An athletic Ayanna Witter-Johnson on her knees like she was at the start of a race. She has her cello strapped to her back.

True North rises up

True North returns to the Granite City this weekend. The festival, presented by Aberdeen Performing Arts, promises a mix of fantastic live music and acoustic performances. As well as their headline shows, you can expect vibrant fringe events across the city. This year, True North is celebrating freedom of expression, diversity and community with their theme - Rise Up. This is especially poignant at a time when city venues are only just beginning to open up to audiences for the first time since the Covid19 emergency began.

Stick around because we're going to take a closer look at the headline events, as well as some of the exciting free fringe shows. We're sure you'll find something that makes you want to get out there and experience True North for yourself.



Peaness | Lemon Tree | Thursday

Playing on Thursday 23 September and kicking off True North 2021 will be Peaness, who will be bringing their catchy, fuzzy, harmony-driven indie-pop songs about love, friendship, frustrations, Brexit and food waste to the Lemon Tree. Formed in 2014 in Chester university digs, the trio have secured nationwide and international shows with bands such as The Beths, Kero Kero Bonito, The Cribs, We Are Scientists, The Big Moon and Dream Wife. They will be joined at the Lemon Tree by Swim School and Lavender Lane.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson | Lemon Tree | Friday

Headlining on Friday night at the Lemon Tree with a Night of New Voices is the soulful, eclectic Ayanna Witter-Johnson.  A singer, songwriter, cellist, composer, producer and arranger with phenomenal musical prowess, mesmerising vocals, uncompromising lyrics and mastery of the cello. Ayanna unapologetically imprints her unique musical signature into her music. Heir of the Cursed, Katie Mackie and DJ Rebecca Vasmant complete the line-up.

John Grant | Music Hall | Saturday

Former Czars frontman John Grant is the headline act on Saturday evening. Described as ‘the misfit’s misfit’, this singer-songwriter is too weird to be mainstream, too mainstream to be weird; too sad to be happy, too sharp not to crack a mordant joke about it. Grant's superpower is to compare his impressionistic childhood experiences against their amplified adult consequences. SUpport act for the night is acclaimed Scottish folk singer, Rachel Sermanni.

Ransom FA | Lemon Tree | Saturday

Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA will head up late night at the Lemon Tree on Saturday. The fast-rising artist, was a contestant on the UK TV show, The Rap Game, where he battled other budding rappers for a record deal. As well as sharing the stage with some of the words best grime artists he has also turned his hand to presenting documentary series for BBC3. He'll be joined by Sean Focus and DJ HomeAlone.

Corrine Bailey Ray | Music Hall | Sunday

Closing out True North 2021 is Sunday's headline act, Corrine Bailey Ray. She is performing a specially curated concert called "A Celebration of Stevie Wonder". The evening will see the Grammy and MOBO award winning singer joined by special guests to perform many hits from the back catalogue of the legend that is Stevie Wonder. It promises to be an extraordinary evening of music. Previous True North curated concerts have celebrated the likes of Neil Young, David Bowie and Kate Bush amongst others. They are a firm favourite with Aberdeen audiences.

Jo Gilbert | Lemon Tree | Sunday

A spoken word event specially commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts and headed up by award winning poet and three-time slam champion Jo Gilbert will explore the festival’s theme of Rise Up. Four local spoken word artists will produce new work based around this theme and showcase their work at the Lemon Tree on Sunday. The event promises to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

Fringe events

True North are holding a number of free acoustic events across the Granite City. We picked out some young Aberdeen acts you should definitely be keeping an eye out for over the weekend. Get yourself into the city centre and find your new favourite Aberdeen singer.

Rachel Jack | Spin | Friday

This Aberdeen based singer-songwriter has been turning heads in the Scottish music scene for the past 18 months. Her debut 2020 EP, The Calgary Tapes was followed up in March this year with Magazine Girls. You can check out our Temp Check interview with Rachel Jack here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhIclAdoiI4

Aiysha Russell | Spin | Saturday

This young Aberdeen singer first hit the limelight at The Voice Kids in 2019, proving to be a big hit with judges. Following that, she last year performed Sam Cooke's classic It's Been a Long Time Coming live at an Aberdeen Black Lives Matter march which was a real moment for those in attendance.

