Written by Lily Fontaine, as part of Youth Music Next Gen.
Music:Leeds is a not-for-profit organisation established to act as a single, centralised point of contact to support, promote, develop and grow cross-genre music-based activity within Leeds and the wider region.
I spoke to upcoming, 23-year-old, electronic music producer Jessie Pigott, a.k.a. Eskimoh, about the support she’s received through Music:Leeds’s emerging-artist support programme, Launchpad, that receives funding from Youth Music, which offers mentoring, live opportunities and funding to early-career musicians in West Yorkshire.
Jessie first met Whiskas when he gave lectures at her university, where he encouraged students to apply for Launchpad. When Jessie graduated, she applied, and was chosen for the programme by a panel of independent reviewers.
Who are you, where are you from and what kind of music do you make?
I'm originally from Wiltshire but I now live in Burley. The music I make is kind of varied genre-wise; I've just released Untitled 01 which is the first track of an ambient, melancholy, floaty-piano, all-instrumental EP. I’ve also released a drum ’n’ bass track, so my music is diverse in genre! But it all has sad undertones - that’s how people know that it’s me.
How did you first get involved with Launchpad?
I went to Leeds Beckett University to study music production and Whiskas [founder of Music:Leeds] did some lectures where he mentioned it. I met him in first year and he was my mentor in third year so that’s how I got to know him. He built up my confidence actually because he knows more than anyone that I have mega-bad imposter syndrome. So, even getting onto Launchpad boosted my confidence.
Did you make music before getting involved in Launchpad?
I had a lot of Soundcloud stuff that I made throughout the years of college, but when I was at uni, I hit a point where everyone around me was making really good music and, especially being one of the only girls, I wasn’t sure if my music was as good as everyone else, so I went back into my shell a little bit. But yeah, I was releasing stuff and that was all dance music like drum ’n' bass - I still love making that, but I now realise I also love ambient stuff.
What happens at a typical Launchpad session?
I applied for mentoring and I've had two meetings now with Scott Lewis [Come Play With Me’s label runner]. He’s so good - he knows what he's talking about. We spoke about release plans because, with me, if I've made a tune and got to a point where I'm happy with it, I have no idea what to do with it, so it’s just sat on my computer. The first mentoring session was about a release strategy for Untitled the EP, and also about growing my social media skills and how important that is.
They also provide loads of opportunities as well; I was asked to play for the virtual Salemango Festival and I did my Untitled EP with a short film. It was four tracks alongside visuals that were made by my friend Sara Lopez - that video was also played at Live in the Virtual Square. Launchpad has opened up doors to collaborations with other musicians in Leeds as well; there are talks about a collaboration with Sim Walker who does really beautiful classical piano, and I also recently did a remix for Night Giants that's being released at the end of September.
What are your favourite experiences as part of Launchpad?
My favourite in the way that I feel like it has helped me the most is the mentoring sessions, but my favourite in the way that it's built my confidence as an artist and pushed me is doing the video for Salamango because I had to get that done in time, and I wanted it to be really good, to do the music and Sara’s videos justice. I'd say that was probably my favourite thing to watch back that I’ve done through Music:Leeds Launchpad. I was like, yeah, that actually looks sick. I wouldn't have done that if it wasn't for Launchpad. I wouldn't have got it finished and I definitely wouldn't have put it into a continuous 25-minute film.
How has Launchpad helped your musical skills?
It’s helped my planning; I'm a bit like a scrambled egg when it comes to planning! I didn't know what phrases like ‘press release’ meant, but now I know how to make a press release. Planning a release is like 50% of being a musician; anyone can make a tune but getting it heard is a completely different story, it's really hard. Going to uni, you learn a lot of things but you don't know what real life is like as an artist in the massive pool of artists. So, in that way, it’s helped me massively.
How has Launchpad helped you personally and socially?
Personally it’s helped my confidence. In our last meeting, I said to Scott, I feel like I should have done more by now and he was like, look, this is where you're at, you're doing amazing. I was like, actually, yeah Jessie, you're doing great! I feel like that's a huge thing for me; just having people listen to my music at first was daunting, but now I'm past that I want everyone to hear it. Even getting on to Music:Leeds Launchpad alongside really talented artists, it made me feel like I must be alright.
What is it like in Leeds?
I love it, I think it's great. I love a good night out in Leeds - especially in comparison to Wiltshire. We have Bristol near Wiltshire and it’s definitely on par with Bristol. It’s helped me being in this area and I feel like I've become more involved since becoming a Launchpad artist; I listen to the Music:Leeds Spotify playlists and that has made me have more of an understanding of who's about Leeds doing the same kind of thing, which has been good.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I just want to continue releasing my stuff and get more people hearing it - I have this EP coming out at the end of October and after that, I've got two other singles. I'm also working on another EP: Untitled Part Two, and I’ve got a lot of musical stuff in the pipeline. Before COVID we were planning an audio-visual showcase for the EP, and I still want that to happen at some point. I've also had a few replies from blog writers recently which is confidence-boosting, so I want to keep sending my stuff out to people that will enjoy listening to it. That's where my satisfaction comes from: people enjoying what I make.
What has working with Launchpad meant to you?
The whole confidence-building element: as a solo female artist in the music industry, I do think it can sometimes be a little bit, not harder, but different. I remember, when I was at college, I did digital music production and I was the only girl there and then I came to uni and it was the same - there were a couple of other women, but they were in different tutor groups. Being on the Launchpad project made me realise that actually, my music is enough, that me as an artist alone without like a guy around me, is fine. It’s fine to just do me, to just do Eskimoh. Also the opportunities; if it wasn't for Music: Leeds Launchpad, Salamango wouldn't have happened, therefore I wouldn’t have been played on Threads Radio in London, and then the collaborations have come around wouldn’t have happened. There are so many things that I'm thankful for. It's been awesome.
Thank you to our funders; the National Lottery via Arts Council England, players of People's Postcode Lottery, and support from donors, partners and fundraisers, who make our work supporting young peoples' lives through music possible.
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