Year on year we are never disappointed by the quality and quantity of artists who decide to enter our Kickstart competition and 2022 was no different. Encompassing a range of genres, the standard this year was extremely high and our team of contributors spent a long two weeks listening and narrowing down the entries.
We have narrowed down all the entries into an incredible longlist of twenty artists. While our panel of industry experts compile the final shortlist for Kickstart 2022, take some time out of your day to meet the artists.
Winnie Ama is part of a new breed of electronic artists blending conscious lyrics, soulful alternative RnB vocals with dance, house and pop rhythms. The Belfast born and raised Northern-Irish-Ghanaian artist has had success with multiple MusicWeek UK Club Chart top 10’s and support from BBC Introducing and BBC Radio Ulster referencing her fresh writing style and distinctive voice.
Big Daisy are a 4-piece Shoegaze, Indie-Fuzz band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The band formed in Autumn 2019 through their love of sad, melancholic lyrics, heavy rhythm sections and catchy guitar hooks. However, Aidan, James, Ciara & Dan met as kids and are lifelong friends. The street they all grew up on is to blame for their meeting. Recording their debut single ‘Go Outside’ in November with Niall Doran in Start Together studios, Big Daisy was born.
Red Eye Pariah
Formed in April 2020 Drummer Joe Dawson arranged practices with Guitar and vocalists Sammy Stevenson and Deano Kelly as and when restrictions allowed. The trio recorded two debut singles Kamikaze Kid and The Score in Manor Park Studio with Neil Calderwood which were released in early 2021. Following the release, the fourth and final member Alex Close joined to provide Bass to the now foursome.
Harley & the Wolf
Harley & The Wolf are an energetic four piece Alt Rock band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The line up consists of Christi McCullough , Connor ‘Rico’ Ritchie, Pete Barber & Ryan Noble. Combining hard hitting riffs, delicate dual harmonies & anthemic vocal melodies to bring you their take on Modern Alt Rock! Drawing heavily on old school Classic Rock and modern Alt Rock, the band also take influence from home with the likes of great Irish rockers, Thin Lizzy & The Cranberries being major influences on their music. Alongside modern rockers; My Chemical Romance, Deaf Havana, architects and more.
Lapse are a 2-piece experimental electronic group from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The project was created by Peter Keogh in early 2019 and at it’s core, mainly centred around Piano and drum programming, with the singles Clarity and Amygdala. Since early 2020 the Lapse sound has shifted more towards the experimental electronic genre, and the once-solo project has since permanently taken Ellie Brétéché on board; a skilled vocalist and lyricist with a strong musical background. Everything is entirely self-produced, and the duo record, perform and mix all their own music themselves.
Jack comes from Hilltown, by the Mourne Mountains. He studied music at Southern Regional College in Armagh. He was learning guitar at school and was also embarked on a mountain bike adventure, excelling on a competitive level. Jack Devlin has been an unstoppable feature during the pandemic – playing gigs when the venues will have him and taking to the streets when the doors have been closed. He travels with guitar, writes constantly and uses initiative to win over friends.
Since she previewed her music on social media in 2017, Susi Pagel has created an online fanbase and has been championed by BBC’s Gemma Bradley plus other media platforms. She’s been likened to the sounds of Melanie Martinez and early Britney Spears. Her productivity and verve are unstoppable, just as the music gets more assured and ambitious. Susi imagines a great future. “What I would love to be doing is touring and having a solid group of people that are fans. Just being a pop star.”
Rachel Craig is an Indie Folk musician/singer songwriter from Portstewart in County Derry. Rachel’s style is inspired by singer/songwriter legends such as Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, as well as modern Indie and alternative artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Joshua Burnside and Joel Harkin. Rachel’s songwriting doesn’t shy away from hard to talk about topics such as mental health struggles and the passing of time. Introspection becomes a central theme in Rachel’s music, solidified by haunting open tuned guitars and a memorable singing voice, signing always in a soft Northern Irish accent.
JBR Project hail from Bangor. They combine live bass electronic production with instruments – creating huge pulsating soundscapes with synths and programmed beats whilst overlaying fluid trumpet and vocal lines. JBR Project’s sound is rich, melodic and kicks like a mule.
