4 May '20

Nick Edwards

Feed Presents: Lou Wellby

Lou Wellby is a vocalist, songwriter, band member, gig curator and sound meditation teacher living and working in London.

We first met Lou through her work as the vocalist (and songwriter) in Bamboo Smoke, a group whose sound lies at the hazy, dreamy intersection of shoegaze, alt-pop and neo-soul. It's a captivating mix of loose, natural feeling production, catchy riffs and soulful, introspective lyrics that slowly unfurl with each listen. Check out their latest track Maybe I below.

Lou also runs Jam Sandwich, hosting 'gigs with heart' for a growing community of songwriters and musicians. The next Jam event is a virtual songwriting circle on 8th May which is free, though donations are welcomed for Women For Refugee Women, who do amazing work to empower women and give them a voice.

Lou was incredibly supportive of our early efforts to get Feed off the ground: sitting through research interviews, helping us test the first version of the platform and giving us her valuable feedback. She's been using Feed to promote her work with both Bamboo Smoke and Jam Sandwich and it's been great to watch things develop over the past year or so.

Last week, Lou and I chatted over Zoom about her music, collaboration and community, life as a musician during covid and mental health... and we also got a little teaser into her first upcoming solo project. We're delighted to have someone so friendly, community-focused and multitalented as our second Feed Presents.

Hi Lou! Could you give us a brief overview of your work in music and sound?

Hello! Yes, I am an artist (vocalist and songwriter), I curate and host gigs with heart, and I work with sound as a pathway for meditation, creativity and inner calm.

You've just released a track with Bamboo Smoke, tell us more about the song and the group's future plans.

It's amazing having Maybe I out in the universe as our latest offering. The tune is about wishing you could coax someone out of their darkness to see the sky. We have two more singles to come over the next couple of months. Our next single, Are You Awake?, evokes that up late night wide awake feeling, wanting to share your secrets.

And you fairly recently added a third member to the lineup - percussionist Mark Gilyead. Has that changed how you write music, and the creative direction of the group?

Mark is a wonder, he's a super talented percussionist, composer and multi-instrumentalist. He's been a key part of our sonic and overall evolution, we don't like to be boxed but I suppose we sit somewhere in the soulful, groovy, alternative pop sphere. Mark is also just one of the best people you'll ever meet. I'm very fortunate that we are not just collaborators, when Tom and I first met we became true friends straight away and that planted the seed for this journey.

You've built up an incredible community of musicians through Jam Sandwich and Songwriting Circle - what is the concept behind these, and how are you keeping the community going during lockdown?

Thank you! I set up Jam Sandwich in 2012 after playing 'the circuit' in London and finding it lacking in heart. So, Jam is all about 'gigs with heart', creating an atmosphere where the artist and the audience listen and appreciate deeply, bringing people together in the name of new music. Seb (Yucatan Records) and I started Songwriting Circle in 2017 and have hosted over 175 extraordinary artists in the round, unplugged, playing 1 song each. I always feel wholly inspired and heart-warmed by the Circles, the vulnerability and the talent. It's all centred around sharing, connecting, collaboration, improvisation and breaking barriers between artist and audience.

You're obviously a big believer in collaboration. How do you find people to work with, and what's your approach when working creatively with others?

The best kind of collaboration happens naturally, a feeling of connection and a shared drive, fuelled by respect, appreciation and playing to strengths, learning from one another and appreciating that our differences make us stronger. My approach is to do what feels right, listen to instincts, make sure everyone's voice is heard and power through from the heart. I've met my collaborators in a very natural way, through gigs and artist friends. I find it a true delight to introduce people and foster a space for friendships and collaborations to grow.

As someone who is both an artist and also hosts events, we'd love to hear about your general approach when it comes to engaging with your audience, both online and in real life.

I'd say the key is to be authentic and don't try to be anyone else or impress anyone, you are entirely original by being you. Over the years, I have become more and more rooted in this truth - create the atmosphere you would like to be a part of and make everyone feel welcome.

You talk about mental health in your music. Many artists find it tough at the best of times, let alone during covid... what's your philosophy and how do you cope with the pressures that go with creative work?

Yes, I talk about mental health through my music (I'm glad you noticed as it can be subtle), it is cathartic to explore shadows through creativity and it brings us closer to one another when we express ourselves - you never know who might listen and relate. This is a topic very close to my heart, I have a lot to say, but mostly I think it's important to honour and respect your journey, your inner voice and your needs. We are all a work in progress, so I find nurturing and coaxing myself through with kindness and compassion mixed with bravery brings the best and most sustainable flow.

You've known us right since the beginning... it would be great to hear your take on Feed, how it's evolved and any features you might want to see in the future?

It's a relief for the busy creator, maker, innovator who does not have the time or inclination to grapple with the ads manager back end and would like to work with good people who know how to help you grow in an organic way.

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