Category Archives: Music

MUSIC INTERVIEW: Lucan Mills – The rapper from Winchester who vows to always keep it real and acoustic

Rap that sears its way forcibly through a blues band while at the same time overwhelms you to close your eyes and sway, is a winning combination when executed properly.

Winchester rapper and songwriter Lucan Mills, whose debut EP Level 1 awaits its official iTunes release – 10 years on from gracing stages as a support act for Tinie Tempah and G Unit – marks the beginning of a new chapter for the 26-year-old.

To keep the music in its rawest form, Lucan has composed his own sound – an uptempo fusion of hip hop, jazz and funk – weaved together with realism and lyrics that puncture each note played by his seven-piece band. More than two years in the making ‘without them the live shows wouldn’t be what they are,’ Lucan admitted, and they go by the names: Graham Henderson (Bass); Alex Villar (Guitar); Louis Yalaz (Drums); Jen Watson (Saxophone); Kit Marsden/ Herty Hill/ Jacob Stoney (Keys); and James Tashario (Vocals).

In the lead up to national tour dates, the first being tomorrow at MK Dons Stadium, myself and Lucan had a lot to talk about – like how he learnt to rap so quick, the ‘weird’ music industry, and why he’ll be forever grateful to the likes of David Bowie and Jay Z.

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Now you’re from Winchester but my geography is poor, so I can see that it’s kind of close to London. Was music a bit part of the scene growing up there?

Well Craig David was Southampton based and it was very much the garage and hip hop scene down there growing up. He would emcee in a club called Rhino, which I did too a few years after, so there was definitely a buzz around it and everybody listened to the music – but don’t get me wrong, I was probably the only one rapping in my school at the time so that was different.

You must have definitely stood out then.

That’s a good way to put it! Especially back then it wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now so I definitely got ‘but you’re white’ all the time and people would take the mick, but I’m still doing it now so that faded off over the years.

What was your response to that ignorance?

Back then I used to just laugh it off. I loved doing it so much and knew that I could do it, that I just ignored it and got on with it. But when I got to college and was making more tracks, people understood that this is what I wanted to do and accepted it.

Listening to your voice now, you don’t sound like how you rap – you rap quite hard which reminds me of grime. Did you take influences from grime when you were crafting your sound initially?

100 percent. I’m a massive Kano fan and when I was growing up, he was just lyrically brilliant and in the US – Jay Z and Eminem were the biggest influences for me. I would study their tracks, not just their lyrics but it was more about flow, and I was also listening to a lot of UK grime. I can switch between all of them, it just depends what beat I’m listening to, but at the same time I’m very careful because people will say I’m not a grime artist. There’s a fine line between what’s going to be credible and believable.

I understand that. You mentioned Kano and Jay Z – were they the rappers that you would imitate when you were developing your rap skills and speed?

Definitely, some of the early tracks I learnt like So Ghetto, a really old track off one of Jay Z’s first albums and Imaginary Player, all those songs about flow and lyrics, and the way he would change tempo was similar to Eminem and Kano in P’s and Q’s. It was all about tempo for me at the same time as being lyrically impressive and thinking quick on my feet. David Bowie was also a big influence for me, I went to a show of his just before he’d finished touring. I’d listened to Bowie all my life because my dad was a huge fan and I took a lot in from watching how he’d perform and his stage presence.

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You probably get told often that your music is distinctive but there’s obviously been some conscious decisions you’ve made to achieve that sound.

It was difficult because when I first started making music I would rap over mixtape beats and other people’s stuff but with my own music, I was always very conscious that I wanted to have a live band. So once I’d made that decision it was a case of bringing together really good musicians who wanted to be part of it. I spent a long time crafting the sound – adding saxophone, having keys and synths – and trying to incorporate everything together to give it a live jazz feel that’s funky and different, at the same time as keeping the hip hop element strong. I’m still working on it – it’s constantly evolving but it took a while to get the sound that we have now.

IMG_1160 smallHow is it that you and the band work together because there’s a lot of creative heads to factor in?

