17-year old guitar playing singer/songwriter Gen Irving from Essex, has plenty of gigs and festivals under her belt. With a weakness for tortilla chips and a choice of 10 guitars to play, it won’t be long before she is driving further afield for a busy gig diary.
HC: When did you first pick up the guitar?
Gen: I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was six and started to take proper lessons from 8 or 9 and really got into it from about 12.
HC: Anyone in your family musical?
Gen: My dad played sax in a band at uni and there are a handful of musicians on his side of the family. Both my parents love music so there was never really an option not to be obsessed with it for me.
HC: How would you describe your style?
Gen: I find myself calling it soft rock but have inspirations from indie rock, pop, alternative, R&B and blues/folk.
HC: Who are your influences?
Gen: Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Paul Simon, HAIM, Joni Mitchell, Jack Antonoff, Hozier, and Courtney Barnett and I could go on and on…
HC: Which song do you most like to perform, and why?
Gen: ‘Gift From God’ as it has some lyrics I really have fun singing and I like to bop along to the rhythm.
HC: Do you play other instruments?
Gen: I play bass guitar and synths and also view production as an instrument.
HC: What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are hanging out?
Gen: Depends on my mood but love listening to rock, funk and 90s hits hanging out with my friends.
HC: What’s your song writing process?
Gen: It’s hard to describe, but I tend to collect riffs and lyrics all the time and try to work out which moods fit together.
HC: How many tracks have you released?
Gen: I released a self-produced EP with four songs in November 2018 and have or will release 3 more by the end of January. I have a load more in the works.
HC: How many guitars do you have?
Gen: I have 10! I have been very lucky over the years and have been given some great gifts from older musicians and family and also have invested money I earned gigging and busking in buying guitars and other sound making equipment such as a bass, effects pedals, midi keyboards, etc.
HC: Are you at college/studying?
Gen: Yes I am studying music performance and production
HC: When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
Gen: I like consuming the arts, especially fashion, television, and films
HC: When you become famous, what will your rider be?
HC: Do you have a non-musical skill?
Gen: I’m a really fast walker
HC: What musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be?
Gen: Joni Mitchell and Prince and so many others
HC: How often do you perform and it is difficult to get gigs at 17?
Gen: It depends on the time of year but I have probably averaged at least 2 a month for the last few years. I am not that proactive in applying for that many and have been lucky to have been asked to play quite a few. It can be difficult to get gigs at 17, especially in Chelmsford, but hopefully it won’t be a problem much longer!!
HC: Anything unusual happened at a gig?
Gen: One time, two dogs got intimate right in front of the stage when I was playing. It was a struggle to keep a straight face. Also, there have been quite a few drunken revellers at my gigs – I remember being asked to play Irish folk music once.
HC: Do you drive yet, or still having to rely on friends and family for travel?
Gen: I started lessons but the world probably doesn’t want me as a driver yet.
HC: Who is your biggest fan?
Gen: My mom, my sister’s flatmate and some really lovely people on my Facebook page.
HC: What challenges do you face being a solo artist?
Gen: I hear my songs with a bigger sound in my head and without a band I have to figure out all the parts myself. I have recorded with more of a full band sound on my latest tracks with me playing all the instruments but drums. I would love to be in a band, it just hasn’t happened for me yet. It has been a bit difficult finding other young people who want to play my genre.
HC: Do you think it is easier or harder these days to be a musician?
Gen: Both. It’s easier to get your music out there but as there is so much out there it’s harder to get it heard.
HC: Do you enjoy working/recording in a studio?
Gen: I love it. I co-produced my latest tracks, recorded with Cris Ramos at Wired Audio in Ardleigh, and had a great time doing it. I also love to get into my element working alone in my home studio.
HC: There is a lot of young talent in the region, do you think there is enough support out there?
Gen: There is a lot of support in some but not all areas and in some but not all genres. I have been lucky to have some great local radio support but it can be really hard to break into the local music scene.
HC: You recently played at Sonic Youths Showcase event in January, how was that?
Gen: That was a lot of fun and it was great to see the other bands who were all incredible. I’d love to play in Norwich again.
HC: What artist/group would you like to support?
Gen: In my fantasy world, I would love to support HAIM or Hozier or Lizzo. On a local scale, I’d love to support Superglu, Lamplight Club, Bessie Turner or numerous others.
HC: What’s your biggest vice?
Gen: Self-deprecating humour and tortilla chips
HC: What’s your favourite condiment?
Gen: I love me some pesto and dijon mustard (and tartare sauce). So hard to pick just one.
HC: What was the last book you read?
Gen: Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
HC: What ambitions do you have within the music industry? If that doesn’t work out, what is your back-up plan?
Gen: I just want to write, produce and perform as much as I can for as long as I can. It would be cool to get a publishing and/or recording contract and ultimately validation from Bruce Springsteen. I’m going to keep trying at this for awhile before I have to think really seriously about a backup plan.One way or another, I want to spend my life working in music.
HC: Have you played any festivals? What are they like for you?
Gen: I have played a lot of festivals including in 2019 Greystock, Groomstock, Maldon Smoke and Fire Festival, the acoustic stage at Heditude and several other festivals. In 2018, I played Rayne and Leestock acoustic stages, Dedham Vale, VW Fabfest, Sudbury Party in the Park, amongst many others. Coming up, I’m excited to have lined up the Alive & V-Dubbin acoustic stage, Cosmic Puffin Breaking Out Stage and will be playing Heditude Unplugged February 29.
I love playing festivals except for the fact that I suffer from the worst hayfever you can imagine so I’m not always comfortable. I just get on with it though and love to see all the other bands and musicians.
This interview first appeared on GrapevineLIVE