Interview: Alex Sheppard

Jack PhillipsFormer Next Big Thing finalist Alex Sheppard - who's back for a gig in Norwich - is starting to make waves on the London scene, as JACK PHILLIPS reports.Jack Phillips

Former Next Big Thing finalist Alex Sheppard - who's back for a gig in Norwich - is starting to make waves on the London scene, as JACK PHILLIPS reports.

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The Norwich music scene has never been so full of good, young local bands, nor has it been so lauded. One graduate from the city's scene is singer-songwriting troubadour Alex Sheppard, a singer returning to the area to support The Stars Of Sunday League at the Arts Centre tonight, for Jigsaw House.

Now living in London, she recently signed with independent label Dustbowl Records. She doesn't necessarily feel it was needed, but it has certainly helped get her to where she is now - a place where she can consider Zane Lowe a fan. She isn't your typical girl-with-guitar either, the words 'Female Billy Bragg' are bound to be labelled round her neck sooner rather than later.

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'Obviously London shows are important because most of the industry is based in London but it's a good idea to develop and hone your sound in your home town before you move on to the London scene, if not you end up with a bunch of homogenous-sounding London bands in skinny jeans.'

Norwich is still important to her and so are the local bands that are carrying the flame for Norwich. A fact backed up by her working with Adelaide's Cape- more alumni from the scene - in the studio and playing support at their EP launch gig in March at The Luminaire in London.

'London can feel a bit cliquey and harder to break into whereas in Norwich you get more of a sense of community. It's smaller and there are only so many venues to play so people in bands all tend to know each other.'

Her lyrics are the key ingredient to her sound, a sound happened upon after growing up on a staple diet of The Pixies and The Breeders as well as Dylan, The Libertines and more recently the phenomenal Regina Spektor and Bright Eyes.

The world become a different place when you hear her scathing, observational wit tear it apart. All the while sung with a contrasting endearing sweetness.

'Sometimes the words just seem to come out of nowhere, usually after I've been trying for ages without coming up with anything good and then some lyrics will just pop out ready formed, like my unconscious has just taken over.

'Or I'll remember a line I've heard somewhere or that's popped into my head and try and incorporate into a song. Other times it's a long, unbelievably awkward process that makes me feel worthless when I can't write anything I like.'

This year is a big one for Alex, she finishes her Philosophy degree at London's King's College and will also enter the studio to begin work on her debut album.

'After the summer I'm going to be free to concentrate a lot more on music. I'm excited because for the first time I'm going to be recording with other musicians so I guess we'll have a mess around in the studio and see what magic we create. I'm hoping for a more textured and musically competent sound. I can't wait!'

t Alex Sheppard will be supporting Stars of Sunday League at Norwich Arts Centre on January 15.