CHLOE FOY | EFEx ARTIST MENTORING PROGRAMME

Chloe Foy participated in the pilot of the English Folk Expo Artist Mentoring Programme from October 2018 to October 2019. In this interview, she chats to EFEx’s Tom Besford about her experience of the programme, her career and how she’s coping through Lockdown.

Tom

Chloe, thanks for chatting to me today.

We’re just going to talk a little bit about your experiences on the pilot of the artist mentoring programme back in 2018 / 2019 which I know you were heavily involved in from the start. So I’m going to ask you a few questions about how you found it, how you got involved and how your career is going to date.

So why don’t you just tell us a bit about your early career, how long you were performing up until about 2018, something like that?

Chloe

I had been performing for a good while actually, probably since about 2011/2012 and had come to Manchester for university and had been doing gigs and open mic nights in the meantime, sort of part time to begin with at university and then part time with a job in an office. So I kind of had always done it part time and I had management as well who had helped me get to that stage and had helped me get some pretty decent successes with things like streaming on Spotify, streaming numbers so I was starting to earn a bit of a living from that. I’d started playing festivals by that point and done my first sort of mini tour and then I played SXSW at the beginning of 2018 and it was kind of from there that I really started to want to do it full time and try and make a real go of it and so that coincided nicely with when I began the artist mentoring programme.

Tom

Yes, so I think that’s when we first really engaged with your music was through the showcase that English Folk Expo runs in Manchester, we’d done a partnership with Brighter Sound who were running a programme called Both Sides Now which you were part of and so at the showcase. Can you tell us a bit about the Both Sides Now programme?

Chloe

In fact, prior to SXSW in the Autumn of 2017 I did a really brilliant week residency as part of the Both Sides Now programme with Beth Orton. The Both Sides Now programme is all about trying to achieve a bit more gender balance in the music industry, whether that is with musicians themselves or with sound engineers and that kind of thing. And they do these week long residencies to encourage that, and actually that was another kind of starting point to really take myself a bit more seriously and think to myself, yeah, I can do this. So we played at the launch event of that at the end of the residency, and then since then they’ve been brilliant in supporting me and encouraging me to do various events. They’ve put me forward for events such as the showcase at English Folk Expo and have just really championed me, so they’re a really great Manchester organisation.

Tom

Yep, absolutely they are. So when we were first trying to develop the idea of an artist mentoring programme, we wanted to work with Brighter Sound and Both Sides Now to really make sure that it was moulded and artist led, and they were the ones that recommended that you should try and get involved. So we matched you up over the course of the year long programme with three other artists. We had yourself, Jack Rutter, Gareth Bonello and Angharad Jenkins and it started with an event in Manchester in October which was a bit of a training weekend. I don’t know if you can remember much of that or tell us a bit about what that training involved?

Chloe

We met our mentors, for one, which was really great, the people we’d be working with over the course of the year. And we also did a couple of really useful sessions on the one day. One with Nancy Kerr about stagecraft, knowing that she would be coming to a performance of ours in just under a year’s time, so that was really great. I’d never had the chance to actually really think about what I did on stage, I just kind of did it. And it was nice to critically engage with that kind of thing. And then we also did a business planning session which was also really useful, because again I’d not really thought in those kind of business terms of my career as an artist being as if, ok I need to plan this like a business.

Tom

And that was with Joe Townsend from Trinity Laban

Chloe

That’s right, and that was really useful. And then on the Sunday we did the, what’s it called?

Tom

It was the FAC Artist Entrepreneur Day

Chloe

Yep, and that was led by Chris Cooke, from the CMU, and I found that really useful. Actually just the other day, I’ve got a notebook of useful notes, and I referred back to it because I was looking into publishing and that kind of thing, and syncing and who owns what rights to what percentages and actually they’d given a really clear breakdown in one of their sessions about that. And it was the first time that I’d really understood that as well. It took the format where there were several different sessions over the day, practical things like that and then also talking to other artists. Lisbee Stainton and Roxanne de Bastion were there and they were talking about how they’d done it, and that was really useful insight.

