This year’s Learn to Play Day will be held on Saturday and Sunday the 24th and 25th of June. Being the flagship event of the UK’s Music for All charity, the UK-wide event offers the general public the chance to get a free taster lesson with an instrument of their choice in over 120 venues across the country. To mark the significance of the day a new anthem has been recorded by up and coming artist Nina Schofield, we chatted to her about her career thus far and her involvement in this remarkable idea…
MT When did you first start making music and why?
My parents have told me I used to make up melodies whilst being pushed in a pram, but my first conscious effort to write was in primary school. I decided I wanted to write an ‘album’, so I wrote several top-lines with lyrics, organised them into a folder and recorded them all on tape in my dining room.
I would listen to albums I owned on repeat every evening after school and I guess I felt it was time I had my own! By the time I was in secondary school I was writing a lot of music, especially at my piano. It just seemed like the natural way to express myself and has continued to be till present day.
The video for ‘Beat Another Rhythm’ – the Anthem for Learn to Play Day 2017
What is your usual approach to music making, do you begin with music or lyrical ideas? And what inspires you generally?
It depends – I quite often find a lot of my ideas come to me at night when I’m nodding off, so that would mean a melody idea first and then I’ll record it, fall asleep and wake up in the morning to build chords and lyrics around it at my piano. But I also jam around a lot on piano just to see what comes out, especially when I feel the songwriting ‘mood’ come over me.
The other way I write is to track – I receive a lot of work writing for other artists both through my publisher and through friends in the industry; they will send me a track and I will listen to references and then sit and write a top-line. Inspiration comes from a variety of places – from my own life experiences, to movies I’ve watched or books I’ve read, or music I’ve heard on the radio.
Can you explain a little more about how you use the web to help you compose?
I’ve met a lot of my songwriting partners through sites like Linkedin and Facebook which has been amazing. I also wrote ‘Restart’ from my album SHAPES with a lovely writer called David Davis over Skype – we’d never met before but we wrote this song whilst he was in Nashville and I was in Hampshire just because the internet allowed it! We recently met each other for the first time in person in LA which is incredible.
The internet really has opened doors for me I never imagined possible in my career! I’m also always on sites like Rhymezone and Thesauras.com just to help find clever ways to write lyrics.
What are your go-to tools when making music, and what software do you work in?
I use Garageband to record a lot of my basic ideas and then transfer over to Logic to get things recorded properly. I also use my Focusrite audio interface which is great and means my ‘recording studio’ is quite portable.
What instruments do you play – and what’s your preferred instrument?
I play the piano, I sing and also learnt to play the drums for many years. My favourites are piano and voice because they can both help me be very expressive. The piano is great for getting a fuller sound as well.
Can you give our readers an overview of your career to date
I started off gigging in my local area when I was legally allowed into pubs and then after studying at The Academy of Contemporary Music and recording a few demos, I began writing with people from all over the world.
I ended up signing a publishing deal with 23rd Precinct / Notting Hill Music and have since released an album as well as writing for other artists across Europe. I’ve been fortunate enough to perform in some amazing venues supporting some great artists and meeting some lovely, creative people along the way.
Who are your musical influences and why?
There are certain songs that stand out to me as massively inspirational – like ‘Drops of Jupiter’ by Train, or ‘Real Life’ by Simple Minds. But I’m also constantly listening to different artists and evolving my tastes.
Celine Dion remains my favourite vocalist, and One Republic have my favourite album of the moment – ‘Oh My My’. I’m unashamedly into pop music but I grew up playing classical piano so I enjoy dipping into that side of things quite regularly.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Keep creating and evolving – don’t become stagnant and stuck in one place – there’s so much interesting music out there to explore and i know from my early days of writing how easy it is to convince yourself to stick to one path. Taking musical risks can be massively liberating!
Also, don’t let everyone else’s opinions negatively affect your path. Everyone is going to have something to say, but it’s you that has to sleep at night with your decisions – be confident, polite and clear.
How did you get involved with this year’s Learn to Play day?
Having done a workshop with Yamaha last year I was ecstatic to hear about their involvement with Learn to Play 2017 and jumped at the chance to be involved when I was asked. I strongly believe in the importance of learning to play instruments and the ability it gives you to create and express yourself through music.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m gearing up for the release of ‘Beat Another Rhythm’ – the anthem I wrote for Learn To Play – I’m very excited about the video for it which was shot entirely on Snapchat and can’t wait for everyone to watch it. I’m also in the process of writing new material and starting to think about touring plans for year ahead. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting 2017-2018!
Find out more about Nina Schofield here
Find out more about Learn to Play Day here