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Ones to Watch in 2012: Pepper

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ones to Watch in 2012: Pepper


Pepper Official Logo

Pepper is someone I've been hearing about for a few months now, however it wasn't until recently that I decided to give her a proper listen and BOY have I (and you) been missing out. This girl's a vocal powerhouse.  While she has yet to release a single, we shouldn't have to wait too much longer.  Per Pepper herself via her official Twitter, "First single out soon, album to follow later in the year."  In the meantime, Pepper's been releasing a series of acoustic tracks to keep us occupied and impressed, all of which you can hear below, starting with her latest punchy pop masterpiece, "Higher" (BELOW).

Katie Pepper first came to attention as a contestant on a Sky 1 TV talent show called "Must Be The Music," a show that fostered true talent in their contestants, allowing the contestants to play and sing their own original compositions.  Hosted by British radio personality Fearne Cotton, the show featured three celebrity judges: Contemporary jazz singer/songwriter Jamie Cullum, Sharleen Spiteri of the Scottish rock/blues outfit Texas and English rapper Dizzee Rascal.  Despite being critically acclaimed, the show was cancelled after only one season due to poor ratings.  Pity.  At least we still have Katie Pepper as a result.

Pepper competed on "Must Be The Music" as part of a duo, Piano & Pepper, along with friend and pianist Emma Alkazraji.  The two ladies were, at the time, first year Manchester music-college students who happened to be outside smoking in one of the campus buildings wherein the auditions were being held.  At first the duo was resistant to the allure of a TV talent competition, but upon learning that it was all about the artists and their original material, succumbed and auditioned.  This is the inspiration behind the song "Wish It Away," Pepper reminisces: "We didn't want to look back in the future and wonder why we didn't at least have a go. 'I'm on my way - tomorrow starts today.'" Listen BELOW.

The live finals of the series were held in the world famous Wembley Arena in front of 10,000 people - an experience that turned out to be a bit daunting for pianist Emma Alkazraji.  According to Pepper, "I thrived in that environment but Emma really struggled. She was so terrified it was all we could do to get her on the stage."  While Piano & Pepper ultimately lost (singer/songwriter Emma Gillespie won as Emma's Imagination) the competition served as a career launchpad for the newly aspiring singer/songwriter.

Dizzee Hearts Pepper

After Emma AKA 'Piano' left to become a mother, Pepper found herself exploring a songwriting partnership with Nicholas 'Cage' Detnon AKA Dizzee Rascal's manager, mentor and co-founder of Dizzee's indie label Dirtee Stank.  Cage recalls his first impressions of Pepper quite fondly:
"She was artists who just smacked me dead centre in the face from day one as someone who could do really good things, because she's got a fantastic voice and a really nice energy."
With Cage's production background rooted in the UK Garage scene, he gradually guided Pepper into a more contemporary direction with her music while still maintaining her unique voice and sound.  Throwing a little bit of dub step behind one of Pepper's demo tracks sealed the deal and the two started working together on original material.  Before they knew it, 10 days had passed and Cage and Pepper had 14 songs done.  Next, it was time for Pepper to get together with Dizzee himself.
"It’s enough to say that the combination of Katie’s show-stopping voice and Cage’s state-of-the-art production captures that same male/female creative tension which has been at the heart of so much of the most memorable dance music of the last 40 years - from Kurtis Mantronik and Joyce Sims, to Method Man and Mary J., to Rihanna and Eminem. And when Dizzee Rascal jumped in on some of the songs Pepper and Cage had written together, sparks really began to fly."
Of course Pepper knew who Dizzee Rascal was long before competing on "Must Be The Music." She practically grew up listening to his debut album Boy In Da Corner.  Of course, being the consummate professional that she is, Pepper didn't let her nerves get the best of her.  Pepper joined Dizzee on tour as part of the Dizzee Rascal roadshow, solidifying his respect for her as both an artist and an individual.
"Working with Pepper suits me fine.  Even though she's a few years younger than me, she's quite mature, and I really appreciate the clarity and the thought that she puts into her songwriting. There's a certain level of class as well, which definitely helps, and on top of that she's just got a really big voice. We complement each other very well. The first time I saw her sing at the Must Be The Music auditions, she really blew me away. I understood what it took to stand up there because at that stage of my career I hadn't been on TV, and I could see she had a lot of potential just from the way she handled herself"
Now that's mad respect.  Looks like Dizzee's extra proud of his new protege, and while Pepper certainly seems to be taking this all very seriously, she's maintained a sense of humor through it all, "What am I, Justin Bieber to his Usher?" Indeed. Very much looking forward to hearing what Pepper does next.

(via Pepper's official Bio)

Check out Pepper on the web:

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