Stephanie Cheape is set to take the UK by storm with her powerful ‘dark pop’ indie music. She’s been touring as the support act for Barnes Courtney, and BurnFM’s Alev Omer had the chance to chat with her before her performance at Mama Roux’s.
How’s the tour been going so far?
Yeah amazing! It’s been really fun and there’s been a good energy about it. We’ve been having an amazing time; I’ve managed to get myself a bit of a cold but I’m just powering through at the minute!
Have you been to Birmingham before?
No…oh no sorry, that’s a lie! My sister kind of lives near here, she stays in Warwickshire. Is that close by? So I’ve got some family down here actually. I’ve not been properly through Birmingham before so this is my first time, but I’m a massive Peaky Blinders fan so this is working out well. We was talking about it on the way down and I said let’s just watch it on the way!
This is the place for it! Have you seen in Digbeth they have a mural painted on the wall? It’s a very cultural place.
Yeah I’ve seen some stuff for it on walls, its super cool!
Ok so you and your band were named Scotland’s Best Unsigned Act which is quite an accomplishment, how does it feel that you’re getting recognised even without the backing of a major label?
It was amazing to be honest, as that was our first tiptoe into the real industry, and it’s been pretty insane since. There was a huge opportunity we were given, but we worked our arse off for it, so it’s one of those ones in which you are lucky but also you need to put in the work. And it was just amazing to be given that platform, Capital Scotland have been a huge support for us.
I think I watched your video when you found out you won!
I was freaking out! It was crazy because I genuinely didn’t expect it, I always thought expect nothing and then you’ll be surprised. Ever since then it’s been crazy, it sounds like an exaggeration but I’ve just not stopped! I’m working with the most amazing team of people.
Do you think having a strong team is important?
Oh yes. Always surround yourself with the right people and if something doesn’t feel right or they’re working against you, then remove yourself! People need to listen to you. People will promise you the world and honestly if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. There’s a really false expectation; hard work is what you need to put in. There are good people to work with and there are sh*t people to work with, and there are a lot of bullsh*tters in this industry. Just keep pushing and set your standard pretty high, and don’t work with someone unless you believe what they’re totally about.
It’s good you’re young and you already understand how the industry works.
Totally. It’s a learning curve. Every musician is a little bit bruised in some way, but the biggest thing that I’ve learnt is to not always say yes! Question things and test if they’re right for you.
So why is it you don’t want to be signed to a big label? Do you think they’re going to mould you into something you don’t want to be?
I guess a lot of that. I started my own label because I don’t want to be told what to do by anyone. The label’s called ‘Bold as the Boys’, it’s not anything against men per say, I work with a lot of amazing men. But it is a male dominated industry, and there are a lot of older men who have experience, and unfortunately that experience has limited what they say will pass and what won’t pass. We live in a time now where girls need to be heard and need to be standing up saying ‘no I can do that’. A lot of people will say things like, ‘it’s not really ladylike to do things like jump about a stage’, but a guy can do it so I’m going to do it. A lot of my influences are male artists, so why can’t I be like them? We’re now talking to other labels, but like what I was saying before, I won’t say yes unless it’s right for me. You have to believe in yourself and put yourself in the position where you believe so much in what you’re doing that you want everyone else to be a part of that. I don’t want to be moulded into something I’m not.
What inspired you when you were younger to make and write music?
I was home schooled for a year and I had a rough time at school with bullying. It’s not easy when your ginger! And with a surname like Cheape you’re totally done for. I started to get into bands like Hardline and The Enemy, and they were all singing about political issues and things like poverty. That was really interesting. Artists like Lily Allen who were singing about really horrendous things but were singing it in a nice way so people were singing along!
It’s nice to have meaningful song writing.
Absolutely. I just loved the idea of that. I taught myself guitar on a website called ultimate guitar and it went from there. I played a gig and loved the buzz.
Is that the point you thought I want to make this into a career?
Yeah, it was weird because I didn’t mean for it to become a career, I was just doing it because I loved it. More and more people would come to our shows and when I look back I was so committed to every little thing I did even if it was a sh*t gig. I would go and pay a guy like £40 to hire a PA to go to a gig where I was getting paid like £20. I put everything in; everything was the biggest opportunity all the time. Eventually those little steps became big steps and hopefully we’ll keep growing! It’s just one of those ones I guess, you need to put the work in.
Your lyrics are very vulnerable and mature; do you think it’s important to act as a role model for younger girls?
Absolutely yeah. The single we just released, originally the lyrics were written when I was nine years old and then I went and worked with a producer and we changed stuff. The heart of the song is very old. I wrote it super young and came back to it with experience.
Your debut single ‘Blood Sweat and Fear’ is out now. What’s the message behind it?
I guess it’s just open to interpretation. I guess it’s about not being put in a box, and if you want to do something go and do it and don’t be told otherwise. It’s about strength; everyone’s got it and if you want something enough you’ll put yourself through the shift to get it. Unfortunately, in today’s society, some peoples financial situations dictate what they can and can’t do, so this song was kind of about that and breaking out of the mould.
Do you think it’s important for your music to get across something more than just music, to provoke feelings and messages?
Yeah! Strength, Power. Absolutely. It’s what I took from a lot of artists I listened to. I aspire to be able to do that, I’m not intentionally doing that I’m just doing what’s right for me. But if someone gets something from that it makes me really happy. People have connected through music for years, and music is really powerful in the sense that it can change your mood and feeling. Nowadays there are a lot of young people suffering with mental health, and music has that responsibility to pick people up when they need it.
One final question, what’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Don’t know about me? Ah. A lot of people don’t know that I don’t drink. A lot of people think when you’re a musician you party all the time but I don’t drink. I’m quite into being healthy. Another reason for me is I did an interview, and they asked, ‘what’s your prep before a show, do you guys have champagne?’, and I was like I don’t drink and they were really surprised! But I was more surprised they were surprised because it proves my point that society teaches that it’s so normal to drink. You can go to loads of different countries and it’s not a thing. But here it’s dictated you’re boring if you don’t drink and I didn’t want to be a part of that!
Check out Stephanie’s latest single ‘Blood Sweat and Fear’ out now.