Acoustic Alex set to support at Toys gig
IT has been a busy few years for Exeter singer/songwriter Alex Gregory.
The city schoolgirl was chosen to play at the Paralympic Games, won a prestigious busking slot in Princesshay, performed at many festivals around the county, as well as a number of support slots for well-known local acts such as Cole Stacey, Chris Woods and Sound of the Sirens.
She also started writing her own material and produced her first EP, One of the Same Kind. Her hard work and commitment resulted in her being nominated for the South West Music Awards 2012.
"I haven't written that many songs yet, so I play covers as well. I love Fyfe Dangerfield, Ben Howard and David Gray as well as Rihanna, Eminem and Muse. It's a bit of a mix," said the Isca College student.
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"I'm not sure what my style of music is yet. I think it's still developing. I call it acoustic pop but I don't know. It's up to the listener really. I just hope people like it."
And they do. Going from strength to strength, Alex will support Americana/roots outfit The Toy Hearts when they play at Whimple Victory Hall, on March 9.
"I'm really excited and happy to be playing the support slot. It's a great opportunity and they're a great band. I am beginning to feel just a little bit nervous the closer it gets though," she admitted.
Having toured extensively since making their first record in 2006, The Toy Hearts have played gigs and festivals across the UK, Europe and USA. They have opened for the likes of Robert Plant, Imelda May and Kitty Daisy & Lewis. Their Nashville-recorded 2010 release Femme Fatale received several plays from Bob Harris.
The group, who have carved themselves a niche performing Americana music, are made up of sisters Hannah and Sophia who persuaded their multi-instrument-playing dad Stewart to join them when they were just teenagers.
Though they have built up a loyal fan base in the UK, they have been visiting the States for the last five years, making contacts and forging friendships. Audiences across the pond have not only been impressed by a British band tackling a very American sound, but have also been charmed by the fact The Toy Hearts are father and daughters.
"The fact we are British and a family doing this is our strongest selling point over in the States," Hannah says. "Americans have a very positive mentality, a very can-do attitude. Everything is achievable with hard work.
"The fact we have dedicated our lives to studying this music and playing it with our dad, they have a huge amount of respect for that."
Dad Stewart specialises in playing a number of different kinds of guitar, including lap steel and dobro as well as banjo. The girls have inherited his skill on the guitar as well as taking care of the vocals.
"Dad has been a musician all his life," says Hannah. "He was in Great Balls of Fire in the West End. Then he did Jailhouse Rock for about four years."
Both Sophia and Hannah went to the University of Birmingham and they have managed to juggle this with their passion for performing.
"We did our first gig when I was about 15 or 16," said Hannah. "We kind of approached our dad to say, 'This is something we want to do and we don't know any more banjo players so will you please join us?' Those years between 2001 and 2006 were important for building our live stage show."
Fortunately for The Toy Hearts, the typical stresses of life on the road on tour, or nights spent performing then coming home in the early hours, have been lessened by the fact they are all together.
"When you are travelling so much, to have your family here as well, it's a nice thing. Touring is a lonely thing, so we are lucky we have each other."