When I first spoke to head judge and founder of Open Mic Uk, Chris Grayston last year, he was just starting regional heats. Now singer songwriter Heidi Browne has been crowned this years winner, I caught up with Chris to get his view on this years competition.
In what was a strong year for talented performers and writers, it was Heidi that caught the attention of the judges. “We're really pleased...I think what stood out for her winning it was her song was instantly appealing, you could see it being a single. It had a lot of potential.” The self penned song Heidi performed at the competition, G.I.R.L.F.R.I.E.N.D, is fun and incredibly catchy. “ I was singing it in my head, you could imagine it on the radio...Which is what you need.”
Accompanying her at the competition was her Dad, Colin Browne on keyboards. Chris says having her father as a musician and “that sort of environment has helped her...she’s got a good pedigree.” For Chris, the fact that Heidi is that little bit older than some of the contestants has also contributed to her success at the competition, in respect of experience and knowing where she wants to go with her musical career. “She knows her sound, she’s been gigging and doing festivals so hopefully we can help take her to the next level and get a single out.” The next step for Heidi is working on her songs with musical director and producer Gareth Henderson who worked with Birdy – another Open Mic success story. “Since Heidi's won there's been a lot of interest from BBC 6 and BBC Introducing and they are keen to get something played out there.” Heidi's music would definitely not seem out of place on a BBC 6 or Radio 2 playlist alongside Thea Gilmore, Caro Emerald or Jake Bugg.
Open Mic UK and it's sister competition TeenStar are fast becoming a great forum for new talent to be discovered. Through these competitions Birdy, Jahmene Douglas, Lucy Spraggan and this years X Factor finalist, Luke Friend have all gone on to achieve success. Unlike television talent shows, Chris says Open Mic and TeenStar are “about getting on stage and proving what you can do live...we're not looking for stories, we're looking for raw talent.” In these days of auto tune and where image sometimes is more important than talent, it's good to have an arena to showcase the rising stars of the music industry and give them positive exposure and the confidence to go on to pursue their music.
For Heidi the next step in her musical journey is just beginning. With the springboard of Open Mic UK to help give her that exposure we hope she achieves the success she deserves.
Auditions for this year's TeenStar are starting soon and later in the year for Open Mic UK.