Lindsey: London-based session singer with an arresting debut album

Wednesday 3rd March 2010

Tony Cummings quizzed experienced session vocalist LINDSEY who recently co-wrote and co-produced her debut album


In the pop industry Lindsey is well known as a backing singer having provided her vocal talents for such acts as Natasha Hamilton (Atomic Kitten), Sandi Thom and Michael Ball. But to Cross Rhythms radio listeners she is the artist whose track "Heaven" on the charity album 'The Rose Sessions Vol 1' and the song "Start A War" on Lindsey's solo debut have provided two memorable turntable hits. So who is this London-based singer/songwriter?

Lindsey Cleary grew up on the borders of Suffolk and Essex in a distinctly rural environment. She said, "Growing up as a country kid caused us all to join all the after school clubs going as there was not much else to do! I soon realised I loved to be on stage, firstly as a dancer (well, that's a grand title for what I did in my ballet lessons!) and later as a singer. I was given a karaoke machine as a kid and started to practise in my room in front of the reflection of my window at night. My parents were really encouraging. My Dad had been a footballer so they were used to the more unusual career choices and therefore supported me the whole time. I always longed for the bright lights of the city so I guess it's inevitable I live in London now. I'm a total city chick. But my husband is also a country born boy so I do envision we might return to village life one day. For now we get the best of both when we go home to visit."

From the earliest times Lindsey was enamoured with pop music, particularly the work of an Australian soap star turned pop princess. Lindsey admitted, "I was obsessed with Kylie as a kid, as we all were in the '80s! At six I knew it was more than just admiration and that I actually wanted to BE Kylie, ie, I knew then I wanted to sing. And I knew early it was always going to be pop! My sister (who is also a great singer) and I would make our parents endure endless performances in our living room."

It wasn't until her late teens that the spiritual dimension to life began to effect the singer. Lindsey explained, "I'd always assumed God was real. My Dad is a committed Christian and I knew what his view of it all was. But it didn't affect anything in my life really until I was at LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts). I was 19 when I gave my life to Jesus. I was pretty low and wondering what life was all about. I'd asked my Dad how he knew for sure Jesus was real, he told me to pray if God was real then that he'd show me. So I did that for a few years, praying to God (or thin air as I suspected at the time!) that if he was real he'd show me. To cut a very long story short I was invited to watch a gospel choir perform, not realising that it was a whole church service. At that service I sat with a guitarist mate of mine who also was not a Christian. I looked round seeing people really excited on a Sunday morning. There was one woman I couldn't keep my eyes off. She was dancing with her eyes closed just so happy. It was a bit of a culture shock as usually Sunday mornings for me consisted of a hangover and Hollyoaks omnibus. I saw these people weren't just faking and they weren't drunk. It was amazing. I knew God was showing me he was real that day. I started to cry (my guitarist mate thought I'd lost it!) and I honestly felt the Holy Spirit enter me from head to foot. (That's what I found out later it was!) I didn't want to leave the church that day in case the buzz left me, so I stayed from 11 in the morning till six that night. But it's still with me. Praise God."

Lindsey: London-based session singer with an arresting debut album

Lindsey had a cousin working in the music industry and from the age of 14 Lindsey would go into the recording studio with him. She remembered, somewhat ruefully, "We'd be in there for hours going over and over the same thing! He taught me how to do backing vocals and how to be a perfectionist. I learnt a lot there and then as I got in to my late teens he started using me on jobs doing demos for writers or backing vocals for artists he was working with as a producer. I also had a singing teacher in my village who started using me on touring productions as a backing vocalist at the age of 16. When I was at LIPA I started working for a company that made jingles for radio stations over in Manchester. I basically took every opportunity thrown at me. I was still at LIPA studying when I was doing backing vocals on Top Of The Pops, Eurovision, etc. Then I graduated and had my first proper tour experience with the Australian Pink Floyd. Since then I've played the Royal Albert Hall, major arenas in the UK, played with Liz McClarnon and Natasha Hamilton (both ex-Atomic Kitten) touring with Lionel Richie and Sandi Thom touring recently with Joe Bonamassa. And lots of jingles and adverts worldwide. It is a scary life not knowing when things are coming in but then when they turn up it's really exciting doing something totally different each time. I love studio work and being a perfectionist, then I love live work and being a total performer."

Considering Lindsey's consummate vocal talent and her growing progress as a songwriter an album of her own was soon top of her wish list. She said, "I had been to a few of the majors and they wanted me to write my breakthrough single. They thought I had my second and third but not the initial one. So I went away and wrote loads. In that time the music industry was totally changing and some of the majors were having real problems. All the advice I was getting from people I respected was forget them and see if you can do it yourself. So I did! I raised the money I needed (£12.5k) through setting up a project called 'Pick an Orange Project' allowing fans to invest and recorded the album at Abbey Road. I got so much control doing it myself, I co-wrote, co-produced and arranged the tracks. It was a total full on experience.

