Interview: Imogen Evans

Over the past few months you’ve probably seen Imogen Evans’s name cropping up on the burgeoning live music circuit in Blackpool. The 16-year-old has gone from teaching herself guitar in her bedroom to being one of the go-to names for support slots for bigger acts in bars like Bootleg and the Waterloo and has been performing her original songs in front of packed out audiences and at open mic nights.

On Saturday 25th March she plays alongside Daisy Atkinson at Reclaim SLAG – a fundraiser held by the Skate Like A Girls Collective at Bootleg for Reclaim Blackpool – the project aiming to co combat sexual harassment in the town. Imogen tells Blackpool Social Club why the cause is important to her, why studying maths and economics is connected to her music, and how a new collective of musicians in Blackpool has propelled her early career.

We’ve been seeing a lot of you in the last few months, with live shows at bars like the Waterloo and Bootleg. Does it feel like you’re gaining momentum and having your music noticed? Tell us about the leg work that’s gone in to getting you to this point.
Honestly, it’s been surreal. Since October I’ve been gigging regularly and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The momentum just seems to be constantly building at the moment especially with having been on the radio and being on the way to releasing my first single soon! There’s a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work that goes into it – practice, songwriting, studio days, booking gigs, open mics. I’ve also recently started guitar lessons. It’s all worth it though – being able to even have music as my part time job is incredible.

Tell us about your links with In Good Company – who are they and what are they doing for musicians in Blackpool? 
In Good Company is a collective of artists who in their spare time help musicians to book gigs, run open mics, and try to push artists to the next level. I first met Chris, one of the people who created in good company, at an open mic night in October. He used to work with my dad (who is also now involved in helping run In Good Company) and since then Chris has encouraged me to get solo gigs and improve my confidence. The support that the artists give to each other is so important, especially for people who lack confidence or are first time performers. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for the support of In Good Company.

What age did you start playing and writing music? Have you grown up in a family that encouraged that or did you come to it on your own?
I’ve been singing since I can remember and I’ve always loved music. I taught myself ukulele five years ago, then guitar about four years ago. I started songwriting a long time ago but I first started taking it seriously when I was around 11 and recorded some of my first originals in the studio with Kyle Blaqk of the band Auger, who’s helped me so much as a musician. My family has always been very supportive of my music, and a lot of my music taste has come from them and in turn my inspiration to be a musician. There’s a lot of people who have influenced and helped me to get to where I am today and I couldn’t be any more thankful.

You’re currently at Blackpool 6th form – what subjects are you doing and how do you balance your studies with your music? 
I’m currently studying three A Levels: maths, business and economics. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them, because they think I study music, but they actually link a lot more with music than you might first think. Business and economics really help me to understand the business side of music and what it actually takes (other than the music) to be a musician. Sometimes it can be difficult to balance college and music, but I really enjoy both, which helps motivate me to manage my time so that I can fit both in.

We’re anticipating your first singles in the coming weeks – tell us about the experience of recording these as opposed to live performing. 
As I said before, I’ve been recording my songs in the studio with Kyle for quite a while now. I love recording in the studio because it just brings out a whole different side of the songs that I’ve written and allows me to build so much more on them. With Kyle being such an amazing musician, his feedback, ideas and production on my songs really help me to take them to the next level. Kyle’s been such a good friend to me over the past few years too, so recording sessions are really fun and I really appreciate all that he’s done for me. I’m so excited to release my music because I’m really proud of what it’s become and how far I’ve come as a musician these past few years.

You recently shared a one-take recording of your original song This Insecure Mind. Tell us about what this song means to you. Does songwriting help you navigate your feelings as a young adult? 
This Insecure Mind is one of my favourite songs that I’ve written. It’s about insecurity and, more importantly, overcoming it. The song covers issues like comparing yourself to other people, and trying to become someone you’re not and as the song goes on there’s a realisation that you don’t have to conform and comparing yourself gets you no where. It’s a song that’s really helped me stay true to what I believe in, and songwriting in general definitely acts as an emotional outlet for me. Some of my best songs have come from difficult times of my life, and they help to give closure when nothing else can. Music is just a beautiful way of expressing emotions and I don’t think I could live without it.

Playing in bars is a learning curve, especially learning how to deal with drunk people. Being asked to play Oasis seems to be a recurring theme.

Music is a great outlet for young people and it seems like a really healthy way of keeping kids off devices. Would you like to see more focus on music in schools and more investment in helping children access music?
I’m a bit biased, but of course I’d like to see more music in schools. It can be really therapeutic and it’s helped me through some of the hardest times of my life. Not only writing music, but listening to it. Artists like GLDMTH and Mother Mother especially have helped me a lot. Music takes a lot of dedication and there’s so much that you can get out of it. No matter what you do in music, there’s so much that you can explore and there’s constantly room for improvement so, in my opinion, it’s really important.

What’s it like to play in bars that you’re otherwise too young to go in?  
It’s interesting to say the least. Of course, being involved with In Good Company means that most of the musicians I converse with are at least over 18, so that aspect of it doesn’t phase me. It’s definitely a learning curve, especially learning how to deal with drunk people, but their feedback on my music is typically positive, so what more can you ask for? To me, it’s just a way to get my music out there and perform. Though, being asked to play Oasis seems to be a recurring theme.

What is your proudest musical achievement to date? 
That’s a tough one. I’m proud of a lot of what I’ve achieved in music. I’d probably have to say performing with the wonderful band, Auger, getting my first support gig in January 2023 with Parka Monkeys, hosting a Radio Show on Coastal Radio DAB (playing three of my own songs) in February 2023, and to soon releasing my first single! Honestly my entire journey in music has been so incredible that it’s hard to pinpoint a moment I’m the most proud of, it just seems to be going onwards and upwards at the minute.

What are your ambitions – musical and otherwise, short and long term?
My main ambition is to become a singer songwriter guitarist full time – that’s the dream. However, if not I’d still like to work in the music industry or in an environment where I can help those around me whether that’s in a musical sense or another. I love studying maths, economics and business, so if I were to do something outside of music it’d likely be in that area of study. At the end of the day, as long as I have a job I enjoy and that allows music to be a big part of my life, that’s all I care about.

Who are your musical influences? 
I have a lot of influences in music, my favourite artists of all time are GLDMTH, Mother Mother, Auger, Arctic Monkeys: the list goes on. From a songwriting perspective, GLDMTH’s writing style and poems are incredibly inspirational to me, and the way he views people and life is so interesting. Seeing Mother Mother in concert was honestly life changing from a music perspective and showed me that making music into a career really can be a reality. Kyle from Auger has really inspired me with his music and how much he’s believed in me, too. And of course, my family have inspired me endlessly. The support that they’ve given me and their belief in me has helped me to get to where I am now, and without them none of this would be possible.

You are playing the Reclaim Slag fundraiser on 25th March, in support of Reclaim Blackpool – a project mapping sexual harassment in the town. Is it a subject you are passionate about? 
Yes, I’m very passionate about this topic. It’s a subject that really means a lot to me, and nobody should ever have to experience any kind of sexual harassment. I think that what Reclaim Blackpool is doing is amazing, and bringing more attention to this issue should definitely be a massive priority in all stages of life and for all people. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to partake in the event as it’s for a very good cause and I’d like to do anything I can to help prevent anyone from having to go through something like this.

Reclaim SLAG is on 25th March at Bootleg Social, with creative workshops at Aunty Social beforehand (5-7pm). The workshops are free but space is limited so booking is essential. Sign up here. Main photo by Gisela Szlatoszlavek.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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