The project was started originally as a solo work by John Wisener in 2020. Things started to progress that same year around December, with the debut single Glass Eyes being given a slot on BBC’s Across the line. A few single releases followed this release, leading up to the summer. The band took its full form with the prospect of gigs on the horizon, Matthew McVicker , Reece Gordon, and Henry Schwittay joined. 7 gigs spanning from late August 2021 to December 2021, including a headline show and two Belfast shows saw the group pickup some momentum. Dylan Norton replaced Henry on the drums, and the band found themselves in Start Together studios to record their first single of 2022, “A-Ok” which was released on the 4th of February. Exciting melodic vocal lines coupled with thumping guitar and bass sees this band has started to find their sound. A group not to be overlooked.
Rory Mullan, the 25 year old singer-songwriter and bedroom producer that operates under the alias of Kid Apollo. In recent months, singles “Wrong Foot Forward” and “Catching Buses” have seen the artist take on a more direct, indie rock sound, whilst his lyrics remain as poignant as ever. On the cusp of a new EP dropping this February, Kid Apollo’s sound and image is hitting something akin to a soft reboot – but one that promises to herald music as sonically and lyrically intriguing as any other independent artist is making.
Wearing influences on her sleeve from Big Star to Cocteau Twins, Heart Shaped is the dreamy pop project of Belfast-based songwriter Kendall Bousquet. Following on from the 2020 EP Second Hand, which gained critical praise with international radio play from KEXP to the BBC and a feature on the front page of Bandcamp, new single No Contact finds the Texas native meditating on ambivalent love over a fuzzed-out soundscape of shimmering melodies. Together with surf inflected B-Side Version of You, the two tracks form a snapshot of a maturing songwriter hitting her stride, unafraid to mix a catchy pop sensibility with introspection and catharsis.
Virgins are a Belfast based shoegaze band with Michael Smyth at its hazy centre. Virgins were born after a lust to satiate a musical thirst. Michael is responsible for the instrumentation, song writing, the lyrics and melodies. Conceived as a creative vehicle that allows for a revolving door policy in terms of members, which gives infinite creative collaborative possibilities. The band is centred around Michael and vocalist Vicky Hutchinson. Musically, the band’s sound is equally dense and beautiful, guitars drenched in layers of fuzz and reverb dovetail between creating a dense melting wall of sound to beautiful bell like chimes. Vocals are a whisper in your ear from a long forgotten ghost laden with regret, melancholia and desire.
Moon Landing is an alternative music project created by 22 year old, multi-instrumentalist Jake McCrea. Experimenting with soundscapes and musical textures, Moon Landing creates an immersive and emotional experience through each song, walking the line between vulnerability and powerful raw energy, drawing inspiration from bands such as Radiohead, Pixies and Eels.
Multi-Instrumentalist turned Producer turned Band Leader, KALLA, is set to explode onto the scene with an exciting brand of Indie-Soul. Having spent the last two years experimenting in his bedroom crafting a unique blend of, KALLA opened a studio in the heart of Belfast where he has been working not only on his upcoming EP but also with other fresh faces in the local Irish Music Scene.
Foreign Mornings are a four piece Alt. Rock band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. With influences such as Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and the Cure, their sound can range from heavy stadium rock, to gentle stripped back indie pieces, with melody at the core of each track.
Platonic Shapes is a multi-genre project from the mind of composer Conor O’Boyle. Based in Derry/Londonderry, their music draws influences across multiple styles and genres including Jazz, Rock and Pop. Since forming in 2019, Platonic Shapes have released 5 singles and in November of 2021, they released their debut EP titled “Welcome to Platonic Shapes”.
Andrew Patterson is a Belfast based singer songwriter who writes anthemic yet intimate songs of hope, peace and love inspired by the song writing of Foy Vance, Glen Hansard and Bruce Springsteen. These are indie folk pop songs aimed with a well pointed lens to hold a weight of substance in a tired and washed out world.
20-year-old singer songwriter & guitarist is influenced by modern folk acts like Maggie Rogers & First Aid Kit. Her career has already seen her perform at both the Woman’s Work festival & Sound of Belfast festival in 2021 while she also enjoyed success at Youth Action NI’s Next Big Thing competition.
