Abi graduated from Cardiff Met in 2014 with a degree in Illustration. In June 2014 she took part in Countdown to Launch to secure funding for her band Firewoodisland. Here are her thoughts on the event and an update on what she's been doing since:
Firewoodisland is an indie folk band with four members and a manager. There's Stian Vedøy who is the lead singer, songwriter and initiator of the band. He writes and records the songs as well as editing video and graphic design. There's myself (Abi Newbould) who sings, and plays a variety of small instruments (including trumpet, glockenspiels, cymbals, sample pads etc.). I tend to come up with most of the visual concepts of the band, such as artwork and music videos, and I organise the finances. There's Rowan Tablot who plays bass and arranges and improves our stage presence. There's Steve Allen, who plays drums and works on finding concerts. And finally, there's Nick Knowles who manages the band. He spends mass amounts of his time seeding our music out to industry people and looking for the next thing to push the music to.
The story of how the band came to be is quite a long and complicated story, involving a couple of trips to Norway where we played the regional final and then the final of Bandwagon Norge. Since then we were BBC Welsh Artist of the week, involving a live session and regular airplay on BBC Radio Wales. We headlined at the first ever Richer Unsigned event in Chelsea. We've also had mention from Q Magazine, Amelia's Mag, Glastonbury Introducing judges, Bethan Elfyn, and a number of others.
We are massively inspired by artists such as Bon Iver, Thomas Dybdahl, The Staves and James Vincent McMorrow as well as by traditional folky sounds from Wales and Norway. We are also really inspired by Sleeping At Last, for the way he promotes his own music and his use of Geoff Benzing's artwork.
Lee Sharma [former business start-up manager at the Centre] had a really interesting lecture in Cardiff School of Art and Design back in December 2013 that I attended, and I actually got speaking to him at the point about Firewoodisland. Lee really helped Stian and I to look at Firewoodisland as a business potential, and not just a bit of fun. It was through him that I met the rest of the team and heard about Cardiff Met Flash fund, which we applied for and won £150 towards printing our debut EP. That in turn lead to us applying and taking part in Countdown to Launch in June 2014.
Countdown to Launch was an amazing and very intense crash course on how to set up your own business, with a chance to pitch for up to £3000 of funding in a Dragon's Den style to a panel of judges. It was challenging, exciting, and great to meet others in the same boat who were hoping to pursue their business ideas. There were a whole mix of students from loads of different courses, so it was also a great opportunity to make connections and new friends and support and inspire each other. There were a number of workshops that filled the days with guest speakers coming in, including successful Entrepreneurs, accountants and banking personnel, intellectual property reps, and we even had a drama workshop. Each day we were given assignments to complete and things to look into at home after the sessions. It was a course well worth throwing yourself wholeheartedly into, but expect to be pretty shattered by the end of it.
Firewoodisland was really fortunate to win £1000 from to event, that is funding nears equipment, meaning we can hear ourselves properly onstage and will vastly improve our sound. I will especially find this useful for hearing my harmonies.
Since then I have met with Natasha and Dewi from the Centre for Student Entrepreneurship, who have been really helpful in hearing out our ideas and putting us in contact with people who can help our business to grow. Funding the early stages of a band can be quite difficult, so it has been great to brainstorm with people who have creative ideas and first hand knowledge. It's also just been great to know there are a team of people who are supporting us and are excited about what we are doing.
Post Countdown to Launch saw Firewoodisland win the audition poll of Amazing Radio twice, first for our song Simon, and secondly for What's Underneath. It also saw our manager join us, and a music lawyer. We also had the fantastic opportunity to master Simon in Abbey Road Studios. Simon reached 50,000 listens in just over a month of releasing it on Soundcloud. We also filmed a music video which reached over 12,000 views in the same time!
In 2015, so far we have released Molehills, a new single, with a music video on iTunes and YouTube. It has slowly been picking up more and more interest, and it's really exciting to see people getting excited by our music. We have also had a Canadian TV Series (Saving Hope) use our song Just Human After All, for their promo video for the next season. We had our first lot of band T-shirts made, available on our web store. There are more exciting pieces of news in the pipeline, but to hear about those you'll have to follow us on Facebook or Twitter! Exciting to see what the next year holds for the band.