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Classic Models in designs from the London College of Fashion and JD Williams, at Fifty-Plus Fashion Week 2016, with Daphne Self (centre) (Photo courtesy of JD Williams)

There.  I said it.  But I certainly wouldn’t be the first.  It just needs to be reiterated a few times until it can marinate and eventually set in.  Well that’s the intention, anyway.

Fresh off a protest staged outside London Fashion Week A/W 2017 yesterday, and after a few hours of mental wrestling and revisiting the event I had just experienced, I found myself wondering about the future of the British Fashion Industry and its need to maintain the Status Quo.  My mind then began to wander (as it often does) into philosophical mode.

I was contacted by my agency, Mrs Robinson Management in London, who asked if I would be interested in taking part in an event staged by fifty-plus fashion company JD Williams, which would be presented as a PR stunt-cum-fashion protest outside of the London Fashion Week hub on the Strand in central London. This was part of their GrowUpLFW campaign.  I was in two minds as to whether to do it, as the first thing that jumped to mind was, would people think this was a case of the older model crying sour grapes? Or would they champion the idea?  On reflection, and seeing as we are currently and unavoidably living in the age of protesters, I am really glad I attended.  It generated much to think about and reflect on, in terms of our British Fashion Industry and where it seems to be heading.

I recently returned to modelling after a 19 year hiatus (having had a few other careers in the interim, such as motherhood, going back to University, taking a BA and MA in Media – Radio and Film respectively – followed by a further Teaching Degree, a period as a Lecturer of Media and a plethora of other media and education sector related jobs), I thought to myself, this is actually a great time to return.  I was beginning to witness what appeared to be a growth change in the Fashion Industry, in that many of my contemporaries from the 1980’s and 1990’s were either still modelling or were now returning to the industry as ‘Classic Models’.  And they were getting work.  The 20-something model was no longer ‘on the shelf’.  The term Classic Model (particularly for women) had become the new buzz word, as had the use of more silver haired models in the fashion and beauty sectors.  All the while, men had not really been that dramatically affected.  Perhaps work had thinned out a little bit.  But as society dictated and as they had grown older, they became ‘more distinguished’ and there was a great and lucrative advertising market out there for them.  But alas not so for women.  Until now.

Thoughts of whether to return to modelling myself had begun to swirl around my head.  They wouldn’t stop.  I took that as a sign.  (I told you I was philosophical)  So after some enquiries, sending in some snap shots (that my now husband had taken of me), Mrs Robinson Management model agency took me on.  Photo shoots ensued.  Awkward old fashioned, organic-looking model poses needed to be revised and brought up to date.  A new classic model look was created.  Pleased as Punch, yet still rather nervous, I set about rekindling my modelling career.  If I am honest, it felt extremely weird at first.  The industry I had once known like the back of my hand had now changed almost beyond recognition.   I was being sent on castings that required models of all ages for one job, rather than one specific look.  Gone was the large, heavy (and cumbersome) model portfolio and in its place was the iPad.  Cast aside too was the trusted Model’s Travel Guide, aka the well-used and dog-eared London’s A-Z.  Smart phones with Google Maps was the way now.

With some trepidation, I would enter the castings and see mile-long queues of teenage models (of which I had once been one), which suddenly made me feel really old.  Well, naturally, one would internalise those feelings of insecurity, especially having left the industry nearly two decades previously with a somewhat youthful appearance.  I am not going to lie and say that it was easy to get my head around it all at first.  I felt like the aged runner, whose brain was still flying at 10-point-something seconds in the 100m dash, but whose body now refused to comply.  In much the same way, passing a mirror and catching my close up reflection – especially whilst getting ready for a casting – would create all kinds of ego-monster-voices in my head, that would taunt me cruelly, “Who do you think you’re kidding? What are you trying to prove?  What makes you think you can do this?  Stop this madness now and get a normal desk job!”

Needless to say, it took some time to be able to quieten down the ego and stop listening to it altogether.  I had been taken on by an agency.  I was being requested for castings.  I had begun to get bookings for jobs. QVC, JD Williams, fashion supplements in British newspapers, fashion magazines that were looking for more classic model looks.  Some people obviously had faith in my abilities and what I had to offer. And for that I was, and still am, really grateful.  Yes, ego.  You just pipe down.  I’m not listening to you anymore.  What do you know, anyway?

