Annie Nightingale MBE is one of Britain’s best loved and well known radio presenters. She was the first ever female presenter on BBC Radio 1 and is now the stations longest serving ambassador. Playing an eclectic mix of new music on her weekend show, writing for television documentaries and DJ’ing at the biggest festivals in the country makes Annie one of the most recognisable presenters in the UK today.
Annie, who judged Live and Unsigned last year, is now preparing to sit on the panel again as she’s set to judge at some of the live shows for 2010. Live and Unsigned caught up with her to find out what she’ll be looking for as a judge this year, what advice she has for new musicians and to talk about that bet with The Clash…
L&U: You judged Live and Unsigned last year. What did you look for in bands then, and what will you be looking for this year?
Annie: I think you are always looking for originality. I’ll be looking out for something that I’ve never heard before, something that jumps out. It could be any genre or style. I also think it’s important to see people enjoying themselves. There are so many reality shows out there and people end up copying someone else and it all becomes rather generic. I think the worst thing you can do is copy another artist. I want to see commitment and creativity and not playing it safe – I want to see more crazy!
L&U: Do you have any other tips for acts taking part in Live and Unsigned this year?
Annie: Be passionate and be committed. It’s all about confidence. I also think honesty is great – there’s something endearing about someone making a mistake or perhaps not being completely polished. Don’t try too hard to be anyone else and believe in yourself.
L&U: How should the winner of Live and Unsigned capitalise on their success?
Annie: This is great exposure – competing in a competition like this will get you recognised and winning it will attract interest. But there’s a lot more to it, it’s a long haul to be successful in this industry. I think bands need to ensure they are getting out there and building a fan base and getting hits on You Tube. Then it’s about finding the right people to represent you – making sure you have good people around you that can open doors. If you’ve got the talent, you just need to surround yourself with people who believe in it and can represent you in the right manner.
L&U: How important is social networking for bands to get recognised?
Annie: I think it’s very important. Lily Allen says that’s how she was recognised, through You Tube. I think acts taking part in Live and Unsigned will already be getting themselves out there, and I think that’s the most important thing. You need to be going to gigs, getting your name known and making something happen.
L&U: With the amount of demos you get sent a week, what makes a track stand out for you?
Annie: It’s got to be different. It’s got to make me think ‘oh, I’ve not heard something like this before.’ Some people send demos purely to see what you think. But unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time so I’ll only really pick up on something that is amazing. Before a band sends a demo, they should make sure it’s the best thing they’ve done. I also think it’s crucial to put the good stuff at the start! If you have a fantastic musical idea, put at the start of the song and get people interested!
L&U: Any artists at the moment that stand out for you?
Annie: There are too many! I think Tinie Tempah, N-Dubz and Dizzee are creating the most interesting pop music at the moment. I’m a big fan of drum n bass and like Doorly and Drumsound and Bassline Smith.
L&U: You’re the longest serving ambassador for Radio 1 – how do you feel about that?
Annie: I don’t quite know how it happened! I’m so busy I never really have time to look back. I am always looking to the future. I can’t quite believe it – it’s been great!
L&U: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at Radio 1?
Annie: Norman Cook actually text me about this last week! When The Clash released London Calling, I bet them it would go into the top 10 and I bet them a Cadillac that it would. Well, it actually went into the charts at number 11 and I was left wondering how I was going to get the band a Cadillac! A listener phoned in and said he had an old one and would have it delivered to the Radio 1 studio. He went to quite a lot of trouble to have it delivered and when it finally arrived The Clash were very grateful but simply said ‘We don’t drive!’ Which was quite funny! In the end they auctioned it off for charity.
L&U: What’s the best thing about presenting on the radio?
Annie: I love music and I get to listen to it all the time! It’s a dream job. I have always been emotionally involved in music and I would have loved to have been in a band. Unfortunately I can’t sing or play any instruments, so this is the next best thing!
L&U: What’s your favourite kind of music?
Annie: That’s hard to answer. I love the fact that music is changing. We have a fantastic youth culture in this country which we should definitely continue to encourage. I have always encouraged new music.
L&U: What do you think the internet has done to the music industry?
Annie: I think it’s a music culture, and the digital age has certainly changed things. Music is so accessible nowadays. I often find myself going on ITunes and buying songs I already have on vinyl, just because I can.
L&U: If you weren’t a radio presenter, what would you be doing?
Annie: I would be keen to work in movies. Working on music in movies would be great.
L&U: Tell us something people won’t know about you?
Annie: I am really into architecture.
L&U: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Annie: To be yourself. I understand that can be difficult at times, but I think you should always keep that in mind.
L&U: What one thing has happened in your life that has affected where you are today?
Annie: I was on holiday in Cuba once and I was mugged. I had my leg broken in three places and it was a really serious incident and definitely shook me up. But I think you can choose to be beaten in situations like that or stand up and be stronger – which is what I did. It was quite inspiring in a way as I found a lot of inner strength that I didn’t realise I had.
L&U: What’s your philosophy in life?
Annie: If something bad happens, put it behind you and try to get on with life. And don’t harbour grudges.
L&U: Finish this sentence ‘I like music because…’
Annie: It lifts me up. It’s very mood altering and can draw people together through a common interest. It brings elation and I love it!
For more info on Live and Unsigned click here