Music Matters with Steph Douglas

Photo of Steph Douglas at the Don't Buy Her Flowers Warehouse.

Our latest music matters feature is with the lovely Steph Douglas, founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers. DBHF specialises in thoughtful gift packages, and they are absolutely fab! I’ve lost count of how many I’ve sent out to friends and family – I especially love the ‘Create A Gift Package’, where you can choose which products go in (always gin & tonic and chocolate).

We love Steph for her honest approach to motherhood, relationships and business, but we also love the fact that she enjoys a kitchen disco and is a serious advocate for afternoon naps – how GLORIOUS!

Steph has created a business with heart. It’s a business that really listens to its customers, and is committed to giving back, regularly championing fellow business-owners, and supporting charities such as Stand Up To Cancer. In March they’re donating £1 from every order placed, to Homestart, which is a fantastic organisation that supports families through tough times, as they did ours after our twins came along and wreaked havoc!

If you haven’t already checked DBHF out, then do so pronto! If you’re anything like me, they will fast become your number one go-to for gifts (oh and Mother’s Day is coming up, so….)

We spoke to Steph about what music was playing in her childhood, what music she listens to now, and of course those infamous kitchen discos…

What music was playing in your early years? Johnny Mathis, Cliff Richard, Sinatra, Barbara Dickson, Everly Brothers and lots of Musicals soundtracks. And the thing is, because Spotify didn’t exist and so we listened to the same albums hundreds of times, I still know every word to all of them. I was at a quiz night and some spurious lyrics from a Cliff Richard song came up and I called it instantly. OH! And Jive Bunny on car journeys, which must have driven my parents crazy.

What were you listening to during your teenage years? TLC, Fugees, a lot of R&B compilations and then some indie and Spice Girls mixed in because it was the 90s, and obvs Alanis Morrisette. I also loved a bit of Beatles and 60s compilations. I had Frank Sinatra Duets tape (yes tape) in my car and it was a fave. 

What do you enjoy listening to now? I still love listening to Kisstory and we went to see Lauryn Hill a couple of years ago so it’s probably time I moved on, but there’s something comforting in the familiar! I think with small kids and the business and generally what has felt like a ‘rush hour’ few years, adding ‘discover new music’ to the list feels like a chore, which I know it shouldn’t but maybe in a few years I’ll come out the other side. I don’t listen to music as much as I used to, but always feel a bit ‘oh I should do this more often’ when I do. 

How does music typically feature in your day? In the car, when we used to have places to go, and on a run. Usually at teatime when we’re cooking/eating we’ll put something on. The kids love a kitchen disco. Unfortunately that means Gangnam Style still comes on, and Little Mix (although I rather like Little Mix). 

What was the last thing you listened to? Damien Rice. I wanted to wail along, which probably says a lot about the state of my head currently! 

What was the most memorable gig/festival you went to, and why was it so memorable? I went to see Beyonce on the Lemonade tour. It was summer, I was with one of my best mates and we were drinking jugs of Pimms saying ‘Pimms really doesn’t get you drunk’ while getting very drunk. We danced aggressively and sang and knew every word and it was just really great. That album is magnificent. 

What album/song reminds you of falling in love? The Kooks Inside In/Inside Out. Also the Love, Actually soundtrack – Doug lived in Italy when we met and could only get Italian TV, but had a Love, Actually DVD and we watched it a lot. I know, we’re hideous. 

Do you play an instrument, and if so what? And how often do you play/practice? I learned the piano when I was younger but was rubbish at practicing so ended up swapping to singing lessons, purely because there was no practice involved. I can hold a tune but am by no stretch a good singer! My husband plays guitar and piano and can start playing something with no music, just works it out, and I would love to be able to do that but also have no patience so it was never going to happen. 

Do you sing to/with your children? If yes, does it alter their behaviour/mood? Yes, I was never a massive one for classes when they were little except music – I did a singing class with all of them and they loved it. A couple of summers ago we played Michael Jackson a lot on holiday every time we were in the car and it’s quite nice when you come out of the nursery rhyme phase and they start to like songs. The older two are just starting to develop their own tastes and definitely love music. 