Last year, as I approached the doorstep to my 50th birthday, I was sent by my agency to a casting for models who were of similar ages and beyond, to take part in Fifty-Plus Fashion Week, which would run in tandem with London Fashion Week.  This was a new concept that was created by champions of fifty-plus fashion collection company, JD Williams (you might have seen their adverts that feature ageless wonder and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly with a group of friends, in various locations, wearing JD Williams’ clothing), production company ZPR and my agency, Mrs Robinson Management.  JD Williams teamed up with the London College of Fashion, whose third year students created a collection that would appeal to the fifty-plus demographic.  The students’ creations were fantastic and the models concluded that they would certainly buy the clothes, should they reach the high street.  The intention for this was that it was to become a seasonal event, something that would hopefully grow with an ever-expanding fifty-plus market in the fashion industry.  The show was a roaring success, featuring an eclectic collection of older models, whose total of ages added up to 700.  Famous old time models such as Daphne Self and original Supermodel Marie Helvin, among others, also took part in the show, which was attended by a plethora of well-known actresses, singers, designers and celebrities.  The press went to town on the event.  It seemed that this was the beginning of something great. Something that would change the face of the industry.  A change that was long overdue.

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Fifty-Plus Fashion Week 2016, hosted by JD Williams and ZPR, in conjunction with Mrs Robinson Management. (Photo courtesy of JD Williams)

 

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Fifty-Plus Fashion Show. (Photo courtesy of JD Williams)

Click here to watch video of Fifty-Plus Fashion Week 2016, hosted by and courtesy of JD Williams

In reality, the growth process has been far slower than it ought to be.  The fashion industry is filled with thousands upon thousands of Creatives, yet instead of thinking outside the box, breaking boundaries and setting the tone, as it claims to, it seems some of the industry still feels it has to keep colouring within the lines.  And colouring by numbers at that.  Instead of thinking ‘Great British Oak’, it is stuck in ‘Bonsai Tree’ mode, clipping and limiting, miniaturising and maintaining the Status Quo.

Much of Britain wanted Brexit.  Brexit is what Britain got.  So in light of this, shouldn’t the British Fashion Industry make the most of this and become true leaders (as it has been claimed)?  Our current PM, Mrs May, is reportedly very keen on fashion.  Anyone who hasn’t noticed how her fashion sense and style has changed since she came into office has either switched off their television set or been fast asleep.  Does that not place her within the same demographic as a huge percentage of the population – Fifty-plus, more affluent and more fashion conscious?   Why then, is she not thinking along these lines for the country’s Cultural Industries?  Should not Mrs May then be knocking heads with the Rt. Honourable Karen Bradley MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), Mark Garnier (Minister, Department for International Trade) and Matt Hancock (Minister of State for Digital and Culture)

On Gov.uk’s website, Mark Garner was quoted as saying of London Fashion Week,

“From street style to haute couture, some of the most iconic brands and trendsetters in contemporary fashion hail from the UK- so it’s no surprise there is a high demand for British heritage and luxury fashion”

He went on to add:

“The UK sits at the centre of the world’s fashion design talent and we are proud to be sponsoring such a prestigious event, showcasing the very best of British fashion designers.

And:

Through this trade-matching programme we are giving UK designers a tailored fit with their counterparts abroad, with the scope to boost trade by millions of pounds.

If trade is to be boosted, how should it be done?  Wouldn’t a good starting point be to be inclusive of all demographics?  After all, which are the affluent demographics that spend the most money on fashion and luxury goods which in turn, keep the industry going?

Hancock, too, made claims that:

The UK’s creative industries are a tour de force, contributing £87 billion a year to our economy. British designers are now represented on catwalks all around the world, and our industry’s alumni reads like a roll call of the fashion world’s most talented stars, including Alexander McQueen, Thomas Burberry and Alice Temperley.

London Fashion Week is a tremendous celebration of the best of British fashion, and a reminder of the incredible pool of talent that we are committed to nurturing and supporting.

Whilst many designers are creating garments that target the younger age bracket and with the catwalk being currently spilling over with models averaging the age of 17, according to a JD Williams Press Release, little thought goes into who is still funding the acquisition of these fashion garments that are targeted at this younger demographic.  It would be the parents of said demographic, whilst also fumbling through limited fashion rails and funding their own.  If many other top British designers followed in the footsteps of JD Williams, among others in other areas, who are already there, such as Saga Magazine, Simply Be and Fifty Plus, it would make for healthy competition in the industry.  It needs to be kept on its toes, to keep its grey matter going by perpetuating something new.  If you keep studying and focusing on the same genre, you will come to know or see nothing else and then you get stuck.  You start comparing your product to others within that genre. Pretty soon, you become lost and, whilst trying to keep up with your contemporaries, you will find yourself rehashing even weaker versions of your product to the next generation of instant gratification-ers, that effectively have no substance and will simply be discarded tomorrow.  Why sit on a hamster’s wheel when you can have a run of the industry?

