For our second “HumanHuman meets…” interview series with some of our most influential users, we’re kicking things off with self-proclaimed multi-tasker Hannah Braid, AKA Daisy Digital. She joined our music-mad community two years ago as a blogger, and since then she’s gone on to become a festival organiser, co-founder of Swell Publicity and most recently she joined the team over at Chalk Press Agency.
Meeting on the first day of The Great Escape, we braced ourselves against the blustery weather out on Brighton Pier for a good chat about finding new talent, working in the industry and what Hannah Braid would do if she was in charge of a certain UK festival.
For the readers of HumanHuman, tell me who are you and what you do?
I run Daisy Digital, I also work in PR. I guess mainly for the HumanHuman readers, I am a blog! Well, the face behind a blog.
When did you first hear about HumanHuman?
I’ve been on it for a little while as Daisy Digital. We did some cool stuff for International Women’s Day last year. I think it’s a really cool concept, predominantly for blogs, but I was talking to a manager of an artist before and he was talking about the concept of HumanHuman and how when he first heard about it, he signed up and said “oh, it’s really cool!”
Oh, who was that?
It was Toothless’ manager; he was asking about it and seeing what it’s about. I think it’s great to see bloggers, but also influential people going on it and tipping each other.
Obviously, it’s all about discovering new music, so which discovery are you most proud of to date?
I think Billie Marten, probably. I heard about her through a friend of mine and she said “you should come down and check her out.” I was worried that this 12-year-old girl was going to be really X-Factor and I would hate it, but within minutes of her playing live I just fell in love. I thought, “this is going to be massive!” It was only quite recently that we became a working relationship, so it’s really nice for Daisy Digital to have been there from the start. When it gets to the level where I feel like I can really help an artist on a personal, but also work, relationship basis, it’s really nice to be able to do that. That’s the great thing about having a blog and being in the industry is that I still really like that discovery element. Within the industry we get offered a lot of stuff and we have to turn down stuff, and there might be times when that’s because it’s not the right level for us, but Daisy Digital means having a place where I can say “well, actually I can still do something for you.” There’s been several artists that I’ve watched grow from really early on, like this guy from Australia called Jesse Davidson. I did loads of stuff with him on my blog and when it got to the point where I really wanted to help him on a professional level he had signed a massive deal and I missed out! Artists like The Staves and Michael Kiwanuka were featured on the blog in 2012 before I got into music as a job, and now they're on our roster here at Chalk Press. It’s a weird, but wonderful thing.
A lot of people do take that route though, through blogs and onto PR.
Yeah! What people don’t really realise is that sometimes we’re doing this on our own, and lots of bloggers are doing it as a part-time hobby. Whether it becomes a full-time job or not, to have that creative outlet, where you can talk about those things that aren’t necessarily in your job, but relate in some way. It’s also really important to be listening to new stuff all the time, not just your own music. Having gone from architecture to music is a rather strange, although as I was saying quite wonderful, path to take. It’s only through the blogs that I’ve been able to do that.
You started the blog when you were at university?
Yeah, it was when I was in my final weeks of doing an architecture degree, which was probably the worst and best decision of my life. I had loads going through my head and I was trying to focus on my studies, having no sleep and living off caffeine for a long time. When you’re doing a degree like architecture, you need that sanity in something else. At the time I was listening to Lianne La Havas, Daughter, Lucy Rose, The Staves - when they were tiny. I went to see The Staves supporting Michael Kiwanuka in 2011/2012, and I ended up staying at the end and chatting to them, and I thought “actually, this is bloody cool!” It was this thing that never happens when you’re doing architecture. Everyone was like “you’re crazy!” and “what the hell are you doing?!” Then it became something that I couldn’t not do. When I finished my degree, I had a three month break where I did some behind-the-scenes work at festivals and kept Daisy Digital going. Having that outlet of a blog to be able to show my interest in music got me where I am. I have no musical ability at all!
So much of this industry is run on passion, especially when we’re talking about the love of discovering new music. Why do you think people are drawn to that?
When you have that connection with an artist, like I had with Billie Marten, it’s a rare thing, but it’s really amazing. You get to watch someone from really early on. They might not be completely pitch perfect or they might be really nervous on stage, but when you connect with them, you think “this is incredible, I can’t not do something to help this person!” If you really believe in them, I guess it’s something you can’t help but do! From a musician’s point of view, you have to remember the people who found you first and gave you that step up. On that level, lots of bloggers also go into A&R. It’s a really important cycle, to find new music and be part of the journey.
“It’s a really important cycle, to find new music and be part of the journey.”
A lot of that journey happens online now, like the HumanHuman community. Why do you think the discovery of new talent is happening more and more in the digital world, rather than coming to somewhere like a festival as an on-the-ground scout?
It’s so easy now. Lots of artists release their music online, which has it’s downfalls, but it’s also an amazing thing. For example, I was listening to an interview with Dua Lipa yesterday and she was saying that although she’s from Kosovo, she had an amazing upbringing where she was able to do music in London. However, if you’re from places like outside of the UK or US, those artists might not necessarily reach people like me or you if they do nothing online. There’s this whole online community that reaches thousands and thousands of fans. There’s plenty of downfalls, but you can’t argue with it. There is still an element of if I saw something here at The Great Escape that had no presence online I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t work with them. A happy medium is always good.
We spoke earlier about how you started your blog, Daisy Digital, and I saw that the Guardian described it as “a musical feast for lovers of all things indie and folk-related”. That was awesome, but is folk and indie still your primary interest?
