Laura Oakes

Laura Oakes

Course Studied: BA (Hons) Music (Popular)

Year of Graduation: 2012


British Country Music Award winner Laura Oakes comes from a huge Liverpudlian family, where everyone sings or play an instrument – it was only a matter of time before she caught the music bug. Laura started thinking about taking music a little more seriously in her teens; she learned how to play the guitar, started to write songs and after discovering Carrie Underwood and the Dixie Chicks at age 14, realised it was Country Music that had her heart.

Graduating from Leeds College of Music in 2012 with a first degree in Popular Music. Laura began recording her first single 'Don't Let It Hit Ya', which was released in September 2013 and landed in the Top 20 on the iTunes Country Chart. Her second single 'Snakes & Ladders' followed in 2014 with similar success.

“There is nothing like performing live” says Laura, who has spent the last year playing shows supporting fellow country artists The ShiresWard Thomas and Raintown. She has also just released her self-titled EP and received nominations in the Song Of The Year category for ‘Snakes & Ladders’ and Female Vocalist of the Year from The British Country Music Awards and

Of the fast-growing British Country Music scene, Laura says she is so excited to be a part of it and to see it being so well received and so loved amongst British audiences!

What was your earliest musical experience?

My earliest musical experience, that I can actually remember, is from when I was about 4 years old. My mum was a singer so there were always various bits of musical gear around our house. Because of seeing my mum on stage, I had a very early and very strong appreciation of sequinned dresses and anything that shimmered a bit (it has never left me). So I had my own, mini, sequinned stage wardrobe that was only bought for me to play dress up in, but I viewed it as necessary stage wear. . One Sunday I recruited a fellow band member, my two year old brother, into a performance. I dressed myself and my brother up in our performance attire, dragged two of my mum's mics and stands into the living room, and gave what was, at the time, the performance of my life. Looking back at times like that, family members probably just found it funny, cute and a bit annoying that this little child would not let them leave the house without performing for them, but when I think back to how I viewed those times. I was genuinely serious about it - in my head, I wasn't just a kid who liked to sing, I WAS a singer, I WAS Tina Turner from the VHS of her Break Every Rule Tour (another early influence and education in stage craft).

Who encouraged you to study music?

I can only credit my High School music teacher for this. Although by the time I reached school I'd developed a real love for music and singing from my family, it was the music teacher at St. Thomas Becket in Huyton where I grew up, Sylvia Swift who allowed that to grow. The main thing she did was give me a lot of time and a secure place where I could discover things for myself - those early triumphs as a teenager when you are allowed to discover how to change into a new key in a song or how scales work or how certain keys are related are revelations! They may only be very basic to you now as an adult but when you're 12 or 13 and another little bit of how music works finally clicks, it such an achievement to you, especially if you have the full backing of somebody who sees your enthusiasm and then encourages you to reach your full potential. I still am and always will be very thankful to her for seeing that in me and encouraging me to learn as much as I could about it. I know I probably wouldn't have continued to study music had it not have been for her.

Who made you aspire to a career in music?

The encouragement from my family, especially my parents, and then my music teacher at school meant that by the time it came to thinking about what I wanted to do as a career there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted a career in music. All of my early experiences, especially the feeling I got when I performed that I didn’t get from doing anything else was ultimately what spurred me on.  I remember being so annoyed when it came to choosing GCSE subjects at school and one of my other teachers told me that taking music, art or drama instead of double science wasn't a good idea because a career in any of those subjects was highly unlikely and not a wise move. I was so offended that I completely ignored him and took all three. I realise he was probably just trying to prepare me for what is, at times, a difficult industry to work in - but i was ready to work hard for it. 

Who’s your greatest inspiration?

My family for sure… My family and Dolly Parton.

Was there anything in particular that made you choose Leeds College of Music?

Leeds was my first audition out of five choices and after the audition, I suddenly knew I wanted to go to university. I just had a  feeling from the moment I walked in the building that it was somewhere I needed to be. I'd spend all day around people who wanted to do what I had always wanted to do and had as much love for it as I did. Even at my other auditions, I didn't have the same feeling I got as the one I had at LCoM.

What attracted you to the course?