It’s mad, when I first got them together I had my songs, we’d go into a room and go through them all but it’s different with a production track. You’ve got the band that play it but then I very much wanted their input into the music as well, so the tracks completely changed from the production version that we had into the live version. What you hear on the EP now is not what they originally were and with all these creative people as you say, they all had a different flavour that they wanted to bring to the table. Those songs evolved over a year or so before I actually went in and re-recorded the EP from scratch live. It’s a real collaboration of ideas but I want to take it even further because there’s so much that we can do to merge the live and electronic sound together and make something huge.

One of the songs I really like on the EP is Stay Lucky. Although it’s not the lead single, it’s very pretty and heartfelt – where was your head at when you wrote and recorded it?

That song I wrote originally as a poem, it was never a song. I can’t even remember what inspired the rhythm or what beat I was listening to, it was just a block of writing, but I loved the words so much that when I first started performing live with just me and a guy on piano, I got him to play this nice riff and I would rap the lyrics, almost like spoken word. I carried on doing that for a year maybe more and it just evolved. It wasn’t until a few months before I did the EP that I decided I wanted it to be a proper song and literally within a few seconds I came up with the Stay Lucky chorus, which stemmed from a story with my granddad and this ring he gave me with a horseshoe on it. The chorus isn’t complicated but it really fitted the tone of my singer’s voice. It’s one of James’ favourite songs to sing, who is my vocalist when we perform live, but on the EP it’s Wadé singing.

You’ve been gigging over summer and on the 31st October you’re playing at the MK Stadium so @menmademusic asked on Twitter if you’re an MK Dons FC supporter?

I’ve actually got a season ticket for MK Dons because my dad used to live in Milton Keynes and when they got promoted to the championships it was a really good deal. I haven’t had a chance to go to many games recently because I’ve been away, which is annoying, but I’ll be at the home game with the band. It’s a good atmosphere when I’ve been so to be asked to perform there is really cool and random because I don’t know how they knew I was even a musician – but it should be a good day.

Tell me about Ed Sheeran – you performed on stage with him and I know it was a lucky coincidence.

I was at a night in Clapham a couple of years ago and Jamal Edwards from SBTV came in and had bought Ed along. A mate of mine was running the night at the time and I happened to be sat chatting to him [Ed] about it. He went on stage to perform You Need Me and then he said, ‘I want to call some rappers up I was chatting to earlier’ and I had to take the opportunity when it was there, so I jumped up on stage and made it up as I went along. I’ve got the video forever so hopefully if I meet him again, I’ll show it to him.

Most artists have a bigger vision and motivation for why they’re an artist, what would you say that yours is?

I just know it’s what I’ve always wanted to do from the minute I can remember – the pictures of me putting headphones on, strumming away on a tennis racket watching Bowie on the TV when I was about four. My vision has always been to be respected for doing what I love and if another rapper turns around and says, ‘You know what? You’re a brilliant rapper’ – that’s my dream. When you see artists like Ed Sheeran sell out Wembley and the crowd are chanting the songs – just pure respect for your talent – that would be special. It’s not about the money. I know people say that all the time, it’s a boring cliche, but money can only go so far. If I could have a massive crowd of people all singing my songs and actually the songs do something for them, that would be everything to me.

And what stadium would you love to sell out?

Oh, Hollywood Bowl, Wembley, Coachella, Glastonbury – but for now Brixton Academy would be awesome.

For tickets to see Lucan Mills headline at Bloomsbury Lanes, London for their Hot Vox music launch night click here.

Website/ Twitter/ /Instagram

GIG REVIEW: Bipolar Sunshine at the Ritz Manchester

Dulcet tones and hymnal backing vocals produced a calming sense of stillness at the Ritz Manchester last night.

Source: Chuff Media

Source: Chuff Media

Bipolar Sunshine lulled me into a trance only to rouse me from the slumber with beautiful melodies and lyrics that rang out like anthems.

It was an interesting experience, and yet somehow unexpected, despite the purposeful use of juxtaposition within his studio material and new creative direction.

Harmonic vocals ensnared the crowd and while lyrics, ‘I feel the fire’ echoed around the room so too did the rapturous applause once the last note was played. Sunset orange filled the stage for the aptly titled, Fire, and while Bipolar was quiet, the cheering continued.

Bipolar Sunshine, real name: Adio Marchant, knew exactly what he was doing on stage but yet didn’t need to do much at all. The audience were with him all of the way – phones and plastic cups of beer in the air, leaving Marchant and the band to continue without gimmicks.

