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. Hayley Clapperton caught up with her…
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 while 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 released 3 tracks in 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. 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.
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: 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’s your biggest vice?
Gen: Self-deprecating humour and tortilla chips.
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.
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. Coming up, I’m excited to have lined up the Alive & V-Dubbin acoustic stage and Cosmic Puffin Breaking Out Stage.
For more information visit facebook.com/genirving10.