There’s something magical about Neo-soul that transcends generational music trends. When the genre first emerged as a by-product of the Motown era in the late 90’s, it was coined to describe the niche amalgamation of Soul and R’n’B. Nowadays, as we’ve seen the use of musical categorization and genre becoming more obsolete, we’ve also seen this shift give new life to the hybridity of Neo-soul music.
One band that embodies everything that the contemporary Neo-soul movement encompasses is QM's very own Normanton Street. The dynamic trio – made up of instrumentalists Ned, Nicholson and lead vocalist Phoebe - have spent their decade-long careers travelling across the UK, Europe and U.S., lighting up intimate stages and touring with the likes of Taleb Kweli. On their travels through the far reaches of the musical world, they’ve remained dedicated to experimenting with all iterations of soul music and coming up with fresh sounds to keep pushing the nostalgic genre they know and love into the future.
Their latest offering “Grace”, sees the band team up with the Bradford Youth Orchestra to bring about a symphonic soul-fusion record, which boasts grounding lyrical messages about dealing with one's expectations in love. Below, we catch up with Normanton Street to talk about the inspirations behind their heartfelt new record, as well as their musical plans for the rest of 2021!
Hey guys! Can you give me a brief background on the band; where you all met and why you mesh so well together musically?
Nicholson: Well, Ned and I grew up on the same street in Bradford and have been music-buddies our whole lives. The band formed in 2011 when we moved to Brighton together and met Phoebe at a gig we played at The Mesmerist bar; where she was working at the time. We sparked up a conversation about music quite organically and next thing you know, like literally a week later, we ended up jamming together. Ned and I were immediately blown away by Phoebe’s voice and pen, so we decided to start writing original songs together, and naturally, Phoebe ended up joining the band shortly after. It was all super organic.
What a cool origin story! We love the new single “Grace”. Tell us, how did you link up with the Bradford Youth Orchestra to record the track?
Ned: It goes without saying that Nicholson and I have a lot of love for our hometown. Back in 2018, Bradford Council actually approached us and asked if we’d perform with the local youth orchestra - for us, it was a no-brainer! We arranged some of the tracks we were recording at the time for orchestration and brought them to the guys and during the performance we were just so taken aback by how good they all were as instrumentalists. A year later, we went back and recorded with them, and voila, “Grace” was made!
Can you tell us more about the message behind the lyricism on the track?
Phoebe: I wrote the lyrics at a time in my life when someone I loved and had put on a pedestal ended up letting me down massively. In a way, the lyrics speak to that feeling of disappointment that goes hand-in-hand with heartbreak. I do like that people who’ve listened to the song have interpreted different meanings from the lyrics too. I guess in a way, the lyricism can mean whatever the listener takes from it; for me, that’s the beauty of music.
That’s very true! Was there an initial message you wanted listeners to take away from the track when you were writing it?
Phoebe: I hope that people who listen to ‘Grace” take away the message that it’s okay to feel negative emotions sometimes. It’s okay to feel angry or hurt – what's important is that you address those feelings and find a way to move on; to get through the hard times.
Oh, that’s so important! Tell us, what’s next for Normanton Street following the release of “Grace”?
Ned: Oh, it’s under wraps for the most part, but we’ll be looking to release a few more singles this year. So, keep it locked, we may have a longer project dropping before the year is out too, we’re just playing it by ear right now due to covid. We’re a band of performers, so until we’re able to do that again we’ll be in the studio just jamming and working!
Stream Normanton Street’s “Grace” featuring The Bradford Youth Orchestra on Spotify!