Is there a song or album that got you through a difficult time? This is VERY tragic, but I went to Australia in my twenties and knew I needed to break up with the guy I was with as it was not a healthy relationship, and I remember lying on the beach on my own listening to James Blunt. And Kelly Clarkson. So sue me. 

Steph with her 3 children and cat(!) enjoying Kitchen Disco!

Kitchen discos? If yes, what’s on your playlist? Definitely – we have disco lights and everything, the kids all love dancing. It’s eclectic as it’ll involve music we like, music the kids like. The Trolls soundtrack isn’t so bad as it’s nearly all covers. My standards were never very high but as a parent I’m just relieved that we’re not listening to ‘Mr Tumble sings…’ anymore. I put Marvin Gaye on the other day, we’d had some wine and it was fun to watch the kids look on appalled while we gyrated to ‘Let’s Get It On’. 

Anything you want to tell us about? Mother’s Day is coming up (14th March) and Don’t Buy Her Flowers have some gorgeous selections, or you can put something completely bespoke together, and it all arrives beautifully gift wrapped and with a handwritten tag.

One of DBHF’s Mother’s Day Packages. Click HERE for more info.

Click HERE to visit Don’t Buy Her Flowers.

Click HERE to follow Steph on Instagram.

We’ve also put together a playlist of some of Steph’s influences and inspirations, you can hear it HERE.

For every ‘Music Matters’ feature we publish we will be donating £20 to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, who we’ve been supporting since 2018.

To read more of our Music Matters interviews, click HERE.

Music Matters with Sipprell

Music Matters Feature with Sipprell
Image of Sipprell

Our latest Music Matters feature is with singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Sipprell.

One of the UK’s brightest RnB talents, she has been championed by BBC 1Xtra, and her latest EP ‘Bad History’ has received huge critical acclaim. In the early stages of her career she was backing vocalist for Lily Allen and Leona Lewis, she’s since gone on to support PJ Morton and Roy Ayers.

The first time I heard Sipprell sing live, I was completely mesmerised. Her voice was flawless, and technically outstanding – I felt I was witness to serious artistry. Her vocal runs are off the scale, and she has been compared to vocal heavy-weights, Aaliyah and Mariah Carey.

‘Bad History’ is a stunning body of work, featuring some deeply personal songs about loss, love whilst her track ‘Planes’ focuses on the serious issue of climate change. It includes tracks produced by Chloe Martini and Lophiile (H.E.R), and the strings (performed and arranged by Sipprell herself) are a definite highlight.

A self-confessed perfectionist, Sipprell’s music is pretty much as close to perfect as you can get.

What music was playing in your early years? I heard a lot of different styles of music playing at home- The Beatles, Queen, Jimmy Hendrix to name a few, as well as a lot of classical piano from my dad. 

What were you listening to during your teenage years? A lot of RnB- Brandy, Aaliyah, Destiny’s child.. and UK garage, So solid crew ta ta ta! 

What do you enjoy listening to now? I’m still rinsing Lucky Daye’s album. I’m also enjoying Phoebe Bridgers at the moment.

What first got you into music? My mum used to sing, so that was definitely my first influence. I played violin and piano from when I was 6, but I always knew singing was what I wanted to do for life. 

How does music typically feature in your day? I always play music when cooking or working out (a very rare occurrence these days!) I try to pick up my violin and guitar most days but it doesn’t always happen. I also write and record as much as I can from home.

What was the last thing you listened to? Sault’s new album. 

Is there an artist we might not know of but should listen to? Lex Amor. 

Image of Sipprell

What was the most memorable gig you went to? Teedra Moses at Jazz Café was pretty unforgettable! And PJ Morton at the same venue…2 of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Gabriel Garzon-Montano at Village underground blew me away also. No way I can list just 1! 

What album/song reminds you of falling in love? Kacey Musgraves- Golden Hour.

