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Making an album in lockdown: Circle of Light

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young person wearing a face mask sitting down at a table in a room.
Ethan Mckenna - Assistant Project Co-ordinator

This article was written by Amy Mellows, as part of Youth Music NextGen.

Circle of Light gives 18-25-year-old budding musicians and creatives the opportunity to work alongside some of Nottingham’s leading artists and music professionals. During a three-week programme, participants are able to learn the ropes of the industry and nurture their creativity.

I found out what it was like to be a part of this project during the pandemic, as well as the release of a new collaborative album, Circle of Light 2, Vol.1, from creatives Poppy (19), Ethan (21), Husna (21), Adeel (24), Tiffany (24) and Adrian (25).

What’s it like where you’re based? How has the pandemic impacted the area?

Tiffany: When the pandemic hit I was living in Nottingham city centre. It was weird because all of a sudden it was a ghost town, quite lonely.

Adrian: I’m living in Kirkby in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, it’s a very poor district. Covid has been tough on the area.

Ethan: I’m at Nottingham Trent Uni and I also work as a live events technician, so I’ve lost all of my work for the rest of the year that I had planned.

a young person wearing a fluffy white coat and hat, with dramatic eye make up. Visible from the head and shoulders up.
Poppy Scoffings - Musician and Mentor

Poppy: It was hard at the start of lockdown because my brother is disabled and he’s got Autism, so he couldn’t really understand why it was happening and why there were a lot of changes to his routine. However, now he’s getting used to it and looks forward to when I can come back from University in Newcastle.

Adeel: I’m based in Nottingham; the pandemic definitely affected the area. It’s been a bit difficult with mental health especially, because I sort of rely on meeting up with people regularly to talk about things.

Husna: I’m just outside of Nottingham. For me, during the first month of lockdown, it was also Ramadan so the Muslim community were fasting at that time as well. In a way it was nice that we were away from our busy schedules so we could focus on that holy month. So there were a lot of positives that came out of lockdown that I wouldn’t have expected.

Another positive that has emerged is the album you’ve created, Circle of Light (COL). I’ve listened to it and it’s brilliant and so professional! How did you all first get involved in COL? Did you do this kind of creative work beforehand?

Husna: It’s my first year of being on the project. Being able to collab really got me more interested in music and made me decide that this was something that I wanted to follow.

Adrian: I’ve been a producer for about seven years with a few releases already under my belt. I found myself in lockdown thinking, Brilliant, I have all this time to myself I can make so much music, then I found out I actually couldn’t write any. I wanted to work with new artists and meet new people [but] I felt quite disconnected because my role as an electronic music producer is a very solitary one. Google must’ve been listening to me through my phone, because then I saw an ad on Facebook for COL, when we were deep in lockdown.

three people in a room working on laptops, all of them wearing black facemasks
From L to R: Adrian Rayworth, Jahzari Durrant and Romet B Dube - Producers

Ethan: I joined last year for the events management and marketing element that we also do. This year we had the middle mentor scheme where 10 of us who were participants last year came on as half mentor half participants. I was part of that on this year’s project and helped with the livestreaming and social media stuff, as well as the release of the album.

Poppy: I joined last year as a participant too and am now a half mentor/participant. It blew all of my expectations [sic], so I carried on this year too.

Adeel: I first got involved in COL before it was COL, but in this recent project I was a mentor-participant. I helped produce and write tracks and I was also there to talk to people about mental health.

Tiffany: I also joined last year, I originally applied to do more of the background stuff, the fashion and styling side for music videos. I got there and ended up doing more musical stuff, which I think has massively boosted my confidence on 100 different levels.

Flings & Fings by Poppy Scoffings

Poppy Scoffings - "Flings & Fings" Recorded as part of the Youth Music funded Circle Of Light project 2020 in Nottingham. Music & video © 2020 Circle Of Light Records.

How were you involved with the album? Do you have a favourite track?

Poppy: I really wanted to develop myself as an artist, as I was doing a bit of everything and didn’t really know what my style was. Asa and I made a song together called Flings and Fings and I was so happy with it. Then one of the lead mentors suggested making a music video. It’s something that I’m fully going to put in my portfolio, because so many people won’t have anything like that. I really like my own track (can I say that? [laughs]) and Connection - the one that Tiff is in - is always in my head.

