The line-up for the Festival, which is organised by local music promotion agency, The Listening Post, on behalf of Causeway Coast & Glens Council, and funded by participating venues in Portstewart will focus on local artists including Mark Blair, Claire Hill, Gary Anderson, Toni Whitten, and one of Portstewart’s own musical success stories – Tony Wright aka VerseChorusVerse. In addition the festival will showcase song-writing talent from further afield, including English anarcho-folk songwriter, James ‘Bar’ Bowen; Derry’s John Ross; Bangor-based troubadour Stephen Macartney, festival favourites No Oil Paintings; and Katie Richardson’s latest stunning musical incarnation, Goldie Fawn.
Amanda Agnew is a Singer / Songwriter from Bangor. Her latest EP, Think Of You, was recorded in Sony Studios in Nashville. Amanda’s style can be described as Folk / Alternative Country, and her songs and voice have an earnest quality and a broad appeal.
Amanda has been writing and performing her original material since 2011, and her debut EP was Haven’t Met You which was released that year. She has played live on WSM Radio at the Opry 650AM, and local radio stations including Downtown Radio, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales.
Amanda has been Special Guest for Jenn Bostic, Dave Gunning, David C. Clements, Danny And The Champions Of The World, The 4 Of Us and recently sang on stage with Sam Wickens at The Waterfront, Belfast in November. Amanda sold out her first Showcase in Ards Arts Centre in 2015.
Amanda was one of 4 performers to showcase at the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, at the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, Most recently, Amanda has performed there sharing the Showcase in October 2015 as Special Guest with Tony Arata, also alongside Benita Hill (hit songwriter for Garth Brooks), Lee Roy Parnel, and in Belfast with Jim Lauderdale, Brian Houston, Iain Archer, Scott Miller, Farriers, and Gallagher and Lyle, and has co-written with Stephen Macartney, Thomm Jutz, and Gareth Dunlop. Most recently, Amanda has performed there sharing the Showcase in October 2015 as Special Guest with Tony Arata. Her performances earned her a nomination for Best Female Artist 2015 with Pure M Awards.
Amanda opened for JD and the Straight shot this year at the Belfast Empire Music Hall and Bagatelle on their last ever tour. Amanda is currently recording her third EP and is delighted to be performing at this year’s Portstewart songwriter’s festival.
Andy John Bradford is a Singer Songwriter from the North East of England who as a boy always had a keen interest in music and the guitar. He learned to put together a tune and play the basic chords of his Jumbo sized Echo 6-string with the aid of his teacher & mentor.
Learnt the art of song-writing with the help of his song writing heroes of the era namely Tom Paxton, John Denver, Van Morrison and others of that ilk, Andy had a heart for rock but a voice for folk, going on to win the coveted Folk Song of the Year award with the song "Hero" a tune dedicated to the heroes who fought and fell in the First World War. Constantly writing he massed up a number of memorable songs and was soon writing for and with others around the country. In 1994 he co-wrote with his long-time friend Martin Dawson of Skipton, the award winning album "The Sentinel" a collection of self-penned tunes dedicated to the local community in and around Skipton Northern Yorkshire.
He then moved on to pastures new and moved over to Northern Ireland where he is still living.
2008 Andy released the album "Join The Dance" which was produced by friend and Grammy Nominated Recording artist Vinnie James. It included a new recording of the song “Hero”, amassing critical acclaim both at home and abroad. With extensive gigging around the UK and constant writing, Andy has built up quite a reputation and has been lucky enough to share the stage with some of the most influential artists and bands in the business including: West Yorkshire based band Smokie, Tom Paxton and Christie Moore also playing alongside The Saw Doctors and supporting Dr & The Medics.
In 2011, enjoying recording with fellow musician Colin Tench of Sweden, they recruited musicians from around the globe into the fold to create a fuller and stronger sound, eventually recording an album and performing as Oceans 5.
Claire Hill is a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Portstewart. She released her debut EP 'The Otherside' in 2012 and since then she has continued to write and perform. Recent performances include showcases at the Belfast Nashville Festival, Atlantic Sessions, last year’s Portstewart Songwriters Festival and the NI Live SOLO event, supporting Dana Masters. Her music is a mix of acoustic-folk, taking influences from Glen Hansard, Snow Patrol, The Corrs and The Beautiful South.
Coleraine born Guitarist and Singer-songwriter Gary Anderson burst on to the local music scene 2 years ago with the rock/pop local cover band Cellar Door.
Since then Gary has been performing live all across the North Coast with his band mates in various formats every weekend, from solo act to a full 4 piece band. Always energetic, with an ability to involve everyone in the room, Gary is as entertaining as they come.
This year Gary is performing his very own songs for the first time. Recently penned he is unleashing them for the first time here at the Portstewart Songwriters festival.
