Music helped Beck get life back on track

EMMA LEE Up and coming singer songwriter Beck Siàn plays Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday. She tells EMMA LEE how buying a guitar saved her from drug and alcohol addiction – and how a famous relative has influenced her music.

EMMA LEE

Many musicians say that buying their first guitar changed their life. But singer songwriter Beck Siàn says hers didn't just change her life - it saved it.

Beck, who plays a show at Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday, was working as a writer on a music magazine in Adelaide and had ended up living the rock and roll lifestyle herself.

Upbeat and refreshingly candid about what she's been through, she's at ease talking about her bad experiences in the past.

"I was interviewing rock bands. There were a lot of drugs around and it made it easy," she explains. "I was probably only a bad drug addict for a year, but it was enough to ruin my life at that point.

"I was always an alcoholic - probably from the age of 16. I drank huge quantities every day. I was a really big boozer," she says.

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"I was always a bad girl, would hang out with the wrong crowd, had piercings all over my face. I don't think that at the time I consciously was trying to rebel, but looking back on it, it was probably what I was doing."

The turnaround came around five years ago when she bought a cheap guitar. She moved to a forest in Victoria and started writing and recording her own music.

"I taught myself to play from a little chord book. I've only been on stage in the last few years. I came to it later in life - I'm in my early 30s. I've found my direction a bit later, but not too late, hopefully," she says.

"It was what saved me really. Instead of doing drugs - all that destructive stuff - I started teaching myself to play. I decided to stop killing myself and write music instead. I don't know if I want to try and help other people with my music, or if it's a selfish thing, but it was part of healing myself. The music became my focus and I was trying to create positive things. Now I wake up every day feeling pretty joyous.

"I just threw myself into planning my dream - what the CD cover would look like, how to market it, what would my gigs be like?"

And it was a famous relative who has been a great inspiration to her - although she may not realise it.

"Kate Bush is my second cousin. She's been the biggest influence on my music," she says. "When she was first making it and making Wuthering Heights I was four, which was a very important age, and every time she releases a CD it has shaped my music. But I don't think she's aware of that.

"We've had a little bit of contact. I lived in Australia and Kate's in England and she doesn't like flying, but she came over once and stayed with us. And I came over to the UK in 1995, when I was 21, and saw her then.

"We send each other Christmas cards, but I think to get close to Kate would be very hard. She's very private and very busy. I e-mail her brothers, though," she says.

Her first CD is called Unfurling, and she describes her music as "haunted forest music".

"It's really hard to categorise my music - there's a lot of influences. Kate, Enya, Celtic music, a bit of goth and heavy metal. And I'm influenced by nature - thunderstorms," she says.

Beck, who has dual Australian and British nationality, has moved to Britain "indefinitely" to try and launch a full-time music career and is currently based at Glastonbury.

Despite only having been in the country for just over month, her fanbase already includes Steve Harley and Reg Presley of the Troggs.

"There aren't enough venues in Australia for my type of music, but there seems to be a real space for it here," she says.

"I've been getting about a bit and I'm having a ball. I've already played gigs in Somerset, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and London. It's my dream to make a living from my music and spend my days feeling like a star - I'm a bit sarcastic, if you hadn't guessed," she deadpans. "I'm selling lots of CDs and I'm thrilled with the response.

"What I really want to do is spend my days writing and recording.

"And so many of my interests are here - I love castles, history, stately homes, ghost stories, Jane Austen and the Brontes. I'm really in my element.

"I've had quite a lot of exposure to English things - we'd have a Sunday roast even if it was 45 degrees and ploughman's lunches with Branston Pickle. It's a bit of a homecoming in a way," she says.

And there will be some familiar faces in the crowd at her Norwich show. Her aunt and uncle live at Dereham, and she's visited Norfolk a couple of times before.

"They'll be the crazy loud lot," she laughs.

Beck Siàn plays Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday. Tickets cost £8 (£6 concessions), telephone 01603 660352. Her debut CD, Unfurling, will be on sale at the show, or for more information visit www.becksian.com

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