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London Fashion Week A/W 2017 protesting outside LFW Hub on the Strand, central London. L to R: Jane Felstead, Jilly Johnson, Gina Michel, myself and Lizzie Cannons. (Photo and outfits courtesy of JD Williams)
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London Fashion Week A/W 2017 Protest March (Photo and outfits courtesy of JD Williams)

Former British Supermodel Jilly Johnson (pictured in pink jacket), now aged 63 and looking fabulous, echoed what so many of her demographic would also argue:

“Women don’t suddenly stop wearing or buying clothes after their twenties, so why isn’t this reflected in the models used in fashion shows?”

“We’ve started to be more inclusive when it comes to ethnicities and disabilities on the runway – which is fantastic – but why not all ages?”

 

Just to make this perfectly clear.  This is not a case of sour grapes.  If it weren’t for the likes of JD Williams, QVC UK and many of its featured products and designers, various British newspapers’ fashion supplements and fashion magazines such as Woman & Home,  Fifty Plus and Saga, I guess many of us would be out of work.  Well, in this field of work, anyway.  Many models have other career pursuits and nobody seems to do just one job anymore.

But fashion is a wonderful thing.  Creativity is a gift.  Inclusion rules.  So, for once and for all, come on British  Fashion Industry and London Fashion Week – catch up – can’t you see that the world is changing?  It’s time to change with it.  People are living longer.  They are looking, feeling and acting younger.  The demographic I make reference to is borne of the age of Flower Power and Punk.  Did you really think that such a demographic, rebellious in its very nature, agents of change, a nation of protesters and eclectic fashionistas  would slink away into the corner?  I think not.  Perhaps our beloved British Fashion Industry had better make like Dickens’ Fagan and start reviewing the situation.  More fifty-plus Pret-a-Porter, Haute Couture and designs on the high street… oh, and models of the same demographic on the catwalk please.

Britain loves to get in there first.  It likes to lead.  So lead. Be agents of change.  If you build it, they will come.

Philosophically yours,

Brucella Newman-Persaud

Classic Model

Loretta Heywood (Photo by Lee Carter; illustration idea by Billy Idle)
Loretta Heywood (Photo by Lee Carter; illustration idea by Billy Idle)

After a two decade-long musical hiatus, Loretta Heywood is back on the music circuit with her brand new EP, 5 Shades of Blue, which was taken from her first series of recordings, entitled The Boy Across The Road.  Loretta also comes with a new band in tow, named Five Shades.  The singer-songwriter, also a former vocalist with Bomb the Bass, hit the charts back in the early 1990s with the hauntingly emotive track, Winter in July, which reached the top five in the National UK Charts.

Time has passed so quickly that it is almost as if Loretta popped next door for a while as the sultry chanteuse, only to return 18 years later a worldly, more spiritual individual, bringing with her new life experiences to share and even with academic letters after her name.

Loretta’s new songs mirror a perceived dichotomy of the development from girlhood into womanhood, bringing with them a sense of maturity and the impression that she has been on a life-changing journey of some kind, which indeed she has.  Yet she still manages to maintain her youthful, openly honest and lovelorn innate qualities that many a young female has experienced or indeed for that matter, anyone with an ability to love.

In this exclusive and candid interview, Loretta reveals just what she has been up to over the past 18 years, as well as opening up for the first time about her career, whilst also providing us with an insight into her own particular philosophy on life.  It should then become clearer how Loretta’s choices and pathways in life have inspired her to create such evocative music and lyrics.

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BN: Loretta, it’s really great to see you back on the circuit again.  Can you briefly tell us where you have been and what you have been doing in your absence from the music charts?

LH:  Hmm… how long do you have!  Well yes, it’s been a long time and I feel as if I’ve been around the world and back several times over! (Laughs)  I took a break from music as I was no longer satisfied with the direction my music was going and so rather than spend my time being disappointed or even becoming disillusioned, I just happened to be fortunate enough that the opportunity to study Ayurveda came about at around the same time.

