Sasha McVeigh / by E

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Look for British country singer-songwriter Sasha McVeigh on tour throughout 2016 in the UK, Europe, Canada, and the US and listen to her debut album I Stand Alone, out now.

What got you interested in music?

Sasha McVeigh: I've always had music, growing up, in the house. Both of my parents really loved listening to music; neither of them play any instruments and neither of them sing [laughs] but they really, really love music. My dad was a big country music fan so he always had his country cassette tapes and LPs and stuff playing and my mum loved Motown and The Rolling Stones and so I very much grew up with a lot of different musical influences in the house and then, just as I got older, I started learning different instruments and I would sing all the time and it just really grew from there. 

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

The first song that I wrote? That was a song called "Because I Love Him" [laughs] and it was originally inspired by my cat, which kind of sounds weird, but then I thought, 'well, I can't really write a song about a cat,' so I pretended that it was about a boy, but in reality, the actual secret is, it was about my cat [laughs].

You mentioned a few artists already, but which other artists or bands would you say you've been influenced by?

Well, I've always been a huge Elvis Presley fan, since I was about seven, and that era of music, like the rockabilly stuff and music from the '50s and '60s. That must have had an impact on me, musically; I can hear that vibe going on in my songs. Then, as I said, my dad used to listen to Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton and all the older stuff but, when I really re-discovered the genre, when I was about 12/13 - which is when I started writing songs - I listened to people like Zac Brown Band and Taylor Swift and just stuff like that. Lots of different things really, but those artists in particular. People like John Denver, I can really, really hear the influence in the way that I write songs and how I tell a story. 

Is there any artist or song that you're hooked on right now?

Yes, I am obsessed with Adele's new song, "When We Were Young" [laughs]. I think I've played it 127 times already on iTunes, it's quite bad [laughs].

Which words would you use to describe your own sound?

Ooh, that's always a tough one! One of the words I would use is definitely honest, because all of my songs are written from real life and true life experiences. Often when I'm on stage and the fans want to know what the song was about, I'll tell the story and you can literally hear that exact story coming across in the song, 'cause I just think that's the best way to be relatable to people; that's the way it happened and, often, that's the way it happens for somebody else and, I think, when you're that honest and direct with people, they're definitely going to respond better. So, honest is definitely one of the words I would use. Oh, I don't really know, it's so hard. Probably powerful; a lot of people have said that my songs are very powerful and unique and kind of quirky at the same time, because I do tend to throw some curveballs in there that people don't expect from me.

So, honest, powerful, quirky, and unique.

What was the inspiration behind your single, "Someone To Break My Heart"?

That's kind of a funny story. It's weird that it ended up being the single because when I actually wrote that song I thought it was terrible, I thought it was a really bad song [laughs]. My producer got ahold of it and listened to it and said, 'what are you talking about? You're being crazy, it's a great song, we have to put that on the album,' and then it ended up being the single. I was writing a song which actually also ended up on my album, a song called "You Only Live Once" with a guy called AJ Masters and we were just talking about songwriting and how sometimes it can be difficult to find inspiration for songs and he just made a joke that songwriters want someone to come along and break their heart just so that they can write a decent song [laughs]. I wrote that little quip down in my songbook because I just thought that was so true and when I went back to the hotel I just started thinking on that idea. I didn't really want to center it just on songwriters, because that would have been too much of a narrow field of people to base it on, so I took it one step further and thought, in life, you have to be willing to go out there and risk getting your heart broken if you're ever going to find the person you're supposed to be with. I certainly think that's definitely something I can relate to because, at the time, I didn't really want to date anybody because the last break-up I'd had had been really bad. You know, you kind of just become almost a hermit on the dating scene, so to speak, because you just don't want to deal with that drama [laughs]. I wrote that song and I thought it was a message to myself to get back out there and a message to other people that you can't give up.

Could you tell us more about that album, I Stand Alone?

It's definitely a snapshot of my life so far. Some of the songs go back a really long way. The title track, "I Stand Alone", is actually one that I wrote when I was fourteen because I was being bullied at high school and that was the only way I could vent how I was feeling and everything. I've never really been one to conform to what other people want me to do, I've always very much been the kind of person that just wants to be myself, no matter what people think, and that song was kind of me just saying, 'look, I don't care what you say about me, I'm just going to be me 'cause that's the only person that I can be,' and that became a really big theme for the album once we decided that that track was going to be on there. That became almost a theme for the whole record and I just started thinking, I don't want to make a record that the industry is going to be happy with, I don't want to make one that's going to get great reviews - that's all well and good - but I really want to make a record that I'm going to be proud of and that my fans are going to enjoy because, at the end of the day, that's the most important thing. So that was really cool, that realization really early on. It's definitely a journey. You'll have the up moments of "Mr Brown Eyes" and having a crush on a guy that you see from afar and run into again out of the blue, then you've got songs like "Stupid Girl", which is a song that I wrote when you always knew the relationship was going to end badly but you tried to make yourself believe that wasn't going to happen, then there's a song called "Hot Mess" on there which is just about going out and doing stuff unexpected and just hanging out with your best friends and stuff like that, so it's definitely a journey.

You're heading out on tour with American Young and Loveless Effect, do you have a favorite track to perform live?

Ooh, that's a tough one. Well, actually, what's going to be exciting about this tour is that I'm going to be debuting some other songs that I've been writing recently that aren't on the album, so that's going to be kind of fun but, definitely, "Hot Mess" is a great one to perform live because it's just so high energy and I know my drummer loves doing that one because he gets to go crazy on the drums [laughs]. I also love doing ones like "You Only Live Once" because it's just such a poignant song and I often do that one stripped back and acoustic, which is really how I started this whole thing, it was just me and my guitar, so it's really cool to get up there and do stuff like that, too.

I have to tell you, when I asked Loveless Effect that same question the first two songs they named were yours.

[Laughs] Are you serious? That's so cool! I love those guys so much, they are so talented it's unbelievable. What's so great is, when we're on tour together, we're practically all staying in the same hotel room together, we're just the best of friends, and they just practice and they play all the time. What's really cool is, before actually getting with a band, I just thought it was me that would wake up at weird hours in the night with an idea for a song but, when you get into a situation where you are around musicians all the time, you see that it's just something that we all do [laughs] and that's what'll happen. We'll all be asleep and then one minute Seth will wake up and be like, 'oh my god, I've got an idea,' and then he will have to write it down and then everyone will go back to sleep and, an hour later, Justin will be like, 'oh my god, I have an idea,' and it's like, should we just not bother sleeping? Let's just write, there's just no point [laughs].

What do you hope your listeners are able to take away from your music when they hear it?

Well, hopefully they'll be able to relate to the songs. That's always my biggest hope, when people listen to it, is that if they're going through anything or they need some advice or they just need to know that there's somebody else out there that's going through the same thing as them, I just really hope if they listen to my songs that they can take a bit of hope away from it. That's certainly what I always loved about listening to music, is that when anything went wrong or even if something really awesome was happening, it was great to be able to find a song, and that's especially what I love about country music, is you can find a song that relates to any situation that you're going through and I think that's the power of music. I certainly hope that's something that they can take from my stuff. That's the dream anyway [laughs].

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Apart from the UK and Europe tour that I'm going on that I'm doing in March and April with American Young and Loveless Effect, I'm also off to the US and Canada in the Summer. I'm doing a big tour over there. I'm going to be playing on the main stage at about 10 to 15 music festivals which is going to be insane! I just posted about one of them the other day and it's kind of bizarre when I'm writing my name alongside people like Jake Owen and Sam Hunt; that's definitely a pinch me moment [laughs].

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