Addressing the crowd near the end of his set, he declared: “I always make sure the last place I play is Manchester,” before rapping acapella in his uniquely crafted spoken-word style. Though Bipolar has made a conscious decision to step away from a sound synonymous with Manchester, you only had to look around at the indie crowd to know he’s made a mark on the alternative music scene here.

Relatable on stage without unnecessary decoration, reverberating drumbeats and synths added striking depth to his musical offerings. Magic was created when other genres like Ska seeped through and the crescendo of a four-piece band touched the soul of every person in the audience.

Performing all of the best tracks in his arsenal: Where Did The Love Go, Rivers, Love More Worry Less, I suspect we’ll be waiting until festival season to see him live again. Marking the last few minutes of his UK tour with Daydreamers, at least I have the album on my hard drive to see me through to summer.

www.bipolarsunshine.com

Originally published on Mancunian Matters 

Infrastructure to Industry: Hip Hop Birmingham’s Call to Action

Undeniably the UK plays a part in the wider Hip Hop narrative and for some time British names have enjoyed international notoriety for their contribution to, what was a genre dominated by Black America.

Followers of the industry know all too well the issues that blight UK Hip Hop, but directing the debate on a regional level is the upcoming Infrastructure to Industry – the city’s call to action on Saturday 24 January at the Rep Theatre, Broad Street.

Infrastructure to Industry Flyer

Hosted by Mandisa Speaks, with guest speakers including Malik MD7, Big Ted, Sic’nis and Colin Rox of Four Pillars London, this open forum is Birmingham’s chance to manifest positive outcomes in our Hip Hop scene. Filmed and streamed live online, expect special performances from Dan Man, Birmingham turntablist DJ Miss C Brown and E Double D.

With just nine days to go click here for tickets and in the meantime, I leave you with an exclusive set from Miss Brown, featuring classic UK Hip Hop blended using, “MP4s, two turntables and Serato,” she says.

“I put the mix together to try and capture some of the different sounds prevalent in UK Hip Hop – including the heavy reggae influences.

“In my opinion this is one of the things that sets UK Hip Hop apart from Hip Hop in the US.”

Full Tracklist

  • Mystro – Cockadoodle doo
  • Blak Twang speaks
  • RU1 fam ft Logic & Amy True – 1 Love
  • Klashnekoff – It’s Murda
  • Amnesia ft Bham All Stars – Birmingham City
  • Joe Black – Usual Suspects
  • OP – Say Nuttn (snippet)
  • Rodney P speaks
  • Rodney P – The Nice Up
  • Roots Manuva – Witness
  • Blak Twang – So Rotten
  • RTkal – Sleng Teng
  • Inf Diggy & Cheba – Mic Check

REWIND: Wayne Marshall ‘G Spot’/ Beverley Knight ‘Flavour of the Old School’

Not the song that I randomly began singing a moment ago, but this was the one that followed it on my mum’s cassette tape. If only I could remember more than a few scatty lyrics of the one I actually want to find. ‘See what happiness will bring ya/yeah’ is as far as I’ve got and, ‘Everybody’s got that feeling’ followed by a high-pitched, ‘[something, something] high school(?)’ This is going to kill me!

*SCREAM* I got it! It was Beverley Knight – Flavour of the Old School. Thank goodness for that as I couldn’t even phone a friend to have them guess the tune.

Enjoy!

MUSIC INTERVIEW: Nia Ekanem – The most humble musician you’ll ever meet

Modestly just three words describe the way singer Nia Ekanem perceives himself, but behind the acoustic guitar is a compelling narrator riding a timeless rhythm.

In 2014 it’s fair to say that popular music is largely dominated by mindless lyrics. Content sits on the periphery of offensive and has arguably been raped of its intellect, but scoop the shit from the piss and you’ll unearth a new wave of artists. Students of their craft, they concentrate on getting it right, whatever it may be, and gain a collective of loyal fans in the meanwhile.

Nia Ekanem NUBI magazine

A musician, and singer, Nia Ekanem fits perfectly into this category. Self-confessed perfectionist, his aptly-titled debut EP – Learner Composer Expressor is beautifully nostalgic with unexpected depth for someone so young. It’s no wonder then that before the official release in July, single Home had already been featured on BBC Introducing, a proud moment for the then, 21-year-old. ‘I was very excited but took a back step and thought, I guess I’m doing something right.’ But I’m surprised to hear him say this as his noticeably cool exterior verges on self-effacing. Nonetheless incredibly charming, I’m drawn in by his considered responses, although jumbled at parts – I get the logic and sense his passion.