BN: And now you even have letters after your name!  You’ve been practicing Yoga for many years now.  Is Ayurveda something you have always been interested in and did it follow on as a natural pathway from your practice of Yoga?

LH: Yes, I’m now a fully qualified Ayurveda Therapist!  Yoga and Ayurveda were – and still are – philosophies that have always interested me.  Yoga for one, as you know, was something that I was already practising, so yes, I guess the study of Ayurveda was a natural progression.

BN: What, in a nutshell, does your practice of Ayurveda entail?

LH: Ayurveda is a healing modality that looks at people’s lives from a totally holistic point of view.  It combines massage therapies, healing, dietary and lifestyle advice and the further I studied the more I was hooked. I work with Modern Ayurvedic Programmes  – or “MAP” – these are programmes that really look at the emotional health of people, as I believe it is from here that most problems derive, as the mind can rule most things: hormones, metabolism, digestion and of course our own place in this world is seen by our minds – we are our own witnesses and teachers… so we design someone’s MAP to health.

BN: From living, consuming and breathing nothing but music for most of your life, it must have been strange to suddenly allow another unrelated pastime into your life to take over.  Did you miss making music at that point, or did it all become a distant memory?

LH: Ayurveda basically became my music and song for the last ten years and I haven’t really looked back as it was another great way to be creative, expressive and to communicate with people in a different way.  However, music projects started to re-enter my orbit a couple of years ago so now I’m juggling both – two passions – and at 50 I feel very lucky to love what I do in both areas.  I just went into it thinking, “Okay, I’m still able to express myself either way, but if it doesn’t work, I can walk away knowing that at least I have given it one hundred per cent.”

BN: It’s always interesting finding out where artists go during a hiatus.  How then, for you, did your own change of pathway come about?

LH: Well, I was doing Yoga from around 1992 in Ladbroke Grove, with a fantastic teacher named Faustomaria Dorelli and I was also seeing an Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Donn Brennan through Maharishi Ayurveda.  The purpose for me was to try to find how to cope with my feelings of anxiety and depression that I was experiencing at that time.  I started to practice TM (Transcendental Meditation), as recommended by a friend and singer, Billy Ray Martin, who mentioned how it had helped her with her live performances.  I was desperate to find answers in my life and so my first step was through TM and Yoga, which of course, is a sister-science with Ayurveda.

Ayurveda was the only subject I was interested in at that point in my life, alongside cooking!  I would read books, see doctors and so forth and I found it fascinating, so it made sense to study Ayurveda, as I knew I had to find another path to survive in life.  I wasn’t making enough money to live off music anymore, the music scene was going through some crazy changes – meaning there were times of feast or famine – and it also wasn’t making me happy feeling a lack of direction or purpose.  I was dyslexic, with no admin skills, so actually I had little choice!  I started with massage, the rest is history and 13 years on, still with some of my own clients, I still love it find it deeply inspiring.

BN: So what or who is it that has inspired or prompted your decision to lure you into a comeback with your music?

LH: I had never really left music totally – it was always in my heart and I always knew at some point that I’d revisit my songs and try again… the pieces I wrote are really like the pieces of my life’s puzzle, if you like, but also part of the bigger picture and plan.  I had also met with Andy Mitchell (The Boy Across the Road), in 2002, and had decided to record ten of my best songs on one album, as I had worked with so many producers and developed so many styles.

I have recorded with so many fantastic producers over the years, but never managed to make my sound gel with all my songs, so it took the real boy across the road, Andy, to bring it altogether, hence the title!

We literally put it together in my front room and because he only lived across the road, it came together so easily.  We created a small acoustic album that various projects have now come from.

So I recorded the seeds to my album, The Boy Across the Road, tried to release it and after maybe one year of trying to do this in tandem with studying Ayurveda, working to pay for studies, and so forth, my life was going in circles again.

So I put the album on the shelf and focused on what I really was meant to do be doing at that time – working and completing my studies.  Over the years, I had stayed in contact with some of the guys I had worked with before – Bugz in the Attic, Daz-I-Kue, etc. and then someone had heard something that I recorded with them and asked to remix one of my songs, Little Angel, and I suppose that’s what really marked my return to music.

