Bristol has long been firmly on the musical map – as a city that bands and musicians have made a priority to flock to over the years, bringing their sound to its streets. From The Fleece, former wool-packing factory and established as a venue in 1982, to the Louisiana, disguising what was once a jail-house, with secret tunnels weaving beneath its floorboards. Then there is The Thekla boat-come-venue, built in 1959 in Germany and transported to Bristol’s harbour. In the early days, it was known as the Old Profanity Showboat, bringing theatre to the city. It has since become a legendary part of Bristol’s live music scene.
Bristol has a long withstanding tradition for its musical identity. Beth Gibbons formed Portishead after living in the area, Lauren Aquilina become a global sensation after starting her musical career at her home in Bristol, and then of course there are Massive Attack, Roni Size and Tricky… To name a few. But what of the burgeoning songwriters and bands to lay their heads down under Bristol skies?
We spoke to Amelia Orgill, folk musician and guitarist, originally from Plymouth. She made the move from Bath to Bristol just last year, and is finally starting to find her feet in terms of her own musical identity here in Bristol.
You moved to Bath from Plymouth, where you found a small community of busking musicians. Has the move to Bristol been a positive one in terms of finding your musical feet again?
Though I was quite settled in the local Bath music scene, I am really happy to be in Bristol. I am so happy with the diversity of music here. For example, recently there was a Cajun festival at the Folk House. You can go and see a big name as well as going to a smaller venue (of which there are so many) and find a musical gem. There’s such a culturally varied mix of music as well as support for local artists.
Where do you gravitate towards within Bristol, to play your music?
I have only busked once in Bristol so far, on the market by the harbour – that was great fun. No 1 Harbourside looked after me and provided tea, which was a massive plus. I’ve been going to Colston Hall because they have had workshops that really interest me, such as Lau Land where Sam Lee spoke about his experiences collecting folk songs. I’ve also recently been to the Nova Scotia Folk Club which was great.
Which guitar store in Bristol would you normally go to, for either advice or gear?
There are two music shops I frequently walk past on Park Street: Hobgoblin (a range of interesting instruments) and Music Room for the basics. I bought a second-hand AER from a friend and I love it. The sound is great and I can take it to gigs. However, for busking I needed to buy a battery power pack with which is so heavy. Maybe for busking, a Roland is more convenient. Busking by the harbour on market day is great!
Who do you admire as both a musician and specifically for their guitar mastery? How much have you found inspiration through other music, over the years?
I love Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. Rawlings is an incredible guitarist. He has such an individual style, it blows me away. They are such a great duo who write brilliant songs. Going to festivals is inspiring and makes me want to create more music and play live. Festivals are so diverse now that you can get so many ideas.
Are you familiar with Bristol’s courses for musicians (both at Bimm, the Folk House, Colston Hall and also at the universities) and have you considered enrolling on to any of these courses?
I’d love to do a course in the future. I’m busy studying for singing exams at the moment so that keeps me in check but these places have been on my radar. The Folk House looks relaxed and it’s not far from my flat.
Being a songwriter and musician in Bristol, where do you go to find inspiration within the city, and is this something you would like to do collaboratively with other songwriters?
I love Brandon Hill to get a bit of perspective on the city. Yes, I’d love to do this. I think writing with other people helps me improve my writing skills massively. Feedback is essential. I’d love to just write for an hour over a coffee and listen to what other people are writing too.
Amelia often plays open mics across the city, so make sure to catch her at one. Open mics are plentiful in Bristol with The Hatchett, just behind Bristol’s Hippodrome. Sundays see local bands taking to the stage between 5 – 7pm. Other noteable open mics include Bristol Fringe in Clifton, The Old Duke (Tuesday evenings), The Arts House in Stokes Croft (Wednesday nights) and the Grain Barge in Hotwells (Tuesday evenings).
Amelia Orgill is on Twitter: @AmeliaOrgill
Amelia’s forthcoming EP is due out this November, and recently appeared live on BBC Radio Wiltshire.