Michele Stodart offers Invitation to Pocklington Arts Centre gig on November 2 in double bill with Hannah White

The artwork for Michele Stodart’s first solo album in seven years, Invitation

THE Magic Numbers’ Michele Stodart is touring this autumn in support of her first solo album in seven years, Invitation.

The 19-date itinerary takes in Yorkshire dates at Pocklington Arts Centre on November 2, in a double bill with Hannah White, and Café #9, Sheffield, on November 23.

Born in Trinidad and long based in London, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Michele spent her early years surrounded by Caribbean music and culture, until she and her family fled a military coup attempt, leading them to Queens, New York, where she spent a large part of her childhood.

She is best known as bassist, vocalist and co-songwriter of the Mercury-nominated, double platinum-selling Magic Numbers, who have released five studio albums, played multiple headline tours and supported Neil Young, Radiohead, Brian Wilson, U2, Flaming Lips and Bright Eyes. She continues to play with the band, touring worldwide.

Alongside this, Michele has pursued her own writing and nurtured a love for folk/Americana artists such as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch.

She started writing songs in her early teens as a way to process and tell stories from her experiences. She would hide away to write songs, rarely playing them in public.

After Michele gave birth to her daughter, older brother, Romeo (frontman of The Magic Numbers), encouraged her to record and release an album of her own songs. This resulted in her first solo outing, 2012’s Wide-Eyed Crossing, a Southern-drenched journey into Americana country blues. 

“I never thought I’d release a solo album, but I needed closure from those songs, so recording them was the only way to truly move on”, she said at the time.

From this point, Michele began playing solo shows and tours. She soon became known for her intimate, passionate and heart-wrenching live performances, helping to establish her as a singer-songwriter in her own right.

Signed by One Little Independent, Michele’s second solo set, Pieces, emerged in 2016: a confessional, melodic country/roots album with an orchestral, cinematic feel.

Over recent years, she has divided her time between her work with The Magic Numbers and her solo projects. In between recording and touring, she has been building a name for herself as a musical director, collaborator and producer too.

She has been invited to curate stages at festivals and events, as well as promoting regular nights at Camden’s legendary Green Note. She continues to champion women in music and gender equality within the industry and combines curating, directing and performing in an annual series of multi-artist shows celebrating International Women’s Day.

Hannah White: Sharing a double bill with Michele Stodart at Pocklington Arts Centre

Her skills as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist have led to collaborative projects on stage and in the studio with Kathryn Williams, Billy Bragg, David Ford, Bernard Butler, Natalie Imbruglia, Ren Harvieu, Julian Taylor, Charlie Dore, David Kitt, Hannah White, Rachel Sermanni, Emily Barker, Diana Jones and O’Hooley & Tidow, among others. 

In 2019, Michele graced the silver screen in the Danny Boyle/Richard Curtis film Yesterday, chosen to appear on account of her melodic bass playing and electric, enigmatic stage presence.

Working alongside Boyle, Curtis and musical composer Daniel Pemberton, Michele’s bass and vocals are featured on the Abbey Road Studios movie soundtrack, reinterpreting The Beatles’ most beloved hits. 

In 2022, she was awarded the UK Americana Awards’ Instrumentalist of the Year Award. In January 2023, she was invited back as musical director at the awards,  where she led the all-female house band and played with The Waterboys’ Mike Scott, Allison Russell and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Judy Collins, who took a moment on stage to compliment Michele on her “incredible” talent. 

Invitation, her third studio album, arrived on September 15 on the Keepsake Recordings label, written, arranged and produced by Michele, with additional production from long-standing collaborator Dave Izumi Lynch.

The album was recorded at Echo Zoo Studios and features Michele on vocals, guitars, bass and percussion, as well as contributions from brother Romeo on piano, Andy Bruce on piano, Alice Phelps on harp, Will Harvey on violin and viola, CJ Jones on drums, Nick Pini on double bass, Joe Harvey-Whyte on pedal steel and Izumi Lynch on synths.

“Invitation is an intimate, personal record, with songs that touch on themes of motherhood, relationships, mental health, transformation, endings and new beginnings,” says Michele.

“It comes from a place of inviting in the darkness, the hard times, the sadness, anger, loss, love and grief… all of the unknown feelings that get woken up inside you. To practise staying with them, no matter how uncomfortable. To understand that they are there to guide you.

