Michelle Escoffery is an Ivor Novello Award and Brit Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter with more than thirty years of experience in the music industry. Having signed with both major and independent labels, and recognised for her creativity, musical ability and professional contributions, she currently sits on the Board of Directors for PRS for Music as a Writer-Director and on the Board of Trustees for PRS Foundation. Michelle is an educator, boutique label owner, live event organiser/promoter, consultant, masterclass facilitator, performance coach and vocal producer/arranger.
Michelle spoke with us who about her career, learning from her students, and how working with CLOCK keeps you on your toes.
Tell us your story. How did you get started in the music industry?
I came from a singing family. I was kind of born into it. My dad started my sisters singing as a group, so I started singing with my sisters around seven years old. I then went semi-professional at nine and then I went professional at sixteen. So, I would say around then was when I decided ‘yes I want to do this’. Up until that point, I had no desire to do it at all. It was just something fun I did. But I wouldn’t change that journey at all.
Aside from your career as a songwriter, you also work in music education. What skills do you take from writing into a lecture and vice versa?
I guess that it is all about being agile, being adaptable and also just having the perspective of experience. I’m not sure I would call myself a teacher, I guess I am, but what I do is all about shared experience. Sharing tips, sharing skills or tools with my students as to how to get a good result in terms of say melody or lyric writing.
But teaching is more about shaping them, and I find that the most rewarding. That special moment when you discover students that have the raw talent and a real spark, and they might have a completely different way of doing things to me, but it works. Then I learn from them too, and those lessons help me as a songwriter all the time. It just proves there isn’t only one way to make music!
Tell us about your advocacy in the music industry. Why is that important to you?
For me, it’s always been that you approach a person as a human being first, so my advocacy is about that. It’s also about giving somebody who is emerging a chance. I think that first and foremost, we are all human beings, and we all have different barriers and limitations.
People always want people with experience or ask, ‘what was your last hit’, but if you’re just starting, you don’t have a ‘last hit’. So for me, it’s allowing people to develop, to find their style and to be heard by other people, so they feel affirmed. That’s really where I’ve been for the last twenty years.
I used to run a night called Kindred Spirit, which was all about non-elitism in music. So established artists performed with brand new artists as well as spoken word artists. They would all share the same stage, with the same band and everyone would be there collaborating. Stuff like that that has always been my thing.
You know, music isn’t about who has been doing it for longer. You can find an emerging artist who is amazing. Do you know what I mean? So it’s just giving people the opportunity to be seen, to be heard. Diversity is much more than just gender or race, it’s about the place you were raised, and your value system, it’s about lived experience and how they differ. That’s what I’ve tried to push with my advocacy.
Share some CLOCK highlights with us.
I think it’s the people, to be honest, and the fact that everything is always different. No CLOCK experience will ever be the same, and I love that. You don’t know what to expect, and even if you think you know what will happen, something else happens! The experience of working with other peers in other creative industries and then learning from that is great too.
Working with the Victoria Music Development Office was amazing! I wasn’t going and then I got a call from Denise asking me to fly out with the CLOCK team a few days later. It was just crazy. But those are the kinds of things that I love!
We had meetings one day and then the next day the boot camps all started. It was a 0-100mph type thing, but it was just so fun! It was great to meet other creatives as well, to see how they think differently and do things differently. You know in the UK, especially in music, it all centres around ‘me’. How do I fit in? What do I do on a project? Whereas in Australia it was very ‘we’ centred. It was interesting to see that cultural difference and then work with it. So for that reason, that experience has got to be up there as a CLOCK highlight!
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