As the country starts up again after a couple of difficult years it was good that the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition was back, signalling that life as we knew it was resuming. Thousands of entries had been reduced to a shortlist of 8 by a judging panel made up of 30 of the UK’s online music writers. Unfortunately, Smoothboi Ezra had to withdraw from the finals due to illness – but will be given a chance to perform as part of the 2023 final. The remaining 7 acts competed for the prize. Each act had just 2 songs each to try and win themselves a place on the Festival's line-up. The judges on the night included Michael and Emily Eavis, and a range of music industry professionals and Glastonbury Festival stage bookers.
As well as being given a slot on one of the Festival's main stages this year, the winner would also be awarded a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize, with two runners-up also each being awarded a £2,500 Talent Development prize.
Opening the competition was Singer-songwriter Amahla who has been described as a unique voice in British soul. She began her a career in music after completing a degree in Anthropology and is inspired to write about social issues, race and class. By her own admission, she talks a lot and describes what her songs are about and why she wrote them at length. Her soulful delivery and vocal ability set a standard for the night, her song writing providing an ability to tell her stories to the listener.
Next up was Zola Courtney, a singer / songwriter from Cornwall and her band. Her lyrics tell of relationships and experiences, delivered in a mellow and expressive manner, lovely to listen to and well received by the audience. Her second song was delivered from the perspective of her mother, an unusual aspect but very effective.
SOFY took to the stage with her band, she only started making music in the last 12 months having been furloughed. Hailing from Leicester (her football top gave it away) and with a band wearing pink jumpsuits, she delivered what has been described as laid back, indie-pop, with a hip-hop-inspired vibe. Her first track reminded me of mainstream Lily Allen, her second had a bit of a Moby feel. She is talented and got a great reception.
At this point a diversion from the competition took place. A Ukrainian who is being hosted on Worthy Farm, Nadia, performed an acapella version of a traditional Ukrainian song. The room went silent as she delivered a fantastic performance. The crowd, as the cliché goes, went wild. Quite an emotional interlude from the frippery of talent competitions when the reason she is there was considered.
Back to the competition with act four, Lewis McLaughlin. This Scottish singer songwriter had been driven by his dad down from Glasgow with his band that day, leaving at 5 AM. His folk style is progressive, using looping and making excellent use of his voice in harmony with band members, and with deliberate enunciation of phrases and words marking his difference. He requested audience participation for the second song chorus, he is funny and likeable and so the request was well received and added to the inclusive feel of the performance. The set was very popular, his talent being evident from the first note.
On the home stretch now with Nia Wyn representing Wales. Her delivery has tones of Amy Winehouse, soulful with Blues notes and a slightly unorthodox delivery that belies her age. She has described her style as “raspy soul crossed over with an r and b groove” and she is not wrong. Her delivery and intonation encourages you to listen, the performance strong. I think we will her quite a lot more of this talent.
Next up Crae Wolf, visually striking in lime green and providing the rap input to the proceedings. I like to see someone as confident in their ability and having such strong stage presence deliver a performance. Her vocals are sharp, song subjects are well constructed and her set delivered on many levels. One to watch for the judges for sure.
Last up were English Teacher. I admit I had heard the name, and wanted to see if they lived up to the hype. The four piece’s first track started as a poem, guitars coming in half way through. Lily Fontaine’s strong vocals and the bands punch lives up to what I had heard about them. The second track “R&B” was where they went for it, cracking conclusion to the night.
As an extra treat and whilst the judges did their thing, Rae who won the competition during the 2020 lockdown gave a performance. She will get her time on stage this year.
The result was preceded by the judges announcing that the standard of all acts was sufficiently high that they all would get a place on the Glastonbury Festival 2022 line up. An added bonus for all.
The winner of the competition was announced as Lewis McLaughlin who travelled back to Glasgow with a slot on one of the main stages at this year’s Glastonbury, and a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize. It was well deserved.
The two runners up were English Teacher and Crae Wolf, each getting a £2,500 Talent Development prize to go with their performance slot at Glastonbury.
The competition was as good as ever, quality acts and a good demonstration that the future of music is still secure..
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