Suffolk star Caswell on staying creative one year on from Ed Sheeran gig
- Credit: Archant
A year ago, Suffolk musician Caswell entertained the biggest crowd of her career, supporting Ed Sheeran. Despite lockdown cancelling all live performances, the intervening 12 months have been a creative time for the performer who has been polishing her songwriting skills
Stage fright can take many forms. It can send you screaming back to your dressing room or it can flood your system with so much adrenalin that it spurs you to deliver the performance of your career. Fortunately, for Suffolk’s rising star Caswell, the butterflies performing aerobatics in her stomach a year ago this bank holiday weekend, inspired her and fellow band members to pull out all the stops and deliver a powerhouse set that left the crowd of 40,000 fans screaming for more.
Despite being an experienced performer, with appearances at Reading and Leeds festivals under her belt, Caswell, (first name Kristin) admits to having to deal with a rising tide of nerves before stepping out onto the stage to come face to face with a sea of people facing her wanting to be entertained.
Last summer Caswell played the biggest gig of her career, supporting local hero Ed Sheeran at Chantry Park, at his homecoming concert, at the end of an 18 month world tour. Caswell and her band mates had won a a Battle of the Bands competition to nab a coveted opening spot for Sheeran and she says she still can hear the roar of the crowd in her head.
“I can’t believe a year has gone past. It really was the highlight of my career so far and the biggest crowd we have ever played to and it was a really lucky thing to have happened. We had been working really hard self-releasing material and playing festivals like Reading and Leeds but when you enter a national competition, you never truly think you are going to win but you just want to see how far you can go and to win was just a dream came true and a wonderful validation for the band.”
The performance she says passed in a blur. She says that the nerves that threatened to cripple her backstage vanished the moment she stepped out onto the stage and they launched into their first number.
“It was the best day of our lives. I remember being really happy with the performance. We gave everything we could out there. It was just a fantastic experience.
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“Being musician now is much different to how it was 20 years ago. It is much harder to get signed and because of streaming and digital technology there is much more competition out there, so opening for Ed Sheeran means that we are taken much more seriously as a band, my fan base has grown massively and we are now approached more frequently for collaborations.”
She said that the gig has also boosted her confidence as a performer and also as a songwriter. “As a creative you always doubt yourself. You are always looking at ways to do things better, do things differently, ways to improve as an artist and I think last year has given me the confidence to believe in myself.
“This is what I want to do. I have been an independent musician since leaving school and we have all been working hard at this and it was a hard won reward after several years of gigging and releasing material.”
Caswell grew up in south London with her then punk rocker mother, who now sells vinyl to record collectors. With such close musical influences and a godfather who was a buyer for HMV, she grew up immersed in music.
“When I was younger I was into drama and art and I was quite academic. I think I went more towards music because as a medium you have more control over it than drama. You can write and perform your own songs and I was doing my own artwork.”
She started writing her own lyrics and composing songs at 10 and at 14 she enrolled on a four-year course to study music at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology.
“Those were four fantastic years and really set me on the path I’m on now.”
Drawing inspiration from artists like Kate Bush, Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone, Caswell has been described as “electronic soul and pop mixed with a tangible jazz influence”. Over the years she has developed a totally unique style and sound and a haunting lyrical delivery.
Since the highs of Ed Sheeran Caswell played at end of year gig in Woodbridge to thank fans, friends and family for a fantastic year and then Covid struck which, she says, has wiped out live performance.
“It’s been hard because of all the different facets of being a musician, live performance is the thing that I enjoy the most and have really missed because you get that immediate face to face reaction with the crowd and there’s nothing to beat that.”
Not one to wallow in enforced idleness Caswell has spent the majority of lockdown brushing up on her song-writing skills, coming up with new material not only for Caswell but for other artists as well.
She has been working with German band Upon Rivers and has scored a top ten hit in Germany with a previous song and their latest single Billion Places is out on September 11. “I have also been doing some writing for a K-Pop band and we have been linking remotely and I think technology has given access to bands and music on the otherside of the world which normally you would have no idea that they existed. Being able to get involved in that has been really cool. I have really enjoyed writing for performers in areas that I haven’t really worked in before, so that’s been great – something of a challenge.
“In fact I have found writing for other artists quite liberating. Writing for Caswell can be quite demanding because you are always questioning yourself. Writing isn’t always fun, it can be really hard because I am always trying to do something creative, something different and yet at the same time create an identity for the band. So just writing songs for someone else has been tremendous fun – everything just seemed to flow easier.”
Planned gigs in London and Norwich have had to be cancelled but their Ipswich gig on September 26 opening a new outside performance area by the Cult Bar on Ipswich Waterfront is going ahead. “I am looking forward to performing again and it’s great to be launching an outside performance space designed to be socially distanced with marks on the floor, the stage, the bar and food all available outside on the Waterfront.
“It’s called The Common Ground and I hope it will have more of a festival vibe and will encourage live performances again in Ipswich. They hope it will become a performance space in its own right and will continue even when Covid is over.”
Entry to The Common Ground performance outside the Cult Bar on September 26 is free.