Q&A with Fiona Whitney
Fiona Whitney's new brand new track Been Here All Before draws from her experience with trichotillomania, also referred to as "hair-pulling disorder".
Fiona Whitney's confessional debut album Been Here All Before is a vulnerable, transparent window in to the artist's experience with Trichotillomania. The plaster on the single art (pictured) actually refers to a song lyric “I plastered my fingers to stop the triggers”. Even though this is her debut release, she's no musical novice and this is years in the making. Born in Northwest London, Fiona learnt to play the piano at the age of 10 and would go on to arrange her own original pieces. Then at age 15 she enrolled into the RoundHouse ‘young creatives’ scheme for teenagers/young adults in Camden. Ever self sufficient and passionate, she would use her pocket money to hire out the Mac computers spending hours after school here making tracks and putting loops together in logic. Fiona was sure that music was the path she wanted to go down, despite her social anxiety presenting an obvious obstacle. Determined not to be stopped, at age 16, she continued in her pro-activity and started an Instagram account for covers.
This DIY approach to music making is the origin of lots of London based musicians, such as fellow North-West natives like Chip and Dappy have risen from. Both of whom showed appreciation for Fiona's covers on her page, alongside the covers garnering over 26,000 views and 3,700 likes. Further cementing her confidence that she was on the right path. At the start of this year she was ready to take the plunge fully and left college to work full time in order to fund her music aspirations. Without music equipment of her own she spent time honing her skills by watching production YouTube tutorials made producers like FINNEAS and Oak Felder and produced her track entirely on iPad and Apple’s GarageBand before reproducing in a studio. Been Here All Before is by no means solely a song about or for people with Trichotillomania but is important to know an artist's story, particularly when so much has gone in to their journey. We were lucky enough to sit down with Fiona and find out about that journey in a bit more depth.
We know the track was inspired by your Trichotillomania but the lyrics are intended to resonate with a range of other people's emotions. Why is it important for your listeners to hear themselves in your music?
Everyone goes through things & has problems whether big or small, I feel like it helps being able to hear something you can relate to and in turn, that can make you feel less alone in your struggles.
We've seen that your covers have been shown love by artists like Dappy and Chip. how did it feel getting recognised by such big artists?
It’s crazy having people that you’ve grown up on see what you do, at the time I was just really excited! Dappy is one of my favourite artists as well, he’s always been someone I’ve looked up to and learned a lot from, music wise.
This track was made on an iPad before reproducing it in a studio but we know you're also a self taught pianist. How have you found the transition from instrumentation to working digitally and are there differences in the process?
It’s been weird, I would always have the time to play on my piano and make songs from there but switching from part time to working full time - spending the whole day working or finishing really late, i wouldn’t be able to play my piano. I definitely find it more useful because I could open the app and my track would be there - easy to make real life changes to it, as opposed to recording myself playing the piano and not being able to change anything. Producing on my ipad started off as a way to put down my structure, melodies and just my ideas in general. I didn’t really take it seriously at first because I looked at it like ‘ It’s just an iPad, I can’t do much with it’ but as time went by, I became so much better at making music on it. Even though it’s very limiting it’s possible to make use of what’s there.
Can you tell us a bit more about the RoundHouse young creatives scheme?
I joined this for a year when I was 15/16. I would hire out the rooms there using my pocket money. I had zero knowledge on producing at this time, I remember trying to make an instrumentals for songs I had already written - they would come out terrible but I ended up learning how to put loops together and how to structure digitally instead.
We read you dropped out of college at the start of lockdown to work full time to fund pursuing music. Was this a tough decision and how has it been so far?
It was tough having people tell me what to do when I knew that making music was what have always wanted to do. It’s been good though, I don’t regret it at all because now I get to put more of my energy into music!
Your old account covers account @Fionawhitney_ that you started when you were only 16 gained a lot of traction. What made you decide to start a new one?
I wanted to have a account with no covers on there but I also didn’t want to delete all the videos I had made as it was a part of my journey in a way so it just made sense to make a new one and start fresh.
Was it difficult to be vulnerable enough to release a song that's so personal or does it come naturally?
Ever since I started writing its always been surrounding vulnerability so it comes natural to me at this point. The easy part is writing things down because you don’t really have to show anyone if you don’t want to. It can be scary showing people though because you don’t know what the reaction is going to be.
Stream Been Here All Before via all good digital streaming platforms.
Follow Fiona on Instagram and Twitter
Photography by Reginald Senelorm
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