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Former ITB agent Phyllis Belezos goes independent

Veteran booking agent Phyllis Belezos has launched a new international talent booking and consultancy agency, Heliocentric Entertainment.

Belezos leaves her position as booking agent at ITB (International Talent Booking) after more than 18 years at the UK-based agency.

During her two-decade-long career, she has worked with a range of artists such as Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Massive Attack, Fatboy Slim, Bjork, Ice T, Nancy Sinatra and Robert Plant, as well a roster of acts that included Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Brandi Carlile, Bernhoft, WAR, Sam Palladio, Vintage Trouble, Emiliana Torrini and House of Pain.

“I’m so excited to start this new venture and I feel like the last couple of years have cemented what I’ve wanted to achieve in my career and life,” says Belezos.

“I live and breathe music and being able to help artists develop and succeed is my main goal and objective”

“I live and breathe music and being able to help artists develop and succeed is my main goal and objective. I’m grateful for all the experience and knowledge I’ve had so far and ready for the next chapter.”

Heliocentric’s roster includes both established and emerging talent including Bernhoft, Bright Light Bright Light, Callaghan, Darin, Holloway Road, Jonathan Jackson + Enation, July 7.

According to the website, the agency offers its clients “a specialised plan on projects in the arts and music world by providing guidance on global touring, assembling the right core team and organising logistics”.

“We connect talent, brands & businesses, enabling them to stage memorable events, share remarkable music, tell significant stories, whilst booking their live performances throughout the world.”

Kyle Daniel, Little Barrie, Lydmor, Megan O’Neill, Sonia Stein, Sarah Darling, Sam Palladio, Tebey, Tom Bright, Vincent Darby and WAR are also on the agency’s roster.

 


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From Parton to Musgraves: All roads lead to country

“Everyone is talking about country music now,” I can hear someone saying to their friend who is checking out the current swag in the stalls at Country to Country (C2C) Festival in London. “It’s suddenly cool now.”

For years, the genre was associated with the Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw die-hards, and further back to the George Straits, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard eras. But anyone who knows their music understands that just as rock music was born from the influence of blues and jazz, so has the umbrella of country music that crosses over from folk to Americana to bluegrass to pop.

Ten years ago, if you mentioned country music, you were likely to chat about the icons of the industry, and the chances of seeing them live outside of North America were slim, as the cost of bringing their stage shows to the UK, Europe and beyond was too high.

Push forward to the present day and people are talking. Promoters are finding the interest in concerts and events surging and festivals are selling out.

People are listening, buying and relishing in all that there is to hear – and there’s a lot.

People are listening, buying and relishing in all that there is to hear – and there’s a lot

We had our Dolly Parton moment (one of the biggest crowds Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage has seen) and C2C had just had its most successful year to-date including expanded dates in Glasgow, Dublin, Amsterdam and Berlin.

New artists like Lukas Nelson (his father’s namesake has made a huge splash in the country world and is touring worldwide), Thomas Rhett, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Chris Stapleton, the list goes on.

Successful TV shows like Nashville have expanded the fan base and paved the way for artists of the programme to continue their musical journey (Charles Esten recently completed a sold-out tour of Europe and Sam Palladio sold out his first UK headline show at the Roundhouse).

But what can we expect for future artists and the business? How dedicated we as industry professionals are in helping to develop these artists achieve a successful career is key, and so far, the future looks bright. National gem “Whispering” Bob Harris has been a huge influence from his early days with The Old Grey Whistle Test, to introducing new artists through his Under the Apple Tree Sessions and hosted stages at festivals around the UK. It was here that I was first introduced to one of the most talented home-grown Americana artists in the UK, Robert Vincent (winner of Best Album at the UK Americana Awards 2018).

There are radio programmes like Chris Country, and Bauer recently debuted the UK’s first national country radio station (Country Hits Radio). New festivals like Black Deer, The Long Road and Nashville Meets London, along with SummerTyne Americana Festival, Ramblin’ Roots and River Town have all been huge supports to these artists. And I look forward to seeing more country/Americana/folk artists crossover to other mainstream festivals as the demand is there.

Hopefully, one day country artists will just be considered ‘artists’

It’s great to see that people are taking the music and the artists more seriously, and the fan base is quite diverse. Artists are not only on country music radio and album charts.

But who decides what ‘country music’ is? As is the recent story with rapper Lil Nas X whose song Old Town Road was removed from Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart because “it does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current form.” He is currently on course for a Top 5 with said single in the UK Official Charts.

Women in country have set a huge standard as well and brought a lot more attention to international audiences, including Grammy award-winning acts like Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile (most nominated female artist at this year’s awards). Ward Thomas set a precedent in the UK as the first UK country act to have a number-one album in the Official Music Charts.

UK acts like The Shires and Wandering Hearts, alongside US acts like Striking Matches, Sarah Darling and Kelsea Ballerini, are all setting the tone and bringing young audiences on board. It is critically important to help these artists develop and grow and allow more for emerging acts such as Jarrod Dickenson, Kyle Daniel, Megan O’Neill, Laura Oakes etc.

It’s human nature to want to tick a box and list an influence or genre but just as the hope one day is that there isn’t a focus on age or sex, hopefully one day country artists will just be considered ‘artists’.

 


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New signings & rising stars (Mar–Apr 2019)

MarthaGunn (UK)

Agent: Steve Backman and Stefan Romer, Primary Talent

This five-piece band formed in Brighton and are named after a local heroine known as “the priestess of the bath.” Drawing from the bandmates’ various influences, MarthaGunn are mining an eclectic mix of the ’70s, indie- rock and classically tinged pop music.

A large proportion of the last year has been spent in a remote house in Wales, writing what will be the band’s next batch of releases and eventual first album. During this period they have also toured with AnnenMayKantereit in Germany and Austria, and Findlay and Blind Pilot in the UK, and have played a number of festivals including Kendal Calling, the Great Escape and Womad.

 


Arielle

Arielle (US)

Agent: Phyllis Belezos, ITB

A music industry triple threat, Arielle could enjoy an impressive career solely either as a singer or songwriter or guitar player, but has combined all three of those gifts to create a unique artistry that defies genres and borders.

She opened for Eric Johnson on his three-month US tour last year, and has also supported and played with the likes of Vince Gill, Gregg Allman, Heart, Joan Jett, Country Joe McDonald, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons, and many more. Arielle has already made the cover of Guitar Player magazine and released the single ‘California’, which reached no3 on the CMT Pure Country chart, while her most recent release, ‘My Gypsy Heart’, debuted for eight weeks in the Billboard charts in 11 different categories.

Arielle was the guitar player for Avery in the TV show Nashville (also the city where she currently resides), and the purity of her four-octave voice draws comparison to Karen Carpenter and Eva Cassidy.

 


Morgane Ji

Morgane Ji (Fr)

Agent: Markus Rogue, Agents 4 Music

Morgane Ji is the perfect example of the successful blending of multiple ancestries with her African, Indian and Asian roots. As for her style and aesthetic approach, no one has managed to pigeonhole her; she strives to create the unexpected.

A pop-rock musician and practitioner of world electronic music, Reunion-born Morgane Ji is immediately recognisable thanks to her unique voice: protean, raspy, soft, animal-like. Her wide vocal range, melodic lines and shamanic cries offer audiences entertainment and excitement, as her performances feel like journeys through deep emotional and visual worlds.

Her album, Woman Soldier, was released last year to critical acclaim. She will be taking her unique talents to Colombia in March for two shows, and appearing at festivals in Russia, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands this summer.

 


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