“I believe that it’s in the learning and listening that we can transform, grow, stay conscious and wholeheartedly true, open, honest with ourselves and others. Words are a powerful resource and we can choose to use them to connect deeply with one another. Songwriting has always been my way of trying to do just that, and I hope this album ‘invites’ us to reach out together.”

The album artwork and illustrations of the crow, drawn by Joni Belaruski, symbolise key themes: the crow represents transformation, change and freedom.

First single Tell Me touches on themes of cheating, heartbreak and yearning, with the song retaining a sense of rawness and immediacy both musically and lyrically. “I wanted to write a song set in the heat of a moment,” says Michele. “A brave, one-sided conversation between the truth and lies in a relationship. This is a song about a love affair in denial, hiding behind a sense of control and composure”.

In her double bill at Pocklington – where she has played on more than one occasion with The Magic Numbers – both Michele and Hannah White will be promoting new albums. Co-produced by Michele, Hannah’s Sweet Revolution will be released via The Last Music Company on November 3 in the wake of the south Londoner’s autobiographical song Car Crash winning UK Song of the Year at the 2023 UK Americana Awards.

Tickets for their 8pm gig are on sale on 01759 301547 and at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; for Michele’s Sheffield show, cafe9sheffield.co.uk or wegottickets.com/Cafe9.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, strictly in the name of entertainment. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 17, from The Press

Boundary breakers: Kevin Clifton’s Scott Hastings and Faye Brookes’s Fran in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, on tour at Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Pamela Raith

SHAKESPEARE all shook up, a trio of musicals, a singular Magic Number, orchestral Potter and Tolkien and rocking Goths put Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead in good shape.

Dance show of the week: Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

STRICTLY Come Dancing champ Kevin Clifton is joined by Dancing On ice runner-up and Coronation Street soap star Faye Brookes in Baz Luhrmann’s Australian romantic comedy musical.

Directed by Strictly’s Aussie-born judge Craig Revel Horwood, it follows rebellious ballroom dancer Scott Hastings (Clifton) as he falls out with the Australian Federation and finds himself dancing with Fran (Brookes), a beginner with no moves at all. Inspired by one another, this unlikely pairing gathers the courage to defy both convention and families. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

From Ukraine, with love: Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theatre, from Ukraine, will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at York International Shakespeare Festival on April 28. Picture: Oleksii Tovpyha

Festival of the week and beyond: York International Shakespeare Festival, various venues, running until May 1

THIS festival’s fifth edition combines more than 40 live events with others online, taking in international, national and York-made performances, talks, workshops, exhibitions and discussions.

Look out for the Kyiv National Academic Molodyy Theatre, from Ukraine, performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 28); Flabbergast Theatre’s The Tragedy Of Macbeth (April 26); artists from Poland, Croatia and Romania and Tim Crouch’s exploration of King Lear in a post-pandemic world, virtual-reality head set et al, in Truth’s A Dog Must To Kennel (April 29). For the full programme and tickets, go to: yorkshakes.co.uk.

Virtual reality meets King Lear: Tim Crouch in Truth’s A Dog Must To Kennel at the York International Shakespeare Festival. Picture: Stuart Armitt

Soundtracks of the week: The Music Of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit and The Rings Of Power In Concert, York Barbican, Monday, 4pm; The Magical Music Of Harry Potter Live In Concert, Monday, 8pm

THIS brace of concerts has been rearranged from April 6 to 24, both featuring a symphonic orchestra, choir, star soloists and an original actor. The first, a two-hour matinee celebrating the music inspired by the work of J R R Tolkien, spans the threatening sounds of Mordor, the shrill attack of the black riders and the beautiful lyrical melodies of the elves. 

The second showcases the Harry Potter film soundtracks by John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat, complemented by music from the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child stage show. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Crowning gory: Harry Summers’ Richard, seated, becomes king in a York Shakespeare Project rehearsal for Richard III. Picture: John Saunders

“Petty, narcissistic and vengeful psychopath” of the week: York Shakespeare Project in Richard III, Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

PHASE Two of York Shakespeare Project, projected to run for 25 years, is launched with former British diplomat Daniel Roy Connolly’s modern-day account of “the York play”, Richard III, set amid the frenetic, calculating and brutal politicking of the House of Commons.

