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Interview: AfterDark Talks with Amy Wadge

  • 28 Jul 2015

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Interview: AfterDark Talks with Amy Wadge

Prior to sensational songwriting duo Amy Wadge & Pete Riley‘s recent performance at St David’s Hall (26 June), AfterDark’s Dean Hodge managed to grab a quick interview with Amy Wadge – herself one of the most prolific songwriters in the music industry today as well as an established solo artist in her own right.

She has famously co-written with Ed Sheeran including their global smash Thinking Out Loud which reached number one in the UK Official Chart last year and has now spent a full consecutive year in the UK Top 40 chart alone. But Amy can boast working with a stellar amount of names from her impressive repertoire – including the likes of LeAnn RimesJanelle Monae and Birdy to name just a few.

However, the Bristol-born artist has always called Wales her home and her involvement in the Welsh music scene is just as profuse. In the last few years she has co-written for, produced and mentored numerous up-and-coming artists including Gabrielle MurphyKizzy Crawford, Delyth McLeanMaddie JonesRemembering August and countless others. However, it is with fellow songwriter and touring partner Pete Riley that she has enjoyed a particularly fruitful collaboration.

Amy and Pete first came together in 2010 and immediately clicked after many years performing in various bands. Since then they have writing together, toured and released a pair of highly acclaimed albums – Rivers Apart and Afterglow.

Read the full interview here in which Amy discusses how her partnership with Pete first came about, how Thinking Out Loud was born, balancing her currently hectic workload with family life, and why Wales will always be home to her.

DEAN: Prior to your performance with Pete Riley at St David’s Hall, how did you and Pete Riley first meet?

AMY: Me and Pete Riley first met up to do some writing together about five years ago and until then, Pete had been touring in America for a long time. Even before we met, a lot of friends said how well the two of us would get on and that we should collaborate in some way. We ended up recording a bunch of songs and it was me who suggested that rather than give all of them away, we should preserve some of them for ourselves. The sessions we spent together culminated in our album Rivers Apart, followed by Afterglow.

Pete has been a successful songwriter in the States himself but came back home to spend time with his family, which is one of the reasons I share a lot of common ground with him. We have such an natural partnership and I feel together, we are both making the music that really reflects us as artists.

DEAN: I have to mention your recent global smash you co-wrote with Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud, which has now reached the milestone of being the first single ever to spend a whole consecutive year in the UK Top 40 charts, including a two-week stint at number one.

When was the track first conceived, and did you and Ed ever envisage that it would achieve the success it has?

AMY: I was hanging with Ed [Sheeran] just after he had finished recording the album X and he played me the whole album back to back. We were just jamming in the very early hours of the morning and out of that Thinking Out Loud was written. Just after we finished writing the track, Ed insisted it should be on the album. He literally recorded it the next day, and the day after that I received a phone call I will always remember telling me the song had made it onto the album. It all happened so quickly, and the rest is history as they say.

It’s amazing how warmly the track has been received by everyone and I do keep wondering when this will all stop. It’s been a whole year and I would have thought by now everyone would have surely bought the song and the momentum would have died down a bit, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. Me and Ed are both gobsmacked that it has been a whole year in the charts now. It’s just beyond my wildest dreams, and it’s a privilege to share this success with Ed.

DEAN: Without meaning to sound too clichéd, how much has your life changed in the last year post-Thinking Out Loud?

AMY: My life has completely changed and it is a cliché but it’s true. My diary is constantly full these days and I’ve being asked to work with people I would not have worked with or met before. I’ve off to the States again in September which I’m looking forward to. Things have happened for me that I never imagined would happen, and it’s amazing how much having one big hit can impact on your life like that.

DEAN: You have always proudly called Wales your home. Do you see it staying that way even with your workload at the moment?

AMY: I could never leave Wales. My family is here, my husband is here, I’ve been to school here and it’s always been home to me. It’s extremely important to me too that I keep my sense of privacy and maintain a relative sense of normality! I’d never rule out moving to somewhere like London or wherever work will take me, but Wales will always be my home.

It’s difficult obviously having to balance such a hectic workload with having a family but I’m extremely lucky to have such an incredible husband who has supported me for so long. My management team consists mainly of women which is great because they deeply empathise with the need for me to have time with my family. I’ve always tried to say yes to any opportunity that has come my way but there was a time where juggling too much all at once made things difficult, and now I have a balance in my life that works for me.

DEAN: You recently visited the University of South Wales to deliver a masterclass in songwriting, coinciding with the launch of USW’s new MA Songwriting and Production course this year.

What did you make of the experience, and do you think such a degree can help aspiring musicians get a foot into the music industry?

AMY: For me, it was really humbling and rewarding to visit University of South Wales, and share with these students the journey that I’ve been on, as well as a reminder of how far I’ve come since I first started out. It’s always exciting to see up-and-coming artists at the early doors in their careers, and I always champion any opportunity to connect or collaborate with new artists and writers. It’s something I don’t get to do masses of due to my busy schedule, but obviously when I have the time it’s a very rewarding thing for me to do.

In all honesty, for me music and songwriting is still a job as well as my passion. Like any other job, how well you succeed in it comes down to how much experience you can get. In many respects, you learn the job by doing the job. It’s great that such a degree exists now and I think it provides a great building block for people who want to make it in the industry, but it is ultimately up to them to build on that and gain further experience for themselves.

DEAN: As a songwriter and as an individual artist, do you enjoy collaborating with other artists more than being a solo performer?

AMY: I think the collaborative process is the process I most enjoy. Working with other people for me has changed the whole way I feel about songwriting, and I get an enormous amount of reward out of helping someone else. Whenever you’re writing with a group of people, everyone brings something different to the process, and the energy and creativity rubs off on you individually which is a great buzz.

DEAN: You have written with, produced and mentored a number of Welsh-based artists. What are your thoughts on the music scene and the number of artists in Wales?

AMY: One of the things I’ve loved about living in Wales is that I’ve had access to all this great music and had the privilege of meeting so many talented artists here, which is beneficial to me both as a professional artist and as someone who lives and breathes music. I’ve had the privilege of co-writing with and mentoring so many great young Welsh artists that, were it not for me working in music, I would perhaps not have heard of otherwise.

Over the years, we’ve had significant artists come out of this country. I do think this is a particularly strong time because there are a lot of exciting new acts like Pretty Vicious, Gabrielle Murphy, Kizzy Crawford, Delyth McLean, Maddie Jones, Remembering August and so many others that are now emerging. But as well as that, there is a lot more press and fan interest being invested in the Welsh scene. However, we’ve always been up against it due to our location, and perhaps the lack of artists from elsewhere who choose to tour here.

The reality of that is that artists have to work a lot harder to break through into the national scene and that is not going to change any time soon. In some ways, that means a lot of artists from Wales possess such a hard work ethic because they have to in order to get themselves heard as an artist.

DEAN: In recent months you have worked with a number of artists from the Horizons project – delivered by BBC Wales and Arts Council of Wales – including Kizzy Crawford, Gabrielle Murphy and Delyth McLean.

Do you think initiatives such as Horizons are beneficial to promoting the Welsh music scene?

AMY: Anything that elevates public knowledge about the Welsh music scene is a good thing. The fact that BBC Radio Wales and the Arts Council of Wales have decided to give these artists a platform through the Horizonsproject is doing wonders for helping artists extend their existing audience base.

Interview by Dean Hodge

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