Black and white photo of someone singing

Bristol singer-songwriter Lady Nade describes support from both charities as a lifeline

Losing her grandmother 

Nadine Gingell is able to pinpoint a moment in her childhood that would not only change her life but also have a massive impact on how her career in music would pan out. I lost my grandmother when I was ten years old and started to write her letters in the hope that it would pull her back from wherever she had gone,” Nade explains. I was brought up with my grandparents and her absence was severe. It was like losing a mother.”

The loss of her grandmother was a pivotal moment in Nade’s life and she began writing as a form of therapy. I would write her poems and then one day I picked up a flier for songwriting workshops at the venue which is now Bristol Beacon. I didn’t know if I was a songwriter but I had these poems, so I attended the class for the first time and enjoyed it.”

The grief had a severe impact on my family because we were all coping with the loss. There was a rupture in the family. Music, and finding a community around music, helped to heal those broken parts and make them feel a little bit whole.

During the sessions, Nade learned how to take the words she had written and turn them into songs, and she would continue attending these workshops until she was 18. While she was at school, a friend of hers had picked up a separate flier about singing workshops. Initially, Nade wasn’t particularly interested but her friend was persistent and dragged her to the session at Bristol’s Lakota.

Although I didn’t want to go, I ended up absolutely loving it. So through those experiences, I became a singer songwriter.” Nade has been performing under the alias Lady Nade since 2012 and released her debut album in 2016.

This is in addition to her career as a music facilitator and mentor, running workshops across the Southwest. As someone who understood the feeling of being lost and the power that music has to heal, she undertook a music course and qualified with a degree in vocals and performance arts. Her career has continued to develop as both a professional singer-songwriter and as a fully qualified music leader and facilitator.

The value of business advice 

Nade first heard about Help Musicians in 2018 and applied for support from the charity a few times before she was successful. When she was eventually successful, we were able to help her release her third album Willing in 2021, a collection of songs which had been written throughout lockdown. 

The financial assistance to release her music was significant but the business advice sessions Nade received as part of our support were equally impactful. The first session was about publishing and Nade’s adviser identified that she wasn’t receiving the royalties that she should have. Her adviser encouraged her to contact PRS, a step which prevented loss of future earnings and generated more income for her.

They also took me through a series of steps to increase my artist revenue from record sales and published work, which was amazing. The support from Help Musicians meant that not only did I create my album, but my revenue is now higher than it’s ever been thanks to their expert advice.”

The other session Nade attended was focused on marketing and branding. One of the challenges Nade has faced as a Black female artist of mixed heritage is that the eclectic nature of her music doesn’t neatly fit into any one genre.

Photo credit: Laura Schneider

She has felt many pressures to pigeonhole herself as a musician and at different points of her career, has switched between calling herself a jazz, soul or folk artist. Willing primarily explored folk and Americana genres but Nade has always wanted to stay true to her integrity as an artist and develop each song from the perspective of a singer-songwriter as opposed to a fixed genre.

The press response to my album was you’re folk, but you’re not folk enough. You’re kind of jazz, but you’re not actually jazz. So we can’t write about you’. I had a mix of reviews. Some were lovely but in terms of industry feedback for scaling my career, the response was we don’t know where we can put you’.”

For Nade, this mixed feedback brought into focus a feeling of imposter syndrome. She could clearly see many other white artists who were working across different genres and being effectively marketed. Seeing this opened up an identity crisis for where she felt she fitted into the industry.

As a Black woman, she thought she was being told jazz and R&B is your bag’ but Nade is a singer-songwriter who works across many genres and fuses her eclectic love of music together, She therefore wanted advice from an expert about how she should market herself and scale up as cross genre artist.

My business advisor gave me some brilliant feedback. They had worked with many Black artists and on campaigns with diverse professionals. So they were able to take me through some of the challenges that I was facing and give advice in terms where I should focus my time.

Music Minds Matter 

Nade’s questions about how to market herself as a Black female musician of mixed heritage revealed much larger issues within the music industry and the UK folk sector, especially upon the release of Willing. She struggled to see artists with similar backgrounds at the next level to help her navigate the folk scene, all during a period marked by heightened awareness of racial injustice following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

For my career, it became clear that it wasn’t a case of we can’t market you’, it was a case of we don’t want to market you’. But then the music industry was put into a position where they pledged to make changes and suddenly my phone was ringing and people wanted to talk to me. The people that previously said that they didn’t want to review me, now wanted to review me.”

For Nade, this sudden interest in her musical career was a double-edged sword. It left her wondering whether the industry was actually interested in her talent or if they were covering her music because she was Black and wanted to appear like they were making changes. At the same time, she recognised that the new opportunities were a long-awaited chance for her to scale up her career, so it was a time of great inner conflict. 

I always wanted to be able to celebrate my identity and my story but didn’t feel able to do so. There were so many layers to my feelings and I lost a sense of who I was. I reached out to Music Minds Matter for support with my mental health.

It was during this time, Nade was left feeling overwhelmed and struggling to maintain her mental health. She reached out to Music Minds Matter for support and describes the charity’s help as an amazing lifeline”.

Through Music Minds Matter, I was able to speak with a counsellor of my heritage. We worked through all my feelings of imposter syndrome, alienation and trauma.”

Nade found the support to be life-changing. Working with someone who could understand her situation and how much she had to unpack was so useful. With the charities’ support, she was able to step into herself again and regain pride in the person she is.

Photo credit: Giulia Spadafora

To be given that lifeline was incredible. Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter have been able to provide me with financial, creative and psychological support. The charities are amazing.

Feeling more at home 

Thankfully in the last few years, Nade has begun to feel more accepted in the music industry and has seen positive strides made in the folk scene with regard to diversity and making people feel more welcome.

I have been able to ask questions and feel comfortable asking questions. I work with English Folk Expo and in 2020 took part in an online discussion, which was titled Does folk music in the UK have a problem with diversity?’.

I spoke with Yola, Allison Russell and Kyshona as part of the panel. Industry professionals and artists joined and it just proved so insightful. When you’re just one person saying stuff, it’s quite challenging because you are worrying about how that’s going to impact your career.”

Nade has noticed that one difference from 2020 to now, is that when she goes to folk events she is not the only Black person in the room. She highlights Angeline Morrison as an artist she greatly respects and whose 2022 album The Sorrow Songs highlighted minority voices.

Then there’s Yola — she is an amazing artist and has been my biggest role model. Both her and Angeline have broken down many barriers for artists like me. Without them my career would have never reached the stage it has and I would have not have been able to continue being an artist.”

There are more diverse artists that I’m seeing in both the Americana and folk sectors, which means that my purpose of being the change that I want to see is happening. And with that, my sense of self, purpose and confidence has certainly grown.

Advice for musicians 

Reflecting on the support she has received from Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter, Nade believes the charities have been instrumental in her growth as an artist. Having applied a few times in between 2018 and 2020, Nade was then granted funding in 2020 and her story is testament to her persistence and resilience.

Keep pushing forward, even if you face setbacks. Don’t hold back from reaching out to Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter for advice. The charities have offered me invaluable guidance, financial assistance and industry insight that have truly shaped my career.”

Photo credit: Giulia Spadafora