An amazing career is blossoming for this charming songster.....so make sure you don't miss the opportunity to be at the curtain raising of one of the most exciting talents around.
"Highly energetic, with an intoxicating performance" :- Barry White, Vanbar associates
Goldie Fawn is the new musical project of Katie Richardson. With her previous band, Katie and the Carnival, she shared a stage and worked with many artists such as Duke Special, Van Morrison and Foy Vance. The music is dark, harmony driven alt-pop with influences from folk, electronica and indie. Katie is about to become Artist in Residence, in The Mac Belfast where she will be working on immersive, theatrical ways to present live music. This year she will also travel to Chicago to work on a musical commissions for 2017. She also recently completed a score for short film 'The Death of a Projectionist' by BAFTA award winning Out of Orbit Films.
Goldie Fawn release their debut EP in May.
A political, acoustic folk-punk singer-songwriter playing original folk-punk tunes on his acoustic guitar. Bar has toured all over UK, Europe, NZ and USA, in recent times, having played squats, radical bars and clubs as well as squatted trailer parks, anti-fascist benefit and anarchofolk gigs across England, Scotland, Scandanavia & Western Europe. With music in a protest singer-songwriter style, influences from folk, punk, ska, pop and bluegrass, but a voice and guitar style that are individual, unusual and original. Bar’s influences range from Billy Bragg, Stiff Little Fingers and Buddy Holly to the greats of political folk (Dick Gaughan, Christy Moore, Robb Johnson) and like them, he strongly believe in performing both as an entertainer and story-teller as well as singing his songs. Winner of the Raise Your Banners Festival of Political Song songwriting competition in 2009 (with Never Never Land), Bar continue to write from a variety of perspectives, some narrative, some lyrical, some deadly serious and political and some light-hearted. With an obvious love for playing gigs, whether small and intimate cafes, bars and house concerts or big venues and festival stages, Bar has gigged with such luminaries as Attila the Stockbroker, Robb Johnson, The Men They Couldn't Hang, Oi! Polloi and Miss Quincy, and is always on the look out for gigs in interesting venues with interesting crowds, which is what brings this anarchofolk troubadour from Huddersfield to Portstewart.
Eschewing the corporate recording industry in favour of a DIY approach, Bar has recorded a number of albums, most recently Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? (2012), Heresy and Hearsay (2011), and EPs Brass Tracks (2012), A Normal Day (2010). His songs and performance are original, relevant, sarcastic, political, optimistic, poetic, multilingual and sometimes even beautiful.
John Ross is a Derry-Londonderry born singer-songwriter, who haing worked within the industry for years, is now focusing more on the singing and the playing of his new songs. During periods on the road with artists such as Soak, George Ezra, Bombay Bicycle Club and Tegan & Sara, John has been writing, learning and growing his own catalogue of honest, melodic, and - when needed - up-beat material. John has played in festival line-ups at North by North-West, Jammboree, Carnival of Colours and Music City. While also working in his roles as manager, tour manager and promoter he has now found his voice and will be releasing his first single ‘Big Changes’ this spring. Recently supporting SOAK, the review stated…
“bringing contemplative and gritty lyrics….’Use Me’ a song that tricks you into thoughts of being used, and who want’s that? Until he moves to the chorus “why don’t you use me anymore” with a punch!” (Culture Hub – Eclectic Belfast – writer Stacey Fitzpatrick.)
The reflection coming back from audiences at John’s most recent gigs of 2016 is that the soft local accent and tone of his voice can’t be mistaken for anybody’s but his own. Having carefully taken his time to work on his voice daily, whilst walking his dog in the woods each morning, there’s no mistaking where he’s from and the control he has developed with it.
“I Feel You’ is a song mostly sung in forcetto, clearly defining the thoughts and feelings of great loss and the spirit that remains.” (Review quote from 3 Wi3E fOLk” @ Bennigan’s March ’16.)
John has been practicing, watching passionately and writing for 10 years. This year he has decided the trust in his songs has grown and wants them to be heard by a wider audience. It will be great to see the reaction to his newly released material throughout 2016.
A singer-songwriter hailing from the North Coast with a playing style that shifts from song to song. Kieron O'Grady has a wide range of influences including Nirvana, dEUS, Low and Nick Drake. Currently working on his first official EP, his melodious yet fiery and impassioned style oscillates with intent between harmony and discord. Although playing and writing for some time, Keiron’s transition to the stage has been more recent, performing at Open Mic events in the area before taking last year’s Atlantic Sessions festival by storm.
