Last September, something unique happened in the UK classical album chart: an independent artist went straight to number one! The album is Dare to Dream and the artist is the People’s Soprano, Rebecca Newman, who has just announced new concert dates. To talk about this and her current tour supporting Russell Watson, I met up with Rebecca before the Richmond tour date.
I started by asking about being an independent artist, as yet unsigned to a major record label. Is signing to a major in the plan? Since Dare to Dream hit the top spot in 2014, Rebecca says there has been a lot of industry interest and awareness in her as an artist which will hopefully lead to some fruitful conversations. Interestingly, it is other, established artists who have so far given the most public support. Alfie Boe has tweeted his support for Dare to Dream, saying Casta Diva is his favourite track and of course, Russell Watson invited Rebecca to tour with him as his special guest on the current Up Close and Personal Tour. Should a major record company deal come to pass, a lot of fans will be ready and willing to snap up that album.
Dare to Dream, as well as being the album title, is also one of the original songs co-written by Rebecca and seems to be the perfect song for her at this stage of her career. In fact, many fans relate to it, saying it means a lot to them, often for very different reasons. For her part, Rebecca says that the song is about the inspiring little moments that happen in your life along the way:
whatever your dream is, own it, love it, follow it
Rebecca certainly seems to be following her own advice here as she has come a very long way in the music industry since she first started busking in York ten years ago. At first, busking was a means to an end but Rebecca soon found that it was a great way to connect with an audience whilst building a fan base as well as earning money. In this way, Rebecca has been recording and selling her own music although Dare to Dream was the first album eligible for official chart release. Street performing is a very pure, honest style of performance and this seems to suit Rebecca, so much so that she says she gets withdrawal symptoms when she doesn’t do it for a while. She enjoys engaging with fans on such an intimate level which has sometimes meant that she has had to work harder to connect with a larger audience. Her best advice when faced with a larger audience is to just simply “sing”. Perform first and chat second, an approach that has worked to her advantage as a special guest to Russell Watson. I was lucky enough to see Rebecca perform on the Richmond tour date and while a few members of the audience were clearly baffled when she first came on stage, they were very impressed after her first song. There were audible gasps of appreciation when she then mentioned her number one classical album…all without a major record label behind her. By the time her part of the show was finished, the audience was won over. I questioned how street performing would fit in with a more successful, visible music career and Rebecca was quite clear that major success would not stop her performing pop up gigs in any way – let’s hope we get the chance to find out! A fan’s comment to Rebecca that “you’ve set down deep roots so the wind won’t blow you away” would seem to bear witness that she has a strong and loyal fan base.
As mentioned earlier, Rebecca has recently announced her own concert dates, the first of which is Lichfield Garrick theatre on 16 July 2015 (on sale 1 May) and she is understandably excited about the prospect of being the star attraction. There are other projects and collaborations to be confirmed and announced and together with an appearance on BBC’s Songs of Praise (recorded but no transmission date yet) this should be an exciting time for fans. Amongst other things, Dare to Dream will hopefully be re-issued as a single complete with a new video! Until then, take a look at the current video:
The album is also available on Amazon:
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