Few artists today truly manage to capture a sense of the poetic drama of everyday life quite like Gia Ford. A rising starlet from Sheffield, Ford has recently signed to reborn label Chrysalis – of previous Blondie fame – and is set to play Camden’s famous Jazz Café this Valentine’s Day for the charity Choose Love.
As all good artists are, Ford is a musical magpie, taking influence all the way from golden 70s pop to Shade and Lana Del Rey. Her previously released material – put out by the 1975’s label Dirty Hit – samples an entirely different sonic palette of dark, fuzzy guitars and murky synths. While still expressing a pride she feels over the work, it is a musical direction she has definitely shifted away from. Explaining how she felt about that earlier work: “I was trying to second guess the industry a little bit”.
Now, her music has an Americana twang of a different era. “The new stuff is more of my childhood inspirations … the Fleetwood Macs, the Nick Caves … even the Dusty Springfields … that’s always been my favourite stuff”. A return to old loves. She remarked of the change: “I think I’ve gone back to all of my original inspirations that I never felt confident enough to pay homage to”. “Part of me just wants a complete rebirth… to start again”.
With potent lyrics full of embedded meaning, Ford is a focused lyricist, with an eye for an unusual image. One song she recalled references the urban grit of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, while she also pointed to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as a key literary influence (“the descriptions take you into another world. That’s something I try to do”). “I live my life trying to absorb things that go unnoticed usually … like that classic thing with newspaper articles; there are songs in everything if you keep your eye out”.
As an artist from Sheffield and having went to school in Wilmslow, Ford has recently returned to the North after a spate in the capital. Keen to emphasise the cultural differences, she remarked: “Pandemic London was not fun”.
“London is a very soul-stripping place unless you’re having a lot of fun all the time … I’m not really that kind of person … I’m more of an introspective person. I like space”. Referring to the differences in the scene up here, she was eager to make clear how the North generally is “less ‘industry’ and less pretentious” as well as “less cutthroat … it feels more genuine”. Ironically, it seems the distinct lack of industry presence in the North influences music even at a very granular level, something Ford knows all too well.
The lack of a present music business outside of London does increase the challenge of getting music out there however, a fact felt all too easily by artist attempting to get their foot in the door. We discussed the plans to regionalise BBC Introducing – in part due to dwindling radio listenership. As Ford’s most recent single – the beautifully fatal ‘Car Crash for Two’ – has been championed by Sheffield’s own Introducing DJ, Christian Carlisle, there is a clear fondness for the radio promotion young artists receive through the programme.
“Even when I lived in London I was in touch with him [Christian Carlisle] quite a lot”, she explained, keenly emphasising the ‘do-it-yourself’ grit necessary to break through outside of Britain’s musical centre. With no alternatives provided, the worry among artists such as Ford – in a tender part of their career – is that most support for up-and-comers will dry up. “There is no support really in that sense… you have to try a lot harder”.
Artists such as Ford also find themselves in a drastically different environment to that of the music that inspires them. In an age where even the most controversial or rebellious bands have an Instagram account, we discussed the pressures of social media and the incessant marketing drive behind it. “People think that you have to be TikTok savvy or Instagram savvy … I understand [it] as a great tool, but I think it does fall on the artist’s shoulders so much to get yourself out there”.
Like most artists, Ford releases regular content to keep people engaged, but she was keen to stress how the social-media storm mounts on the pressure: “When I first started releasing music there was a lot less pressure around it”. “My girlfriend does all of my imagery… we used to just have fun and take some amazing photos and post them… creating the world whenever we felt like it”.
Now with new label backing, Ford seems to be turning a new leaf in her career. “When I was independent, I felt like I had nothing to fall back on apart from myself … If I didn’t do something, I would just inevitably fall off the face of the planet.” “Now that I’m back working with a label… there’s lots of planning going on behind the scenes … I feel less pressure to do the other stuff … the stuff that isn’t actual song-writing”.
Full of praises for Chrysalis, Ford also made clear a shift in how she felt has an artist. On feeling the weight of Chrysalis’ illustrious back-catalogue, she elaborated: “I love a lot of people they’ve worked with in the past, but I wouldn’t say I feel that direct lineage, because its not forced on me like it was before”, the latter being a reference to Dirty Hit’s near-obsession with Matty Healey’s outfit. For the most part, being out of the 1975’s long-cast shadow seems to have done Ford a lot of good.
While the immense challenge of getting heard in the industry remains, Ford is now creatively more active than ever. With a fantastic new backing band consisting of guitarist Conor Houston, ex-Sophie and the Giants and current Reverend and The Makers bass player Antonia Pooles and drummer Nicolas Py, Ford’s live set has taken on a new sense of rock-driven urgency. “That humanness of playing in a band has made me happier about writing music again”, she explained; “I want the unwavering base of it [her project] to be that… to be human, to be a band”. Her live shows are second to none – arranged and orchestrated to perfection.
With an album in the works, there is much to look forward to with this brilliant talent; a different voice amongst a lot of the same.
Her music can be found here.
Her social media pages can be found here.
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