DozenQ – Gavin Chappell-Bates

This entry is part 17 of 19 in the series DozenQ 4

Gavin Chappell-Bates is a singer, guitarist, songwriter and live looper from Cambridgeshire, England performing effervescent emotive yin/yang indie pop. His music shape shifts from acoustic balladry to punk to Britpop to anthemic alternative rock. He sings songs about growing up, politics, suicide, love, hope and determination.

Gavin features regularly on BBC Introducing, and other radio stations worldwide, and has been played nationally by Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music and XFM and Amazing Radio DJ Jim Gellatly. He was nominated for Best Male Solo Artist in the 2015 NMG Awards.

After playing in various local bands, Gavin decided in 2014 to embark on a solo career. He released his first EP – ‘Black Holes’ – in February 2015, followed by second single – ’95’ – in July. His third release – ‘We Are The Ones’ – was released on 5 October 2015. His debut album, recorded by James Coppolaro at Mix 66, will be out early 2016. Friends, family and fans voted for their favourite songs to appear on the album.

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We caught up with Gavin recently on his travels…

01. How did you get started in music?

I picked up the guitar around the age of eleven inspired by some of my friends who were playing and from being introduced to The Beatles. I had a couple of lessons from Ezio’s Booga to begin with but then I began to teach myself, both to play the guitar and to sing.

02 .Where did your direction come from?

I think a lot of my early musical direction came from trying to prove people wrong. My family didn’t think I’d stick with the guitar and then, once I’d been playing a while, I was a figure of fun at school for my ability and passion. I suffered with depression and anxiety and would often just lock myself away in my bedroom with my guitar. It, therefore, became my way of getting through dark times. It was my solace and my only real friend so my playing and song writing stemmed from that.

03. Who were your major influences and inspirations?

The Beatles were my first major influence, and that followed into some other rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Buddy Holly. I then discovered rock music and became a big Aerosmith fan. My ambition was to be able to play the guitar like Joe Perry (I’m still working on that!). I was then lucky enough to be growing up in the 90s so I was surrounded by Britpop, alternative and grunge music. I was, and still am, heavily influenced by bands like Placebo, Suede and The Smashing Pumpkins. My biggest influence, however, has been Manic Street Preachers. When I was a teenager and I first discovered their music so much opened up for me. I heavily related to their music, lyrics and style. I knew from the first seconds of listening to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ that they would be my most important influence now and forever. That is still the case.

04. What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?

All of my influences and experiences go into the music I make but I am very determined to write songs that are uplifting, positive and emotionally resonant. Whilst there are darker elements to my forthcoming debut album, I hope people can find some kind of cathartic experience in them. It is all about letting go, moving forward and turning things into something positive. My current single ‘We Are The Ones’ is a good example of that.

05. What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your shows?

Because my songs are written and recorded as full band arrangements and I am a solo artist, I live loop on stage. I transform my songs and play variations of what people will hear on the recordings. I layer things up to create a big sound and so I can covey that same feeling of euphoria that is on the recordings.

06. How do you begin writing your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

Sometimes I just sit down with my guitar and play around until something happens. Mostly this is completely unintentional (i.e. I am not trying to write a song). With lyrics, I have a pad that I keep close by and I am constantly jotting down ideas, themes and lyrics that come into my head. I am already starting to write my second album which will have a clear theme running all the way through so I am constantly adding bits to that musically and lyrically.

In terms of themes; as mentioned earlier, I want my songs to be positive mainly, but I am looking at the whole cycle of life. Birth, death, love, loss, our place in the universe, society, politics, etc. I studied philosophy at university and am therefore heavily interested in politics so that comes out in some of my music. I am, however, more interested in the ability of human’s to achieve greatness and push ourselves on to better things.

07. How has your music evolved since you first began playing?

I hope it has evolved quite a lot. When I read back through my early lyrics they were very adolescent and highly influenced from the pain and anguish I was feeling at the time. My lyrics are a lot brighter now and (hopefully) more mature. Musically, I understand a lot more now about the structure of songs and melody. I have also stopped trying to rip off my favourite artists and instead am just writing songs that come naturally. I am sure their influence can still be heard in my music but in a non-deliberate way.

08. What has been your biggest challenge? How were you able to overcome this?

Anxiety and depression. That is not the friend of a performer. It meant for many years that I didn’t get on stage. When I did it was almost physically unbearable. It also meant that I didn’t engage with the audience and I probably came across as quite rude. Whilst I still get nervous I understand that the most important people in the room are the audience and I am there to make them feel good. Engaging them is such an important part of being a musician, and that includes talking with them after the show and finding out what they thought. I faced up to my mental health issues a few years ago and since then it has become a lot easier to perform. Not only that but I was holding myself back musically. When I finally released myself was when I started my solo career and planning my debut album, something I’d always dreamed of doing.

09. If you could pick any song, what would you like to cover most and why?

The one song I often cover at gigs is ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E King. It is such a beautiful song, lyrically and melodically. I have put my spin on it though and I am hoping to record that in the near future.

10. Where do you envisage being in five years time?

I currently work part-time to pay the bills so I hope that in five years’ time I won’t have to. I’m no longer a 12 year old boy looking for fame and adulation, I just want to be playing music to people that enjoy what I do. I hope to have a core fan base and be touring and recording regularly.

11. Who would you most like to record with?

I don’t think I’d cope in the studio with many of my major idols, the pressure of recording is hard enough as it is. I am thinking about quite a few collaborations for my second album however. There are so many talented musicians in the Cambridge scene who I would love to work with. So that may include people like Bouquet of Dead Crows, as well as some Taiko drumming, choirs, orchestras and possibly even some rapping (not from me)!

12. What should we be expecting from you in the near future?

My debut album will be out in spring 2016. This will be accompanied by a full UK tour. I’ll then be hitting the festival circuit before looking to tour Europe later in the year. I’ll see where that all takes me but then I’ll be looking to record album number 2 as I have lots of ideas and demos bubbling away for that!

Web links:


Tour dates:

My next tour will be in Spring 2016 to support the release of my debut album but I have a few local gigs dates before Christmas:

31 October – Norwich Arts Centre
6 November – The Portland Arms, Cambridge
7 November – The George, Huntingdon
26 November – The Oliver Cromwell, St. Ives
19 December – The Pembroke Arms, Biggleswade

All gig info can be found here:

*Link to buy the current single: ‘We Are The Ones’

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