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Who’s Next?: Singer/Songwriters On The Up

Cortney Riles |
October 30, 2012 | 7:17 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Adele. Frank Ocean. Lana Del Rey. Bon Iver. Kimbra. Gotye. Foster The People. Azealia Banks. The Lumineers. Ed Sheeran. Alex Clare. Mumford & Sons. 

These are some of the fairly new and very talented artists who I imagine you’ve heard about or whose songs you’ve heard repeatedly on the radio, have been played for you by Pandora, recommended to you by Spotify, or that you’ve searched for on YouTube within the last year. 

Don’t believe me about the last one? Take a trip to LA Lives’ Starbucks (or any Starbucks for that matter); during this writer’s latest visit, the band's “Babel” (the title and first song off the folk group’s new album) and “I Will Wait” were just played within the last 8 minutes while I waited for a coffee. They are also selling the album.

Or turn to 98.7 FM; it plays the latter tune about every 10 minutes. That’s a hell of a lot of “waiting” while driving in LA. 

From “Thinkin’ Bout You” to “Pumped Up Kicks” a handful of artists have topped the charts universally and thus, have become fan favorites. 

But if you’re looking for some new artists—new styles, voices and techniques—or new artists that simply emulate your favorite legends, you’re in luck.

2012 has been a progressive (and to some a detrimental) year for the music industry.

And no, I’m not referring to YouTube commentators who write things like “Thumbs up if Twilight sent you here,” or “OMG Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj have over 54,000,000 views…people don’t appreciate good music anymore!,” an example of how easily music can be accessed and new artists discovered today.

But also, an indication of what audiences seem to be craving: “real” or “good” music. 

Considering how personal preference and opinion dominate the arts, we could discuss for hours about what constitutes “good” music. Our opinions do not, however, determine how popular artists become. But upgrades in technology do replace some of the power back in our hands, or rather, our ears. 

That said; grab a pen and a piece of paper. Excuse me—I mean, load your "Stickies" or prepare your navigation bar—here are some artists that if you haven’t heard about already you should check out or stalk on YouTube (like I do) for days at a time.

Ladies first: 

Lucy Rose

After moving to London at the age of 18, Lucy Rose was still unknown and unlistened to. Neglecting an education in Geography at University College London, the 22-year-old English singer/songwriter from Warwickshire decided to practice and perform with other artists. She began with the Bombay Bicycle Club.

Today she plays with a band of four (guitarist, drummer, bassist, and multi-instrumentalist). With only four singles out, Vogue’s Freddie Campion suggested Rose to be “one of indie music break out stars for 2012.” Her first album “Like I Used To” was released on August 24th and her popularity continues to mount. 

ZZ Ward

The Abington, PA singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Zsuzanna Eva Ward made a quick transition to the West Coast after growing up in Roseburg, Oregon. Her distinctful rhythmic and soulful voice represents all her time spent picking through her father’s blues and her brother’s hip-hop collections.

By age 12, Ward was singing in her father’s blues band and by 16 she was singing with hip-hop groups in Eugene. Her next stop: Los Angeles, with a hope of breaking into the music business. And that she has. Her debut album with Boardwalk Entertainment Group and Hollywood Records “TIL THE CASKET DROPS” was released on October 16th. Featuring collaboration with rising hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, the album has received many thumbs ups and earned the Etta loving singer a solid fan base. 

Emeli Sandé

“How incredible is she?” – Adele

Enough said. 

Elle King 

Duffy, meet Adele, and the two of you meet your triplet, Elle King… except she’s not British. Elle King (born Tanner Elle Schneider) is an American musician who raspily combines country, soul, rock and blues all in one. Born in LA bur raised in Ohio, the engaging vocalist currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Her four-song debut, the "Elle King EP," was released on RCA/fat Possum Records on June 12, 2012. “Playing for Keeps” was an immediate hit as it was chosen as the theme song for VH1’s guilty pleasure series, "Mob Wives (Chicago)." Singe the EP release, King has toured with Train and new artists like Of Monsters and Men (“Little Talks”) and Michael Kiwanuka. King is currently working on her debut full-length album, with an early 2013 release date. And I believe it’ll be worth the way.  

Mary Lambert 

Hailing from Sequin, Washington, singer/songwriter and spoken word artist Mary Lambert is talented beyond measures. The 23-year-old lesbian ginger has already collaborated with hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on their heart-wrenching track supporting gay marriage “Same Love.”

