“What I like about UPSURGE is that you are free to do whatever you want, you can try everything and there is no judgment.”
Muffintops (Ella & Elie) are a queer indie pop duo on our UPSURGE artist development programme. We caught up with them to learn about the impact that coming to The Music Works and taking part in UPSURGE has had on them both as artists and individuals.
“The Music Works has provided so many opportunities to make music, before we came here we just would send messages to everyone to try and perform and get involved with things but wouldn’t hear anything back. The UPSURGE programme has given so much support and opportunities that weren’t available to us before. The Music Works is something that people respect and see as something good, and it is amazing to be a part of that now.”
Neither Ella nor Ellie studied music at school. For Elie the reasons were financial, they wanted to start music since the age of four but didn’t have the money to do so. Elie struggled academically, not getting on with their school and did not have the opportunity to go to a school to study music. For Ella it was the opposite reason, she did very well in her school studies so her parents told her not to study music and study “normal subjects” instead, so she ended up going to University to study Elementary Teaching which is not what she wanted to do. Having never studied music academically, she taught herself at home and in practices with Elie. Elie added that it is hard to get into music because “people tell you music is not a job and to do something else”, but they believe that there are so many opportunities to work in the music industry, but they are not advertised to young people in education properly.
Ella and Elie both think it’s important that organisations like The Music Works exist to support local artists like them and challenge the norms of the music industry.
“I find it really life-changing being able to come to The Music Works” because the charity is very diverse and celebrates everyone’s differences.”
The UPSURGE programme has given Ella and Elie the opportunity to progress their musicianship, but on their own terms. Ella explained, “we present our ideas to them [The Music Leaders] and they provide us with lots of advice and say “maybe you could think of doing it this way” but they want us to choose the way that we want to make the music.” Elie says “You don’t get the answer but you get the guidance which is really nice because you bring an idea and they help you work and build on it so you’re the one coming up with the answer.”
Elie says “you feel heard and considered as a creative person at The Music Works. It is hard to connect to people doing music by yourself, with The Music Works we can share our passion for music and create with other young artists”
“I’m always thinking about how accessible this place is” says Elie, “I have never seen anything like it! It means you can make music with any ability. Anytime I leave and go back home I’m just like wow! I wish I had a place like this when I was growing up. I’m really proud to be here.”
“UPSURGE has helped me so much, helped me to sing better, helped me to be a better musician and helped me understand production better, too! Also the programme has really helped me find my style and vibe I want to give off, and improved my confidence and organisation skills”
Ella says “It still feels very personal as well as I feel very much in control of what I am doing and doesn’t feel like anyone else is doing it for us. I feel like any advice they give is in a very gentle and kind way, if we do something that’s not the best they won’t say “this is bad” but they just “maybe try this way”. There’s no bad, there’s just better ways of doing things. The bad is still good because it’s creative”, says Elie.
“I feel like we are privileged here”, says Elie. “I feel like even if I did study music, I would never have had the opportunity to have singing lessons 1:1 with a coach. This is the best thing that ever happened. I started singing lessons last month and my life just went [motions upwards] I’m just so happy.”
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