Born and bred just a few streets from the legendary Van Morrison, Elle has been making her mark on the local Belfast scene since 2003 and now looks ready and able to do so further afield. Indeed, it has been an eventful year or two for the young pianist and singer; having received national media attention for receiving the one millionth review on the music investment website "slicethepie.com", she went on to win their showcase just a month later. The win secured her enough funding to record the long-awaited debut album, “Coming Around”, which went on general release in September 2009.
Elle’s evocative voice – strong, haunting, angst-ridden and defiant – is perfectly suited to her songs, each a beautifully crafted tale of the pain and joy of love, friendship, betrayal and loyalty in the modern world.
Even in person, Elle has a rare kind of honesty; one that would never permit her to shy away from wearing her heart on her sleeve or from broaching subjects in her songs that others might find uncomfortable, such as the battle through her twenties with anorexia and bulimia. Perhaps that is why her songs have, at times, been described as "lyrically raw"; yet, they are so carefully framed by her beautiful cascading piano lines, the uplifting harmony of the music and lyrics cannot help but draw you into her unique, complex and beautiful world.
While comparisons to other artists reveal little about Elle's unique direction, she does list an impressive range of influences of artists whom she admires, including the likes of: Suzanne Vega, Crowded House, Justin Currie (Del Amitri), Bryan Adams, the Fray, Alanis Morissette, the Beautiful South, Alanis Morissette, Patty Griffin, Sarah McLachlan, the Dixie Chicks, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Coldplay, Nirvana, Tracy Chapman, Angie Stevens, Sheryl Crow, Ryan Adams, Bill Mallonee, Rascal Flatts and Radiohead.
To date, Elle has honed her stage craft by supporting many great artists, such as guitar legends Rodrigo y Gabriela and soul diva, Beverley Knight, but with an already growing fan-base and reputation, and since the launch of her debut album, life seems set to take her another step towards the inevitable stardom that beckons....
Elle Stevenson - Vocals, Backing Vocals, Piano.
Coming Around (2009)
Down [Demo EP] (2005)
It’s not rocket science - Stevenson’s tracks will send you off the rails
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It’s not often (nor usually very polite) that you find yourself revelling in the misfortune of those...It’s not often (nor usually very polite) that you find yourself revelling in the misfortune of those you admire and respect, so when it does happen it should be over something pr-et-ty special.
Such is the glee with which I delight in the repeated romantic misfortune of one Laura Stevenson of Belfast.
A rare and evocative songstress, usually found armed with only a piano and the scars of heartbreak. Simple melody lines riddled with the sort of honesty your nearest and dearest should advise against, Miss Stevenson paints with musical broadstrokes. The resulting work, like, most of the other great wonders of the world, if you stand too close it may not make sense, take a step back and the sheer majesty hits you.
Give her a listen and your ears will love you forever.
Girls On The Scene
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Sometimes the most unlikely of people pull off something amazing and I’m left somewhat flabbergasted...Sometimes the most unlikely of people pull off something amazing and I’m left somewhat flabbergasted. Sitting on a dampish chair in The Rotterdam Bar in the heart of Belfast’s Docklands watching the peculiar sediment sink to the bottom of a glass of water I’m amazed at the eerie hush of the crowd in this ‘metal’ bar. The music tonight is soothing, tender and achingly beautiful; a set of original material focussing on the struggles of life and love interspersed with a delicate cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ and wrapped up in festive form with a melancholy version of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ which makes Kirsty MacColl and Shane Magowan sound positively bubbling with joy. There are a few other acts on the bill but it’s definitely Laura Stevenson’s night and I’m glad I had a chance to catch up her earlier in the day for a bit of a chat.
Laura is something of a complex character. Just as her tied-back fair hair and smile betray the dark brooding of her lyrical content is the fact that she is a songwriter striving to avoid the spotlight. Perhaps Laura wouldn’t be entertaining crowds all over Belfast at the minute had it not been for one eager and enthusiastic gig-promoter earlier in her career.
“I remember trying to reverse the decision to play my first gig, but was met by a stern "tough, your name's on the flyer" by a friend who always believed I could do it.”
