Canal Street Online Manchester

We chat to Paulette Richards

We chat to Paulette Richards

A Chance To Shine

National Transgender charity Sparkle has launched a new event for undiscovered musical talent from across the trans spectrum.

The Sparkle Music Awards will discover, nurture and develop artists, with the eventual prize being the opportunity to record in a professional studio with an experienced producer.

There are two categories to enter:

• Best Trans Singer/Songwriter

• Best Trans Solo Artist/Vocal Group

Head judge of the music event is session musician, producer and artist Paulette Richards.

What inspired you to not only get involved, but also become a Sparkle trustee?

I went along for the first time last year and had a great time, and I didn't just want it to be a once a year experience so I sent them a message offering my services. I hoped I could use my experience in the music business in some way and just wanted to muck in. It turned out that some of the trustees were leaving and people were needed to help organise the 2017 event so I stepped in.

The music awards is a brand new addition to this year's programme. Did you feel  this was a creative platform that had previously been lacking for trans musicians?

Definitely. I really wanted a competition that would attract new acts that I can help nurture so we can create our own musical eco system. We put out the call for acts to send in tapes and videos - there's still time to enter by the way - and we're sifting through them at the moment. It can just be a clip of someone singing with no music behind them as long as it shows that they can hold a note and have a good tone and style. 

I can draw from my experience in the music industry to take the raw talent and create something appealling especially if the songs are meaningful. I can help with putting other instrumentation around them to create a nice sound. I'm also working on a couple of commercial projects and looking for featured artists so entering the Sparkle event could lead to all sorts of other possibilities. Even if an act doesnt win on the day its still a contact made and a communication that could mean something moving forward. I want to put on the best showcase possible that recognises existing trans and non-binary talent and gives them an opportunity to get into the mainstream.

We often equate the 'deep & meaningful' artist with songs that are a tad miserable and self-indulgent! Can someone enter who just loves bright, cheery pop without a trans heavy lyrical message?

Absolutely! When you create music and write songs people have to be able to relate to them in some shape or form but at our event, it doesn't just have to be about being trans.

If you write an amazing song and it just happens to be a trans artist singing then that's how you get true inclusion. I want the trans community to contribute something to the wider musical community and have people say 'Hey, I really love that song. Its by a trans artist? Really?' People dont always want causes rammed down their throats.

The music business is a notoriously tough industry but does it discriminate as much as other professions? Surely, if a song is on the radio, no one sees who's performing it anyway...

True, but you still have to have a commercial viewpoint. People wont buy into your product just because you are trans. There has to be a compelling reason. It also has to be radio friendly - you cant just put a song out there and expect it to do something. Being trans on its own it isnt enough and its only a point of conversation if you can get into the ballpark in the first place. It always comes down to the quality of the music at the end of the day.

Trans performers are very much 'in vogue' at the moment but will ultimate progress be when trans artists are cast or signed purely because of their talent?

Very much so, its about what it is not who it is. Why watch something not very good just because it is trans? The Sparkle music awards has to be a mark of quality. I'm trying to open up this whole area and proactively discriminate in favour of trans talent so we can help with inclusion into the wider community. Music is a medium that can really do that – you either like it or you dont.

At the same time, its still an opportunity to change perceptions of the trans community. There are lots of misconceptions and we want to break down some of those barriers.

Are you inviting your music contacts to the event? Could someone go up there a nobody and come back a star?

I want to reach out to record companies, managers and talent scouts to let them know what's happening and get more visibility around it. The big attraction is that they'll see all these great acts here first!

For details on how to enter go to the site via link below.

Sparkle Weekend (7 to 9 July)

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