I had no idea that in 2012 – 2013 I would be back in a similar position as I was in 2000, trying to promote a record myself, but strangely enough, everything has started to fit into place so easily this time around, as if the timing is right.  And this is what makes me happy!  I am really enjoying the process this time around, with fresh dreams again and I now believe that life just happens to present you with the right time and wrong time – all you need to do is listen to your heart and intuition to know when to stay and pursue a dream or simply walk away.  In 2012 it was time again, the time happened to be right and I was ready, so here we are… same situation, different time and different story ending – I hope! (Laughs)

BN: What an interesting route to take to realise a dream, but then again, it’s not all just about the destination!  Your songs seem to inspire women of all ages, from all walks of life.  For some of us, it might re-awaken that youthful and simplified approach we used to take to love, life and relationships and perhaps reminds us of how far we’ve come and how we used to be. How important do you feel it is to stay true to yourself and young at heart?

LH: Well that’s simple.  It is the only important thing we need to remember to do – stay young at heart.

BN: Wandering through your website (http://www.lorettaheywood.com/music) might be akin to discovering a little treasure trove of goodies that emulate the Russian Doll Effect – open one and discover even more inside!  You have, as you say, collaborated with some renowned producers in the industry, for instance; Tim Simenon and Guy Sigsworth from ‘Bomb the Bass,’ ‘Bugz in the Attic,’ Daz-i-Kue and even David Arnold, with whom you co-wrote the unforgettably powerful and evocative track ‘Suspicious Minds’ and who is now famed for scoring multiple Bond films.  How did you initially hook up with Andy Mitchell and Will Worsley, who co-produced some of your new material with you, particularly as Andy seems to come from a totally different background, in terms of genre?

LH: It’s funny – my life is like a Russian doll – each person I know and work with seems to sprout from a doll or seed… It seems that everything is connected from my past or someone in it… and then it leads to something else… a hidden treasure.

Really, sometimes I just smile at that magic – how everything is connected through simply following your heart and using your wisdom and intuition and then of course, a bit of luck, I guess.  Nothing seems to have come through pre-determined decisions and goals… even though I have goals and dreams, the ones that happen best are the ones that just happen through simple connections – with ease – like meeting someone who knows someone… so yes, luck I guess and timing… and persistence!

Andy was new to music when I met him.  He had never produced anything but his own material.  Between the two of us, I think we started to realise Andy’s potential and from that seed, my album has blossomed! Rock was always his style and his own music is pretty rock-based!  Actually, it’s a bit like a game of snakes and ladders… one step leads to another and that determines the result.

Andy MItchell (courtesy of www.andymitchellmusic.com)
Andy MItchell (courtesy of http://www.andymitchellmusic.com)

BN: Your powerful vocals could certainly carry a rock tune. Would you ever be looking to produce any rock tracks in the not-too-distant future? 

LH: Wow, talk about intuition – it’s interesting that you picked up on that!  So another story with my Bomb the Bass track, Winter in July… is that it is now on a rock album!  It’s being sung by Jonathan Cohen, from the band, Johnny Wore Black.  It’s amazing how this has happened, again actually – it was another story of chance and snakes and ladders. So this year it’s going on his album and it’s an interesting direction in which to take Winter in July, which strangely enough, seems quite at home as a rock ballad!  It’ll also be featured on Johnny’s website www.johnnyyworeblack.com, so it’s all very exciting.

Then there’s also my new band, Five Shades, which will also carry rock influences from Skip McDonald (aka Little Axe), who has had a lot of influence on our 5 Shades of Blue album, in terms of its production and mixes.

This Girl: An Exclusive Interview with Singer-Songwriter Loretta Heywood

BN: ‘Winter in July’ is, without a doubt, one of my favourite tracks of all time.  You are a truly gifted lyricist, a deep thinker yet honest and open with your feelings too, I might add.  How do you find your inspiration and courage to lay your thoughts and feelings down so barely?

LH: I have no idea… I feel, I write… no pre-decision of what I will write, but for me, maybe being dyslexic and having difficulty in finding words easily, it takes a lot of hard work to make it sound right lyrically.  I don’t think I’m a natural songwriter, as it really takes a lot for me to be inspired enough to write… I know some singers who can write three albums in a year!

For me, it just takes longer.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and just sing whatever’s in my heart, so that must be it.  I have to write what I feel, but I also feel removed once I have written them and sung the songs, if that makes sense.  I think there was a quote somewhere by Anaïs Nin that said, “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”  Two Broken Hearts was a painful song to write, as was Butterfly.  But once I write them and go through the experience of a broken heart in love, I can somehow detach and I no longer feel it as intensely, but I hope that other people will recognise and feel it and that it helps them in their own journey through love and life’s experiences.  I guess songs can be cathartic and healing and what makes me smile now is how I’m actually in a healing profession!

