We were lucky enough to catchy up with the magnificent artist Test Card Girl, following the release of her single ‘Holds Me Down’ in September 2020.
How did you first get into music?
I studied music and worked as a music teacher and for the education departments of the BBC Proms and British Council Music department for some years – but it’s taken me quite a while to pluck up the courage to release and sing my own music (at 36!)
What is the first song that captured your attention as a youngster?
My Mum used to play us three cassettes in the car on the way to school – the Stand By Me soundtrack, a Tracy Chapman album and Graceland by Paul Simon, so every track of those albums has been absorbed into my soul!
Who influenced your latest release?
It’s very much a combination of many many years of listening! I love synth bands like New Order, and all the Manchester Indie bands I grew up with.
In recent years, I’ve discovered songwriters like Susanne Sundfor and Marika Hackman, I love Chvrches and Nils Frahm, Imogen Heep, Bon Iver, The Slow Readers Club, Christine and the Queens, Kate Rusby, Joni Mitchell – they’ve all come together somewhere in this track along with a love of folky harmonies (Tallest Man on Earth, Bob Dylan etc!)
Who else worked on ‘Holds Me Down’?
It was produced by Dave Fidler who is a singer/songwriter also from Manchester – he’s an emerging producer having just worked with Freya Beer, and he’s producing some of John Bramwell’s (I Am Kloot) music and also sings the backing vocals.
The engineer was Ray Mitchell (currently on load to Manchester from Chicago) who also did some mixing and played bass. And Dave’s brother Andy Fidler played the drums – he’s a brilliant creative drummer and has drummed on everything I’m currently recording.
We see that you began songwriting at 35 years old, what made you start then?
I had to overcome a lifetime of anxiety about my own singing voice and singing my own songs. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’ve just always been too scared to do it! But meeting the right encouraging people (including amazing vocal coach Hannah Smikle) in recent years has helped so much.
At some point, it just became an overwhelming desire to put the music out, whatever the reaction, so I acted on it. I’m still very nervous about live performances (and it’s not the ideal time to practice due to the global pandemic!), but I think the only way to get past that is just to do as many as possible when the time comes that we can!
You’ve been compared to the great Kate Rusby, how do you feel about that?
That it’s completely unjustified because she has the most unique and mesmerising voice I’ve ever heard (I have seen her three times and cried every time – and I’m not a crier!) but if someone has heard a similarity then that is the biggest compliment I could wish for, and it’s probably because I listen to her nearly every day!
If you could open for any artist/band who would it be?
Oh, great question – with endless answers! The 90’s indie kid in me would want to go on tour with Johnny Marr or New Order. But I’d absolutely love to support some of the amazing female artists I look up to – Marika Hackman, Susanne Sundfor or Christine and the Queens.
I’m also quite obsessed with Billy Nomates at the moment – she’s the artist I would love to be if I was cool enough but never will be!
What’s your favourite venue to play?
Well, I’ve only done two gigs so far, and they were both at a lovely open mic night at the Nook in Heaton Moor, Stockport. So that’s my Glastonbury! I’m such a fan of so many Manchester music venues like The Castle Hotel, Night and Day, The Eagle, The Deaf Institute and Gorilla to name but a few – I have a long, long way to go but playing any of those would be a heady mix of nostalgia and joy!
What are your other passions aside from music?
I run a childcare business in my day job that creates magical adventures in school holidays for 4-11-year-olds and supports those with special educational needs to take part, so I love working with children of that age – especially those who don’t have access to a lot of arts opportunities.
I am also a musical stand up comedian and have toured the country with my trusty miniature novelty keyboard – I love surreal comedy. Mainly though I love the pub and telly! A girl of simple tastes!
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
The focus on the image of female artists rather than their music. I feel artists like Christine, and the Queens have really challenged this in recent years, but there’s a long way to go.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve had a song called The Barrel by Aldous Harding on repeat. Also, love the new Fontaine’s DC album and Samantha Whates latest album.
I also love the new track by Manchester muso-poet Argh Kid written in response to the anti-Black Lives Matter protests a few months ago – I think it hit the nail on the head about a part of our society that haven’t learned to treat all people equally.
What musical plans do you have for the next two years?
To build an audience for Test Card Girl and write and do as much live performing as I can. Releasing music is such a dream come true for me, so I’m just going to enjoy every minute and try not to implode!
FV Music Blog September 2020
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