Music

Exclusive Interview: Stephanie Cheape, A Name You Should Remember Not To Forget

Published in Music | Sunday, 08 May 2016

Stephanie Cheape is a name you have to keep in mind because you will remember it when and YES! WHEN she takes off, a natural talent, warm personality and charming beauty, she is sure to wow the world when the ace up her sleeve is let loose. There’s always something authentic about personal stories conveyed with melodies in music, it makes it more real and relatable which is what Steph prides herself in, taking pain to pen as she goes, although that’s not the only emotion she lets the world hear about. 

Scottish red head with blue eyes on the runway upwards with her guitar as her wings; sounds about the right way to sum it up with Stephanie Cheape. 

We found out about her on Instagram, a video of her on stage strumming on a guitar in sync with her vocals as she entertained a small crowd, we knew there was something special about her and after we had a chat with her, that sentiment was echoed effortlessly.

When did you know you really wanted to do this music thing?

It was kind of strange actually. My family wasn’t really that musical so it literally came from nowhere and at risk of sounding cliché, music found me. I was 15 years old and loved indie music. My favorite band at the time was Hard-Fi and I was inspired by their music. I liked that they took ugly parts of reality such as poverty and crime and turned it into something beautiful. I began writing songs; the first song I ever wrote was “illegal.” I performed the track live at an event for around 200 people for the first time and got really good feedback. The response from the crowd left me a bit shocked and wanting to do more. I never expected to get such a positive reaction. I’d say it was at this point I decided music was where I belonged. 

Your guitar skills are exceptional, how long did it take to get to where you are with the instrument?

Wow! Thank you! that is a very kind compliment, well I got my first guitar when I was 15 years old. My parents didn’t expect me to take it seriously so they bought me a guitar, which cost around £20. I taught myself using “ultimateguitar.com” and an old guitar book. I have to be honest, I picked up a lot of bad habits but as time went on I’ve retrained myself. I don’t remember exactly how long it took maybe a year or two but I’d say I’m still learning, for me the key is perseverance and something about the instrument takes you away from your surroundings. In a sense it was therapeutic so I just kept playing and got better with practice. I’m definitely a lot more skilled than I was at the start, but I’m always looking to up my guitar game at any opportunity. 

How did you get discovered by Leigh Mix Records?

I came into contact with the label after I submitted a demo to them.  It was quite funny actually; I sent a bunch of demos to loads of record labels as you do. I didn’t expect to hear back but I’m an optimist and thought it was worth a try. A few weeks later I had an email from the owner of the label. The email was very criticizing of my music and all the many mistakes that needed fixing. I liked that though, they were brutally honest and that’s what I needed. I arranged to meet up a few weeks later and have been working with them ever since. They’re a new label on the market. You’ll definitely hear more about them in the near future. 

You taught yourself to be a songwriter, how did it happen and how is it beneficial to you?

I always wrote poems, even as a kid. So when I got my first guitar and began to write some decent melodies, I just started putting words to them. Articulating myself in person is something I’ve always struggled with, yet all of a sudden I could say exactly what I wanted to say through my music. I fell in love with the whole process. Writing the melody and putting lyrics to it. I guess you could say it’s empowering. I never let anyone hear my songs for the first year and then when I finally did they loved it and that made me believe in myself, so then I played in front of crowds and put it online. 

So it can be assumed that you have written all the songs on your forthcoming album?

Absolutely, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I write all my own material down to the last word. I feel strongly about being true to myself. I refuse to be a product of someone else’s music. Everything you hear on my album was my own work. 

How has the process been working on the album?

It’s a long process, and I’m still a while from the finish line. It’s taught me a lot about myself as an artist. It has been fantastic over all. I am really looking forward to getting it finished and putting it out there. 

Any special guest features?

That’s something you’ll have to wait to find out about.  Sorry guys, my lips are sealed. 

Your song Who’s laughing Now is about bullying in school that came from a personal experience, why was it important for you to write the song?

Yes, it did come from a personal experience. Something, which has shaped me into the kind of person I am. For me, the song gave me closure on something that affected me in life but most importantly, how many people feel victimized from various situations and feel alone got me thinking. Music healed me in many ways and I wanted to put something out there to let others know that they aren’t the only ones experiencing some form of hardship. It’s not specific to bullying. It can be anything, the songs main message is, “don’t let the bastards get you down.” 

 What were you typically bullied about in School?

Well of all things to get bullied for being Scottish and all, Red hair is something that many people find hard to accept in Scotland. I know right, Scotland, the land of Redheads; where our whole jam is the kilt, red hair and haggis. You’d think it was more accepted but unfortunately that’s not the case. In my experience of bullying this wasn’t the only issue, to be honest I’m pretty thick skinned and enjoy the redhead banter every now and again but, there was more to it and more serious than just picking on me for what I looked like. It’s old news and to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t give them the glory of talking about them.

You were then home schooled, did you wish you started with that option or the experience was sort of an important part of your growth?

I guess I wish the experience never happened. Maybe I’d be different. But it did, and that will never change. I try not to think like that. It was horrible having to leave school. The situation was so serious that the safest option was to remove me and not the bully. I guess there is a lot of politics involved but I felt punished for someone else’s bad behavior. I was isolated and it made me very alone but I had a supportive family and made my real friends a little later in life. I eventually got into a better school around a year later. It was strange at first and made me a little quieter but I still had fun and found myself again. During the time I was home schooled, music distracted me and let me express myself. I can’t imagine how I would have got through it if I never had that outlet. 

