We chat BBC Introducing, digital presence, and Bieber with Leeds' queen of pop

After a summer of love, taking on main stages at Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds Pride, Lucy Whittaker remains an unstoppable self-made one-woman force on the up-and-coming pop scene.

A recent graduate of Leeds College of Music, she spans electro and hip-hop in her material, her performances are a full-on workouts, and her work ethic – go for it.

She’s already a Radio 1 favourite, something sought after by a lot of new musicians, and her tracks are hits in Australia and other far flung corners of the world. And she’s also a bit of a social media genius, so if you want some tips as a new musician read on.

After Lucy helped us have an amazing time at Pride recently, we felt the need to catch up after her well-earned holiday, and investigate the world of baseball caps and glitter and independent pop music a little more.

How was Gran Canaria?

I got back at 4am, to the wonderful UK hail and rain – that broke me back into UK life quite suddenly! It was great to have some time off – I went to the spa, had a massage, ate a disgusting amount of food too, so it was great!

You were chosen to be BBC Radio1 Introducing’s Track of the Week – what’s come off the back of that?

It’s so good to be featured on such a massive platform, something that’s hard for an independent musician to achieve really - having major DJs saying name was a bit bizarre!

I definitely noticed a huge surge in contact and listeners on my digital plays, and I’m really hoping for slots on their festival circuit next year – they’ve been so kind to me already, I’ve honestly had some really amazing opportunities through that programme.

fun times with @tyreeqdemariousmusic after my first @bbcintroducing live session 💁🏼
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You've got a big presence on social media, how much importance do you think digital has, as an artist?

Digital is everything!

At the core of everything is great music, but the surrounding work has to branded and marketing and communicated in the right ways. An independent musician has to work to keep current fans and build new ones. My demographic is 15-24 year olds – they spend their life online, so it’s hugely important for me to have a strong presence online too, in all ways. It’s very time consuming but absolutely essential to making sure my career grows.

The most important bit is to have my brand online. Deezer and Apple are incredible in pushing me out to Europe to be on level playing field with their pop industry, and making sure that I’m on the same platforms as my contemporaries.

You have to start on the right path to reach audiences and increase your chances wherever you can really. And work at it.

Your music has even been spotted on Australian blogs – you’re going global already?

An old contact of mine really taught me the importance of understanding international markets from the word go. For some reason ‘Change Your Mind’ was picked up and the people in Australia absolutely loved it! This is the power of the digital world. I’ve got loads of fans in Morocco too and that shows the importance of social media, anyone in any part of the world can reach it and reach you as a musician.

pop degree ✅
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There seems to be a shift back towards tactile formats in response to the rise of digital - have you got any plans to press a vinyl or release a cassette?

Vinyl is something that I really should have thought about more, I’m so focussed on digital. With all the new music coming out in the new year I may possibly do a big release where I do have more of a physical product with merchandise too. It’d be really nice to have that limited edition thing for audiences to actually have something precious in their hands – that’s the line that always comes with vinyl!

I’m currently working with two producers doing remixes for club music so fingers crossed I can infiltrate the club scene a bit more. And then I can hopefully walk the line between the two worlds of pop and clubbing.

So you’re a bit hip-hop, and bit club-style – who inspires your style, musically and visually?

In terms of like my dress I’ve never been a girly girl – always tomboy, with a feminine edge. I actually look up to loads of guys! Mainly mainstream and rap artists – Bieber, Kanye, but sometimes he’s a bit too far for me.

I just shop on the high street really, and I have Pinterest boards so I can pinch ideas for my outfits. I have to think about comfort for stage work – I’m really active when I perform. So I’m very hip hop inspired, and I do love to add sparkle.

Do you do all of this work, and write, and tour all by yourself, or do you work with, musicians, producers – how does ‘Lucy Whittaker’ come about?

I have a Tour Manager but everything else genuinely is pushed by me. One thing I’m really into though is co-writing, with my keys player mainly. All but one track on my new EP is co-written. I think it adds a different angle to what I come up with on the piano, having someone else’s input.

Usually I mess around on a piano and look up beats and then I bring it to someone who can help me develop it. I work with Leeds and London based musicians, then take it to one of my producers – I’ve somehow got three! I decide who will work best with my track, as they’ve all got slightly different styles. And then if THAT process works we release it. Sounds easy?

You can tell early on if a good song is a good song, you’ve just got to hedge your bets and go with it. If we do decide to release it I start to think about videos, and I work with videographers but I direct myself, of course.

As far as my band goes, we all rehearse, play, tour and live together – we met at college on the pop course, so it’s a bit like a weird film. Obviously we all get on!

And we all went to New York together as well. Hopefully I can work with them for a long time, they’re really great. A good film moment would be our first world tour…

Tell us about the amazing new touring company you’re with?

My tour management company is SisTours, which is run by Vicky Hollingworth. She specialises in tour management for women and LGBT women in the music industry. It’s a double tick for me, and it’s amazing working with Vicky – she’s so good. The majority of people you work with are guys and to have a girl working so closely with me makes my life so much more relaxing when I’m away from home. She’s awesome and really has my best interests at heart.

Specialising in working with minority groups means she’s supporting a cause too, and I’m going to keep working with her so we’ll be on the road together next year too.

Are you a secret activist under the glittery jackets and baseball caps?

Definitely. I’ll always stand up for my rights, the rights of people around me, and for things that are right. I am a bit of an eco-warrior too. This whole political Tr*mp thing is a disaster. Someone in a massive position of power who blatantly ignores everything we as people need to change has made me become more outspoken about it.

It is so important that these people lead countries properly. Things wont necessarily affect me directly, not at the moment, maybe they will. But really it’s about, well ‘Save The World’ and love each other.