Interview: AfterDark Talks with Delyth McLean

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Delyth McLean, one of this year’s Horizons 2015 artists.Followers of AfterDark may already be familiar with the name and the syrupy tones of Delyth McLean – an artist we have been openly lauding since we were first introduced to her at Swn Festival (in its DimSwn incarnation) last year. Remarkably, the same performance marked her first with her regular band (including sister Bethan McLean on backing vocal duties) – yet the impact they left on every spectator in the room was nothing short of instant.

It is testament to Delyth’s unbridled talent that her rise to wider recognition since has treaded a similarly rapid path. Following her ethereal debut single Lost in Sound released last year, her pounding new track River Bed was premiered on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1.

Earlier this year, Delyth found herself one of the chosen acts for this year’s Horizons initiative – a scheme delivered by BBC Cymru Wales and Arts Council Wales to develop new, independent, contemporary music – and has seen her ascent step up a couple more gears, with a string of regular performances and festival sets under her belt since. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge recently spoke to Delyth about her journey with Horizons so far, her work with Young Promoters’ Network, sharing touring duties with her sister, and coping with the newfound press attention.

DEAN: How would you describe the last couple of months since you were selected by BBC Wales and Arts Council Wales for Horizons?

DELYTH: The last two months have been incredibly busy. From the moment I first found out I was one of the selected artists, my phone has barely stopped ringing! I’ve done so many performances over the last few months including at the BBC Radio 2 Folk AwardsFocus Wales and on the Horizons stage at the first ever X Music Festival in Cardiff, to name just a few.

DEAN: Your new track River Bed was recently unveiled by Spike Griffiths – from Young Promoters’ Network – on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1. How did that come about, and what did you make of the reaction to it?

DELYTH: I’m heavily involved with Young Promoters Network and I am privileged to have Spike Griffiths as my manager. The premiere of River Bed on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1 was a great opportunity for Spike to talk about the work Young Promoters Network are doing in Wales to promote young artists, and having my track played as a showcase of the good work they do was a huge honour for me.

It was slightly surreal but amazing at the same time to hear my music being played on national radio and I had so many messages and calls from people saying they just heard me on the radio. There’s already been such a buzz around the track too, which is fantastic considering it has only been played on radio just three times so far.

DEAN: Is there a release date confirmed for the track, and will it be released as a stand-alone single or as part of an EP release?

DELYTH: No release date has been marked down yet but at the moment I’m looking to release it either late July or early August. Because of the success of the last single Lost In Sound, I’m still not sure whether to release River Bed as a single or an EP.

DEAN: Even with your busy schedule, have you found time to write and record new material?

DELYTH: So far, the recording sessions for River Bed with Amy Wadge have been the only time I’ve spent writing. Much of the last few months have been focused on rehearsing and touring with the band, who I only performed live with for the first time at Swn Festival in October last year.

I’ve basically been writing new material in between in the scant spare time I have, or whenever I’ve had ideas randomly come into my head. The plan is, once I have enough tracks written, to go into the recording studio in the next few months, and perhaps record a live EP for early autumn.

Watch a live session of River Bed filmed exclusively for Young Promoters Network below.

DEAN: As you mentioned in your previous interview with me after your performance at Swn Festival performance, it was also your first performance with your full band. Having played more over the last few months, are you all becoming more confident and assured as a band?

DELYTH: I certainly think the more we’ve played, the more confident we have become and the tighter we are musically. As well as performing much more, we are constantly rehearsing. I remember one weekend, we were playing three shows in a row, and fitted in two practice sessions between, so we are really going at it at the moment. Because we’re playing so frequently, the desire to add new material into our sets and keep our performances fresh is giving us more of an incentive to write more songs.

We played at the DimSwn incarnation of Swn Festival for the second time in April this year, exactly half a year on from our first and additionally a week after we were announced as one of the Horizons acts. It was great to get to play there again and for us, our performance reflected just how far we’ve come as a band in just a short space of time, and the great position we’re in now.

DEAN: It’s worth mentioning that one of the band members is your sister Bethan McLean, and the close relationship between you two seems to really shine through on and off stage.

DELYTH: It’s really good to have her in the band, although I think she gets away with more than the rest of the band! To be able to share all this experience with her, and share the journey through Horizons with her, is really special. We’ve been extremely close ever since we were young. Music is and has always been a mutual passion in both our lives, and we’ve always loved singing together.

DEAN: Going back to your work with Young Promoter’s Network, can you explain how working with them and with your manager Spike Griffiths has helped you grow as an artist?

DELYTH: I’ve been working with Young Promoter’s Network for about two years now. Other artists that are involved with the programme include MIXALYDIA and Gabrielle Murphy who was one of last year’s Horizons artists. When I first started with them, the majority of my time with them was spent working on my confidence, stage presence and image. Eventually, they helped me in other areas such as getting gigs and encouraging me to put on my own shows as well.

Through them, I met my current manager Spike Griffiths. He has been absolutely incredible with me and helped me develop in so many areas as a performer, because ultimately carving out a career in the music industry depends not just on what you do on stage but in every other aspect, including the business and the self-promotion side of it. These were things I didn’t think much about before I went into performing music, and being on Horizons has helped me further my knowledge of that side of the industry.

DEAN: How have you reacted to the increased press interest you have received since being picked?

DELYTH: After every single show we’ve done, myself and the other representative artists always have at least one interview or have members of the press taking photos of us. It’s something that is still quite new to me and is still taking a bit of time to get used to. Many of us have even had spectators coming up to us after and requesting to have their photo taken with us, which is still bizarre to me as I could never imagine that ever happening before.

DEAN: Can doing interviews for the press still be intimidating for you, or is it all starting to become second nature to you now?

DELYTH: I wouldn’t say it was intimidating before it was certainly nerve racking to begin with, as was performing my music on local radio. However, I absolutely love it now!

DEAN: Aside from touring with Horizons, mentoring and learning about how the industry works forms another part of the Horizons initiative. Can you touch on some of the workshops you’ve done since you started?

DELYTH: We had an induction weekend right at the start of the scheme just after all the chosen acts had been announced, which consisted of a number of workshops about what we could expect from the year ahead. We also had people from the industry visiting us and giving us valuable advice.

We do have a multi-day mentoring scheme lined up at the end of summer, once the festival season has died down a bit. In a way, the amount of festivals we’ve done up to now has already built up our confidence to such an extent. I already feel like I’ve progressed so much in such a short space of time, and I’m excited for what the rest of my time on Horizons has in store.

DEAN: Have any of you been in touch with the Horizons acts from last year, and have they passed on any words of wisdom to the new crop of artists this year?

DELYTH: I’m actually good friends with Kizzy Crawford and Matthew from Climbing Trees, who were both on the Horizons scheme last year. I remember when me and the band played in The Moon at Swn Festival in October last year, there were a number of Horizons artists playing next door in Clwb Ifor Bach and Cardiff Fashion Quarter. I was preparing for my set at the same time so wasn’t able to see much of them sadly, but I briefly caught Baby Queens’ set as they were on just before me and they are always amazing to watch.

Gabrielle Murphy actually went through a similar route to me in that she came through the Young Promoters’ Network project, and was managed by Spike Griffiths before being picked for Horizons. She has done brilliantly since and is a shining example of how hard work and complete dedication, complimented by pure talent, can pay off. Her success has inspired me to maximise the opportunity that’s presented to me now.

Find out more about Delyth McLean HERE 

By Dean Hodge

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