It is barbecue weather in Sheffield where Rebecca Lucy Taylor (better known as Self Esteem) is residing with her parents during lockdown. She has been admiring her auntie’s dog and doing a spot of painting in the garden and has completely forgotten about our scheduled call. Who can blame her to be fair?
“I am so sorry,” she apologises when I get through to her 40 mins later. “All I paint is tits and bums, but I get really into it,” she explains about the painting which had her preoccupied. “I might even do an exhibition.”
Painting is just one hobby that is keeping Taylor busy during the pandemic though. The Sheffield-based pop musician and one half of Slow Club has been working on a poetry book and making new music from a garage. “I have basically taken my dad’s man cave from him,” she explains. “I discovered that my dad has a hi-fi system in the garage, and I worked out how to plug my laptop in, so now I’m in heaven playing and making music while I take in the garden.”
“I am in heaven playing and making music while I take in the garden”
We are all weathering the shitstorm of lockdown in our own way, but it sounds little more than a nuisance breeze when speaking to Taylor. “I respond well to this way of life,” she confesses. “This year I was trying to lay low anyway. It was going to be a year to write and record the new album, so I guess it was good timing for me. Thankfully I didn’t have many gigs planned.”
While it has come up aces for the musician, she is not naïve or dismissive of the current devastation and potential future impact lockdown will have. “I am frightened because playing live is the only thing that actually makes any money for me and many other musicians. I had a meeting today with my label and they have no idea what’s going on,” she says.
Before the virus struck, Taylor had recorded some reworkings of tracks from her debut album, Compliments Please, released in March last year. “It felt like I should record them while I could and thank God I did, because it’s meant I have had something to release during lockdown. It’s been really nice to give something new to people,” says Taylor. The resulting product was the four track EP, Cuddles Please, which features three of the reworked tracks and a sensational, slow-paced cover of Alex Cameron’s ‘Miami Memory’.
Self Esteem collaborated with the Sheffield choir, Neighbourhood Voices, to make the EP. The choir add an element of grandeur to the stripped back tracks. “It was brilliant, a group of women singing my lyrics in sync with me is a great ego boost. I love the fact that my music resonates with anybody, let alone really cool and passionate women in a choir,” she says.
Supporting female musicians is a passion that clearly drives Taylor in any creative outlet she pursues. She recently raised over £6,000 for Women’s Aid by hosting a digital festival for female identifying artists, featuring names like Little Boots, KT Tunstall and a wide variety of upcoming and local northern musicians. “It was amazing how much money it raised and how many people tuned in,” says Taylor.
“I fucking dreaded the travelling so much sometimes. I’m an old lady now. I get moody when I am uncomfortable in a little van.”
A driving force behind the festival was her dismay from witnessing the lack of gender diversity in the Reading and Leeds festival line up. “I understand bosses have a job to do, but what I’ve found frustrating is when men say there are not many women making music,” Taylor says. “Obviously loads of women are making music and really good music as well,” she adds before joking, “although to have festivals existing again would be a good start, even if it is just a load of men.”
For now though, Taylor seems more than content in her commandeered garage. She admits that she became quite resentful of touring during her time in the folk-rock duo Slow Club. “I fucking dreaded the travelling so much sometimes,” she said. “I’m an old lady now. I get moody when I am uncomfortable in a little van.”
You can’t blame Taylor for getting sick of the road after nearly 15 years touring music, and she is fully aware of the magic that touring brings to fans. “Gigs are special,” she adds. “There is something beautiful about gathering and witnessing something together. When we eventually go back to it, it will be an amazing experience.”
All this thought of future freedom got us thinking about life after lockdown. We discuss the excitement of seeing family again and returning to karaoke nights, although Taylor confesses, she is not one for going out much anymore. “It will be nice to meet at least one of the people I’ve been texting on Hinge though,” she admits. Not quite the ego boost of a whole choir singing your songs back to you, but an understandable motivator none the less.