New band of the day: Stefan Melbourne

Stefan Melbourne is a singer-songwriter from Holmfirth, now resident in Manchester and has just self-released his debut EP “Before The Sun Sets”.

The four-track EP stands Stefan out from many of the masses of singer-songwriters through simple, yet wholly expressive, heartfelt emotion through his voice, guitar and female backing vocals rather than attempting any studio trickery. It evokes comparisons with Nick Drake as well as contemporaries such as Stephen Fretwell, but still with a distinctive sound of his own. There’s not a weak track of the four, How Long Is Always, being the standout on an EP that marks him out as someone to keep a very close eye and ear on.

Stefan spoke to Louder Than War on how the EP came about and his plans for the future.

A few years ago, Stefan was playing drums with his friend’s band in Holmfirth and they decided to move to Manchester to seek their fame and fortune ”“ “a fairytale idea that kind of fell apart”. Undeterred, and still harbouring his own ambition, he started to write songs in his bedroom.

Performing live at open mic nights in Manchester and buoyed by the reception to his songs, Stefan looked to lay down some demos and see what happened next. “A friend of mine started to work at SSR in Manchester and got me some free studio time so I went in and recorded a track called Virginia. It was great to go in there and experiment really. It sounded really good, and I thought that I should then go and get some gigs off the back of it.”

His search for gigs led him to Simon Robbs, guitarist for Karima Francis. “He was putting on J P Cooper and Rae Morris, both of whom I love, and I asked if I could play at any gigs he put on in future. He kind of mentors singer-songwriters in Manchester, and, as I was new to it, he was a massive help to me. He ended up producing the tracks I then went into record at SSR.”

It was through Simon’s links with Crisis Management in Manchester that Stefan got his first shows with Rae Morris at a Communion night at The Castle in Manchester and the Slaughtered Lamb in London. It was at another Manchester gig, at The Ruby Lounge, where he met Chloe Leavers (http://www.chloeleavers.com/), a talented singer-songwriter in her own right, who provides backing vocals to the EP.

The self-funded EP is out now and Stefan explains the idea behind it. “We wanted to go in and record some low-fi acoustic tracks to give a people an idea of what I’m about. We released two demos for free on the website that weren’t the final mixes, and then got carried away and made it into an EP with a couple of extra songs.”

The plan is to see how far the EP can take Stefan. “I’m quite impatient when it comes to this stuff, but I want people to hear the record and I want to play more gigs. I’ve got enough songs for an album, the EP songs are actually quite old and I’m writing all the time. I always like to have at least one new song on the go. I’d also like to try and get on some support tours and get it out to more people, maybe release it properly on a small label.”

“Before The Sun Sets” can be listened to and bought on cd or download from Stefan’s bandcamp page (http://stefanmelbourne.bandcamp.com/album/before-the-sun-sets). He plays with J P Cooper at The Comedy Store in Manchester this Sunday, 20 May.

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