Szou is a Manchester-based electro-pop act and one of the most exciting to hit the scene in a while. Her latest single ‘Dystopia’ is full of retro synths and booming bass lines while looking at the current situation in the world. We sat down with Szou to talk about the single, her future work and much more!
OSR: What drew you to the music industry?
Szou: I’ve been writing and producing music since age 12 and was brought up in a musical family that has always encouraged me to perform and create. I studied Drama at Uni in Manchester but by the time I graduated, it was clear that I still wanted to have a career in music. I don’t really see it as a case of being drawn to the industry. It just feels like an extension of me. I almost feel like I’ve been preparing for this for my whole life. I don’t really see a future for myself where I’m not doing something music-related in some capacity. If I can wake up every day and say I’m doing something I love, I’ll feel complete.
OSR: How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your music career?
Szou: Do you know what, it’s actually a bit of a weird one. I’ve been living down south for the past year or so, saving up money to move to Manchester and pursue music full time. In March, I finally moved and the pandemic started three weeks later so I had to move home again! Nightmare, although I do appreciate Mum occasionally doing my washing and cooking (laughs).
I think I’ve not allowed myself to feel down in the dumps about it though, even if it’s not been an ideal situation. I’ve been making music 9-5 every day to try and be as productive as I can. I’ve now got loads of new songs ready for release so the pandemic has given me the time to hone my craft a bit. I feel grateful that I had the opportunity. So many people right now are struggling.
OSR: What is your creative process?
Szou: It really depends. Sometimes I start with chords on my piano or a lyric that’s been in my head for ages. Sometimes I start with a synth or sample in logic. After the initial songwriting process is done, I move onto the whole production of the track. I’ve now started to get external people involved to help make my songs more professional. Artist and all-round good egg Ellie Dixon now mixes my tracks and ‘Cotton Socks’ AKA Shaun Taylor masters them. It’s great to get others perspective on it as producing alone can be incredibly isolating.
OSR: If you could open a show for another artist, who would that be?
Szou: Jack Garratt is someone I massively look up to in terms of performance. Either him or maybe Christine and the Queens.
OSR: Have you considered online shows during the lockdown?
Szou: Yes! So I did a DJ set to celebrate the release of my single ‘Dystopia’, out everywhere now (laughs). That was a laugh because my parents joined in and had a boogie, I’m a true dance music fan. I’m planning on doing a live stream performing all my new tunes in the near future so keep an eye out on my socials.
OSR: If you could change anything about the music industry, what would be it?
Szou: I would consider myself to be at an early stage of my career so there is so much more I need to learn about the industry itself. However, I’m aware that female producers and artists need to have a bigger presence on the global music stage. Only 2% of music producers are women. It’s almost unbelievable. My mindset is that if only 2% are female producers in the industry overall, how many commercial pop tracks are produced by women? Even if we look at the big female artists like Beyonce and Adele, how many of their tracks have been produced by women? Virtually zero. It means we are still hearing a ‘male sound’ even with a woman’s name on the project. I’m always on the hunt for a female ‘sound’ where women’s creative input makes up all aspects of a track.
OSR: What would you like listeners to take away from ‘Dystopia’?
Szou: That the end of the world can also be groovy! No, but in all seriousness, this pandemic is shit but there has to be light at the end of the tunnel. There has to be, its the only thing that helps us get through it.
OSR: Does this single hold any personal or special meaning for you?
Szou: Yes, of course, all my songs come from a deep place in my brain that I can’t articulate normally. This one is particularly special to me because I’ve loved science fiction books and films since my early teens. As the severity of the pandemic became apparent in March, I couldn’t help but draw the comparisons between the empty supermarket shelves and the dystopia’s found in films like How I Live Now, The Handmaid’s Tale and in novels like 1984. It was almost this weird realisation that my escapism had become a reality.
OSR: Once travel restrictions have been lifted, do you intend touring? If so, where?
Szou: So I plan on settling into the Manchester music scene when I finally move back. As much as there is a great electronic dance scene in Manchester, there aren’t that many big female pop acts to come out of the city. I’m hoping to switch it up a bit and play every venue that will have me, spreading the electro-pop love. Then eventually, gigs elsewhere will be the next move.
OSR: Do you have a special message for your fans?
Szou: The fact you like my music means I’m doing the right thing and I’m on the right track. Thank you for giving me this confidence to properly pursue this whole music thing. I’m more grateful than you’ll ever know.