“Telling Shakespeare through what is comfortably the most corrupt institution in the country, the play explores the cut and thrust of power’s crucible, with laws ignored and lies sown,” he says. Harry Summers leads the cast. Box office: ticketsource.co.uk/ridinglights.

Romeo Stodart: Solo night at the Fulford Arms for the Magic Numbers singer

Low-key gig of the week: An Evening With Romeo Of The Magic Numbers, Fulford Arms, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

O ROMEO, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo Stodart on Sunday night? The lead vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter of indie rockers The Magic Numbers will be in lonesome mode at the Fulford Arms. Expect Magic Numbers gems and equally magic numbers from 2011 solo album The Moon And You. Box office: thecrescentyork.seetickets.com.

Steve Tearle: Director, Narrator and Mystery Man in NE’s Into The Woods

Bewitching show of the week: NE in Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

STEPHEN Sondheim’s darkly witty musical is a grown-up twist on the classic fairytales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack And The Beanstalk, here narrated by NE director Steve Tearle.

After the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Pascha Turnbull) leaves a baker (Chris Hagyard) and his wife (Perri-Ann Barley) childless, they venture into the woods to find the ingredients needed to reverse the spell.  Encounters with all manner of fairytale favourites ensue, each on a quest to fulfil a wish. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Mayflies writer-composer Gus Gowland, seated with cast members Emma Thornett, left, Rumi Sutton and Nuno Queimado

Musical premiere of the week: Gus Gowland’s Mayflies, York Theatre Royal, April 28 to May 13, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

THREE into two will go when York Theatre Royal stages the world premiere of resident artist Gus Gowland’s musical Mayflies, wherein he explores how people present different versions of themselves in relationships and how it can then all come crashing down.

Three actors, Nuno Queimado (May), Rumi Sutton (May/Fly) and Emma Thornett (Fly), will alternate the roles, with each pairing offering a different perspective on the relationships within this contemporary love story, traced by Gowland from first flourish on a dating app to the last goodbye in person. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Cold Cave: Headlining the Friday bill at the Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby

Goth gathering of the week: Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival Spring Gathering 2023, Whitby Pavilion, Whitby, April 28 and 29

BACK in black in the home of Dracula, Whitby’s premier gothic music and alternative arts festival returns with headline appearances by Cold Cave (April 28) and New Model Army (April 29) and a Friday club night into the early hours by Leeds living legends Carpe Noctum.

The Friday bill features a rare performance from American goth rock special guests Christian Death, alongside sets by The Rose Of Avalanche and Siberia. Saturday features special guests Lebanon Hanover, Ist Ist and The Nosferatu. Box office: ticketweb.uk.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore Stod-art thou playing solo tomorrow night in York?

Romeo Stodart

ROMEO Stodart, lead singer and principal songwriter for The Magic Numbers, will play as a one-man band at The Basement, City Screen, York, tomorrow night (February 17).

“I’ve decided to do a few solo shows mainly because I’ve never done them before, so it’ll be a very different and new experience for me,” says Romeo, 43.

“I’ve got so many pieces of music that haven’t yet found a home, as they’re not necessarily Magic Numbers songs, and I think it’d be a great opportunity to play them and bring them to life in front of people.”

Romeo wants his solo gigs to be unique, liberating, intimate and engaging. “I need you to be there for them with an open mind and open heart,” he says. “There’s nothing to fear as our band is forever, but I’m really excited by these dates. Hope you are too.

You can hear what some of our songs sound like in the way that they were first conceived or a new interpretation, but the main emphasis will be on the new and the journey of the night.”

Formed in Ealing in 2002, The Magic Numbers have five albums to their name: 2005’s million-selling, Mercury Music Prize-nominated, self-titled debut; 2006’s Those The Brokes; 2010’s The Runaway, 2014’s Alias and 2018’s Outsiders.

Making up the Numbers are two pairs of brothers and sisters: Sean and Angela Gannon and Romeo and Michele Stodart, who were born to Scottish father and Portuguese mother on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, where their mother was an opera singer with her own TV show.

Tomorrow’s 8pm concert is presented by York promoters Under The Influence; tickets for An Evening With Romeo Stodart cost £14 on 0871 902 5726, at thebasementyork.co.uk/romeo-stodart or on the door.