Do you ever use music to change your mood? I tend to use music to enhance whatever mood I’m in. Or use it as a tool for my emotions that might be stuck. So if I need a good cry I tend to put on sad music. A couple of times that has gone badly wrong and I put myself in a bit of a hole of sadness haha! But normally it works well. If I’m ever feeling like I need a confidence boost I tend to put on Beyoncé. Done that since I was a little girl. She makes me feel invincible!

Do you play an instrument, and if so what? And how often do you play/practice? Violin, I should practice every day, but if I have a guitar gig coming up I usually focus on that. I don’t practice either enough to be honest! I’ve also been meaning to get back into piano lately. 

What album/s have had the greatest impact on you, and why? Brandy- Full Moon, Mariah Carey-Butterfly, Lauryn Hill -Miseducation. Aaliyah- Aaliyah. They all helped shape me as a vocalist and writer. 

Describe your creative writing process. It can start in different ways and depends if I’m collaborating with a producer or not. On my own, I can start with guitar chords and write to that. If I’m with a producer or musician, my favourite way is to just press record and freestyle melodies, and hopefully the concept and some lyrics come with it. Some songs come quickly without trying, other songs are a lot more laborious to complete. 

What’s the best thing about being an artist? There’s nothing better than creating music and then having a new finished song/project to share with the world. I really enjoy collaborating with great musicians/producers but can also find it so therapeutic to get lost in my own little world. As well as the creative process, I love performing and connecting with a live audience.  

What’s most difficult about being an artist? Self-criticism, perfectionism. The finishing stage of making music usually gets pretty obsessive for me and that’s the least enjoyable part. Also, social media can be draining and take away from creativity- but there’s pressure on artists to keep churning out content on there.   

Is there a song or album that got you through a difficult time? I guess because I write, that’s usually what helps me through. Bob Marley always lifts my spirits though. 

What has a greater impact on you – lyrics or melody? I probably hear both at once but will focus slightly more on melody and vibe when I first hear something. Over time though I love to dig into the lyrics and go deeper into the meaning of the song.

Kitchen discos? What’s on your playlist? Hell yes. D’angelo, Lucky Daye, Little Dragon, to name a few. 

Why does music matter to you? I’ve never known life without it and it’s a massive part of me. It’s a great escape from all the problems the world is constantly facing, and life would be pretty dry without it!

Anything you want to tell us about? I just released my EP, ‘Bad History’. So you can check that out!

CLICK HERE to buy Sipprell’s latest EP.

CLICK HERE to hear recent interview with Rosie Lowe on Foundation FM. 

We’ve also put together a playlist of some of Sipprell’s influences and inspirations, you can hear it HERE.

Sipprell can also be booked to perform at weddings and events. Click HERE for more info.

For every ‘Music Matters’ feature we publish we will be donating £20 to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, who we’ve been supporting since 2018.

Music Matters with Alain De Botton

Music Matters with Alain De Botton
Alain de Botton

Our latest Music Matters feature is with world-renowned philosopher, Alain De Botton.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Alain started writing at a young age, publishing his first book ‘Essays on Love’ when he was only 23. He’s since gone on to write several books covering subjects as varied as status anxiety, architecture, travel, and love.

I first discovered his writing when I was in my early twenties. I read ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’ and instantly became a fan.

Alain is also Co-Founder of The School Of Life, an organisation helping people to become more resilient and lead fulfilled lives.

If anyone can offer consolation during this global pandemic, Alain certainly can. During the first lockdown he recorded a podcast with Elizabeth Day on ‘embracing vulnerability in the age of coronavirus’, which provided me with enormous relief and comfort. I highly recommend you give it a listen.

We spoke to Alain back in March just before lockdown started, and he told us about his musical inspirations, and what the great philosophers had to say about music. Following our involuntary hibernation due to the pandemic, we are thrilled to finally put this out for you to read. Enjoy!

What music was playing in your early years? Mostly Mozart and Vivaldi.

What were you listening to during your teenage years? Mostly Genesis.

What do you enjoy listening to now? Mostly Genesis and J.S. Bach.

How does music typically feature in your day? It comes on in the car.

What was the last thing you listened to? REM.

Is there an artist we might not know of but should listen to? Natalie Merchant.