It’s amazing that I still get email today from people who loved Winter in July, saying that it really helped them get through a difficult period in their life.  I guess that is the reason I do what I do… to heal.

See the original Winter in July video with Bomb The Bass featuring Loretta Heywood here:

BN: One notable remix for your new single, ‘This Boy That Girl’ has been put together by Jasiu Sigsworth, son of Guy Sigsworth from your previous ‘Bomb the Bass’ days, as well as a whole host of new and varied remixes that can also be found on your SoundCloud page.  Are there any plans for future collaborations with any of your former fellow band mates?

 LH:  Yes I hope so… Tim Simenon lives in Vienna now, but we speak from time to time and I’m sure we will do something one day maybe.

As far as working again with Guy Sigsworth, I have songs I have written with him that are not yet recorded, but we do plan to as soon as our schedules allow.

Also I am working with Skip McDonald who also worked with Bomb the Bass back in the day – that’s how we met, 22 years ago.  I have recorded 5 shades of Blue with him and Guy may work with us also on our subsequent album, Shades of Red.  This would give us the opportunity to all get back together again in a work capacity and that does make me happy.

BN: Chris Franck’s Extended Mix of ‘This Boy That Girl’ is one of my favourites, among others, although if you want to talk about tracks that really get your feet going, your mix of ‘Keep Your Head To The Sky’ which can also be found on your website (under “LH projects”), is spiritually uplifting.  It conjures up such wonderful images of summer days and nights in the city and a carries a general feel good factor.  I have had this track on my phone for ages.  It would make such a wonderful summer anthem, particularly during Carnival time.  Please tell me it’s going to be released for the summer!

LH: Well Daz had released it on a co-op compilation, so I didn’t think to re-record it, or it didn’t fit my album… but I am releasing it on an LH Projects album – a compilation of all my featured songs.  You’re right though, it is one of my favourite songs also!  I look forward to doing this live, especially.  Funnily enough, I just spoke to Daz at Carnival this summer and he’s been working on an RnB mix of This Boy That Girl, which should also be really interesting!

BN: Moving back toward spirituality, you have also included the beautiful meditative Sri Adi Shankara Sanskrit chant, ‘Bhavanyastakam.’  This particular track is also reminiscent of Deva Premal’s work and instantly brings to mind similar devotional songs by former Japan frontman, David Sylvian.  Could this also be a direction you would like to pursue in the future?  Could you tell us more about the meaning behind the chant and what that meaning holds for you personally?

LH: Yes, Bhavanyastakam and others is where I see myself in the not to distant future, maybe with 5 Shades of White.

BN: There’s a Blue, Red and a White?  You wouldn’t by any chance be a fan of the film director Krysztof Kieslovski, would you?

LH: Absolutely!  One has to pay homage where one can… (Laughs)  White is also very spiritual… and is known as one of the ‘higher shades’ in healing terms.   But I have always wanted to record an album of chants – there’s just not been the time or opportunity to do so, but it is very much part of what I do now with Ayurveda and Bhakti Yoga.

BN:  What is Bhakti Yoga and how does it differ from other forms of Yoga?

LH: Bhakti Yoga is not about asanas and body positions, but more about singing, spirituality and devotion and involves a lot of chanting.  So when I go to what is known as a Kirtan session, I can come away as everyone does – feeling as if my heart is open.  It doesn’t really matter if you do not know the lyrics you are singing; they are ancient prayers.  It’s more about the melody and resonance of the words.  Melodies will touch your heart as it did for me with Bhavanyastakam; every time I heard this chant I thought, “I have to sing this!”

The lyrics are a prayer to Mother Divine for protection, but when I first fell in love with the chant I had no idea what it was about.  For me initially it was the essence of the song, the melody and the voice I heard that really inspired me.  So that is the basis for future chants and prayers: if the melody resonates with my heart, I want to sing it.

The spirituality aspect of it for me was that singing it made me feel more divinely protected, by something higher and beyond me – a life force or God – that, when sung with honesty and the right intention, I think it has a great impact on our karma.  I believe the force of nature protects when the intention is right and we are living our dharma (purpose) that creates our karma (outcome).

