If you happened to spend Valentine’s Day afternoon with a pint at the Swan, you were in for quite a treat: London-based singer/songwriter April Keen stopped by for a Coffee House Sessions gig and spread lots of acoustic love with her charming indie-pop songs. After the gig, the 19-year- old told The Linc about life on the road, writing songs and her plans for 2017.
Is this the first proper tour for you?
Yes. We’ve been on the road since 6 February, playing two or three gigs every day, and we’re exhausted but we love it! It’s really nice to get to play all over the country. It’s so much fun, and that’s what we want, to be on the road.
Your website says that you will release a new single every month starting in February?Yeah, that’s the plan! Sometimes, you write so many things and you just sit on them and then a year later you don’t even like them anymore, and this puts a bit of pressure on us to get music out there. Without a little pressure, you’d probably never finish anything because you want it to be absolutely perfect. The idea came from the band Oh Wonder. They decided to release a new song every month, and in the end, they had a whole album. I think that’s a great idea – I don’t really want to make an album and then not release anything for two years, I’d rather put out new music every month and keep busy.
You have loads of cover versions on your Facebook page. How did that start?
I started uploading covers on YouTube when I was 16, but I think YouTube is slowly dying. Less people are going on there, and more videos are on Facebook, so I swapped over to that, and I started getting great responses and thousands of views, it was crazy! I don’t even know how that happened, but it’s very encouraging, so I want to keep posting covers. People sometimes find it hard to connect with your own music straight away, they kind of need something to draw them in, like a song they already know and love. And then hopefully they’ll stay with me and hear my own music, too.
Would you say playing covers was your leaping off point into making original music?
Yes, definitely. I got my first guitar when I was 11 and learned to play music by playing songs I liked. I guess that’s how everyone starts: you try to play songs by your favourite musicians and you are rubbish but you keep going. That’s how I wrote my first song, when I was 16. I was learning the positions of a song called Youth by Daughter, and I just took those positions, mixed them up and wrote a song. And then I started gigging around with some covers and my own songs and realised that this is what I want to do.
Will you be doing more gigs after the Coffee House Sessions tour ends?
Yes! This tour really has got me into gigging again. I did so much of that when I was between 16 and 17, like four times a week. Then I went through a year where I did not gig at all, and I kind of lost all my confidence, but the Coffee House Tour has been really good practice. I feel pretty prepared now to get out there and gig around crazily. I have a support slot for Joe Dolman, who was on the Coffee House Tour back in December, I think, and he is playing a headline gig at the Troubadour. And when I get off this tour, I have many gigs with uni.
You have a cover of Train’s Hey, Soul Sister on the setlist. What’s the story behind that?
When I was in sixth form, one of our projects was to take a song and cover it but completely change the style, and we took that. That was two or three years ago, and it’s just stuck with me ever since. It has such a different vibe, and I just love the way we changed it so much that it’s my go-to cover now. I’d like to do that with other songs, too, but I haven’t quite been able to do it yet. The other covers aren’t changed much, I just sing songs I love. But I wouldn’t sing them live unless I really change them, I don’t just want to copy – I want them to have my own stamp, and that takes a lot of time.
What is your inspiration for writing songs?
Definitely personal experience. My song-writing is very honest and genuine. It’s not fabricated, it’s simply what is going on in my head, and I think it’s what is going on in a lot of people’s heads. My melodies and instrumentations are inspired by artists I love, like Gabrielle Aplin, Daughter and Aurora. And my friends inspire me so much, maybe not musically, but to just do things because they really believe in me. For some reason, I always write with a gap, so stuff that happened to me a year ago is what I’m writing about now, and then stuff that is happening to me now I will write about in a year. Or maybe not a whole year, but if something happened today, I wouldn’t go home and write about it immediately.