Dada Masilo

Singer-Songwriter Tilly Greentree on Noise from the Next Generation and the Nottingham Music Scene

17 April 19 interview: Anna Murphy

The Notts singer-songwriter is this year’s Audience Award winner from Nottingham Music Hub's Noise from the Next Generation. She sits down with Fashion Editor, Anna Murphy, to talk sound, musical style and being sixteen. 

Congratulations on winning the Audience Award! Your music is quite chilled, but with a an undercurrent of modesty in your tone. Does winning something like this seem at odds?
To be honest, I didn't think my stage presence on the night was that brilliant! I used to be a loud person and, in general, I am chatty, but it's really different on stage. I enjoyed acting but when I hit Year nine and ten, my confidence took a dip. I don't know what it was but I've had to build up my stage presence again. Doing gigs is helping.

So you didn't you expect to win?
No, not at all! I don't think anyone ever really does. From my point of view, there was so much talent there that night and all our our musical styles were so different. It must have been hard to judge that - everyone who performed was incredible.

Who are your biggest influences?
Tom Misch; I’ve been a fan of his for years and I can't get sick of his music. It's a mix of jazz, RnB, soul, funk - so many genres. Every time you listen to it, you hear something new. I try to interpret the same style into my music.

That is definitely evident in your music. That multi-layered approach is quite similar; before this interview, I was trying to think of what genre I'd peg your music in and I found it quite a struggle....
People always say that. Soundcloud likes to make you pick a genre when you upload and I’m like "I dunno!" It's good to keep people guessing.

What about your lyrical influences?
I don't like writing about something if I've not experienced it. Which is why I find it hard to write a lot of the time! I feel I have so much to say but I'm not always sure how to get it out - you've got to metaphor it.       

Do you write from life?
I think everyone has this problem - when people ask what your songs are about and you're thinking “I don't want to tell you!” I try and write so people don't ask - I don't want to put everything out there. It means that I can write about the same thing over the course of several songs to show different facets.

There must be an air of vulnerability with writing like that. It's a bit like showing your diary to the world?
Yes, especially when you're still in school. I don't think people realise how hard it is to write a good set of lyrics. You have to be original but you also have to put the effort in!

But hats off to you - I don't want to focus on your age (sixteen) as you can sometimes diminish someone's talent by focusing on how young they are, like in some X Factor story…
Yes, I hate that - like when people say "you're good - for 16". If you're good, you're good.

However, that being said, you can't ignore the fact that what you're juggling is really challenging. How do you balance going to sixth form with gigging?
It’s been a good way to get over the stress of A levels. Whenever I've done my revision, I'm like “right, now I can play guitar”. At some points I do feel the pressure, but I know it pushes me to achieve more. It fuels what I want to do.

How important has the local Notts scene been in supporting you so far?
So important. There’s a lot of young people in the music industry around Nottingham and I’ve met so many through gigs or who even just like the same music as I do. It's great when you build that kind of relationship with people - we all look out for each other on social media. Although I still find it hard to be that confident to be like "here's my new gigs" or "vote for me."

But for now it sounds like you're letting your music speak for itself?
Yes. My record label asked what ideas I’ve got for music videos, but I’m not the sort of person to make it focused on me. I'm just doing it for myself. 

Is that more difficult the more popular your music gets?
I think to a certain extent, doing what you want to do is good but you do have to think about what other people like. You have to look at what's happening right now - not at the charts, but look at the aspects of what people think is good. But doing what makes you happy is just fine, too.

So staying true to yourself but keeping a side eye to the commercial side?
Exactly. Sometimes you see people who just keep the same style. AC/DC always have the same sound! I mean, it's worked for them, but look at Miley Cyrus -

Don't do a Miley, Tilly!
No, I won't! I mean, she’s definitely lost and gained fans. But she's also gone full circle and I rate that - she's found herself.

So what's next for you?
Well, I've been assigned a two year deal, so writing, getting music out and lots of gigs, which has got me to where I am now. You have to keep building - you can't stop.

Tilly will be performing live at Castle Rock's Yard Party on Friday 17 May.

Tilly Greentree website

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