see fangirls constantly getting slated for things which would be considered normal behaviour if they supported a football team, wanted the latest gadget or followed the Royal family. More to the point, there are reasons why fangirls adopt such behaviour and they aren't as ridiculous as what other people believe.

I watched a really fascinating documentary the other day that I recorded on BBC Three a while ago called Tom Felton meets the Superfans. The Draco Malfoy actor, having been in the public eye since childhood, wanted to understand why fans would go to extraordinary lengths for an autograph or a selfie and this was spurred on by his own superfan, an older lady in her 50's who'd followed his career for around 7 years.

Tom met several different fans on his journey and concluded with three reasons as to why fans would queue, travel or come and see someone multiple times. The three reasons were a sense of belonging, recognition and escapism - I can fully relate to all three elements and I think Tom concluded the whole subject in the best way possible having gained a real understanding of what fans want from their idols.

A sense of belonging is something all fangirls can relate to. When you join a fanbase, you're automatically thrown into a mix of other people who share your love for said boyband/actor etc. Social media has made it so easy to communicate with other fans now, and what may start as a little conversation here and there, can lead to someone becoming one of the closest friends you have, all thanks to a band. I've been lucky to make so many friends thanks to being a 'fangirl' - some friendships haven't lasted, but that happens in the real world too. There are a few friends that I actually consider family! I know people all across the country, even abroad in places like Australia, people that I would probably never have crossed paths with if it wasn't for certain bands. 

Recognition is another element that I relate to. In Tom's documentary, recognition was portrayed by a super fan in America who would meet the same actor or singer numerous times (Rupert Grint and Nick Jonas being some of his favourites). Tom went in disguise with this lad to meet Rupert outside a theatre - Rupert immediately recognised the lad and knew him on first name terms. This pleased the lad immensely and I can see why it would. I remember the third time we met The Wanted and as myself and mum walked into the meet and greet, Tom Parker said "aw we've met before haven't we?!" and I could have cried there and then. He didn't know our names or anything but the fact that he even vaguely recognised us considering the number of fans he meets on a regular basis actually meant the world! 

Twitter has certainly helped bands etc to recognise their fans and it's also a reason why so many people get attached to unsigned, up and coming bands. I became a fan of Kingsland in November 2012 and would tweet them regularly between then and their first social in February 2013. When it came to meeting them for the first time, several members already recognised us because of twitter, it felt as if we already knew them! Over time, the more you see a band, the more they recognise you, remember your name etc and I challenge any fangirl to admit that it doesn't give them a bit of a buzz when that happens, whether it's with an unsigned artist or a worldwide artist. That might be a silly point but a bit of recognition makes you feel closer to said artist, there's no doubt about it!

Finally, escapism. It is common territory these days that fangirling is a form of relief for those having a tough time. During Tom's programme, we met people who had been bullied or had suffered from depression, yet a love of Harry Potter had helped them to survive their difficulties. I would say that almost every fangirl is fighting a battle, whether known to other people or not. Reading a book, listening to music, going to gigs etc are forms of escapism where you can forget all of your worries for a short period of time. I have my problems like most people, but going to concerts is my escape from 'real life' and I live for those days away - last night I was stood in a Take That gig and for those two hours, all my worries faded into nothing. If I had my way, I would continuously be on the road but I'm not a millionaire so until then I still need to work haha. Unfortunately any problems or worries you have still exist, but it is nice to have an alternate world that you can escape to when you need to. 

I just wish people would be less judgemental of fangirls. At the end of the day, 99% of us are a nice bunch and we just want to support people the best we can. We're not harming anyone, going to gigs gives us a sense of belonging, not only feeling closer to said band/artist but also by making life long friends along the way. Our vices make us happy, at least we're addicted to boyband hugs and not drugs eh? 

Hwyl am y tro ✌️

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Summertime Ball 2015

On Saturday it was time for Capital's annual Summertime Ball. This was our fourth year of going and Capital promised to deliver an even more insane line up than ever!


This year we decided to sit, which was a wise move as I felt as if my feet were going to fall off after standing in golden circle last year!!! We still arrived at Wembley quite early to soak in the atmosphere and to speak to some of our friends that were queuing for standing.

After waiting for our friends we went in just before 3 and caught some of Marvin Humes' brilliant DJ set - he always knows how to get the ball party started! 

During the afternoon we saw 21 world class acts - only at Summertime Ball would you find such a combination of people! I won't go through all of the acts but I will mention some of my highlights!

One Direction opened the show and it was my first time seeing them perform. They were so good! I did feel as if something was missing, following Zayn's departure, but I have nothing to compare it to so I enjoyed their set regardless. I'm so excited to see them on their own tour in September and after STB my love for Niall has just grown even further! (side note; Liam Payne should wear a fedora at all times bc he looks so good in it...!)