What was the most memorable gig you went to? Natalie Merchant in the Albert Hall: she was moving and energising.

What album/song reminds you of falling in love? The Sundays and their song ‘When I’m Thinking About You’.

Do you ever use music to change your mood? Bach is wonderful at creating a feeling of awesome redemption, especially the last movement of the Mass in B Minor. Perspective returns. 

What album/s have had the greatest impact on you, and why? Genesis’s album ‘Seconds Out’ showed me how you could combine huge intellectual ambition and compelling tunes.

Do you sing to/with your children. If yes, does it alter their behaviour/mood?  I used to play them music, but now – as teenagers – the idea fills them with horror.

Is there a song or album that got you through a difficult time? Bruce Springsteen’s live albums are perennially consoling and profound. I’m Going Down is a perfect one for tragic moments.

What has a greater impact on you – lyrics or melody? Melody.

Kitchen discos? What’s on your playlist? Not enough. But it would need to be Abba and Tori Amos.

Do philosophers have anything to teach us about music? Arthur Schopenhauer proposes that music touches us by speaking directly in the language of the emotions, avoiding touching reason. It is therefore, in his eyes, the most subtle and persuasive of all arts.

Why does music matter to you? It is compressed emotion and articulates feelings that would otherwise have remained out of touch. It gives dimensions to my soul.

CLICK HERE to visit Alain de Botton’s website.

CLICK HERE to visit The School Of Life.

CLICK HERE to hear Elizabeth Day interview Alain.

We’ve also put together a playlist of some of Alain’s influences and inspirations, you can hear it HERE.

Read all our Music Matters features HERE.

For every ‘Music Matters’ feature we publish we will be donating £20 to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, who we’ve been supporting since 2018.

Music Matters with Frida Touray

Lianne La Havas Backing Vocalist, Frida Touray

Originally hailing from Sweden, Frida Touray is one of the UK’s most exciting and talented singer-songwriters. Possessing an out of this world voice (which has been compared to that of Queen B herself – Beyoncé), and with some serious performance credentials to her name, Frida is definitely one to watch.

Her band, Native Dancer, has been described as ‘the moody lovechild of Weather Report and Beyoncé’, and is a rich mix of Jazz, Hip-Hop and Soul (with plenty more in between.) They’ve performed at SXSW, Love Supreme Festival, Somerset House and WOMAD, and have been championed by Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson.

Frida is backing vocalist for Lianne La Havas (with whom she supported Coldplay!), and co-wrote ‘Green Papaya’ on Lianne’s self-titled album released earlier this year. She also co-wrote and performed on ‘Signs’ – a track by Jordan Rakei, featuring American rapper, Common. Plus she’s performed backing vocals for Liam Gallagher, Cinematic Orchestra, NAO and James Bay.

Native Dancer release their debut album, TIDES, produced by Miles James (Michael Kiwanuka) on October 23rd. Ahead of its release, we spoke to Frida about her musical influences, her creative writing process and whether she enjoys a kitchen disco 🙂

We hope you love this feature with Frida Touray as much as we do, and we encourage you to buy Native Dancer’s debut album (link at bottom of feature). Support music – it matters.

What music was playing in your early years? Both my mom and dad loved reggae so there was loads of that. And my mom is a big blues and rock fan so lots of Credence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin and BB King in our house! 

What were you listening to during your teenage years? A lot of Rnb and mainstream pop!

What do you enjoy listening to now? Everything I can get my ears on. My playlists are wild in terms of genre which is just like I like it. A lot of cross genre music is what I find really beautiful and interesting. 

What first got you into music? I have always sung and I’ve never seen it as an option to do anything else really. I always knew that’s what I was going to be doing with my life, and that knowing in itself has been a real comfort and guiding light for me especially when I was younger.

How does music typically feature in your day? I generally don’t go anywhere without having either music or a podcast playing in my ears. Always when I’m in the bath and def always whilst cooking. 

Native Dancer Vocalist, Frida Touray

What was the last thing you listened to? Leif Vollebeck. Beautiful artist! 

Is there an artist we might not know of but should listen to? Leif Vollebeck. Gabriel Garzon-Montano. 