Tom

All the artists who have participated in the artist mentoring programme referenced the FAC Artist Entrepreneur Day as one of the things that was really helpful to have very clearly explained to them. We ran it again the following year and we are doing it again this October. And we’ve opened it up to a lot more people to be involved in it. I don’t think many musicians get the chance where someone gets to sit down and say, look this is how licensing works, this is what mechanical rights are, this is the difference between PRS and PPL and when you need them and how you grow your team and all that kind of stuff, which seems obvious if you’ve worked in the industry for years. But actually where do people pick up those first steps in their career from.

Moving on, after that, we all met up in London, in January at the Americana Music Association Conference.

Chloe

Yeah, which was really great and I think for me probably the most invaluable moments over the course of the year of the mentoring were those moments where it all kind of came together, and we all physically came together, but also going to those events like the Americana Music Association and FOCUS Wales as well, and to have the opportunity to learn about the networking side and it really is true that you just need to go out there and meet people. And then in that year alone just those few connections and meeting people opened up so many new doors to me and so many good connections with people that have just given me advice, they might know so and so who knows so and so and they introduce you or they can give you good advice. And also the knowledge that you gain from those conferences as well from all the different panels that they do, as well as watching all the other artists perform, even if you’re not there to perform yourself, I found really useful.

Tom

Had you done any networking or anything in that kind of formal setting before?

Chloe

I don’t think I had, actually. I wouldn’t say it was something comes naturally to me, the ability to just go up to someone without an introduction and what was good about it was that we were supported by mentors who were there and the other mentees. So some of my fellow mentees had I guess met some of these people that I had never met and it gave me that opportunity. So instead of going in cold, it felt that I was part of the family, I’d be introduced to people and that was really nice.

Tom

Great. And the relationship with the AMA and with FOCUS Wales is growing and progressing even more, and fantastically the lads at FOCUS Wales have offered for the newest round of participants that they will have a showcase at FOCUS Wales the next time it happens in 2021 in addition to that. And then we went and had a glorious summer’s weekend in Cambridge in August.

Chloe

Yet another highlight! Honestly, to have the opportunity to play something like Cambridge Folk Festival is kind of like a dream situation for artists like us, that was really just invaluable and brilliant. And also it wasn’t just that we were performing, we knew that Nancy Kerr was there and she was going to be assessing our stagecraft, and talking about it with us afterwards. Which gave an extra motivation to really think about what I was doing and critically engage. And also, kind of ace that festival performance where you’re only getting a very short amount of time to change over. And to be able to be in a space backstage where you can meet other artists, is again just really good.

Tom

Great! And so throughout the course of the year, you were regularly in touch with the EFEx Team and your mentors. Was that helpful? How did you engage with that process? How did it support your career at that time?

Chloe

What was really useful and just nice was to be able to have someone to talk to who had the kind of experience that I didn’t have. Someone who had been in the industry for a while and had on the ground knowledge of things and could advise in that way. Although I had a manager at the time, I was in fact going through a moment of transition and the mentors helped me to move through that and see that I could move forward and move on and potentially change team and was capable of going it alone for a bit until I decided what I was going to do. And that was a really big change for me, but actually a really empowering and really important change so to have someone at the end of the phone to talk that stuff through with, and they give you an hour of their time, was really great.

Tom

One of the things that I think is really important for us is that the artists on the programme with EFEx get to know each other, but that hopefully there is a crossover and a handover with the artists who are starting in the next cohort. And I know that some of you have been in touch since then. I don’t know if you can talk a bit about how you hope that that continues to benefit other emerging artists?

Chloe

I loved that side of it. It’s similar with the Both Sides Now / Brighter Sound stuff, having met lots of other female musicians and feeling quite supported by that. But with EFEx mentoring scheme, I feel like between us as a group of mentees from that year, 18/19, some of them felt to be slightly more experienced than me, or at least knew a few more people in those circles that we were going to like at the AMAs and FOCUS Wales and that was a supportive group as it was. I’d speak to, say, Gareth and he’d give great advice because he’d done a project with the British Council and I didn’t even know that was a thing that you could do. And then Angharad had a lot of advice as well. And to be able to keep that going but through the different groups of mentees, so the other day I was speaking to some of the cohort from this year and was put in touch with them because they’re going through something similar to what I was going through, or applying for funding that I’d successfully got, or releasing a single which I’d had experience doing. And it was great to keep in touch and to keep those relationships going because they can only ever be supportive and help with your growth.