One Direction - photo credit @helz999 

Lunchmoney Lewis was one of my favourite acts of the day, purely for the fact that he came out in his dressing gown to perform! I imagine he did this to emulate his video for Bills, which is the most annoyingly catchy song I've ever heard!!!

Lunchmoney in his dressing gown!

Jason Derulo was insane as always! He's so energetic and his songs are some of my favourites. He's a brilliant dancer and as per, he ended up with no shirt on by the end of his performance! 

Jason and his peculiar belly button haha :)

My childhood love, Nick Jonas was absolutely amazing! His song Jealous is constantly on repeat on my phone and it was incredible to see him live again after 6 years!

Rixton were one of my main highlights - it's funny actually, they were one of the Ball Breakers last year and I refused to get involved as I didn't like or want to like them at all. Literally a few days after, I regretted that as I was hooked on them. I most definitely made up for it this year by screaming as loudly as possible haha. I was a bit gutted that they didn't get to sing Wait on Me but they were fantastic - I can't wait to get my hands on their album this month! 

Jake from Rixton

Martin Garrix was a surprise hit for me. I wasn't too familiar with his songs beforehand, but he's actually a phenomenal DJ and he's still only 19 I believe! He really got the crowd going, which is difficult for someone who has to stay behind decks. He was also very pretty which helped a bit haha.

One of the people I was most excited for was Nathan Sykes and he definitely did not disappoint! Having stolen the show for me the past two years, he finally performed solo on the Capital stage and smashed his performances of More Than You'll Ever Know and his debut single Kiss Me Quick!  I was so proud of him - he seemed so nervous but I have so much belief in him, he's going to be a superstar.

Nathan Sykes smashing it!

It was my first time seeing Neyo at the ball and whilst it's been a long time coming, it was so worth the wait! He was incredible and has such classic songs. He also came on during Pitbull's set to sing Give Me Everything, whilst Pitbull returned the favour for Time Of Our Lives.

Finally, hands down the best performer of the day was Olly Murs. What a showman!! He has this universal likeable quality, the whole crowd seemed to enjoy his set whether male or female, young or old! His songs are so catchy and there are no words for some of his dance moves, they're enough to make your heart skip a beat (get it??? I'm not funny I know, sorry lol).

We left before the end of Avicii's set to catch the tube and bumped into our friend Nikki and her mum. This actually turned out to be a hilarious encounter as we were stood next to Sonny Jay (ex Loveable Rogue) on the tube and Nikki's mum was chatting away to him as if they were old pals haha!

always wanted to be a minion!

If you haven't been to a STB yet, please do!! There's guaranteed to always be at least one act you like on the line up, and whilst tickets may seem pricey it is actually such good value for money, considering the calibre of acts and the length of the gig! I paid £95 for my ticket but in return I got to witness 21 world famous acts during 7 hours at one of the world's most famous venues! I would 100% recommend it to anyone, I can't wait to go again next year!

Hwyl am y tro ✌️

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Tasks, Take That and Tribute Acts...

Last weekend I went to see some of my faves up north and once again it was full of random things but fun nonetheless!

On Friday we travelled to Manchester as we were going to see Take That again on the Saturday. When we got to Manchester we dropped our luggage off at our hotel and went for a nosy around the Arndale shopping centre. Whilst looking round the shops, we walked past a discount shop which appeared to be selling junk and I jokingly said to mum "gosh that looks a stall they'd have on The Apprentice!". As the words came out of my mouth, I saw Karren Brady stood by the door and I genuinely had a fangirl moment! I wish I was joking but the excitement was so real. I've been a major fangirl for The Apprentice for years (mind that time I wanted to apply for the Junior version but was six months too old but I'm definitely not good enough for the normal version haha). I kind of just gawped at Karren, she's such an inspirational woman!!

'Discount Haven', spot Karren analysing by the door!

We went to stand round the corner to watch what was going on, I only then noticed the film crew etc which confirmed that they were indeed filming for the show. Obviously we had to go in to the shop and have a closer look.....we walked past again and noticed some headphones in the window so we went in and this lovely guy sold us a pair as well as a portable charger at a discount. I think his name was Sam but I'm not 100%, however he will definitely get my support on the show!

We went to look for the other team's shop too (I wanted to see Claude but no luck) however I wasn't very impressed - half of the team were dragging passers by into the shop, the other half couldn't care less! I'm so looking forward to The Apprentice returning soon though, especially now that we've sort of been a part of one of their tasks!