What was the most memorable gig you went to? Lianne La Havas, whom I sing backing vocals for, supported Coldplay on their last world tour and first stop was a three week tour in South America. The people, food and cities we went to were magical. They had a big production on that tour which meant we stayed in each place for a couple of days which is unheard of when you’re touring normally. Samba dancing in Rio is a memory I hold dear. 

What album/song reminds you of falling in love? Beyoncé’s self titled album ’cause I fell in love with someone when she dropped that one and it’s such a sexy intimate album in many ways. 

Do you ever use music to change your mood? I tend to use music to enhance whatever mood I’m in. Or use it as a tool for my emotions that might be stuck. So if I need a good cry I tend to put on sad music. A couple of times that has gone badly wrong and I put myself in a bit of a hole of sadness haha! But normally it works well. If I’m ever feeling like I need a confidence boost I tend to put on Beyoncé. Done that since I was a little girl. She makes me feel invincible!

Do you play an instrument, and if so what? And how often do you play/practice? I play a bit of guitar and I am trying to really get loads better. Don’t practise enough to be honest!

What album/s have had the greatest impact on you, and why? That’s a really hard question but one that I can remember clearly is Alicia Keys- Songs in A minor. I was 11 when that came out and I remembered my mind was blown. She crossed genres and was so original and graceful. And the songs were incredible and I still listen to that album. It inspired me to know you could mix rnb and make it sound like nothing I ever heard on the radio. And have it be cool and elegant. 

Describe your creative writing process. At the moment, I am having a bit of writers block which feels awful. I always know it passes. I usually wait for my emotions to be somewhat in turmoil before anything brilliant comes out which can be really unhealthy at times so what I am trying to do now is get into a practise. Even if I don’t feel like it I try and do something every day.  My lyrics are always written in some kind of transit..on the bus, on flights, out walking etc. 

What’s the best thing about being an artist? That what I dedicate my life to literally forces me to peel off layers of myself..to dig deeper..and to get to share that with other people and move them. In doing that, you develop connections with people. Which is what makes life so beautiful. 

What’s most difficult about being an artist? My subconscious need for emotional disorder. 

What has a greater impact on you – lyrics or melody? Melody.

Kitchen discos? What’s on your playlist? Dancehall and 90’s Hip Hop. 

Anything you want to tell us about? My band Native Dancer has an album coming out 23rd October and I’m so excited for people to finally hear what we’ve been working on. You can pre-order the digital album and the vinyl from our website.

CLICK HERE to buy Native Dancer’s digital album or Vinyl.

CLICK HERE to book to see Native Dancer LIVE at The Jazz Cafe.

We’ve also put together a playlist of some of Frida’s influences and inspirations, you can hear it HERE.

Frida also fronts SG band ‘Mama Soulshine’ CLICK HERE to book or find out more info.

For every ‘Music Matters’ feature we publish we will be donating £20 to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, who we’ve been supporting since 2018.

Music Matters with Annabel Williams

Music Matters with Annabel Williams

Annabel Williams is a world renowned vocal coach and much sought after vocalist. She has been head vocal coach for X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent since 2012, and has coached stars including Ellie Goulding, Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry and Alison Moyet, to name a few. She’s also a phenomenally talented vocalist in her own right and has worked as a backing vocalist for the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Nicole Scherzinger and Al Jarreau, as well as headlining sell-out shows of her own at world famous Jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, and Pizza Express Dean Street.

Annabel and I (Sofia) met as students on a vocal course in London. When I first heard Annabel sing, not only was I completely blown away by her knockout voice, but also her musicianship which was off the scale! She possessed a musicality that I’d not witnessed before – she just had ‘it’! Music was a language that seemed to come completely naturally to her. Whilst still on the course, Annabel encouraged me to go with her to NYJO (National Youth Jazz Orchestra), I was even lucky enough to have a few lessons with her (for a measly fiver, apparently!) The thing I loved most about Annabel though – ridiculous talent aside – was her warmth, encouragement, and unrelenting desire to see people thrive.

