I’m sitting in NuSoul Studios in Woodingdean – “the coolest & best rehearsal, recording, video & compact venue space locally” – talking to producer Simon Hill and singing coach Gary Whalen who run the studios and Millie, Maisie and Keira, three smart young women who are the vocal group NuSoul Union. Well, there’s a fourth, Libby, but she’s not here – “She’s a bit quiet at the moment, but she’s here in spirit” says Millie, who, at 18, is the oldest of the group.
“So I’m the mother of the group”.
Are you sure you want to be seen like that? I ask, and she laughs.
The idea of NuSoul Union came to Simon and Gary a few years ago and different members have come and gone, but the line up has been settled since Keira joined almost two years ago. Now, they’ve got the together thing, the ‘finish each other’s sentences’ together thing.
We’re talking about what they do and how they do it and Simon said “a very big part of the reason it works is that they have four very different voices. Okay, even the kind of bands you could possibly compare them with like En Vogue or Destiny’s Child” – if you’re going to set a bar, set it high – “they’ve not got particularly different voices. They’re all great singers, but what we do is something different, we’ve got four very different voices.”
What do you mean, different voices? Do you mean like The Temptations or something where you have a very low, bass guy and…
“Let’s show you” said Gary. And they get up and walk over to the white grand piano – yes, there’s really a white grand piano in the studio – and break into a beautiful accapella version of their single “Boy” which is just lovely. They float in and out of the song, enjoying the moment in a way that people who are good and know they’re good do. I was going to say “effortlessly” but it’s far from effortless. They’ve really worked at their craft. They come in every day.
“Yes, every day” said Millie.
“Every single day” said Keira.
And what do you do, every single day?
“So we do individual lessons to work on our voices independently to stretch, do whatever we need to work on, songwriting and all of that stuff, work on new songs. Make sure the harmonies work, everything’s tight. We’re also working on everything else, dress, clothes, appearance, moves, dance, all that”
“And then we have our college as well, which is also here”. They’re studying for a Music Business diploma at Sutton District College, where Gary is Head of Performing Arts. There’s a branch in Woodingdean.
“It’s kind of just everything to do with the music industry. So yeah, we’re in college. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Brighton School of Singing on Monday”.
Since Christmas they’ve played the Brunswick and Shortts Bar in Kemptown, and they’ve got a new EP in the pipeline which they played under a promise “Please don’t share it” and which, OK, I won’t share but I will say it’s blimmin lovely and completely blows away the idea that it’s been largely made by three 16 year olds and an 18 year old.
What’s the best bit, what do you like doing best? “I think the best part is just been able to do it together. We’ve done solo stuff as well, and even though that’s like fun to do, it’s just nicer doing it with your friends. Yeah.”