Calum Bowie | Waterstones | Saturday

With a background in busking, Aberdeenshire singer Calum Bowie has become something of a TikTok sensation, growing a fan base that's pushing him on to success. He's capitalised on that hard work with a string of single releases and surely an album on the way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Da3zu_gqGVw

Olivia Thom | Union Café | Sunday

Glasgow based Aberdeen quine Olivia Thom's 2020 debut EP is lead off by her truly magnificent song Fine Wine. Her alt-folk sound mirrors her musical heroes Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell. We’re very much looking forward to future releases.

Razz Mattreezy | Siberia | Sunday

Born and raised in Aberdeen Matt Reid, AKA Razz Mattreezy, spent lockdown writing and recording. His debut single only came out in March 2021, but he's already building a follow along the way. His smooth soulful vocals over smooth keyboards make for a cool chilled sound.

What the organisers say

Ben Torrie is Director of Programming and Creative Projects for Aberdeen Performing Arts. He told us, “We are thrilled to announce the lineup for True North 2021, which feels like a huge step in the return of live performance at our venues. It feels really good to be able to bring the festival to a live audience once again. It means a lot to us to be able to put this on for people in Aberdeen, and to shine a spotlight on so many talented performers and musicians is a privilege that has never been so important.

“The theme of this year’s festival is Rise Up. It’s a positive message about rising up to bring people together, marking the re-opening of our venues, and celebrating the power of music to help us stand up for the things we believe in. We could not be prouder of this festival at this time.”

What you need to know

Where: Music Hall, Lemon Tree and venues across Aberdeen
When: 23-26 September 2021
Cost: Various prices including free
More Info and tickets: Event Website
Social media: Twitter | Facebook

True North is back and rising up to mark the return of live music and standing up for what you believe in. They'll celebrate freedom of expression, diversity, community and equality with an inspirational and vibrant line up of musicians over one unforgettable weekend.


About POST

Kevin Mitchell and Chris Sansbury founded POST from a desire to cut through the noise to share the great things that happen in Aberdeen. They focus on community, culture and the interesting people of the city. The local artists, businesses and charities; photographers, musicians and entertainers; the people at a local level that make a positive impact on our city each and every day.

The goal is to use video, audio, writing and social media to amplify the voices in our community, and to ultimately give a platform to Aberdeen folk to engage and tell their own stories.

Recent work includes interviews with Paralympic gold medalist, Neil FachieChef, an Aberdeen rapper who is pushing for success; an article by film director Mark Stirton abut the state of high-rise buildings in the city; coverage of WayWORD, Nuart Aberdeen and TEDx Aberdeen, as well as British Art Show 9. Visit postabdn.com to read a great selection of interviews and articles.


The return of Aberdeen Performing Arts

Aberdeen Performing Arts has announced that all of its venues will re-open to the public from Tuesday 7 September. APA closed The Music Hall, His Majesty’s Theatre and the Lemon Tree on 17 March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the world into lockdown. This resulted in the arts charity rescheduling or cancelling over 700 performances and placing 270 staff on furlough.



Jane Spiers of Aberdeen Performing Arts

Chief Executive Jane Spiers said: “We are so pleased, relieved and grateful to be opening our doors again after such a difficult 18 months.  We earn nearly 90% of our turnover through earned income and that was wiped out overnight. I can’t thank our loyal team enough, our furloughed team who stayed with us in spirit and the handful of retained team who ripped up their job descriptions and did whatever it took to keep us afloat. It’s a milestone moment for all of us and we can’t wait for curtain up. As we start to see people coming back to work it’s hard not to feel emotional. It’s much more than a turn of the key to get our three venues open again after so long and everyone is working so hard to get us there.”

“We are gradually phasing back and plan to offer a full programme again by November. For now, though, our immediate priority is to bring our beautiful buildings back to life and put measures in place to make sure that our customers and audiences feel safe and comfortable going forwards.

We’ve just put the finishing touches to a terrific Autumn/Winter season brochure. We’re so grateful to our audiences who donated so generously during the pandemic to help keep us going. There would be no show without you. Enjoy!”

