DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions 2023: meet this year’s winners

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The three winners of DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions 2023 have been announced.

After launching in 2022, the grassroots music initiative’s second edition attracted hundreds of entries from unsigned musicians, with international artists also being invited to submit their music for the first time.

A judging panel made up of Grammy-nominated producer and DJ Jax Jones, gold-selling record producer Hannah V and NME’s Associate Commissioning Editor (New Music) Sophie Williams then narrowed down the shortlist to just three artists.

Clara Pople, Amelia Rose and PIWA can now be announced as the winners of DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions 2023. The three artists each recently received the ultimate AAA experience of recording their own original music at London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios, with Jax Jones serving as a DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions mentor and Hannah V returning as the Sessions’ in-house producer.

Credit: Press

Speaking to NME about the experience, London-based singer/producer Amelia Rose said she was made to feel “super welcome” at Abbey Road. “There was so much more to it than the Sessions themselves, and that made the whole experience feel even more special!” she reflected. “The studio we worked in was absolutely insane, featuring all the equipment I dreamed of using. As a producer, having these tools at my disposal was so inspiring when creating.”

After receiving pearls of wisdom from Jones (“he talked about experimenting with my production and making my sound ‘hit’ harder in contrast to my vocals”) and working with “true inspiration” Hannah V (“we were very much like-minded in how we worked”), Amelia said that the song she recorded at Abbey Road “feels like a new era for my musical journey”.

“I learned so much from working with Hannah and meeting the other winners,” she added. “It’s been incredibly motivating and inspiring to have been in a space like Abbey Road.”

Cumbrian singer/songwriter Clara Pople started her DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions 2023 journey after her mum encouraged her to enter: “I didn’t know what the competition was, but my mum was like, ‘Have a look at this, sign up, do it’. I put a hashtag on a video I recorded, and later found out I’d won and would get to record at Abbey Road. I was like, ‘What the hell? This is mental’.”

Noting how the Abbey Road staff were “so relaxed, low-key and not at all pretentious: it’s just professional people making really good music,” Pople shared some advice she received from Jones. “He made a really good point about contrast, asking me, ‘What is a chorus? It’s a contrast from the verse: it’s something people aren’t expecting, but it slaps really hard’. It might be a really obvious thing to point out, but it was really useful to hear.”

While working with Hannah V (“she’s so open to everything… she’s amazing at nurturing your own style”) on her song ‘Woman’, Pople said that she “found a sound that I didn’t know I had”.

“I always said that I didn’t want any live instruments, but Hannah brought in the most amazing guitarist/bassist I’ve ever met,” she recalled. “He made the song into something I couldn’t imagine, and now I’m converted to writing music with live instruments. I’m so happy with the final song: everyone I’ve played it to loves it and thinks it’s my best yet.”

Credit: Press

Pople, who will perform at both Kendal Calling and the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, noted that the DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions experience “taught me so much about what it’s like to be a professional musician” and added that it’s “the most welcoming and uplifting experience I’ve ever had”.

US artist PIWA is similarly grateful for the DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions experience, telling NME that it’s made her feel like “an absolute rockstar”.

“I feel like I’ve been pushed to a different level, a point where I feel like a true international artist,” she said. “The experience really solidified that, like, ‘Hey, you’re a rockstar: you got into Abbey Road, you can go anywhere and do anything you put my mind to’. It genuinely makes me feel so blessed.”

Recalling how recording at Abbey Road “eased my soul”, PIWA is full of praise for the involvement of Hannah V (“an absolute legend, period… Abbey Road is where she belongs”) and Jones in the process.

“We jumped into conversation in regards to our styles straightaway, with Jax saying, ‘I see you as an artist’. Getting that validation was cool,” she continued. “I valued the note he had for me, which was, ‘Continue to fall into that pocket of creating your own language, your own brand and your own style… you need to get more intense because that’s who you are, and you need more of your language in there. We hear it when you’re talking, so put that in there’.

“That was something that I put into ‘Astro’, the song we recorded at Abbey Road. I feel like it’s 100% me giving that PIWA brand and energy that I want to showcase as an artist.”

Keep an eye out for new releases, mixed and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, from the DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions 2023, while you can find out more about DHL FAST-TRACK Sessions here.

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