Her five song EP “Letters Don’t Talk” encourages women to love themselves despite their society professed flaws (“I Know Girls”), each of us to love and to love freely (“My Moon”), but is not remised to mention the dangers of loving deeply (“This Heart”) and thus has several reaching for a box of tissues in a matter of 20 minutes. One can only imagine how heart wrenching an entire album will be.   

And here’s a riveting taste of her combination of music and spoken word. 


The Los Angeles based singer began writing songs for others such as Rihanna’s “Cheers” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful People” from the movie "Burlesque." And while she found that rewarding, her simply sleek style, luscious brunette curls and powerful voice belonged on stage.

Her six song EP “Live At EastWest Studios” (April 2012) features “Into the Wild” a rockin’ track that was featured on a Citibank Card TV commercial. At the Troubadour last January it was evident why LP was listed as an artist to watch in 2012.


James Vincent McMorrow

If McMorrow isn’t proof of the benefits of progressions in technology for musicians, than I don’t know who else would be. After 5 months in an isolated house in Ireland, McMorrow self recorded and developed a breath taking collections of song that emulate the delicate tone and gripping lyrics of Bon Iver and James Blake in February 2010.

His first album “Early In The Morning” (2012) has done well and his cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” was featured in season 5 of CW’s drama "Gossip Girl," but both are only the beginning for McMorrow. His intricate harmonies and lucid lyricism are addictive. And after one listen to the album, you’ll be asking for the next… at least I was (even after the tenth).

Although a bit lengthy, the production and performances in this video allow you to see and hear just how talented McMorrow is. 

Michael Kiwanuka

When Bob Marley said “The good thing about music is that when it hits you, you feel no pain,” he wasn’t talking about Michael Kiwanuka. His voice is painfully flawless, flowing with honest and raw emotion. Often compared to Ben Harper, the Ugandan born, British raised artist became self-aware and thus self-confident in his skills after discovering that Jimi Hendrix was black. Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and Bill Withers also influenced him.

The folk/modern soul singer participated in rock bands at school when hew as 16 that progressed his musicianship. His EP “Tell Me A Tale: The Isle of Wight Sessions" was released on June 14th, 2011 and Kiwanuka has become a fan favorite of Interscope Records. 

Matt Corby

Compared to Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley, the Australian sensation has some high expectations set for him, but there's no doubt that he’ll surpass them all. His unique voice can be found on his 2009 EP ‘Song For…’ and his engaging lyrics on the haunting 2010 EP “Transition To Colour.”

Corby spent 2011 touring, performing for sold out audiences in London, Texas and Australia. His newly released EP “Into The Flame,” takes his listeners on a personal journey, displaying Corby’s growth and thus showcases his vocal and artistic talent even more. Corby is currently performing on his “Winter Tour’, a sold out national tour around Australia. 

Allen Stone 

With praise from USA Today and the New York Times who has compared his music to that of legends like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers no doubt that the 25-year-old singer/songwriter from Chewelah, Washington is talented. But his curly blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses help him identify as “a hippie with soul.” And he undoubtedly has an overwhelming amount of soul.

A preacher’s kid, Stone got his start in church. Although no longer shouting from the pulpit, Stone’s music has the ability to reach a wide array of people. His first self-titled album, released off of his own stickystones label in October 2011 reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s Heat seekers chart and then entered the Top 5 of iTunes’ R&B/Soul charts. Stone has appeared on “Conan”, “Jimmy Kimmel Live”, “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “Live from Daryl’s House. Now apart of ATO Records, his smooth soul is bound to reach an unlimited audience. 

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

In 2008, rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis created their debut EP “VS.” As a self-reflective album, Macklemore’s personal experience with drug addiction and rehabilitation is explained through “Otherside.” In “Wing$,” Macklemore raps about consumerism and themes of identity through childhood desire to have the best basketball sneakers.

Today, the Seattle native and his producer are selling out shows from coast to coast, including their recent appearance at LA’s The Graveyard. While you might recognize “Same Love” considering it’s impactful message and immediate popularity, here’s an uplifting track about self-identity and pride. 

Here’s a collaboration of three of the above artists (Macklemore and Lewis featuring Stone). 

All of the artists albums or EPs are available to buy and listen to on iTunes and Spotify. 

Reach Staff Reporter Cortney Riles here.



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