New opening hours

Box offices at His Majesty’s Theatre and the Music Hall will open on Tuesday, September 7. They'll be open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am – 6pm. Coda Café in the Music Hall will be open from Tuesday, September 14. It opening hours of Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am – 5pm. HMT 1906 café and restaurant will remain closed until the end of November. This will allow APA to increase circulation space in the HMT foyer/box office as part of COVID safety measures.

What's on

The first performance at the Music Hall will be Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on Sunday 19 September, with the first event, the National Whisky Festival, taking place on Saturday 18 September. The first show at His Majesty’s Theatre will be the 100th Aberdeen Student Show, Freezin’ which runs at the theatre from Tuesday 14 September to Saturday 18 September, while at the Lemon Tree the first show will be The Wandering Hearts on Wednesday 8 September.


Don't miss out on our interview with Aberdeen Rapper Chef. He spoke to us this week about a BBC Scotland documentary about the Aberdeen hip-hop and R&B scene.


Chef and Louis pushing Aberdeen's music scene

Aberdeen's growing hip-hop and R&B scene has caught the eye of BBC documentary makers. The New Aberdeen: R&B and Hip-Hop at the Heart of the Granite City takes a look at musician Chef, producer Louis Seivwright and the musical artists that surround them as the scene in the city in the city grows and gets national attention.

We reached out to Chef to find out a little bit more about him and his working relationship with business and creative partner Louis Seivwright. We wanted to know how it started, the artists they work with, what it was like to shoot the documentary and his plans for the future.



How it started

Let's start with a little bit about your background. Tell us about how you met. How did that develop into a working relationship?

Louis and I first met working a door to door sales job. We were both there for a very short period of time but during that time we were told of each other (since we both were interested in music) but never really spoke too much. It was only some time after that he reached out to me.

Louis and I are brothers. We don’t always agree but we always trust one another to know what the other is doing.
Chef

I was and am extremely busy so I wasn’t able to meet with him but we ran into each other when I was coming off a train back from a trip I made to Glasgow. He pushed me to go studio right there and then and the rest is history. We made our first song and never stopped.

How is your working relationship? Is it all smooth sailing or does it sometimes get salty between Chef and Louis?

Louis and I are brothers. We don’t always agree but we always trust one another to know what the other is doing. More often than not, we are thinking the exact same thing and we usually learn from each other when it comes to any differing ideas. It’s never been salty but we are both so passionate about what we do so its all a part of collaboration.

Photo supplied by Chef

Growing relationships

You have a number of artists that work around you. Did you go out to find them or was it more organic than that?

I definitely go out and look for them and I have done from the start. I’ve always believed that a community and thriving culture is what drives music and art. In order to have that you have to search for those looking to be a part of that and help and nurture them in whatever way they require. I spend time every day searching the Scottish music scene. I listenin to everyone’s new releases, analysing and entrenching myself in what’s going on.

However even though I search for them, I don’t force connections, those are all organic. I’ll have an eye on someone for any amount of time. If I’m meant to meet them then I’ll make sure I get the chance to speak to them. From there we see if anything we’re involved in can align, collaboration is not just about being on the same song. It can be so many more things.

Aberdeen's music scene has traditionally been dominated by guitar bands. In the past few years that's changing. Why do you think that came about?

I’ve been working with countless artists in all shapes and forms. As I said, it’s not always making a song with someone but my connections with the music scene spans to every level of industry and I plan to keep fostering healthy relationships with everyone I can.

This documentary is an ambitious next step, with the aim of bringing your music scene to a wider audience. How did it come about?

The BBC actually approached us, but the documentary was a goal that we set for ourselves a year prior and it seems that the work we put in allowed our wishes to come to fruition.

https://youtu.be/vmNrHpY1h6Y
Chef and Louis appearing in BBC Documentary The New Aberdeen

Shooting the documentary

What challenges did you face in getting the documentary produced?

The documentary went along without any issues thankfully. The BBC Tune team were absolutely amazing and allowed us to have input. It did not seem forced and we felt like we could be ourselves.

Tell us a little about the day of shooting.

