Moving from backstage into the spotlight, the stuff of many a Hollywood plot line, is the real-life story of Bethan Lees. Whether as a dance teacher or stage manager, Bethan has been absorbing new music on the festival circuit and at various open mic nights, where she would occasionally step forward with her own performance.

Coming from a musical family and honing her skills through busking and jamming with the creative people that have seemingly always surrounded her, Bethan began to write her own songs. Ships is her debut EP and the first professional recordings from this self-confessed free spirit.

Before you read on, Bethan is giving a FREE download of “Water and Wine”, the [signature single from the album], to Angry Baby readers. If you’re not already subscribed to Angry Baby, just pop the email address that you’d like it delivered to here and it will be on its way to you straight away, together with a bumper collection of music that has been shared by Angry Baby. The music comes from outstanding artists that you may not have heard before. With a mix of rock, pop, folk…you name it…there’s bound to be something new that floats your musical boat, and all for free! What’s not to like about that?!

Title track “Ships” opens the EP with spooky harmonies, which suggest that the song of the siren may not be far away. But Bethan performs a sleight-of-hand, picking up a song of the sea in 3/4 time. This is a teasing tune, chirpy on the surface while masking danger in the deep. Anyone who goes down to the sea in boats will recognise the sailor’s dilemma. Do we stay in port, wishing we were at sea, or go to sea but wish we had stayed in port? For, as Bethan says, “The sea, the sea is erratic”.

“Water and Wine” brings a jazz-blues vibe to the party, introducing Bethan’s vocal blend of Amy Winehouse and Duffy. A rhythmic delight, “Water and Wine” could be Bethan’s “A Star in Born” song, moving effortlessly from jazz-club to big band.

Bringing us bang up to date, “Post Festival Blues” reveals Bethan’s cheeky side. This is Lily Allen-meets-Lucy Spraggan in a life-affirming, contemporary take on the cosy bedsit life of music-loving folks. A deceptively simple blend of guitar and drums, topped off by a tongue-twisting tumult of lyrics, proves Bethan is no novice when it comes to plaiting together a pleasing tune.

Ever been in love? Then you’ll recognise the warm glow of romance from Bethan’s final track, “Sleep”. Creeping over like a soft blanket, Bethan’s trademark acoustic arrangement and breathy vocals build an atmosphere of smooth contentment. Let this track wash over you, swaying the mood with the gentlest rise and fall, for guaranteed relaxation.

Supported by Ben Ziehm-Stephen (drums), and Tom Bailey (double bass and cello), and produced by Lauren Deakin Davies, Bethan Lees has delivered a debut worthy of a veteran performer. Bringing musical variety, subtle storytelling and engaging imagery, Ships showcases Bethan’s vulnerable-yet-worldly vocal style in a neat package of musical treats. Every track stands alone and is worthy of release as a single, heralding a future for Bethan as a world class singer-songwriter. She deserves her space centre-stage.

Bethan’s advice to anyone just starting out with their music draws on her experience of a life surrounded by music:

“My advice would be to just surround yourself with music in every way possible. Whether that means going to gigs, jamming with other musicians, jumping on a tour bus with other bands or even just sitting at home playing your instrument, it’s like anything, if you have a passion for something you make it your life, most the time it isn’t even a conscious decision, it just happens.

The only other advice I would give, is to just accept the opportunities that present themselves to you. Sometimes you can be uncertain whether or not to accept an opportunity, but if you do, at least if it’s not right for you, you can walk away knowing you tried and that’s far better than regretting it. The truth is you never know where that opportunity may take you.”

Ships was released on 25 November 2017 on Folkstock Records. Get your copy here.

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