In conversation with B-ahwe: The Leeds uni graduate making waves in the UK music scene
B-ahwe shares tips on how students can get into music and what touring is like
A Leeds alumnus, B-ahwe, also known as Beth, is a story of a uni student making it on the UK’s alternative music scene. After graduating from Leeds Conservatoire, the same specialist music university as artists such as Nix Northwest and Lausse the Cat, she has recently released her new album, titled 26% Mixtape.
B-ahwe, pronounced be-ah-wee, has had a big year alongside the mixtape release. She’s been awarded the Amazon Music step-up fund alongside touring with soul singer Curtis Harding and Nix Northwest, as well as playing festivals.
Meeting Beth just as she finishes her soundcheck in Ancoats’ Band on the Wall, she murmurs about losing her contact lens and how much she hates performing in her glasses before we begin. The baggy hoodie and jeans are a faraway look compared to the furry pink cowboy hat (and glasses) she dons on stage later.
Wanting to know exactly what Beth is all about, we asked her for a bit of background, asking where she grew up and what home life was like for her. Describing her upbringing, Beth explained she moved cities when she was younger and was constantly exposed to different music.
She said: “So yeah, my parents are super religious, I have six siblings so I grew up with everyone singing and stuff. I grew up with Motown and soul, then I got super into Jazz, and moved from Nottingham to Leeds and that’s where I met my band and everyone I play with and still create music with. We’ve known each other for ages so we’ve got this really deep, family connection. And now I live in London!”
Not a bad run of cities to live in. She hasn’t had too long to spend time in London this year with her schedule, Beth told The Tab: “I’ve just come straight off Nix Northwest’s tour, so it feels like we haven’t really stopped. Singing my own music though, it’s a lot more exposing.” Quite a lot going on, then.
Seeing a few books lying around the dressing room, we asked about balancing being a musician and what she does in her spare time. Describing herself as “blessed” to be in the industry, Beth said: “There are definitely moments when you feel like you’re an artist and you have to leave the other stuff behind. I’m so blessed this is my job. Especially since doing gigs and stuff is fun, it doesn’t feel like work. You know, I play with my friends every night.”
And as for her favourite films and what she’d do without music? Beth said: “A place beyond the pines, Hero and House of the Moving Castle. If I wasn’t an artist, I really enjoy writing, so maybe I’d be a writer? Like, imagine writing a whole book, there’s so many elements. I guess making an album is similar, but it’s just so mad!”.
As for describing her music, Beth explained her genre to be a merge of different things: “It’s been called trip-hop, soul, jazz but a lot of radio shows have called it Future Soul, which I like. It kind of means pop, jazz, soul, all of that.
“It’s difficult for me because music doesn’t really have genres these days so it’s hard for me to label it. If it helps people enjoy my music and understand what they’re listening too, I’d say future soul.”
Describing the lack of female representation in the music industry, she spoke of how “there’s been lots of work at ground level” but that “the big establishments need to make commitments to hire more women.”
“Every year, there’s a lack of female representation on festival line-ups. There are a lot of women coming through, who are really good at their jobs, who need to be able to get that push. And it is beautiful, we are seeing change, but there are areas where we need more. I’ve just been on tour for three weeks, and I’ve only had one female sound engineer.”
Speaking about the influence of TikTok, Beth added that her opinion on the platform is mixed. She said: “It’s a tough one because it can be a great way to find new music. The annoying thing is that if people’s music gets loads of listens on TikTok, it doesn’t translate to success for the artist.
“The problem with TikTok is as well, it stops you passively listening to music, you have to listen to the video playing so people can’t get the full story of the music.”
And finally, Beth shared some thoughts on the best ways for student musicians to get into the industry themselves. She reiterated the need to make music “as much as possible” and utilise free time while you have it.
“Especially whilst at uni, just create as much as possible while you have time on your hands. Also, don’t be afraid to collaborate with people, that’s how we made it. You learn so much about making mistakes too, and you learn so much from just asking people to teach you or help you with something. Just don’t be afraid to do it!”
Images courtesy of Seb Luke Virgo