Tiffany: I met Poppy on the first project and I watched her be really unsure at the beginning. To see her go on and be front and centre on her own track and the music video as well, I’ve got a lot of love for that track purely because of what it represents, seeing her grow. I love Connection because I really like Garage as a genre, but my favourite is probably the one I did with my sister. It was really nice to see her grow and it was a nice thing to have shared.

Adrian: I wrote three tracks for COL, the UK garage song Connection was the strongest so I knew that was going towards the final album. My favourite on the whole album is Meant to Be, that track by Tom just encapsulates everything about the album and the relief and success of what we went through.

Ethan: I was very involved with the actual release of the album. We set up our record label so we could release it for ourselves, which was not a process that any of us had really done. So it was a lot of learning whilst going through each step. I like Omari’s Interlude on the album.

Husna: There were a lot of songs that didn’t make it onto the album that I did lyrics for. Seeing that my ideas could create something gave me a lot of confidence and was a big booster.

young person sitting down smiling at someone out of shot.
Tiffany Jade Holland - Musician, Assistant Project Co-ordinator

Would you all agree then that this album and COL has helped you personally and progressed your musical, creative and marketing skills  during the pandemic?

AdrianIt did wonders for my self-confidence, when I was having a bad day telling myself I couldn’t write music, someone would come along and put the confidence back in me.

Tiffany: This year it was incredible to get out and do stuff with people physically, it was such a boost, because it’s really difficult to keep the motivation to collaborate musically online. I used to have no idea where to begin even thinking about making a song, putting it out there for people to see and ask to collaborate with me. So I think on every single level it could’ve possibly helped, it has helped.

Husna: There was one artist that was having trouble with one of his tracks, I said I could help with lyrics and he loved it and ended up using the whole thing. That was a big deal for me, because I’d never had someone before saying, “Oh that’s good, I really want to use that”.

Ethan: Being so desperate to talk to people after five months of isolation meant everything about this process has really helped my confidence. Now having an album released on platforms, knowing it didn’t all just fail massively, means in the future I’ll feel a lot more confident about knowing what to do roughly!

Tell me more about the livestream gig, how did that work?

Ethan: We had three different stages/areas and two people presenting live and interviewing people between sets. We had one area that was a traditional gig set up where people were performing and one area with a green screen for performances. That was also mixed in with pre-recorded videos.

It went really well, we had over 1000 viewers throughout the night which made it one of the biggest gigs COL has ever done. On the night you could see that people were getting something out of it. It definitely made it all worth it.

Do you think projects like COL have a real impact on young people?

Adeel: Projects like this definitely help young people and make a difference to their lives, 100%. It gives people the capacity to do something creative and feel like they’re fulfilling a creative purpose.

Adrian: Honestly it makes such a big impact. It helps people with confidence, there are so many creative and talented people out there that just need a push in the right direction. Having a good strong community like your own creative family is where it’s at. All this contributes towards people’s self-development, it opens up doors to opportunities and helps mental health if you have a way to express yourself. The benefit is unparalleled, everything with what COL and Youth Music are doing.

two young people standing inside a building next to hand sanitisers. one is giving the other a temperature check.
From L to R: Poppy Scoffings and Asa Hudson- Muscians and Mentors

What are your big plans for the future?

Husna: I want to keep working with COL, helping to develop the programme. In a year or two I hope to be producing my own tracks like Poppy and the others.

Poppy (@poppyscoffings): I’d love to be able to do my own show, where I perform for a whole hour in-front of a big crowd. Doing the music video has really made me think that I’m into film, directing and motion graphics.

Tiffany (@tiffanyjadeholland): I’m hoping to start working on my own solo stuff this year, ready for next year.

Adeel: Definitely continue working in the music industry. I think a few years ago my plan was to become famous, but I’ve learnt the downfall of that and I just want to make good music and spread a good message, to serve people through creativity.

Adrian (@rayworthmusic): My dream is to write BIG TUNES and get them on BIG LABELS [laughs]. I can offer my services to help the others in COL. As long as I’m supporting myself and enjoying what I’m doing with music, it’s kind of where I want to be.

Ethan: I’ve got another year at Uni, so I want to explore lots of different areas of live events and theatre. Over the next couple years I really just want to help out at COL in any way possible.

Listen to Circle of Light 2,Vol.1 on Spotify.

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