Yeah, I think so… I’ll never shy too far away from the folk-indie scene, but I’m not going to bracket myself in and only work with folk and indie. I do listen to a lot of pop lately.
Anything in particular?
Well, you know, Taylor Swift is always amazing. [laughs] I think it’s really important to listen to a variety of music. I would never say that I’ll only get submitted folk and indie, I might not blog about anything else, but at least I like to be aware. Like I previously mentioned, Dua Lipa is bloody awesome!
Going back to your original genre, what has been your favourite folk/indie track of the year?
Oh, that’s a good one! For starters, the one I’ve probably listened to the most is Laura Marling’s “Ghosts”, but that was from her first record. I’ve always been a fan of hers, but I only saw her live late last year and I re-discovered her back catalogue. Going back to the point about the digital world - if twenty years ago you didn’t own a record, would you be able to go back and listen to an old album? It’s so easy now to re-discover works that you might have passed. This year though… what have I been listening to? The Staves have a new track called “Outlaw”, which I think is awesome. Hold on I’ll find something good for you [scrolls through phone] “New Ways” by Daughter!
Oh, I love that album!
Yeah, me too! I watched them before I was in music, I was a massive fan and I saw Eleanor support Ben Howard on her own - super early! The amazing thing is that I’ve been able to watch them from a very privileged view over the past couple of years. I’ve been at shows and I feel like I have better insight into them as a band. I remember I saw them at Bestival in 2012 and thought it was the coolest thing ever that I was backstage at a gig. It was really early on for them and they played at a tent between Lucy Rose and Lianne La Havas on the bill. I’ll never forget when the band came off backstage and did this jumping high-five thing! [laughs] It takes you by surprise when you realise that they’re just human people!
That ultimately came from Daisy Digital. I went to Festifeel, which is this amazing project by the breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! and Fearne Cotton, as a fan. I’d interviewed Rae Morris back in 2012 and Festifeel was one of her first London shows, so I had to go see her! I did a preview piece for the festival and in turn they got in touch and said, “this is amazing, we’ve never had anyone music-related cover this festival.” It was never seen as a place to go see the hottest new acts in music, so now that I’m involved it’s a happy medium of trying to give emerging artists a platform. Last year, for example, we had Billie Marten open the festival and Everything Everything headline, that’s bridging between the more Radio 1 mainstream acts and someone who’s just signed a record deal. This year we’re still in the early stages of putting a line-up together, but I’m really keen to have a female-heavy line-up, whether that be all female acts or at least female-fronted bands, like Pumarosa or someone like that. It’s a really fun thing to do and I love it!
Obviously, the CoppaFeel! Campaign is geared towards women and you’re saying that you’d like the festival to be more female-orientated. What are your thoughts about the current situation of women in the music industry? It’s been a year and a half since we last spoke about it.
I think it’s getting better, slowly but surely. The great thing about having a blog is that anybody can do it, whether you’re female or male or whatever! You can start one tomorrow. The other aspect is when you’re actually working within the industry at a higher level, for example in PR, you become more conscious that it’s not equal. I think it’s really important that it’s become a focal point in the last two years at least. There’s a lot more industry chat about how we need to change things, and in time it will change. Festival bills are still something we really need to work on. As I mentioned in our last chat, I spoke about Reading and Leeds festivals not having any female headliners, and the amount of backlash that they got from last year, and this year they’ve done it again! I’m in a privileged position to be able to put on a festival and I tweeted about it not that long ago and I was quoted in Music Week saying that if Festifeel had the budget to pay people, which we don’t because we’re a charity festival, but if we could I would book an amazing all-female line-up. I’m fairly confident that it would sell out just as quick. The really sad thing is that people outside of the music industry don’t think about it, but if I was in charge of booking Reading and Leeds I would make sure it was at least 50/50. It’s beggar’s belief to me that it happened again.
“The great thing about having a blog is that anybody can do it, whether you’re female or male or whatever!”
Oh, I agree. I mean I didn’t have high expectations for Reading and Leeds, they weren’t exactly going to turn around with a fifty perfect female line-up, but they should have had at least one female headliner!
They couldn’t think of one female artists to fit that line-up! You look at someone like Florence + the Machine, Laura Marling, Chvrches and that’s just in the UK alone. They are definitely worthy of still selling a hell of a lot of tickets. There’s still a long way to go, but the fact we’re all talking about it is great - all for that!
Absolutely! We’re moving more towards the online world, so how much do you think festivals still influence the music industry?
I guess festivals and the online world in the same respect give artists the ability to reach thousands of fans that they might not necessarily do on their own. I still think it’s an amazing thing to be able to stumble out of your tent and come across someone playing at ten in the morning. I hope that for as long as I live these festivals will still be going, even when I’m super old! [laughs] My parents still go to festivals, and they’re not on SoundCloud or Spotify, so I think that’s quite a nice translation. As we move on in time, hopefully festivals will still be there, although I’m sure the next generation will find music in a whole new way. I hope that festivals will still offer a platform for emerging artists, because some bands have a huge online following, but they can’t sell tickets on their own. The live aspect is still hugely important for artists. Fingers crossed that in twenty years I’ll still be rocking out!
Yes! Alright, last question for you, who is your recommended must-see act at The Great Escape?
Actually, there’s a girl called Julia Jacklin.
I discovered her on HumanHuman!
Yeah, I tried to discover her but you beat me to it! I think she’s really amazing and doing amazing things.