The latest musician to take part in the Coffee House Sessions at NUSU was Hollie Stephenson; who was accompanied by her acoustic guitar and a hell of a lot of soul! Of course, age shouldn’t matter in the music industry – after all, talent is talent. But, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that she is only 17 years old when you hear her mature lyrics and enthralling yet powerful voice.
Hollie captivated the coffee loving crowd by playing a few of her own tracks such as Pointless Rebellion. She revealed the story behind the lyrics; a song about how we all have a friend we want to be like. She added meaning to the music which made the song even more sincere and heartfelt. Her version of The Shirelles’ ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ was beautifully executed. Stephenson transformed the song into her own and paired pleasing melodies with unusual guitar riffs.
The short set was full of acoustic pearls and you could really see her settle into the stage as people filled into Mensbar to check out the refreshing music. Each song was met with a hearty applause and she clearly appreciated the support. Although she’s been travelling around universities and in some cases playing two sets a day for a couple of weeks, this took nothing away from her performance. The set was full to the brim with pure emotion and her guitar playing looked completely effortless – something which I’m extremely envious of! Stephenson’s voice is unique and the subtle Londoner’s twang; almost Winehouse-inspired, is novel and adept. There are few musicians like her in the business at the moment and so it was great to hear some original music. You can track down Hollie on Spotify and Soundcloud; I highly recommend that you give her a listen!
I got the chance to chat with Hollie after her performance:
Is this your first time in Newcastle?
Oh no! My mum lives in Newcastle and so I’ve got a lot of family up here.
So, you’ve been doing the Coffee House sessions across universities for a couple of weeks now - what’s your favourite thing about performing?
It’s so nice to see my work being appreciated when I perform.
And how would you describe your style in a couple of words?
Honest, retro, soul
Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics from?
Almost anything, just what’s happening in my life at the time I guess
Have you got any advice for people who’re just starting out?
Definitely do it for yourself. When I started, I was 12 years old so for me I didn’t think about it too much. I just wrote some lyrics and then all I thought next was ‘I need to make a song from this’.
Dave Stewart is pretty familiar with your music now, how was it meeting a pretty well-known musician so early on in your career? - Did you have to play it cool?
Initially all I thought was ‘he’s an old man - what the hell!’ But of course now I have a lot of respect for him, he’s such an accomplished man. My mum was more shocked because she’s a fan but because I was so young I didn’t really know who he was.
What do you think about woman’s role in the music industry - do you feel like females have certain expectations to meet?
For a lot of artists it’s all about selling themselves. The industry has become sexualised and it’s not really about the music anymore, it’s more about how you look. But it’s not like that for me, I don't really care about that.
Which artist would you love to work with?
Good choice! Have you seen him live?
Yes! At the Albert Hall, he’s incredible. But I guess they always say you shouldn’t meet your idols - I don’t know what I’d say to him!
And to finish with a bit of a different question - if you could recommend one album to someone with just a couple of days to live, then what would it be?
Oh god that’s a difficult one. It has to be something happy. Probably an album by The Beatles…or even Bob Marley.