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Bec Sandridge: Why Glasgow Is Like A Homecoming To Me

BEC Sandridge is introducing me to Elaine from Seinfeld: a cream and black Telecaster she likes to refer to as her “baby”. Bec bought her from GuitarGuitar, one of Scotland’s biggest guitar shops when she lived and busked there, aged 19. But there’ll be no homecoming for Elaine when she jets off to Europe this time. She’s taking a new pal on the road with her: a Fender Duo-Sonic, which she bought online from Sydney.

“It’s going to match my outfit more,” she jokes. “Plus it’s a bit more rock’n’roll than my Tele … I haven’t got a name for it yet, so let me know if you have any ideas?”

It’s the day before Bec heads off to Europe for three weeks, and there’s a mix of excitement and stress as she jams gear into road cases and shoves clothes in a bag. A self-described “over-preparer”, she’s fiddling with her passport as she contemplates how many power adapters she needs to put in her bag.

“I always forget one thing,” she says, laughing. “I just hope I’m weather ready, because the last couple of times I haven’t been in terms of my clothing. This time I’ve got some thermals and a rain jacket my pals made … It’s a stage outfit, a stage rain jacket. I’ve become obsessed with grey. Everything is literally grey, which might match the weather.”

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"Sadly putting some dude’s name on an email can allow you to book a show. So that’s how I booked my first run over there. This time I have a bit more support."

IT’S unseasonably warm on the night of Bec’s “homecoming” show in Glasgow, and local institution King Tut’s is filled with old friends and former flatmates. Oasis, Radiohead and The Verve famously played here in their formative years, and the stairs of the venue are emblazoned with the names of other significant acts that have performed here – from The Killers to Frightened Rabbit and Paulo Nutini.

“My friends definitely saw me shed a couple of tears backstage,” she says back in Melbourne, a few weeks later. “Classic quintessential emotional singer-songwriter Rebecca. It was amazing.”

The tour – which includes dates in Berlin, Amsterdam, London and Glasgow – marks a significant turning point for Bec. Back when she lived in Europe, she’d busk and play “mostly unplugged” house shows.

“Playing house shows is a nice way of having that grassroots growth,” she explains. “I played this house show in Edinburgh which I loved. It was in a flat and there were about 50 people squished in. It was roasting, which was weird for Scotland – everyone just getting sweaty in this flat. And everyone was there for the music. It was dead silent when I was playing which was really cool.”

Bec’s first run of European dates – including a “weird” show at one of the UK’s oldest cemeteries – was booked under a fake name. “I signed off as Ken, which is my dad’s name,” she says. “Sadly putting some dude’s name on an email can allow you to book a show. So that’s how I booked my first run over there. This time I have a bit more support over there.”

Sometimes people either stay in that little goldfish pond, or there’s a real need to leave. With me it was like, ‘I need to leave’.

Now she’s returning as a solo artist in her own right, with three EPs under her belt and a new single in tow. The propulsive and autobiographical ‘I’ll Never Want A BF’ is a song written about her mum’s misdirected attempt at matchmaking.

The song is best delivered at full volume, so Bec is bringing some “noisy things” on the road, including a case full of strange custom pedals and a drum machine. She’s coordinated all the logistics and booked every show – under her own name this time.

“I’m still building my team internationally,” she says. “I’m hoping to get a manager on board and a booking agent over there. I’ll probably busk a bit again and kinda build on what I’ve been doing.”

‘Gotta Leave This Town’

BEC says her upbringing in Stanwell Park – about an hour-and-a-half from Sydney on the NSW coast – has contributed to her nomadic career path. She played guitar through high school, but never really took music seriously until leaving her hometown for rainy Scotland. “Gotta leave this town,” she sang on her 2016 single ‘You’re A F******g Joke’.

“There’s not much there,” she says of Stanwell Park, a sleepy coastal village near Wollongong. “Sometimes people either stay in that little goldfish pond, or there’s a real need to leave. With me it was like, ‘I need to leave’.”

A chance and well-documented encounter with Passenger (aka chart-topping singer-songwriter Michael Rosenberg) kickstarted her career when she joined him on tour. But Bec has shifted further from the acoustic folk of her 2013 Wild Heart EP, developing a darker and more direct sound and steadily building a global fanbase with each passing release.

“The most growth I’ve noticed is working out how I want everything to come across. I want everything sonically to be intentional. I’ve become more confident in my writing which is really cool, but that just comes with time and practice.”

With so much downtime between shows, Bec plans to kill time on the road writing songs for her debut full-length album. She’s recording it with Oscar Dawson of Holy Holy, and hopes to have it out sometime in 2018. “I usually take this MIDI keyboard so I can pop it in my backpack and write on GarageBand,” she says.

So what kind of songs does she typically write on the road?

“The most growth I’ve noticed is working out how I want everything to come across. I want everything sonically to be intentional. I’ve become more confident in my writing which is really cool, but that just comes with time and practice.”

“You get quite introspective when you’re travelling by yourself, which can be good or bad. I’m such an anxious person so there comes a point where I’m like, ‘Actually, you’re just overthinking everything. You need to calm down.’ But sometimes you need to process stuff.”

Another highlight was getting to reacquaint herself with some of her fans in Germany – her “strongest fanbase” thanks to the internet – and a show at the historic Paradiso in Amsterdam as part of the London Calling Festival in late October.

“It was a full circle moment,” she says. “This time I got to to play a bunch of venues which I saw some of my favourite bands at which was really cool.”

But spare a thought for Elaine, who has seemingly been usurped by the shiny new Fender Bec travelled around Europe with. That guitar is fast becoming her new favourite – even though it’s still without a name, she says. “Maybe Kramer to run with the Seinfeld theme?”

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