A distinctive sound, made far more seductive by its maturity and raspy edge, he’s dubbed his own genre away from ‘Acoustic Soul’ to simply ‘Organic’ – much like everything about his brand which he approaches strategically (what else do you expect from a Marketing Management student?) Nia’s thoroughness though I find quite funny as it contrasts his naturalistic style of just about everything, from the frustrating way he song writes: ‘I sit down, whether on keyboard or guitar and when the melody comes to me, I play it over and over again, and try to trust whatever comes,’ to being in awe of nature and the great outdoors.

Needless to say, he’s come a long way since his beginnings at church where he was a shy singer.‘I always felt singing was a bit nerdy and that you had to have an RnB voice. I couldn’t sing like Trey Songz or Usher so I left it.’ Or at 16 rapping on grime beats with childhood group L4C, but when creative differences split the friends apart and Nia took a two year break, this is when it all really began. Music direction found, ‘I got introduced to soul music and I was like, I guess not everybody has a high-pitched voice,’ Nia Ekanem was ready to get serious and I couldn’t wait to hear about it.


Your EP came out late July, why did you choose to have only four tracks?

I have a lot of material so I thought to pick the songs that really represent me as an artist. I still see myself as a newbie in the industry and not everybody will get me or want to get me, not because I’m crap but it’s understandable. Keep it short and simple, and if you like it, you will support me in my music journey, if you don’t, onto the next one.

The lyrics are very heartfelt. I’d love to know what memories you were channeling?

All of them represent me reminiscing about the past but Old School Days really puts a stamp on it. It was basically me at university bored, missing home, stressing over exams and the chorus came to me. I had the chorus for a couple of months just repeating it and then one day, the verse came. I try to write as natural as possible, if not it just becomes a whole mess. Home was pretty much the same, when I was around 14 my mum said the words, “Home is where the heart is,” and explained it to me, it has been with me since then. That song was literally written in two hours, I guess I was telling the story of a person on a journey. Their heart is somewhere else but they have to go through this journey in order to make a great ending for their loved ones. Little Jack basically is whatever you’re going through, someone is going through something worse. I wanted to tell a story about somebody’s reality and Don’t Let Me Go it is, we all want to be accepted.

Who do you want to be accepted by?

I would say everybody and anybody but I really just want people to take away the message, something that will help them in their lives and future.

Are you planning to tie your marketing degree with the music?

Later on, yeah, I want to create a summer camp for creatives so people who are interested in music to help develop them, and help with their direction. Myself and two others have a management company called CIC which stands for Creative Ingenuity so marketing helps with the whole management side of things.

Nia Ekanem Instagram

How important is it for artists to marry that business acumen with performing?

When you understand the business aspect of things you don’t necessarily have to rely on record labels because record labels are selfish. You come under me, sell so and so, if you don’t, we’ll drop you. If you owe us money, we’ll take your belongings, but if you can figure out a way of how to market yourself, it works in your favour.

You took time out to decide whether you would pursue music. What were you doing to make that decision?

My first year was recovering from the break up of L4C and thinking how to market myself because I’m a person who likes perfection, and if I get into something, I like to be sure. I changed my whole social media to just one name because it made sense and I tried to just sort out my brand, who I am and how I want to be looked at. So that was the first year and the second year was practising the keyboard and guitar.

Having to shut yourself off, was that quite a lonely experience?

It was both lonely and annoying because I saw my friends and peers doing things. We feel the need to compare our level of progress or success to those around us and if it’s not on the same par, we condemn ourselves. That was one thing I kept doing. So while my friends were graduating, getting jobs, releasing projects etcetera, I condemned myself and didn’t try to look at the end goal and bright side in what I was doing.

How do you preserve your creative energy and focus?

