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INTERVIEW: Lauren Deakin Davies aka DIDI - 'As an artist, you have so much more power if you understand music production'

Laura  Barnes
INTERVIEW: Lauren Deakin Davies aka DIDI - 'As an artist, you have so much more power if you understand music production'

Having just won NMG’s Producer of the Year award, owning her own studio, producing a body of work that includes albums with Kate Dimbleby and Kelly Oliver, recoridng a live session with The Hoosiers, and taking part in Laura Marling’s Reversal of the Muse project, you may be surprised to hear that Lauren Deakin Davies is just 22 years of age.

Having started making music at 10, and getting interested in the studio side of things when she was still in her teens, Lauren is used to defying expectations when it comes to her age.

MI Pro Editor Laura Barnes recently caught up with the producer and musician to find out more about her latest solo project, why more artists don’t consider themselves producers, and what’s it's like having a single dubbed “the new LGBTQ anthem”.

“I didn’t think I was a record producer until I was 18. I was the youngest producer to have a song played on Radio 2. It was then that I thought: “Oh, maybe I’m not a complete fraud here!”,” reveals Lauren as we sit in a coffee shop discussing how she got into music and producing.
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After starting a band with some friends at 10, Lauren moved onto an all-girl ukulele folk music project in her teens, and it was during this time that she discovered her love of the studio.

“We were doing really well and working with some record labels and then we got to go into some really awesome studios and that was when I realised that was something I really wanted to do. I loved being in the studio so much that I got some equipment and made a little studio for myself and started recording more and more,” she says.

“At the same time, I was doing session work for other people. Then I left the band. It was really sad but it just wasn’t working. We were all school friends, there were five of us and it whittled down to just two of us and it just didn’t go forward anymore. It ran its course, but it gave me a lot of contacts and a lot of education and standing in the industry.”

At 17, Lauren was hired at Cream Room Sound Production as a lead producer on a project. When asked about how people reacted to a young woman being in charge in the studio, she recalls: “I didn’t feel like I was a woman in the studio. I was just a person in the studio. That was until I was 18, then everyone made of point of saying I was a “female record producer” and asking how I felt about it.

“I have experienced sexism in the past, but also ageism. Because I was 18 and running sessions, people would assume I was an intern or an assistant.”

To combat this, Lauren says she surrounds herself with “awesome people who want to work with me, so I don’t feel like I’m in that situation too much.”

I didn’t feel like I was a woman in the studio. I was just a person in the studio. That was until I was 18.

Taking a positive approach, Lauren explains that the lack of women in the studio creates a community of sorts. “If one female producer comes across another one, it’s like “we’re best friends now!” because we both know what it’s like to deal with some of the situations that occur.

“Sometimes people just don’t take you seriously. I feel like I have to quickly prove myself in a session. It’s a bit like that situation of when a girl says she likes comic books, and a guy immediately asks her lots of questions to try and catch her out,” she says.

“You have that in the studio too. It’s like: “Oh you’re a record producer? Well, do you know what this plugin does or have you ever heard of this?”

“It’s fine if it was under the pretence of being intrigued and wanting to know your opinion. But it’s usual because they’re thinking: “You’re a woman and I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about”.”

In March 2017, Lauren decided it was time to embark on her own solo project and created the pseudonym DIDI. But why not user her own name, which she uses for her production work?

“Partly, I don’t think “Lauren Deakin Davies” flows too well as an artist name. It does as a producer because it’s really long so you take up lots of space on album sleeves!

“Part of it is that I’m quite artistic and visually creative so by having an alter-ego name means I can categorise that stuff, so when I’m performing as DIDI I only wear white. I don’t put on an act, but I just sort of have this image I want to convey.”

With three singles released already, DIDI offers up a punky-pop vibe complete with hooky choruses and catchy riffs. One track, Awkward, has already caught the attention of the LGBTQ+ community, with its honest and fearless lyrics about the patronising experiences LGBTQ+ people can face when asked personal questions. In fact, DIVA Magazine dubbed it “the new LGBTQ+ anthem”.

I think being gay means you just end up talking about gay things. What I think is important is normalising it.

“I was really shocked,” reveals Lauren. “When you see that is the title of the article someone has gone with after listening to your song, that’s a massive compliment.”

When asked if speaking about LGBTQ+ issues is something she purposely wanted to get across in her music, Lauren says matter-of-factly: “I think being gay means you just end up talking about gay things. What I think is important is normalising it.”

As well as speaking up for the LGBTQ+ community, Lauren revealed that she is passionate about make gigs more accessible. “There’s so many things that could be changed slightly so that so many more people could enjoy the music. That’s really important. For example, I’ll be getting someone to do sign language for some future shows.”

Back to the music, Lauren hints that there will likely be a full DIDI EP released by the end of the year. Discussing her interesting approach to creating percussive sounds in the studio, she explains how she made the drum track on her first single ‘Sorry’.

“My studio is pretty well equipped but I don’t have a drum kit and I didn’t want to use samples, I wanted to use real sounds. With ‘Sorry’, I wasn’t intending for anyone to hear it, I just did that song for myself.

“I punched my piano stool and EQ’d it and put lots of effects on it for a kick sound. To get a snare sound I slapped my desk really hard. For the high hats, I used pens on a tambourine. I just really love trying out different sounds. I think a big advantage of being a producer as well as an artist is being able to combine those elements.”

On the subject of being an artist that produces their own music, Lauren says she believes there is a huge benefit to knowing about production when writing songs as a musician.

I just really love trying out different sounds. I think a big advantage of being a producer as well as an artist is being able to combine those elements.

“I think it’s really important as an artist now days to get involved in the production. Artists are doing their own post-production anyway for their songs. In the past it was so expensive to get the gear, but now you can go buy a Mac that already comes with recording software that’s pretty good and you can create your own demos.

“As an artist, you have so much more power and strength if you understand a bit of music production, because you can speak to the producer in a way that helps create the sound you want,” explains Lauren.

“When we think about the fact that there aren’t many female record producers out there, I think that’s partly because a lot of them produce their own music and they don’t regard themselves as a producer. But they are!”

Find out more about Lauren Deakin Davies’ producer projects at http://www.laurendeakindavies.com/

Keep up to date with her solo artist project, DIDI, at http://www.didimusic.co.uk/

Tags: Interviews , women in music , producer , Lauren Deakin Davies , DIDI

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