Words: Thomas Brent.
Rebecca Shearing is a singer-songwriter who is based in Edinburgh. She has racked up an extraordinary amount of followers on Facebook, with over 400,000 likes and has had millions of views on Youtube.
We caught up with her before her headline show at Sneaky Pete’s to talk about her musical career, her influences, Stanley Odd and Mike Tyson.
Since you started out you’ve had millions of views on Youtube and have hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, did you expect that?
No, I saw other people doing it and the scale of followers was a lot smaller back when I started. Say if you had 20,000 you were amazing and right at the top, there was no one with millions at that point. So if you had 100 views it was like ‘oh my god’. But yeah it kind of just snowballed from there and the expectations got larger and then people expected more.
How long did it take for the level of interest to build up, was it instant?
I guess so, I had a few video’s that did quite well and then I put one up and it got 100,000 in a few days.
Did it all start with covers of songs?
Yeah I wasn’t really writing songs at that point, I was like 16 and didn’t really know what kind of musical path I wanted to take at that point, so I was just singing some songs in my house.
Did you always want to be in music when you were growing up?
Yeah, well at school it was the thing I was best at, so It was just like ‘I’ll just do this because I’ll get an A’. My mum started me on singing lessons when I was like 5, then I started piano lessons when I was 7, and then I put the two together. So I have been doing that since I was quite young and then I’ve just kind of kept doing it.
You have a lot of fans, do you find that pressure hard to handle?
Sometimes. When people then expect you just be able to sell out anywhere you go because you’ve had so many hits. But it’s also obviously good because it means a lot of people have seen me and so they have the choice to buy my music or listen to it or come see a show, so obviously there are millions of benefits but yeah it can get a bit tough.
You started out by doing covers on Youtube, and you still do them. Do you think that’s a good way to connect with your fans?
The international ones yeah, the ones that can’t come see me play live at this moment until I get the chance to go there. That’s the reason I’m still doing it at the moment because there are so many people all over the world that I can’t get to, so I just kind of put that on the internet until I can go to see them.
Do people request songs?
If people request something and I feel like I can do something with it then I will, but I do get a lot that are a little out of my depth. Or just one’s like ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams or any song that you would expect at a wedding, and I’m like mmm, maybe not.
You released your first EP Paper Lungs in 2012, any plans for new recordings?
I have recorded one but I haven’t released it yet. I’ve been selling it at gigs and stuff like that but I haven’t released that because if I did I would have to tour with it, but I’ve actually started doing something a little bit different at the moment.
A new project that’s a little more interesting. I found that just me and piano and singing can sometimes get a little tedious, just going to gigs by myself and leaving by myself, I don’t have anyone to share the experience with. So I have started something a little more interesting with a couple of friends. Just being able to tour people will be a lot more fun; touring on your own can be lonely. I’m looking forwards to that but it means that right now I can’t really tour with my own material. This gig at Sneaky Pete’s is like a transitional gig, so I’m still playing my stuff the way I would before, but it’s just a little different.
You studied music at Napier University, Do you feel that has helped with your career?
More in terms of meeting people and getting to play with them. You always had a musician to hand and you learnt things from your peers. It was good to just grow up and learn about what I wanted to do musically, rather than just being 17 and playing pop songs. As much as Youtube shows me playing pop songs all the time, I mean I do like pop, but I think if I had to do that sort of thing all the time I would kind of lose my creativity a bit. So I’m glad I’ve had this time to grow up and figure out what I want to do.
Do you have any sources of inspiration for your songs?
Every song I write is different. Sometimes it will sound like Katy Perry, sometimes like Bon Iver. Just random artist from all over.
Has there been any interest from labels?
I feel like I want to do things up to a point by myself. For new stuff I want to make sure we get it recorded, and play it and get it out there and then kind of decide where we want to take it before someone else tells us where to take it. We want to get to a stage where we’re solid and completely happy and then build up from there, but we’re working towards that point.
You have lots of international fans, but less in Edinburgh, and Scotland. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know, maybe it’s something to do with Youtube. You know how you have your top cities on Youtube of where you’re views come from? Well the only one in that from the UK is London. And then the rest is different cities across US and Asia, and that’s great but I’m in Scotland right now.
You played in Glasgow the other week with Stanley Odd?
Yeah we collaborated with some Malawian’s.
How was it?
Really good, their music has so much energy and so much life in it that you just can’t help but dance about the stage with them. The Malawi Commonwealth team had just won a gold medal too so they came on stage and it was just an amazing atmosphere.
How did that all that come about?
I’ve been playing with Stanley Odd since January as their singer is on maternity leave.
The collaboration with the Malawian’s was to do with the Lake Of Stars Festival. Stanley Odd are playing that (Lake Of Stars Festival runs between the 26 – 28 September)so it was to do with that connection. We spent like two or three days with them and they were all lovely.
Do you find Stanley Odd a good outlet? They’re quite different, is that helpful?
They are at the stage of headlining festivals, and stuff which is really cool. They are maybe the opposite to me, so they have the Scottish and UK fan-base so they can headline festivals here and play massive gigs, so it’s fun being able to do that. I’m kind of the opposite where my fan-base is really spread out and I need to bring it in a bit. But it’s been a really fun experience and I have gotten to know them really well. Dave (Hook) was actually my lecturer at Uni, and everyone except Dave went to Napier, so everyone has that in common.
What’s been the highlight of your musical career?
Erm…I’ve played a lot of random gigs. Once I played in a boxing ring in front of Mike Tyson. It was scary. Obviously a boxing ring is surrounded so no matter where you turn there were always people looking at your back or your bum, so it was a bit awkward. But he gave me a thumb’s up at the end and I was like ‘you’re really scary’. This was around the time of the film The Hangover.
How did this come about?
It was in my hometown of Ayr actually.
I can’t believe Mike Tyson has been to Ayr…
There was this thing called a night with Mike Tyson at Ayr race course, so I was asked to play that and I was like yeah cool.
So what are your plans for the future?
I’m not planning on doing any more live gigs until we’ve sorted the sound with this new project. I’ll keep going with my stuff on the side so I won’t just disappear, but getting the new project together is the priority.
For more information go to www.rebeccashearingofficial.com