I watch movies a lot. I go to the cinema alone, not because I don’t have any friends but it helps to expand the mind. Every time I go with somebody I feel like I’ve wasted my time but when I go by myself, my mind goes wild and it helps with my creativity. I also travel a lot, like I said to a friend of mine recently, “I’m going to the mountains,” or something like that [laughs] but really I’m going somewhere to unwind. It’s been a very busy, stressful couple of months and to get back to myself I’ll just book a hotel somewhere and spend a couple of days.

So you value your space and time to recharge.

I try not to lose myself because when you’re around people, all you get are compliments to an extent so it’s trying not to allow the compliments to fill your head because then you’ll be like, ‘I’ve arrived!’ [cue my sly giggle at the joke] but no, you haven’t. People will say it I guess to be encouraging but you have to realise to stay humble.

What do you see then as your value in the music industry? What are you doing differently that needs to be heard?

Staying organic with my sound. Standing for something and being able to make a difference with my music, now that is amazing. That is really something I believe is different and I can’t wait until everybody hears it.

Twitter / YouTube / Instagram

Cover Drive on EP Liming in Limbo, T-Ray’s love of Jordans and why they make music for the fans

From L-R: Jamar, Barry, Amanda and T-Ray

From L-R: Jamar, Barry, Amanda and T-Ray

To some, the name Cover Drive is met with confused expression, given their brief year-and-a-half on the international music scene, but not to their 150,000 plus fans on Facebok or their 15,000 loyal Instagram followers – pretty much, anyone who’s up-to-date with music and pop culture.

We know we haven’t been here physically in the UK but we still felt that strong connection with our fans. That never goes, we love them. Amanda

The hottest group to leave the island of Barbados – ever, with a lead female vocalist thrust into the mix of three sun-kissed male band mates, it’s hard to number 1: not feel jealous of Cover Drive’s Amanda Reifer, whose sultry on-stage presence and curvaceous frame has seen her compared to fellow island-mate, Rihanna, several times. Together with T-Ray Armstrong (drummer), Barry Hill (guitarist) and Jamar Harding (bassist), the group’s iconic sound, dubbed ‘Carib-pop’, have won the esteem of President Obama, landing a spot on his 2013 inaugural playlist and a top 15 debut album in 2012.

You can’t let the pressure get to you because if the pressure gets to you then you’re not going to release your best product. You just have to relax and let the music do the talking. T-Ray

In the lead up to their highly anticipated comeback, Cover Drive embarked on a headline UK tour earlier this month, fresh from touring the States and ready to reconnect with their worldwide ‘CD Fielders’ a.k.a. fans. Current single, Lovesick Riddim is riding low on the radar for the moment but offers a glimpse into their creative growth and newer, more mature sound. In addition to the release of their new EP, Liming in Limbo, due for release on November 11, the band have been cooking up some stellar material with the likes of Boy-1-da (Jay Z and Drake), Angela Hunte (Miley Cyrus, Snoop Lion and Alicia Keys) and Supa Dups (Bruno Mars and Estelle).

There are those pressures there, but we’ve had to learn to not focus on them and just do it the same way we did the first album so it can come out as authentic and as real as we want it to be. Amanda

Just hours before appearing on stage for date 4 of their 9 UK gigs, I squeezed into the band’s box dressing room at the Birmingham 02 Academy, and was politely offered a cosy seat right in the middle of the group’s more vocal members, T-Ray and Amanda. Not only did their HD-beauty look even more prominent while our faces were just inches away from one another, or moments before when I gave each one a friendly hug, but Barry’s interest in my quite dapper-looking Kindle and compliments on my outfit, gave them gold stars way before they offered me a spot in the group. Well, that didn’t happen but you’ll hear what did when you listen to the audio below, along with which person in the band is a hopeless romantic and why it’s so important for the fans to follow them on this journey to the second album.

To book tickets for Cover Drive’s remaining UK tour dates click here.

Lovesick Riddim is available to download on iTunes now.

 www.wearecoverdrive.com

Interview: Artist Bobii Lewis EXCLUSIVE on his second single fresh from I LUV LIVE

Within the realm of British music, it definitely seems that there’s some good luck in being male, white and ginger so I’m sure one of the UK’s most promising artists won’t mind me mentioning the fact. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, meet 21-year-old Bobii Lewis, the breath of fresh air sent to reawaken mainstream urban music. Starting with the uniformity of choral singing – a reputation killer that he doesn’t regret – it wasn’t long before he started collaborating with artists in his hometown of North London, studied music at college and went on to solidify himself as a singer, rapper and producer. Blessing Brum Town with his presence on stage at I LUV LIVE, I got to kick back with the man himself; the one who sang to my soul to find out more about his current single, Cut Me Some Slack and what it’s like working with his best friend.Bobii-Lewis

Tell me about your day. Have you been in Birmingham long?

