It’s a drizzly, overcast day as I sit down with blossoming singer-songwriter Amelia Caesar in Brighton’s North Laine district.
Clad in fashionable threads, including a notable bright yellow anorak, her image couldn’t fit in more with the welcoming and buzzy ‘anything goes’ Brighton vibe, although her sound as a musician is what sets her apart. Fresh off the back of releasing her debut EP, Weep Like Giants, and just home from her very first stint at Glastonbury Festival, Amelia has a lot to celebrate and today’s meeting finds her in a cheery mood.
Originally from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, Amelia moved to Brighton nearly two years ago to study at the British Institute of Modern Music, (BIMM), and not once has she regretted that decision. “I was originally going to go to uni to do French and Spanish and then I rejected all of my uni offers and chose to do music instead.” Speaking of why she loves the city, she says: “I love how you can wear what you want, you can do what you want and everything is so creative. You can see people walk down the street doing whatever and no-one judges you.”
A large number of musicians living in the city will certainly have contributed to Brighton’s accepting, community atmosphere, but for Amelia and her fellow creatives it’s that atmosphere that often proves crucial to progressing in their trade. “I think if you’re creative it’s nice to not have any limits where you’re living. I sound like such a hippy but I do think it’s nice having that sense of freedom in every single aspect – it’s probably the most accepting place on Earth, I love it.”
Although, sometimes even ‘the most accepting place on Earth’ can prove to be a bit too much. “Sometimes I have to go home to the countryside for a few days to get out of the bubble because it can get a bit consuming at times, especially being around musicians so much, it’s nice to sort of breakaway and go back to normal and my friends at home.” That’s not to say that Amelia finds it difficult to write and make music whilst in Brighton though.
Over the last year Amelia has slaved away meticulously on Weep Like Giants and the end result is breath-taking. Comprised of four tracks, the singer’s sound recalls the darker elements of indie-folk artist Ben Howard, whilst also possessing the similar soothing tones of Lucy Rose. The EP’s title track is the one that stands out the most in terms of production, which is why it probably won’t come as a surprise that it’s the song Amelia favours the most from her first release.
“It was one of those songs I wrote really quick and, even though I was set on the four tracks I was initially going to have on the EP, I then wrote that song and was like ‘No, I really want that in there’. I wasn’t expecting it to be the title-track considering I wrote it so late towards the recording process.” The sub-six-minute cut is a step up for Amelia Caesar. Bridging the transition between acoustic and electric, the song reflects the direction Amelia hopes to continue in the not too distant future.
“I feel like the outro is an introduction to what I’m writing now and what I want to release in the future. I feel like ‘We Will Be One’, which is the first track on the EP, is just acoustic and vocally really harmonic, so I think that’s very much what I used to be writing and then finishing with ‘Weep Like Giants’ is nice because I’m finishing on what I want to be releasing, so it’s quite special really. Lyrically I’ve matured a lot and that song is a really nice example of it.”
The tracks on the EP deal with difficult, personal topics, so it was important to find the right producer for Amelia to work with. “I recorded it at Metway Studios with Toby May and he was just really good. The one thing that was really important to me when it came to recording was that I felt comfortable.
“I didn’t want to walk into the studio and record with a complete stranger because it sounds so personal, but I didn’t want to be like ‘here’s my heart and soul in these songs, I know you don’t know me but just try and find some sort of connection to them’. Whereas, I sort of knew Toby and he was my tutor at BIMM this year. He has some way of pulling you out of your comfort zone without you realising until afterwards.”
A notable thing about Amelia is that she isn’t afraid to deal with topics that other artists might shy away from. Themes of self-confidence, self-perception and body image are just a few of the issues at the heart of the EP, ‘Skin and Bones’ is a particularly moving number in this regard too. “It’s obviously a really personal subject, I think people need to talk about it more.”
Amelia has also made an effort to continue the great work Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have done to assist in removing the stigma surrounding mental illness and in making it seem more widely acceptable to seek help. About ‘Weep Like Giants’, she comments: “It’s basically saying ‘cry if you want to cry, it’s fine’. In the press there’s been such a big thing with Prince Harry about males being able to express their feelings. I think I wrote that song at the same time that came out in the press.
“It’s just saying if you’re not okay then tell someone. From the period I was writing it, in my life I’ve had so much change, family-wise and I think a lot of the time I don’t like people to know I’m having a hard time.” Instead, the artist uses her music as a coping mechanism to express what she wants to say and to get her emotions out without revealing all to everyone. “It’s about putting a front on but still making sure you talk to someone, otherwise you’re just going to bottle it up and drown in your situation.”
University can be the best and one of the loneliest times, as Amelia has found out over the last couple of years. Whether it be homesickness, the struggle of making new friends, or even common housemate annoyances; everyone needs a form of escapism. Amelia found hers in writing the EP. “When I was writing the EP I was going through a lot of stuff and I think if I hadn’t have written the EP I wouldn’t have coped with it so well. I think I’m lucky I have that output because if I didn’t write songs I really don’t know how I’d cope with things.”
The future remains an exciting place for the young artist and by the sounds of it she’s more than prepared to take everything in her stride and continue to improve herself. “I’d love to play in a church, I think the sound would be unreal. I like playing in Marwood as it’s always good but I would love to play in one of the churches around here.”
Before that Amelia has a lot of other shows to look forward to. This August she will support former X Factor star Lucy Spraggan at Brighton Pride. “I’m really excited,” she says, “I deliberately went and saw her set at Glastonbury and it was amazing. She was really good with the crowd and I think she’s really relatable for everyone. She’s just written this song about dementia and it’s so touching.”
Speaking of Glastonbury, Amelia discovered she’d secured her slot at the festival whilst away in Bali with her boyfriend and manager, Anton. “I knew that I’d been put forward but I wasn’t actually thinking I was going to get it because I’d never been to Glastonbury and obviously it’s huge. Then we were on holiday and I got a message asking if I wanted to play, so that was a really nice surprise.”
Following the interview, Amelia (accompanied by Anton) takes us on a tour of her favourite Brighton spots. First up is Meat Liquor, an edgy US-style restaurant that the couple frequent often, so much so that the staff instantly recognise them. Nearby we visit Pelicano, a small, independent coffee shop situated in the heart of North Laine. Quite some time ago, Amelia and Anton enjoyed their first date there and have been loyal customers ever since. Another highlight of the tour is a trip to The Green Door Store, a popular music venue under the arches of Brighton Station that the pair and their friends regularly gig at.
Life is on an upward trajectory for Amelia Caesar at the moment and it doesn’t look set to slow down anytime soon. Keep an eye out as she’s the voice of the future, it won’t be hard to spot her in her bright yellow anorak anyway.
Words by Lauren Wade
Words by Lauren Wade