It was popular music. I'd spent the last two years doing an extremely classical-based A Level studying baroque and renaissance music mainly and it just wasn't my thing at all. I enjoyed it, I just wasn't very good at that type of music - I wanted to do popular music but it was pretty much forbidden on my A Level course. I didn't actually  know that a popular music course existed, only I was taken by one of my friends from my class to the Leeds College of Music stand at a university open day in Liverpool because he wanted to study classical music there. When I saw you could study popular music that changed my mind all together.

 What was your favourite thing about being a musician in Leeds?

I love Leeds. I miss everything about my time there - I was pretty shy and very reserved before I went to university so I credit whatever social skills I've acquired as an adult to LCoM! As a city, Leeds is great both socially and professionally. I worked as a singer from my first year at the conservatoire and then continued full time for the three years I lived in the city after graduating. If you want to work constantly as a musician or singer, you can easily do it in Leeds. Socially, I met most of my best friends in Leeds so it's a pretty important place for me personally too!

 Who would be your dream collaboration?

As a writer, I would love to write with Shane McAnally. His back catalogue reads like a Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. He's one of those writers that when I heard his songs, it changed the way I wrote mine - which is a powerful thing. Also, if Bernie Taupin wanted to write me some lyrics, well that wouldn't be too bad either!

Where would you most like to perform?

As a Country Music artist, the answer to this question will always be The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

What has your journey been like since leaving LCoM?

As much as LCoM prepares you for the industry you're about to go in, I don't think you realise straight away after graduating that you still have a lot to learn. Especially in such a fast-changing industry, there's always something new to learn - which keeps it exciting, because there's always new ways of doing things. Since leaving, I feel like I've had quite a varied career, but all music-based and all fun. As a singer I've lent my voice to a TV theme tune for Sky Living, an informercial to teach children how to throw their rubbish in the bin curated by a well-known chewing gum brand, and a European soap opera! I've travelled extensively across the UK and Europe working for some of the UK's best function bands, but my main focus has been on my career as a British Country Music Artist. Country Music in the UK has grown in the last few years at such a rate that I don't think any fans or artists could have dreamed it better. As a Country Artist, I've done some things in the last couple of years that were just dreams while I was studying - I've released two singles and an EP, the first of which reached #20 in the UK iTunes Country Chart, I've had my music played by Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2, I've played at the O2 Arena in London as part of C2C Festival which is the biggest Country Music festival in Europe and recently I was named the British Country Music Association's Female Artist of the Year. So in the three and a half years since leaving, I've had a pretty varied time and I've honestly loved each bit of it.

How has your study at LCoM aided your career so far?

I think the main thing that LCoM gave me was just that space to develop in the way I wanted to develop as a singer, musician and artist. Nothing is off limits when it comes to the type of musician you want to be as long as you are dedicated and prepared to work hard. The main way LCoM aided my career is through the people I met there. I would say over half of the people I work with on a regular basis have, at some point, studied or taught at LCoM. And that's because they are great musicians who are a joy to be around both professionally and socially.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I feel extremely lucky that I have more than one answer to this question - having my track played on BBC Radio 2 by one of the biggest British Country Music figures, Bob Harris, and being given the recognition of Female Artist of the Year by the British Country Music Association. Also the fact that I've got to travel to beautiful places like Italy and Germany because of my job and being a part of Country Music in Britain. Ultimately though I consider my greatest achievement to be that I've been able to make a good and full time living as a musician, regardless of how many times a week people ask me ” but how do you actually make MONEY? what? from SINGING? how?!”.

Where would you like to be in five years? 

If I'm as excited by my career in music in five years’ time as I am now, then I'll be very happy.

If you had one piece of advice for a prospective student, what would it be?

If you know who you are or who you want to be as a musician/writer/artist then be just that! Stick to your guns if you believe in what you're doing. The other piece of advice is if an opportunity comes up no matter how big or small - say yes! You can always decide later that it's not for you but it could just also be the best thing you've ever done! LCoM is an amazingly diverse place so try out everything you can, explore different music styles, collaborate with people, live outside your comfort zone because you learn so much from doing that - do it all - but whatever you do there do it 100%. Don't be worried about fitting in or being cool or trendy - I think I worried far too much about that at the time - this is one industry where the more you stand out for being different the better! Finally - enjoy it! They are 3 of the best years of your life.

Follow Laura on her Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date!

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