Happy Pop’ artist Riley Holland is a songwriter and performer from Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Her music relates to pop and urban, acoustic and electronic. Songs like ‘Say It First’ – her first release in 2021 – deal with issues of the heart and the fragile aspects of human affairs. Riley has achieved much in her early career. In 2019 she was a semi-finalist in the Belfast-Nashville Young Songwriter Of The Year, making her live debut during this festival. She was also a finalist in the All-Ireland Star Nation competition. This earned her recording time in Ireland’s famous Windmill Lane studio. Riley studies Music Production in London, amassing the skills to take her music from basic bedroom recordings to a more ambitious reach.
Timeline For The Competition ►
– Monday 7th February 2022 – Competition announced and entry opens
– Saturday 5th March 2022 – Entries Close at 8PM
– Monday 21st March 2022 – Initial Longlist Announced
– Monday 4th April 2022 – Final Shortlist Announced
– Monday 18th April 2022 – Chordblossom’s Kickstart 2022 Winner Announced
Prizes For Winner ►
► Professional Career Advice – Courtesy of Third Bar Artist Development
Third Bar Artist Development is run by Davy Matchett and Gary Lightbody with the objective of supporting artists from Northern Ireland and helping them achieve their ambitions. They have helped shaped the careers of many local artists including A Plastic Rose, Sister Ghost, Strange New Places, Brand New Friend and The Florentinas. You will get an opportunity to sit down with Davy and discuss how best to utilise your prizes and take the next steps in your career.
► Single Recording – Courtesy of Big Space Studios
Big Space Studios is the brain child of Declan Legge and his recording studio has been the birthplace of tracks from a long list of our favourite artists. With the likes of Owen Denvir, Silences, SOAK, Ciaran Lavery and Jealous of the Birds all spending time there, you know your single recording is in good hands.
► Video for your Single – Courtesy of Broken Film
Broken Film is the latest endeavour of Jamie Neish. After years spent drumming for the legendary More Than Conquerors, Jamie has turned his hand to video work in recent years. His portfolio is stunning and his client list reads as a who’s who of the NI music scene.
► Festival Slot – Courtesy of Stendhal Festival of Art
The sun always seems to shine when we visit Limavady for Stendhal (mostly…) and you can take your place among Sister Sledge, The Wood Burning Savages, Hayseed Dixie & Sasha Samara as you join the impressive line-up for Stendhal 2022.
► Festival Slot – Courtesy of Sunflowerfest
We await the first line up announcements for this year’s Sunflowerfest but if you’re successful in Kickstart then your place on the stages of Tubby’s Farm this July will be assured.
► One Month PR Campaign – Courtesy of Thrill Merchants
There is no point putting all the work into creating an incredible single and breath-taking video if no-one sees or hears it. Thrill Merchants will do their utmost to ensure you secure both written coverage and radio airplay of your new release.
► Professional Photoshoot – Courtesy of Avcunningham Photography
Aside from doing a sterling job as deputy editor at Chordblossom, Aaron Cunningham is an excellent photographer. His work with Joel Harkin, Big Daisy & the mighty New Pagans has seen his shots featured on album covers, gig posters and music publications here and beyond.
► Single Launch Gig in Belfast – Courtesy of Chordblossom
We know our way round a launch gig at Chordblossom and we’ll work with you to create an event to remember as you launch your new music out into the world.
Prizes For Runner Up ►
► Professional Career Advice – Courtesy of New Champion Management
From established artists like Ryan Vail & Joshua Burnside to future prospects CHERYM, Laytha and Lemonade Shoelace, NCM hold arguably the finest roster of artists from these shores. You’ll have the opportunity to sit down with head honcho Ben Magee to flesh out a plan to develop your career.
► Single Recording – Courtesy of Half Bap Studios
Tucked away in the Cathedral Quarter, Half Bap Studios celebrated their tenth anniversary last year and are firmly planted as one of our prolific studios. Recent highlights include their work on the NI nominated album for Dani Larkin and recording Lemonade Shoelace’s winning entry for the Vans music competition.