Unlike many female artists it was male songwriters who made up the most of Laura’s CD collection. Unhappy with the “trade-off” between talent and looks and disillusionment with a music industry that seemed to be happy to peddle plastic-pop, she finally unearthed a few inspirational female artists who were talented songwriters first and foremost.
“The main ones would be Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Patty Griffin, and Northern Ireland's very own Juliet Turner. More recently, I think KT Tunstall is a big inspiration as she proves, as a woman, you can still make it when you're past 25.”
Laura is keen to point out the differences between these ladies of great talent and the plethora of female ‘singers’ out there who have neither the emotional depth or life-experience to back up many of their songs. There is room in the music industry for a lot more female talent and especially in Ireland where female singer-songwriters are few and far between. Laura guesses that the talent is out there somewhere but there is a certain fear or insecurity with many girls getting up on stage and doing their thing in a predominantly male based industry. Laura has a few words of advice for would-be female artists out there:
“Don't follow in the footsteps of anyone else. It's individual experiences and your honesty about yourself that will draw people to you. Don't be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve a little. Other people appreciate knowing someone else feels it too. Finally, just take a deep breath and go for it. The first gig is terrifying but it becomes second nature. Mistakes being made feel less of a failing and instead make a live gig real and unique! It's so inherently a part of who you are you won't rest until you go out there and do it anyway!”
Laura often jokes that her songs have mostly been written about “bad men”. We all know that there is much more depth to her work than that.
“I guess they're just about struggle. They started out as a way of expressing my hurt and disappointment in relationships but the truth is they're mainly about struggling within myself. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, that I'm too much of the bad things and not enough of the good. I've suffered from an eating disorder for 6 years and it's a very black place to be. I guess you could never really understand depression and addiction unless you've been there.”
“I think knowing that someone else ‘gets it’ helps a lot because you suddenly realise you actually aren't on your own. The short answer is I'm just trying to say I write about what I know. And this is what I know so far.”
Local Showcase: Laura Stevenson
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Pegged by a number of local and influential DJs as a promising and 'haunting' vocalist/pianist, Laur...Pegged by a number of local and influential DJs as a promising and 'haunting' vocalist/pianist, Laura Stevenson is certainly a Belfast star to watch out for.
Very much in the vein of Sarah Mclachlan, Duke Special and Juliette Turner, the latter of whom she supported in Downpatrick and Co.Meath, Laura is an incredibly promising talent within the local scene and something of a rarity in her originality and style. Recently featured on Slicethepie.com as a 'showcase', she unfortunately didn't make it as the winning entry to have her record financed and released, but I would say that it's only a matter of time before big record labels start taking notice of this goldmine of a performer and sign her up.
Having recently interviewed her for another magazine, I got to watch Laura perform first hand and I must say I was truly impressed. She covered the famous 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' by Yusef Islam/Cat Stevens and brought an entirely new haunting and delicately powerful form to this amazing song.
A must see for anyone travelling through Belfast, Laura Stevenson has got a natural talent for making chills run up the spine with her melodic and wrenching track 'Down' which is available to listen at her MySpace
Laura manages to retain the local accent while singing, something that many smalltown performers will know is hard to do considering the trend for English and American bands in the West, yet Laura is remeniscent of Duke Special in her grass roots style and makes no allusions or pretentious assumptions about her music. In this regard she is definetely an artist to be respected for her humble attitude to her growing recognition within Northern Ireland and the UK, not letting the exposure get to her ego as many local artists have tended to do.
It would be a shame to see such a stunning talent wasted, and I can only hope that the likes of Virgin and EMI or Universal begin to open their ears and take notice of what so many people need to hear: A fully funded and produced album from Laura.
So we wish Laura all the very best luck in the world for 2008 and know that it's only a matter of time before she's donning the radio slots of any DJ worth his broadcast salt.
Variable length: can be shortened or lengthened as required to meet individual needs.
Sets include a mixture of Elle's album material and covers by artists she admires.
Coming Around (2009) Original Material (all songs by Laura Elle Stevenson):
2. Where You Lie
3. Almost Forgiven
4. Cut and Run
5. Short Space of Time
9. One Night Stand
10. Just Beyond My Reach
11. Left Behind
12. If The Butterfly Fell
13. Coming Home
There are no upcoming dates at this time.