BN:  What a beautiful philosophy on life.  Equipping oneself with a means to get through certain trials in one’s life is certainly a feat in itself, let alone the ability to do so as a bonus.  Armed with these new abilities, how different, since your comeback, have you found the workings of the music industry to be and how do you feel you have adapted?

LH: It is so different on one level, yet there are still the same frustrations.  As far as the differences, I don’t think I’ve quite adapted to them yet!  I’m from the old school, so coming back to the music business with a whole new social networking culture to get to grips with, and one that is constantly growing and changing has been a challenge, to say the least, but it is something I am slowly hoping to find my way around!  Alternatively, I could just go the old fashioned route and just do gigs and make people happy with live shows, growing an audience that way… here we go with the seed thing again… actually, that suits my personality more! Call me old fashioned, but all the same, we all need to adapt eventually…

BN: How different or developed would you say Loretta Heywood has become as an artist and individual over the years?  What key things have your experiences taught you?

LH: As an artist, I think I’ve developed as I’ve gone along and also grown naturally with changes in music.  Whom I work with kind of determines the style of music as well and I am open to any sound that I feel has some kind of resonance with me.  So the music has developed naturally with the people I work with and am drawn to, but the essence – my vocals and style – remain the same.   It feels more natural now and I don’t feel the need to emulate anyone else, so people can either like it or not like it… it’s a matter of preference.  I just do what I do and feel so blessed to have worked with some great creative artists and producers who have innovative and different styles that have given my songs a new slant.

Winter in July is the perfect combination of a normal sing-along melody combined with dark, heavy Leftfield-style backing.  That was what I wanted from the start – a darker side to music that is different in its own right, but that also complements my own vocal style – the dark/light and yin/yang.

Loretta Heywood and Tim Simenon back in the day
Loretta Heywood and Tim Simenon back in the day

I am not and never really have been your run-of-the-mill pop singer, but I do work well when instruments are stripped down to the bare bones… acoustic guitar or any other similar single instrument.

As a person, I would hope that I’ve changed and grown in the last 22 years!  Life has certainly dealt a few tough situations, but I’ve survived!  That alone was a great teacher and a confidence builder, but really I learned not to care what the rules are, to go with your feelings, believe in whatever you do, even if it might not seem the right way.  And stick by your ideals and dreams until you are satisfied – reassessing as you go along… you only have one life, you might as well live it!

Life becomes what it is through choice not destiny, but choice becomes and creates your destiny – free will, if you like – we affect our karma from moment to moment.  It may seem like a gamble; it may or not work… there are no promises or guarantees other than what you choose to work with or walk away from… so you just have to be happy with what you decide and be ready for whatever the outcome… detachment with attachment without expectation.  Yes, that could be a lifelong lesson for us all, I think.

BN: It would be great to remember all these philosophies when the crunch really comes and we need to reflect on what we have learned along the way.   There certainly is power in both hindsight and foresight.  If you had three important points to pass on to aspiring artists, based on your own experiences, what would they be?

LH:  Follow your heart to create your own life path; break the rules and then make new ones; be honest and true to everyone and everything and have no regrets. Also, don’t care about what people say or think; practice the art of pretending – you know, like it doesn’t matter – and just move on.  Sorry, had to change that to five things, but I’m sure there are many more!

BN: Loretta, it has been an absolute pleasure talking with you.  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with all of us what you have been up to, as well as some of your personal thoughts and beautiful philosophies on life.  Wishing you and your new band Five Shades every success with subsequent singles and albums. 

LH:  Thank you, it’s been a pleasure!

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Loretta will be making her first live London debut with her band Five Shades on Friday, March 21st 2014 at The Elgin, Notting Hill in west London.

http://www.geronimo-inns.co.uk/london-the-elgin/map

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Five Shades are L to R: Loretta Heywood (vocals); Skip (Little Axe) McDonald (guitar);  Humphrey Couchman (cello); Mike Timothy (keyboards, piano); Andy Mitchell (additional vocals and guitar), with other guests David Ruffy and Matt Smyth.

5 shades_people

You can also keep up to date with Loretta and Five Shades upcoming gigs around London and the UK here:

http://www.lorettaheywood.com/music/five-shades/

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Loretta’s songs can be downloaded from her official website at: www.lorettaheywood.com,

where you can also contact her to get on her mailing list for the latest updates and newsletters.

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 iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/loretta-heywood/id23499509

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Loretta Heywood is also on FaceBook under ‘Loretta Heywood Music’:

https://www.facebook.com/LorettaHeywoodMusic

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