"A hero to dogs and men. Champion of the lone goat, defender of the guttersquirrel." - The Ahoghill Times
Hailing from the north-coast of Northern Ireland, Mark Blair - former songwriter with local rock-blues sensations, The Red Velvetines - has branched out on his own to share songs of beauty, anger and redemption. Reaching across genres, avoiding the constraints of pigeon-holing, to produce the sound most suiting the song. He has adapted his bluesy sound to be contemporary whilst keeping his roots firmly with the past masters. Mark is heavily influenced by visionaries like Peter Green, The Rolling Stones and more recently Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who recreated roots music for a more modern appeal.
No Oil Paintings are a four piece band consisting of Guitar, Banjo, Bass and Drums with 4 part vocal harmonies. Coming off the back of a very busy year consisting of their first eponymously-titled E.P release in June, and being the in-house band for the incredible Open House Festival in Bangor, the band already have their new single set to be released in April. They strive to transform the use of typical folk instrumentation into something a little more raucous and have previously been described as punky - bluegrass - folk.
Sons of guns are a 2 piece indie folk band based in Antrim. Having both previously played in other local bands, the two friends have decided to write music true to themselves, and have been doing so for the last few months.
With their debut EP currently being recorded and having already taken the Belfast Empire’s stage for Gifted, the band are already making an impact on the local scene. 2016 looks promising for the young duo.
Singing catchy folk and Americana influenced songs, Stef is a “guitar-wielding storyteller” (folkandtumble.com), “stringing sentiments together most beautifully and intelligently” (DestinationNewry.com), influenced by The Staves, First Aid Kit, Bon Iver, Gin Wigmore, The National and others.
Stef has been performing since 2012, with a break in 2013-2014 on the birth of her daughter. Now returning to regular performing, Stef is preparing new material for live performance and recording in late 2016.
With performances at the Atlantic Sessions (including an intimate Brunch session with Ralph McClean), Maiden City Festival, Hilden Beer Festival, Sunflowerfest, Stef has also had the pleasure of sharing a stage with some amazing local talent, such as Andrew Farmer, Ciaran Lavery, Rachel Austin, Katie Richardson and Master & Dog. She has had radio play, with a live session with both Blast 106 and Ralph McClean’s Local Voices, as well as several internet radio shows (E.g., aiiradio.net, FRQ.net) and a TV performance on TG4’s The “Roisin Show”.
Stef has released two EPs (“Bad Girl Boots” and “Take Me Home”, both available now at http://www.stefcampbell.bandcamp.com as well as iTunes, Amazon and to stream on Spotify.
Having honed his song writing for over twenty years, Stephen Macartney has found a unique and honest voice that blends folk traditions from America with those closer to his native Northern Ireland.
Macartney has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his delicately crafted songs that speak powerfully about hope, truthfully about regret and mournfully about liquor.
Having performed shows in the UK and Ireland, the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, Stephen has well and truly found a place in the vein of the wayfaring songsmith.
Toni Whitten is a singer songwriter who is currently based in Belfast. Her influences include Nirvana, Bright Eyes, Laura Marling, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrisette; music that can be a friend during the best and worst times. She began writing at 13 and playing at various small venues around the North Coast and beyond since age 15. She currently studies at Queen's University Belfast whilst enjoying writing and performing.
VerseChorusVerse is the musical moniker for North Coast musician, songwriter & all round musica maelstrom, Tony Wright. Never one fond of being bound by genre, he is best described as a folk/blues/alt/balladeer/stomper!
An integral founding member of ASIWYFA, he left in 2011 to literally let his voice be heard.
In the past 5 years he has released 3 critically acclaimed EPs, one being a collection of lo-fi acoustic covers by his favourite alt/punk artists such as Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Nirvana & The Clash with all proceeds going to local Action Cancer charities and First Fortnight.
In 2014 he released his lauded by fans and critics alike, debut solo album, produced by Ivor Novello & Grammy award winning ex-Snow Patroller, Iain Archer (Jake Bugg, James Bay). Late last year he released his second, "Say & Do", with MOBO nominated Producer & Jazz Musician, David Lyttle, with little fanfare or warning.
They were amazed when it peaked at 21 on the UK album charts & twice hit Number 1 on the Amazon Blues Charts, making it the most successful release he has ever been involved in.
He has toured UK, Ireland & Europe extensively with artists such as Jesse Malin, Devin Townsend, Daniel Johnston, Duke Special & Tim Wheeler, & soon leaves for the US.
He is known for his passionate live performances as well as his effortless genre hopping and storytelling.
Based on the North Coast of Northern Ireland and displaying a deep passion for the blues Lonesome Highway Blues Band are no strangers to the local music scene, each having played in various bands over the years. Still each was looking for an outlet for the music that inspired them the most...The Blues.
Since the bands formation in 2015 they continue to generate interest with gigs and festivals locally.
Continually writing their own material they play a mix of covers and original songs and promise to bring new life to static feet.
Band Members Pete Simpson Guitar and Vocals; Drums Rob Cardwell; Bass B.J Davidson; Keyboard Roger Patterson