We drove down here – when did we get here? About 5 ish but we got lost along the way. It was quite a horrible journey, I won’t lie, but it was worth the wait. It reminds me of London to be honest, the scenery itself is almost like being in London. It’s got everything here. We ended up going to Nandos – yeah, always go to Nandos. I have to branch out and try other stuff. [Laughs]

So you know, a lot of artists would say that performing live is much better than being inside the studio. Is that something you’d agree with?

I would say that performing live before, it used to be scary to me when I was first coming up with the music so the studio was my home, that was where I was comfortable, but I’ve realised you can make music in your bedroom but after a while, it’s just for your bedroom, it’s not for anyone to share vibes with you so now I’d say performing is better. I never thought I would have said that two years ago.

Like you said, you’ve been in the studio for the past few years and I know you’ve been through a lot to get to this point in your career.

There’s a lot of grinding, a lot of nights when you stay up late – pretty much I think I share the same grind as everyone else but I really pushed hard. Me and my team we all work together so that made it easier because The GaHD, my manager, Kenneth my guitarist, we’ve been there the whole two years – well actually three years. We’ve just been grinding and have had each other’s backs.

Speaking of TheGaHD, working with him, musically, what’s the energy like between you?

I would say the energy – well we’ve known each other since primary school, hence the Afrobeats thing, we were doing that from way before, maybe two, three years back but it wasn’t the right time to throw it out because I’m an RnB artist, I had to pursue RnB first. But working with him, obviously we’re best friends so the vibe just comes out in the music, I guess.

The second single, Cut Me Some Slack is officially out on iTunes, the video’s doing really well, how do you feel about it?

B: Extremely happy. You know, every time you do a campaign, as fun as it is, it’s very stressful as well because you have to do a lot of things but I guess that all comes with the package. Then when we saw the results, getting played on radio, TV channels, a lot of love online as well, I was very happy – that’s all I can say.

The song and its lyrics, it’s definitely quite an anthem. Was it therapeutic for you to write?

Yes, when we were first doing the track I wrote the hook – I didn’t write the verses as quick but I wrote the hook – it was almost like a freestyle, I was just vibeing. What I usually do is when I record, sometimes I’ll just do a melody and once we got into it, I wrote them in about two minutes basically – it came off the top of my head but the verses I did the next day and took my time with it because I really wanted people to know the journey and understand.

From your set I can tell that you’ve been influenced by a lot of genres and you have a very edgy sound as well. How would you say that it’s developed? And who are some of your musical influences?

I would say my actual musical influences of recent years, Kanye West has been my favourite artist, probably since I was 12. I heard College Dropout, his album, and since then it’s always been that way. I think the edyness was more me challenging myself because when I was first doing music – as a young kid you have more insecurities, you’re more self- conscious so I was bit more like, ‘I don’t know if I should do this.’ A lot of artists are still like it now and I didn’t want that box to be there so I challenged myself to be edgier and when I did it, the results were good.

I suppose it’s quite exciting the fact that your career can go anywhere right now because you’re just at the beginning.

That actually excites me a lot.

Coming up to summer, what kind of things have you got lined up? I can imagine that you’re going to be super busy, promoting.

Something that’s definitely going to happen is at least a couple tracks this year, videos, full push campaign. We’ve got a lot of hits stacked up and we’ve got to squeeze it down to two or three tracks but we should be able to do it. And events, I’m terrible at remembering, but my website bobiilewis.com/events that’s where you need to look. Sometimes it’s not updated in time but there’s stuff that’s in the pipeline.

But your twitter, that’s always nice and up-to-date?

Oh yeah, follow me on twitter @bobiilewis.

Well, you heard the man.

Buy the single Cut Me Some Slack on iTunes here.

Tweet @BobiiLewis

www.bobiilewis.com

*I LUV LIVE Birmingham was organised by Punch Records & Baby People. For more information on how to be involved visit: www.iluvlive.co.uk