Do you see yourself being an ambassador against bullying in future?

I guess I’d love to raise awareness on the issue. I don’t know it’s a pretty big issue, I do believe that schools don’t do enough and can sometimes make the issue worse. More has to be done to address these problems. I think if my music provides some type of support or encourages an inner strength to get through it then I’ve done my job well. I think in today’s society a lot of bullies don’t even realize that they are the bully. The Internet allows us to ridicule from a distance so you feel less responsible but the effects can be damaging and I hope the song makes people realize that. 

You describe your sound as pop rock & indie style with pure earthy vocal tones (Description on SoundCloud). How did you settle for that?

Did I? I guess it’s hard to put a name on it. I’ll leave that up to the listeners. I think over all it’s an idiosyncratic vibe. I just don’t set out to have a specific sound. It’s all about how the story of the song, therefore the style can always change. 

Do we see you diverting from that description at any time in the future or this will remain your staple?

Absolutely, that’s the beauty of music. I can’t see myself developing into death metal or anything but I think it’s good for an artist to grow and change with music as long as I remain true to my songwriting, I’m happy to sit back enjoy the whole process. 

Being on the come up lends you the opportunity to study the landscape of the music industry, how do you utilize this advantage?

It’s useful to see what’s going on around you but I don’t necessarily focus on it that much. I just know I’m heading in the right direction and that’s taken a long time to get it right. I think for me, I just do what feels right; I try not to let the politics of the music industry factor into any of my development as an artist. 

What do you hope to deliver to the world with the release of your forthcoming album?

Big question! OK. I hope to deliver something natural and not manufactured. I think too much of what we hear these days is over produced and falsified with perfection. I want my music to inspire others the way I was inspired and ultimately make you feel good about yourself. Music has the ability to do that and if my music can do that, then I’m happy. 

Do you have a title for it?

That’s not been decided yet. If I rush it, I’ll end up picking something horrendous. I’ll just let that happen organically. I’m a last minute type of girl; I’ll leave that for as long as possible. 

You have been performing for a while now; do you have a ritual before you get on stage?

Well I still get nervous before any show. It doesn’t matter how many times I play the nerves never go away. I usually have a shot of bicarbonate soda and water – weird I know. I also squeeze in bit of yoga to get me chilled out. Once I’m on stage, it’s great but minutes before the nerves get going. I think that’s good though, keeps me on my toes. 

What mainly affects your song writing?

I’m a walking bag of emotion. Ha! I guess the answer to that is if I feel strongly about something or I’m hurting for someone else that can affect it. I guess it’s a catch 22 with songwriting; you kind of need to have a bit of pain in your life to convey your emotion but I don’t actively look for this. I just write what I feel or how I think others feel. 

You recently did your debut TV performance, how was that experience different the usual rounds you make?

It was amazing and nerve wrecking at the same time. It was live so there was a bit of extra tension but I loved every minute of it. It was very different from performing at a gig. The TV studio had a lot of robot cameras so there weren’t that many people in the room. In a way that made it easier it just felt like I was rocking out in the studio. The STV teams were great. They also gave me lots of tea and biscuits so what’s not to enjoy. 

You do covers and post them on Youtube, which ones were your favorite, difficult and easiest to make?

I love playing other artists songs and changing them up a little but this is really just for fun. I love to cover Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve. I don’t tend to cover that many songs and if its never really too difficult. It’s just fun to change up someone else’s song with other musicians. 

Which artists generally influence your music?

I have various influences, many older bands and newer such as Hard-Fi, The Verve, UB40, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, Biffy Clyro, Ben Howard, RadioHead, David Bowie, Ed Sheeran, Jack Savoretti, Kings of Leon, LudovicoEinaudi.  The list goes on. I also love classical music, which I sometimes listen to before a recording session to get me in the zone. 

In your opinion, where does the best music in the world come from?

For me it comes from someone who has been lost at some point and found themselves again. 

Girl Next Door & Chill Pill are great songs of yours, what’s the story behind each of them?

Girl Next Door came from a rather weird experience. It was about modern dating in a way. I went out to club one night with some friends and it felt like a cattle market. It’s about being image obsessed and forever searching for the perfect girl next-door thing. I don’t think that exists but many of us are obsessed with the idea of perfection. I want the song to let people know it’s OK to be different. 

Chill Pill take me back to my first festival, T in the Park in Scotland. Festivals are like little worlds of their own and a bubble you can just be happy in. It doesn’t matter how crazy your life is, when you’re there you’re with friends it’s OK to be you and just be happy. I guess it’s about remembering to enjoy the moment and let go once in a while. 

Who do you aspire to work with around the world and why?

I’d love to work with many artists and producers. I think all musicians do. I’d love to make it in the States. I think that’s the ultimate dream for me. I hope to get there one day. Professionally it’d be a dream to write a song with Ed Sheeran, I like what he stands for, his style and his work ethic. Plus red heads need to stick together. 

Find her;

Facebook:  Stephanie Cheape
Twitter: @stephaniecheape
SoundCloud: Stephanie Cheape
Youtube: Stephanie Cheape
Instagram: @stephaniecheapeofficial

To get her latest single Who's Laughing Now, go to iTunes (Link to song)

(Images courtesy of Stephanie Cheape's Instagram)