"TLC is a project my husband and I always dreamt of. We always talked of having TLC (which stands for Tom and Lindsey Cleary) and it being a company that has a few arms. So far we have two, we have the record company TLC Music and the charity TLC Projects. They will overlap slightly in July as we are taking a group of musician mates of mine over to Romania to work with the gypsy communities. But I'm excited about the record company's future as I would love the opportunity to nurture other artists in the future. But for now I'm concentrating on my career first; that's in the future I think. You definitely don't need major labels to make music anymore, as long as you're hard working and creative. Selling the music on a large scale is still the work of the majors but making music is a lot easier."

While Lindsey was still working on her 'This Is Lindsey' album, the singer was approached by Cross Rhythms Teesside radio presenter Ben Jack (sometimes known as Galactus Jack) who was in the process of compiling tracks for an album, 'The Rose Sessions Vol 1', with all royalties going to The Rose Foundation, a charity which aims to provide a better life for young people through educational programmes. Ben had already persuaded acts like Sandi Thom and Shell to donate tracks for the album. Lindsey donated "Heaven", a track she had recently completed. When 'The Rose Sessions Vol 1' was released Lindsey's effort proved a popular track with the listeners to the Cross Rhythms radio stations. Said Lindsey, "I'm glad the song has been well received. I wrote it with a friend of mine Si Parkin, with whom I write a lot. When I was writing it I was thinking about my Grandad who'd died. But I was wanting to write it more generally about the pain of losing someone close. I think 'Heaven' has been a successful track because everyone can relate to losing someone close. One girl once emailed me saying she'd not been able to cry over losing her Dad a few weeks previous, then heard 'Heaven' and couldn't stop. She'd emailed to say thanks. That is still the best thing I've ever heard my music do."

Lindsey: London-based session singer with an arresting debut album

'This Is Lindsey' is a diverse set of well crafted pop songs. Lindsey is justifiably pleased with what she has achieved with her debut. "'Start A War' is my favourite track but then I have a secret soft spot for 'Vision Impossible' as it is such a personal song to me, written about a very close friend of mine who was killing herself with her eating disorder. 'Start A War' was the last track I wrote for the album and is the way I envision my second album to go stylistically. It was a real brave step for me in my writing and I'm glad I took the risk."

Anyone who's heard "Start A War" will know the song reaches its climax with a series of staccato phrases rattled off at machine gun speed. Lindsey vividly remembers recording the song. "I struggled to breathe! It's pretty mad at the end of the track. I wrote the track with Si again but then later came away and added the lyrics to the ending on my own. That day I must have been on one because I'm just venting everything I see is messed up in the world. I don't usually think that globally so it was a special moment and I think it made for a special song. In the studio I had the most memorable moments recording this song. Marcus Bonfanti, my guitarist on the album, did an awesome job. I told him to go mad and let loose and to make it sound as painful as possible. He did it spot on. Sometimes it sounded like the guitar was crying and screaming and that just sent shivers all up my spine. Vocally I just wanted to have the same effect. It's a bit speak-singing at the end which I did to convey how raw and real my emotions were over what I was singing. It wasn't about tarting the lyrics up with a pretty vocal."

Cross Rhythms finished its interview by asking what spiritual lesson Lindsey has learnt in recent times. Her response was particularly revealing. "I am extremely competitive and love to be centre of attention. When I became a Christian I thought these were sins I needed to leave behind. I remember having a very competitive game of spoons with some guys in church very early on in my walk which ended up in me more than playfully kicking one friend of mine. Seriously. The shame! So I really worked on curbing it all. However, more recently God has shown me how these traits are gifts from him. Competition can be used in the Kingdom of God, if used rightly. I use it now to drive me to be the best I can be. I think it's central to what makes me achieve now and what fuels me to persevere quite often. There was a long standing joke in my family that I was 'me, me, me' all the time. When I became a Christian I was really embarrassed about this and tried to pull back from certain things in response. Now I realise God has given me this as a gift. Not everybody wants to get on stage, they find it a scary place to be. I am the best version of myself when I am on stage. I learnt that God gifts us individually. I don't have to be like anyone else to fit in the Kingdom of God. I think we need to just look at the raw materials we have got and see them as given from God and listen to him in how we can use them to glorify him and enjoy them. God knows what he is doing when he's creating us! He knew what I'd need to do the job I do." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


Reader Comments

Posted by Pippa in Liverpool @ 12:31 on Mar 3 2010

WOW! What an amazing lady. If you've not got her album you totally need to buy it NOW! It's really inspiring to see how God met with someone and turned their dreams into a reality, with Him being the centre of the plans instead of ourselves! I am humbled by Lindsey's selflessness and the emotional insight she reveals in her lyrics - and her voice is amazing too!

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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