As part of our ‘Music Matters’ series, I asked Annabel about her musical influences, what was playing in her childhood, about her amazing new vocal app that reached Number 1 in the Apple charts, and so much more! Grab a cuppa and enjoy!

What music was playing in your early years? My parents were pro musicians so Django Reinhardt, all jazz singers and James Taylor.

What were you listening to during your teenage years? A mixture of Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and PJ & Duncan! Haha!

What do you enjoy listening to now? I go through phases, but my heroes are Chaka Khan, Freddie Mercury and Prince.

What first got you into music? I think when you’re a natural musician, you don’t have a choice! It’s just ‘in you’ from an early age. I was always obsessed with singing and harmonies and trying to sound like my influences!

How does music typically feature in your day? Omg, constantly! My whole life is arrangements, coaching, recording and listening to music! I’m incredibly lucky.

What was the last thing you listened to? Falling by Harry Styles and I was doing a Little Mix arrangement for them.

Is there an artist we might not know of but should listen to? Yes! Natalie Williams (no relation), she’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. She’s an artist in her own right and a songwriter. Check her out on Spotify/Apple. She’s released loads of stuff.

What was the most memorable gig you went to? Stevie Wonder at the O2 about 15 years ago. I cried from the moment he walked out to the moment he left the stage. It was like a supreme being was in the room. I love him like no other!

What album/song reminds you of falling in love? I recently worked with the fantastic Niall Horan on the release of his wonderful new album ‘Heartbreak Weather’ and honestly the whole album is like an emotional rollercoaster! He’s such a talented boy, it was an honour working with him and his band.

Do you ever use music to change your mood? Yes! When I’m cooking I listen to stuff like ‘Mr Big Stuff’ and ‘Cry To Me’ and pretend I’m in a film and dance around the kitchen haha, or when i need to switch off I put on massage music. I do the same for my contestants too on TV shows they’re feeling the pressure. Music definitely affects one’s mood.

What album/s have had the greatest impact on you, and why? Probably ‘Q’s Jook Joint – Quincy Jones. One of my heroes. It’s got everyone on there!

What’s most difficult about being a vocalist? I think performing in extremely difficult circumstances like occasions or when you’re ridiculously nervous but still have to deliver. No one knows what you’re feeling how you get through it apart from other singers! Breathing always gets me through and having a stern word with myself!

What has a greater impact on you – lyrics or melody? I’m definitely more of a melody kind of person. Also chords.A stunning chord progression can make me burst into tears instantly! Although what connects you to an actual song is ultimately the lyric. I love lyrics that are versatile enough to be adapted to each persons own journey. When they can make everyone feel like they are written specifically for them.

You’re one of the most sought after vocal coaches, does coaching give you as much of a buzz as performing? Yes! To be honest when I do one I miss the other. I still perform regularly (covid aside!) as it’s so important to me as vocal coach. I think it’s so important to practice what you preach. You have to keep doing everything and pushing yourself otherwise it’s easy to lose confidence in these things. When I am working with a client or contestant on a perfomance or recording and they nail it, it honestly is the best feeling. I’m like the proudest mummy ever! I’m often in tears back stage when something you’ve been working so hard on for weeks actually comes together and pays off. I love it.

Anything you want to tell us about? I made a warm up app for singers during lockdown and it was released in June. It went straight to number one music app in the apple charts and i couldn’t be happier about how well it’s been received! There was nothing like this out there and I wanted to create something that was universal for singers like myself to use before shows gigs etc but also for beginners and aspiring singers of the future. There are 3 levels so something for everyone and each exercise has a really fun fully produced backing track to sing along to! I’ve included a video of me explaining about each exercise and so the idea is it’s like i’m there in the room coaching you it is available on all platforms.

CLICK HERE to download Annabel’s amazing Vocal App on Apple.

or CLICK HERE to download it on Google.

CLICK HERE to visit Annabel’s website

We’ve also put together a playlist of some of Annabel’s influences and inspirations, you can hear it HERE.

Read all our Music Matters features HERE.

For every ‘Music Matters’ feature we publish we will be donating £20 to music therapy charity, Nordoff Robbins, who we’ve been supporting since 2018.