On Saturday we got up early to go and queue for Take That. Despite having pit tickets, which is the area at the front, we still wanted to try and get barrier so started queuing at around 9:15am. Despite some initial queuing issues with lists/confused security etc, I was 28th in the right pit queue. We had a very pleasant queuing experience - can't complain at being sheltered indoors with a Maccies at hand for food and toilet stops right?!

standard gig selfie

At 5:45 as promised, we were moved inside the arena in what was the most organised walk to the pit I've ever seen, no running or anything! Unfortunately the front barrier was full by the time we made it down but I turned around and saw that the B stage was still empty so we ran over and I got the spot next to the red carpet. We got chatting to the security who were super lovely and this passed the time until the support act came on.

B stage view

This time, Ella Henderson was back and to be honest she was brilliant. I wasn't a fan of hers on the X Factor, however when she released her debut single Ghost I started to appreciate her music.  She sang several songs from her album Chapter One which went down well with the crowd.  Aside from Ghost, which initiated a mass crowd sing-a-long, my favourite song of hers was Mirror Man.

Ella Henderson
Just before Take That came on, we noticed a few people being taken in to sit around the inner bit of the B stage.  We knew that some of Take That's family members were in the crowd that night and after some hush-hushing amongst us, we realised one of Howard's daughters Lola was the mystery girl in front of us.  To be honest, she was the spitting image of Howard!

Finally it was time for Take That to come on.  Once again, it was a phenomenal show.  This time we had a clearer view of the main stage as there were less tall people in front of me, and as we were barrier for the B stage, we were quite close to them when they performed certain songs.  It's amazing what you can miss when you see a such a big production for the first time - for example, during These Days some of the dancers pop their heads through the B stage, we completely missed that the first time!!

During Portrait, someone brought Daisy (one of Gary's daughters) into the B stage area and he made such a fuss of her as he flew over us in the car.  He spotted her straight away and my heart just melted!  Howard gave Lola plenty of attention too, it was so cute.  Soon after, Daisy was taken back into the back of the crowd and we saw that she was with Dawn, Gary's wife, which was odd to see as in previous years she's actually been one of the dancers on stage!

As I mentioned earlier, I was also stood on the red carpet and during Relight My Fire I was fortunate enough to hold Gary's hand again twice! I tried to film it but failed miserably but here's a screencap of when he was coming towards us!

Take That never fail to put on a wonderful spectacle and once we got back to the hotel we started chatting to two ladies down in the bar about how amazing the show was. They'd bought VIP seats and had seen Take That numerous times like we have. However, an ignorant and drunk couple thought it was a good idea to start slagging us all off (despite having been at the concert themselves) but I shall save that episode for another blog post...!

The next day we got up early to travel to Barrow-in-Furness to see Thomps in his first presenting role. The gig was called Kidfest, a family festival which mainly constituted of tribute acts as well as headliners Luke Friend and Paul Akister. 

We arrived late and the first person we saw was Thomps. He'd already been up on stage a few times presenting and he broke the news to me that I'd missed Steven Hall performing. I'm genuinely still gutted about that haha, he was the old man from Britain's Got Talent who used to dance and I really wanted to see him!!

Thomps presenting
The first few acts we actually saw were tribute acts of Rita Ora and Meghan Trainor. I've sat through some odd things in my time just to support a fave, but this was one of those better events if I'm honest. Whilst most of the tribute acts weren't very realistic, they were still enjoyable as they sang songs that were familiar to everyone.

Meghan in Barrow ;)

One of my highlights was "One and Only Direction" despite not sounding or looking much at all like 1D. I met 'Niall', 'Harry' and 'Zayn' (yes, he is still a member in tribute land!) as they were probably the most life-like, that's if you squint a bit and use a lot of imagination!! What threw me was that 'Niall' was called Liam in real life and they were from Scotland so shattered any illusion as soon as they spoke haha. Then again I can't complain as it's the closest I'll ever get to meeting the real deal!

One and Only Direction

Luke Friend and Paul Akister were the headliners and both were brilliant. Luke really got the crowd going and singing along with his covers as well as his debut single Hole in My Heart. Paul was also fantastic with his soulful voice - his covers of Nick Jonas' Jealous and James Bay's Hold Back The River were superb.

Luke Friend
Paul Akister

In between acts, Thomps was doing his presenting thing and it was nice to see him so happy on stage. Thomps being Thomps, he managed to lower the tone on several occasions, for example when there was a big dinosaur in the crowd for the kids to look at, he goes "I think a lot of nappies needed changing after that, mine included", typical Thomps banter ha. He also had to put his boyband dancing skills to the test, doing the cha cha slide, macarena and conga on stage with some of the acts. I think he has a natural flair for presenting because he's so cheeky and upbeat.

favourite person!!!

Overall it was another fun filled weekend and well worth the travelling up north! This weekend in going to Capital's Summertime Ball so expect a blog about that for sure (I also have half a dozen on the go which I will get around to posting lol).

Hwyl am y tro ✌️