Lisa Redford: An Englishwoman in New York
It’s been a long journey for Lisa Redford, but she’s always been going in the right direction. From her early days singing covers to a first solo album that immediately attracted the attention of Bob Harris, Redford has developed her songwriting and her performing and got her name out to an ever-wider audience. Now she’s taken a big step, moving her life from Norwich to New York.
Redford picked up a publishing deal following the release of her most recent album, Clouds With Silver – the promoter particularly liked her song The Boy Who, a tale of lost love. With the deal in her hand, she was able to obtain a three-year artist visa for the United States. She’s now entering her third year in the Big Apple.
“I was ready for a new environment. Some of the people I’ve seen there, amazing artists. It makes you feel creative as well, motivated,” she says.
A publishing deal is primarily about pitching Redford’s songs to other artists, or getting them used in film and TV – the best of all is to be used in popular series like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Good Wife” or “Brothers and Sisters”. Redford hasn’t got there yet, but one of her songs – “Dragonfly” – has been used in an independent movie.
Redford is trying to make the most of being in the US, though she makes frequent trips back home as well.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I think New York specifically is a big international city. If I had gone somewhere remote it might have been a bit more strange. Most of my friends are other Europeans. It hasn’t felt too different really.
“I like the way it’s easy to get about in New York and Brooklyn. You can be somewhere in 20 minutes, just on the subway. You can get to see a lot and do a lot. Sometimes there’s five things on in a night that you want to see, and there’s also lots of free music – which for a struggling musician is always nice. I played in California last year, and that was terrific, but it was like a three-hour drive to a lot of places. With New York I like the fact you can go out early to a gallery opening, then to a gig, then for dinner. You can just do so much in the space of a few hours.
“It is tough, it’s not been easy, but it’s all been good for my life experiences.”
Redford has been passionate about music since she was very young. When she left university she became part of a duo, who sang covers until she started writing her own songs. Then she was in a trio for a while.
“Since the early 2000s I’ve been on my own, getting the CDs done, printed, recording. It’s just been a gradual thing really, developing with each album as a writer. It is a lot of hard work, just having to hustle things, like for gigs. It does take a bit of dedication,” she says.
It paid off for her, though, especially when she attracted the attention of Radio 2 DJ Bob Harris, who has described her as “one of our finest singer-songwriters”. He has been playing her music from her first album, and she has done two sessions for him.
“It’s been terrific, probably the highlight of my career,” she says. “Somebody who actually loves and supports independent artists, somebody who’s been respected over the years for supporting people that I’ve really admired. We seem to have similar taste in music as well, which is nice. Last time I went on there he was friendly and easy to talk to. It was just like having a chat about your favourite music really. He puts you at ease.”
Redford is also a big believer in the power of the internet to get the news of her music out there. She is signed up to all the major social networking websites – she is on almost 30 different sites – and finds she has to put aside huge chunks of time to update them all.
"It’s a constant pull from the creative side, but it’s a necessity if you want people to be aware of your music.The new album is on iTunes and I’ve got orders from Japan on there. So someone must be finding me. It’s still a bit weird, though, because I love being face to face, being on the road, meeting fans.”
Redford has made three albums so far, and says she has plenty of material for a fourth, but is facing the financial problems that most independent artists come up against.
“I’ve got loads of new songs. I’ve got some that are upbeat and I want to record with a band, and some that are acoustic. And I just want to keep playing a lot more, just to keep going.
“A friend is hopefully organizing some Nashville dates at the end of June. And maybe I’ll go to the Americana awards. And my publisher is just trying to pitch the songs. So fingers crossed!”