Beth McCarthy is back home in York tonight full of songs of break-ups and love in ruins but feeling in the pink with her London life

BETH McCarthy will play a home-city gig for the first time since March 2019 at The Crescent, York, tonight (2/5/2022).

Much has happened to Beth, singer, songwriter and erstwhile BBC Radio York evening show presenter, since she moved to London.

Lockdown times three may have curtailed her gigging but in that hiatus she has been buoyed by the online response to four singles and videos, drawing 4.8 million likes and 300,000 followers on TikTok and attracting 465,000 monthly listeners and nine million plays of her heartbreak hit She Gets The Flowers on Spotify.

“I moved down to the Big Smoke three weeks before the first lockdown,” recalls Beth. “Got here. World at my feet, then not anymore!

“It was funny really because, in the first stage of lockdown, it was like it was for all performers – everything stopped – so I came back to York and stayed with my parents for a while, and my only outlet for performing was busking on my parents’ drive.

“It got a bit depressing, I’m not going to lie, but I came back to London, as I’d managed to keep my place on, did some songwriting and started busking.”

After Beth was filmed busking, the response to the footage on social media was so positive that she thought, ‘I’d better get on to this’. “I started doing stuff on TikTok, doing something more than straightforward covers by re-working songs to give them a different perspective,” she says.

“That started to take off and the one that really caught on was OMG Did She Call Him Baby?, where I adapted the hook from Will Joseph Cook’s Be Around Me and changed it OMG Did She Call Him Baby?.

“He’s a songwriter from London, he’s got his own label; like me, he’s pretty independent himself. His song was going viral on TikTok, so I contacted him and he said yes to my version, and mine went viral too!”

Beth has settled into London life, living south of the river in Battersea. “That’s uncommon for creatives, but I absolutely love it, even if you could argue I haven’t experienced it at its fullest,” she says.

“But being around its fast pace does me a lot of good, whereas some people are put off by that and feel lonely. Not me. When I did The Voice [the BBC One talent show] in 2014 when I was 16, staying down here for rehearsals, I loved it and I’ve wanted to be here ever since.”

Reflecting on her move, Beth says: “I’ve had what you could call quite a ‘soft release’ to London; going back to York, doing some Radio York shows for a while, and I’ve still got my family there. I’ve had one foot in York, one foot in London, but now this is me, down here full time.”

Last year, Beth supported Sigrid and sold out two headline shows in London and now she has been taken under the wing of Kilimanjaro Live to promote her shows.  This spring, she has appeared on Kilimanjaro Live’s stage at Liverpool Sound City on May 1, and coming next after York tonight are gigs at Camden Assembly, London, on May 3 and Deaf Institute, Manchester, on May 7, followed by a set at Kilimanjaro Live’s new festival in Norwich, Neck Of The Woods, on May 29.

“Having Kilimanjaro Live and Live Nation onside is great, and I’ve also signed to the Paradigm agency, who do everyone! I have two agents there; one works with Billie Eilish, not bad company to be in!” says Beth.

“I haven’t got a manager yet. Finding the right one when you’ve been working on your own isn’t easy.”

Beth is signed to a small Manchester label, LAB Records. “They’re great as I just want to keep releasing songs, and there were sniffs around She Get The Flowers when it took off on Spotify for a bigger release. It almost happened but the industry is still bruised [by the pandemic].”

Check out She Gets The Flowers’ accompanying video on YouTube, the one with a litany of female hurt spelled out on cards – a mode of expression patented by Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues – held silently by assorted friends and cohorts of Beth, among them familiar faces from York’s arts scene such as Annie Donaghy and Livy Potter.

“Because it was lockdown, it was one of the hardest things to navigate, with only a restricted number of people allowed in the room and everyone having to be masked up except when each of us was being filmed, but that was the easiest way to film it at the time,” recalls Beth.

“I did it with Ont’ Sofa [the Old Stables recording studios in Harrogate], who I’ve always done stuff with, working with Ben Dave, who has a company called Dot and Diode, and Harrogate musician and producer Jason Odell.

“I’ve worked with Jason really closely. He co-produced it and every song I’ve done since then, so it’s nice to have a little piece of Yorkshire going in with Jason’s involvement.”

The story arch of She Gets The Flowers and its accompanying video charts those who do not receive the flowers and the circumstances why. “Everyone in the video needed to feel comfortable in front of the camera,” says Beth.

“A couple of them, Annie and Livy, had acting experience but the majority didn’t, but it was vital we set it up to create an emotional atmosphere, so we played them all the lyrics before recording, and that’s what made the song translate so well with their candid expressions on camera.”

For her York, London and Manchester gigs, guitarist Beth will perform in a three-piece line-up, but she remains equally at home singing on her own. “I’m back and forth with what I do when I play live.” she says.

“From the start, I paved the way for being able to just rock up with a guitar and just be myself on a stage. Picking up an acoustic guitar and becoming a singer-songwriter from when I was 13, I feel lucky that I was brought up in the very rootsy music scene in York.”

Beth McCarthy: Performing at Big Ian Donaghy’s A Night To Remember charity fundraiser at York Barbican

Joining Beth at The Crescent tonight will be drummer and musical director Michael Turnbull and keyboard player Christina Hizon. “Michael is connected with Litany (Beth Cornell’s band], from Harrogate, so it’s northerners coming together! I said, ‘You’re from the north, you’re going to have to be in my band’,” she says.

“Christina’s been on tour with Maisie Peters, and next up, after my shows, she’s going to tour with Ed Sheeran. She played with [Queen drummer] Roger Taylor on his tour last year that came to the York Barbican. We first in a social setting in London.”

Positivity courses through Beth as TikTok, Spotify and YouTube give her momentum, now compounded by her return to the concert platform. “I’m just going to push my music as much and as often as possible,” she says.

“I may have no label deal or management, but what I do have is the hope that people just want to listen to music, in whatever form, and the last two songs I’ve released have really instilled that in me.

“The rest is just fluff, and as long as you do the things that matter to you, that’s what’s important.”

Beth is putting together an EP combining her compositions If You Loved Me Right, Friendship Bracelet, No Hard Feelings and You Ruin Love. “The point was to capture as many feelings as possible out of relationships and break-ups,” she says.

“If You Loved Me Right is a classically bitter break-up song, taking the power back, feeling not sad, but angry. Friendship Bracelet says ‘go ahead, burn my bracelet’. I wanted the title No Hard Feelings for one song, knowing that most of the songs would be about hard feelings. But that’s all fine, that’s me! I like things to have a concept, to have an honest purpose.

“I feel like if I ever did fall deeply in love it would ruin my career! To be fair, the songs have all been pretty sad or angry, though No Hard Feelings is like an amicable break-up song where you end up on good terms. It’s still hard, but sometimes love fizzles out, there’s no falling out and you just don’t see each other anymore.”

In the buzz of London, Beth has been taking part in “loads of writing sessions with a bit of the speed-dating culture but for writing”. “I find everybody is pretty happy to share other talented people for you to work with,” she says.

Her song-writing goal is to conceive “songs for people who don’t have songs yet”, by which she means songs that are personal to them. “It’s that thing when people go, ‘that’s the song that feels like it came from me, even though I didn’t write it’,” says Beth. “I’m always searching for the person that doesn’t have that song.”

Beth McCarthy, The Crescent, York, tonight (2/5/2022), supported by Jemma Johnson. Doors: 7.30pm. Box office: the or