Interview Thursday: Jacky Stoneygate

Interview Thursday is back, and this week I’m featuring electronic artist and producer Jacky Stoneygate from East Midlands, UK! Here below is the interview:

W.: Please tell us an introduction of yourself!

Jacky Stoneygate: I grew up in Leicestershire, England and was fascinated by music and musicians from a very early age. My first proper musical instrument was a guitar, when I was 8, which was very exciting but I can still remember doing the homework after the first lesson with painful fingers, frustration and tears! Thankfully it got easier! Later, I dabbled with sequencing software and a 4 track tape machine, dreaming of making an album of my own songs.  It took a long time, but now I make music which aims to give the listener some head-space to stop, unwind and think more deeply about life and the world around them.

W.: What makes you start your music career?

Stoneygate: In between starting songwriting and releasing my first album I did a business degree and had a series of jobs that had nothing to do with music. I was still always making music in the background, but gradually my work life took over and I had no energy left. Then I had a health scare which made me think seriously again about my life. I knew that I’d hate myself later in life if I didn’t ever give the music a proper go. I found out about a local music college, was accepted onto their production course and did 2 years of college before releasing Sleepwalker.

W.: Are there any singers/bands that also influenced your music career, and how have they influenced you (in any way)?

Stoneygate: It would be a very long list! I think most music that I have enjoyed exerts some kind of subtle subconscious influence. Elton John was definitely an influence in inspiring my early songwriting efforts and Kate Bush for her individuality and storytelling. I used to sing along to my All About Eve CDs (amongst others), and have learned to play various Suzanne Vega covers – another superb songwriter; I suspect both have helped shape my vocal style and writing.
Probably the biggest influence must be the band Iona, a celtic folk prog rock band that I love. They make very melodic, spiritually moving music with a lot of synth layers and I’ve been a longterm fan. Plus there is some fantastic music from the 90s and onwards like Moby, Boards of Canada, Massive Attack et al, Fleet Foxes, Bonobo and so on that is very atmospheric and in directions I’d be very happy to take my music in.

W.: You just released an album, it’s called “Survival”. Describe about this album and what makes you produce that album?

Stoneygate: A large chunk of Survival came out of my 3rd year of Tune-A-Day-June, a 30-day writing challenge. It’s got a common thread running through it of songs and instrumentals about struggles and risk, and it is very much about looking at the world around me, and what is happening in the news and/or in my own life.

I had at first thought after releasing Sleepwalker that it would only take a few months to release another album because I already had lots of material, but when I started to pull it together, it felt like I had two separate projects and was trying to smash them against each other, so I waited until I’d got a set of tunes that felt like they really belonged together. The 30 day challenge came immediately after the Manchester bombing, and there were terror attacks in London, a General Election and the Grenfell Tower disaster all during that one month; there was a real sense of unrest and of society becoming more polarised. That fitted with Solitude in Numbers, a commentary on social media, which I’d dropped from Sleepwalker and had reworked from scratch in a more thoughtful style.  Thieving Autumn is a bit of a wild card, but it kind of works with everything else.

W.: Of all your songs, which song would you recommend to our readers. What makes this song special and what’s the story behind the song?

Stoneygate: The song I’m most proud of having written right now is Thieving Autumn. It’s not ‘typical Stoneygate’ in terms of the musical production, but I feel that I managed to do something worthwhile with the lyrics, which I spent a lot of time on and revisited multiple times to get them as good as possible.  During the time I wrote it, I was doing a lyric writing course, which spurred me on. I’d also felt quite inspired to up my lyrics game by my friends Martin and Carolyn of Uncut Pages, because they put a lot of love into their words. The thing that triggered the song was a feature on Radio 4 for National Poetry Day “Say It With A Poem”, encouraging participants to send poems to friends, colleagues and the wider world. They featured autumnal writing, which planted the seed of an idea for some words, which then led to a tune going round my head, long before I had written most of the lyrics. The words percolated through over several months after that, and I was still tweaking them right up until I  recorded it.

For musical production, One Fine Day is a favourite. Because it is a cover song, I was able to enjoy just concentrating on the sounds and the arrangement.

W.: Your other album is called “sleepwalker”. What makes you produce the dreamy feeling from this album?

Stoneygate: I love very chilled out downtempo music that you can listen to whilst you’re doing other focused activities. With Sleepwalker, I was trying out various techniques that I was learning at college and applying them in roughly that sort of style, with a lot of my other musical influences getting in as well.

W.: What are your goals for the future?

Stoneygate: I don’t just want to create music, I want to get people thinking. There are some trends in the world that concern me, like the recent rise of nationalism and the backlash to equality, and there are issues like the environment where if we speak up, we can make a difference and influence what happens. I want to inspire my audience to engage with what is going on around them and speak out when things aren’t right.  That’s the idea behind my ‘We Are Not Sleepwalkers’ group on Facebook for people who get my updates. I haven’t really got that side of it off the ground yet, though.

In the long term, as well as what I’m doing already, I’m very keen to write music for film and video, all the way from people using my tunes for the backdrop to their youtube video, to composing bespoke music to fit with the action in a film. I’d also like to contribute more music to games.

In the shorter term, I’ve got another album on the go that is a ‘fake filmscore’ of a book I enjoyed, and an EP’s worth or so of other material that looks like it will work well together. I’m going to do another 30 day challenge very soon as well, but it might not be a composing challenge this time – I have a few choices to consider ASAP, including some lyric-writing exercises and a challenge that should help towards my long term goals.  (I should have decided by the time this goes out).

W.: Any final thoughts/comments you want to share with the readers?

Stoneygate: I’d say keep an eye on what’s going on in the world, but don’t take everything you’re told at face value. Who is giving the information? What are their goals?  Who do they have to keep happy?  If there’s something happening that bothers you, look at how you can add your voice to be heard in the debate and see how you can influence the outcome. Don’t be a ‘sleepwalker’!

We thank Jacky Stoneygate for answering these questions and to accept this interview with us. You can find her at: https://stoneygatesound.com/, where you can find more information about her and her “playlist of the week”. You can also find her albums “sleepwalker” and “survival” on all streaming platforms. She’s also on twitter: @StoneygateSound.

I AM RECEIVING A LOT OF REQUESTS FOR INTERVIEW THURSDAY! Because of this, I’m having a double interview next week, starting from Mark Stone on Wednesday. Wednesday’s regular feature, “in my own words”, will be cancelled next week.


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