Louis and I were shooting from 9am. We were present throughout everyone else’s shoots so our day wrapped up around 8pm. Quite long but it was a great experience. We started at Spin Record Store on Littlejohn Street. They gifted me a vinyl of my favourite Fela Kuti album “Zombie”. We then travelled round Aberdeen and ended at 210 Bistro. Tru Nature, Aiitee, Josh Maclean and Aiysha Russel were all great and it felt like we all had a good time.

Hard work and the future

It looks like you've both been putting in long hours to get this off the ground. Have you any advice for those following in your footsteps?

We certainly have been putting in long hours. The advice I’d give to anyone else is to take the stairs and not to skip any steps. And secondly, I believe people should always ask for help. Never be too proud to rely on others because knowing different perspectives will help give you a better understanding of what you’re doing. Even if you don’t want to take the advice, it’s always good to know what someone would think.

What upcoming releases should we be keeping an eye out for?

Louis has a game changing album that is coming up. Louis and I are both taking part in a few more things for TV. Aside from that I can’t give too much away, but there a big plans in the works. We're now fostering some international connections and the goal is to develop what we’ve started and take it to highest heights. You’ll have to keep up to date on our socials to see more.

What you need to know

Where to follow Chef: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
Where to listen: Spotify, Apple Music
Latest release: The World is Mine EP 

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy our interview with Aberdeen producer Vagrant Real Estate.

https://open.spotify.com/album/4b7ledOhkZcTWWitE1y6ao?si=9OX5D8wjTqCWpv6B2hbPLg&dl_branch=1

The Lounge | Our playlist celebrating the Aberdeen and NE Scotland music scene

The team here at POST have have set up a playlist to support Aberdeen musicians. A place where you can find new songs by Aberdeen and NE Scotland's very talented singers, songwriters, bands and producers. This is the story about why we made it happen.

Sometimes I commit the cardinal sin of scrolling through Twitter while watching a movie. I like to check our @aberdeencity account regularly to see what’s going on in the the city. Mostly I make sure that we’ve not accidentally posted something that has pissed-off a load of folk. As I scrolled, I spotted this tweet by local singer Rachel Jack.

https://twitter.com/Rachellojack/status/1360334980472307717?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1360334980472307717%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.embedly.com%2Fwidgets%2Fmedia.html%3Ftype%3Dtext2Fhtmlkey%3Da19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07schema%3Dtwitterurl%3Dhttps3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FRachellojack%2Fstatus%2F13603349804723077173Fs3D20image%3D

I retweeted to bring it to the attention of our community. As a result it sparked a healthy conversation about how Northsound and Original have commercial interests that make supporting Aberdeen musicians extremely difficult. However, local charitable broadcaster Shmu.FM, particularly the Monday night show 57 Degrees North Presents, are much more able to support talented Aberdeen musicians.

The conversation inspired us to consider what the team at POST could do to help and we decided that a regularly updated playlist of new music from Aberdeen and the North-East’s singers and bands could make a difference. My POST partner in crime, Kevin, made the fantastic suggestion of a mini website would let artists submit their own newly released tracks.

A place Aberdeen Musicians can call home

Waking up early and inspired on Saturday morning, I created the website, and with the kind help of Rachel, put together a playlist of great music ready to share with our 17.5k community in Aberdeen. Finally, after some testing and updates, we are ready to share The Lounge with you. Please hit 💚 button in Spotify and you’ll be kept up to date with brilliant new local music.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/326NKLDZMa9jQ6Gw7JE3zr?si=a5b70766a43f4c7d

The website is just a simple form allowing city singers, bands and producers to submit their newly released tracks…or even an older one that they would like given a wee push. However, it is ready, and you can find it here.

As we launch today we want people to feel part of a wee community. For artists to discover each other and for listeners like yourself to discover your new favourite local musical artists and add them to your own playlists.

In this launch playlist we have of course featured Rachel Jack, as well as, amongst others: multi-instrumentalist Calorine with Garden of None; four-piece Cold Years with their amazing cover of Lizzo’s Good As Hell; producer Louis Seivwright’s Promises featuring the amazing vocals of Tammi Whyte; the synthy melodies of The Little Kicks; and finally, rapper and man of the moment, Ransom FA.

Photo Credit: AG Whylie

Thanks very much to Rachel for her inspiration and her help. You can find her right at the top of our first playlist. She has released some great songs over the past year.