Tom

We’ve started catching up during this whole crazy period of lockdown, we’ve been speaking a lot more to the artists on the current programme. And a couple of them who have spoken to you were saying how helpful it was to be able to spend time with an artist who has so recently gone through where their career is at. And certainly your success with things like PRSF Momentum over the past couple of years and your international touring that you’ve been really pushing, I think that it’s been really helpful to just share some of your learning with the next wave of emerging artists.

At the end of all the process, obviously it isn’t really an end as we’re still in touch now, how has your career been going since the end of the mentoring programme. Obviously there’s no one thing that sparks or changes a career but I know that you’ve had quite a lot of extensive touring and other performance opportunities since the mentoring.

Chloe

It feels like in that period, it really did go like that which is really great. I think with the knowledge that I gained, I was definitely more empowered to make certain decisions and to kind of believe in myself a bit more. And like I said, going to the AMAs actually meant that I played there this year in January. I’ve done two of my own headline tours, and I did a support tour for Jesca Hoop in the UK, in Europe and also in the States so in that regard, I’ve really gone from strength to strength and am really enjoying it. And thinking, yeah this is kind of where I’m meant to be, which is really nice. And then I’ve got some things coming up but they’ve been put on hold because of the coronavirus situation.

Tom

Yeah, so what’s happened with that? How much of your career has stopped, or how much are you having to be creative, are there any new avenues that you can take things in? Where are things up to?

Chloe

It’s come at a good time for me in a way, because I am going through this period of transition, I’ve just finished a tour in March and had released a strings EP, and we toured that with a string trio which finished just before lockdown began. So I was really lucky that I got all my touring in before it got cancelled. And then it’s just festivals which have been cancelled, but I actually I was going to have a period of not doing a lot of gigging at least in this time until festival season, which I guess is kind of about now. But it’s kind of really given me that chance because actually a lot of my career so far has been me saying yes to things and just making them work, and never really having a plan and just always feeling rushed off my feet, and just doing it, and loving it but never really having a strategy I guess. So I’m just trying to create a team around me now, starting with a clean slate and then plan for a debut album release next year. I’ve got a bit of time, but in terms of being creative, I’ve been doing my live streams, and I’ve been contributing to some other people’s music. I’ve not found it particularly easy to write at the moment, I feel like I’m just getting to that moment. Although it’s actually been a really valuable reflection time for me.

Tom

I think it’s quite honest to be able to say that. We speak to quite a few artists as you can imagine and one of the overarching things that comes out has been musicians saying, oh when I turn on my social media I see all of this content from my peers and my friends who seem like they’re being really proactively driven during lockdown but actually I think everyone is reacting through this whole strange state of affairs in a different way. So it’s positive that you’re able to say, look this is what I was feeling but actually now I’m beginning to say this is what is going to come next for my career.

Chloe

Exactly, and in fact this week I’ve turned Instagram off, because I was just like, I’ve had enough. And actually just doing the right things for you, whether that’s just for your mental health or physical health, for me it kind of in turn has enabled me to start being a bit freer with my creative side of things. And I think you’re right, people react to it differently. There’s people that were putting loads out at the beginning and have suddenly gone very quiet. That’s just adrenaline and all sorts kicking in and as long as I’ve got something at the end of this to put out, which I know I do as I’ve got the album, then I’m kind of happy and there’s less pressure to write for any reason.

Tom

And where are you spending lockdown?

Chloe

In the South West of England! I was moving out of my flat anyway, and then we had to move for lockdown and so I’m no longer in Manchester, which is breaking my heart a little bit, but temporarily staying with family in the South West. I’m very lucky in a way as it takes the weight off a little bit.

Tom

Absolutely. Well thanks very much for speaking to me today, Chloe. I’m looking forward to seeing you play when we’re all able to and seeing the new album material whenever it’s able to be launched.

Chloe

Me too…

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