Finally, if you have ANY suggestions we always have our social media DMs open, or you can drop us a message through our homepage. For the very latest on The Lounge visit The Lounge page right here on this site. We have links to out Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube versions.


Temp Check: Aberdeen singer-songwriter Rachel Jack

Live music performances have taken a massive hit because of the need to keep people safe from Covid. During this time, many musicians have concentrated on releasing new music to give fans a diversion from lockdown life. We spoke to Aberdeen based singer-songwriter Rachel Jack who has been making waves in the Scottish music scene this year. Having released her brilliant debut EP, The Calgary Tapes in the summer of 2020, we wanted to catch up with her to see how life is treating her right now.


Hey Rachel. Thanks very much for taking time to chat. As always, we start with the easy question that doesn’t always have an easy answer…how are you feeling right now?

I’m feeling tired to be honest. I’ve been super busy and I’m really looking forward to taking a break over Christmas.

What make you take the leap to chasing a career in music?

I had a period of illness and it put everything into perspective for me. I did that thing of looking over my life to-date and felt a bit disappointed that I hadn’t done anything with my voice.

The part I’ll continue to be most proud of is divorcing myself from a career I spent over a decade building. I’d thought about it for ages and it was a really difficult decision to make.

Live performance is pretty much out the question right now, how have you replaced that?

I’ve been keeping my focus by releasing music. In fact, I've released 7 singles since we first went into lockdown.

You released your debut EP, The Calgary Tapes, earlier this year. How did that come about?

I wrote those songs while completing a songwriting scholarship from Paolo Nutini at UWS. I called them the Calgary Tapes because I recorded those songs while living in a place called Calgary on the Isle of Mull.

What are you most proud of so far in your musical career?

The part I’ll continue to be most proud of is divorcing myself from a career I spent over a decade building. I’d thought about it for ages and it was a really difficult decision to make because your job seems to become a massive part of your identity, and for a while I struggled with knowing who I was without a job title, if that makes sense. That process as been the most rewarding.

Rachel Jack sitting in the sunshine against a backdrop of pink flowers.
Photo Credit: AG Whylie

Is there anyone in your community that has inspired you? Tell us about them.

Normal every day people inspire me. I'm interested in their stories. Most of my songs are conversations I’ve had with people. In terms of the musical direction, there’s nothing intentional about it at all. When I meet people I like, we make music together and their style inspires mine. It’s all a very experimental go-with-the-flow kinda thing for me.

What pisses you off?

When people aren’t open to changing their minds. I’ve got a lot of respect for people who can hold their hands up and admit when they are wrong. We all have a right to change our minds when we learn new information but when people dig in their heels and refuse to have conversations about important matters, that really drains me.

I evaluated my life a few years ago and made some big changes. I feel as though I was mentally prepared for this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy by any means but it’s also not the worst thing I’ve been through, personally.

The pandemic has been tough on most people, but it has given many the opportunity to evaluate their lives. Has the pandemic changed you?

I evaluated my life a few years ago and made some big changes. I feel as though I was mentally prepared for this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy by any means but it’s also not the worst thing I’ve been through, personally.

What motivates you?

Knowing that this is it…right here, right now. Life is short and I want to enjoy it as much as possible.

What does the future hold for Rachel Jack? What are your ambitions?

I feel as though I’ve arrived at where I want to be in that I’ve got a job I like and I’m doing music at the same time. I’d love to write for other artists, that’s the dream really. But I’m only a couple of years into music and I’m enjoying writing for myself so I’m not in any rush. In terms of what I’ve got planned for 2021 — I’ll release my second EP Magazine Girls and I hope to perform live as much as possible!


Find out more about Rachel Jack

Thanks very much to Rachel Jack both for her time and for her candour. You can show your support by following her on TwitterFacebookInstagram and on Spotify, and also check out her latest single, For You, below.

If you enjoyed this Temp Check interview, take some time to read our chat with Stuart McPhee from Siberia Bar and Hotel about his experience of the lockdown. If you would like to hear more local music, check out our playlist, The Lounge. It highlights music from Aberdeen's diverse music scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H95YudQRQfw