YORK country singer-songwriter Twinnie will go ahead with the April 17 launch of her debut album, Hollywood Gypsy, even amid the Coronavirus lockdown.
After all, it took the West End musical leading light, model, Hollyoaks soap star and film actress ten years to land a record contract with big hitters BMG.
“I feel very excited and it’s come around really quickly since I released my first EP [Better When I’m Drunk] last March,” says Twinnie, 32, who first took to the York stage as Twinnie-Lee Moore at the age of four.
“Given the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s a weird time, but I’m a new artist, I’ve waited so long to make an album, and right now, more than ever, I feel I need music, we need music.
“It would be easy to panic, but I’ve found I’ve connected more than ever with my fans on Instagram Live.”
Twinnie was to have played a sold-out home-city gig at The Crescent on March 22 to showcase Hollywood Gypsy, but the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to her debut headline tour, now re-arranged for the autumn. Glasgow, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol await, before a Crescent crescendo on November 29, with tickets remaining valid.
Twinnie did perform, however, at the prestigious Country2Country (C2C) Festival in Berlin on March 7 and 8, and coming next was a C2C show at the O2 Arena, London, on March 14. “That would have been a really big deal for me, being able to promote my album and tour, so it’s a real downer, but I’m just really grateful that there’s still light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s good that we’ve managed to re-schedule the tour,” she says.
As chance would have it, the C2C cancellation led to a prompt invitation to fill the void in Twinnie’s diary with a live set on BBC Radio 2’s The Country Show with Bob Harris on March 12. “Bob has been a really big supporter of mine,” she says. “He was the first DJ to support me on the radio, even before I had a recording contract. I just sent him a track and he played it!”
Twinnie first trod the boards in York when attending the late Miss Isobel Dunn’s dance school, started playing a keyboard at seven and then performed in the Grand Opera House pantomime dance ensemble. She progressed from roles as Bet in Oliver! in 2001 and Lilly in Annie in 2002 in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project to playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz in 2003.
“I was 16 and I thought I might have been too tall for Dorothy but the director, Simon Barry, said I was the right choice,” she recalls.
A month later, the former Joseph Rowntree School pupil was leaving behind her Haxby Road home for three years of dance and musical theatre studies at Phil Winston’s Theatre Works in Blackpool.
West End roles ensued in We Will Rock You and the short-lived Desperately Seeking Susan, and in April 2009, now 21, she returned home to the Grand Opera House as 1920s’ Chicago double murderess and aloof nightclub singer Velma Kelly in the national tour of Chicago.
Her face greeted the London Underground throng on Chicago’s trademark black-and-white posters too and she had a year as the Latino character Jazmin in Flashdance in the original London cast at the Shaftsbury Theatre from autumn 2010.
Twinnie sang Miley Cyrus’s The Climb when competing on BBC One talent show The Voice in March 2012, failing to hit the heights alas with an early exit. After film roles in Iron Clad 2 and Strangelove in 2014, she made her soap debut as racy Porsche McQueen in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks in November that year, playing her for a year.
A further screen role followed in The Wife, the Oscar-nominated Glenn Close film, but all the while, Twinnie was drawn to making music. “To be honest, music was probably the first thing I started out wanting to do, which people don’t know about. But people pay their dues to pay their mortgage,” she says.
“Even when I was doing We Will Rock You at 19 with Brian May, performing eight shows a week, I was playing country songs in dive bars too at the weekend.”
Now dividing her time between London and Nashville, Twinnie is living out that wish to put her song-writing to the fore. “I’ve been on stage since I was four years old, and my dad introduced me to the music of some of the best songwriters. Like my first gig was Gilbert O’Sullivan,” she says.
“And I always loved musicals too. I grew up watching Hollywood movie musicals, especially Judy Garland, which is one of the reasons I’ve called the album Hollywood Gypsy.”
Determination to succeed marked out Twinnie from a young age. “Even at eight, I wrote down the addresses of the Sony Music and Universal record company labels. Then one of my poems got published at school. I always wanted to tell stories,” she says.
“I got told you have to do everything for what you do to work. You can’t just stand there and sing. I always want people to feel entertained when I do a show.
“I don’t think there are many ‘triple threat’ performers like me, so I want to tell the story, not just in the song, but in the performance too.”
Country music might not have been an obvious outlet for a York singer and songwriter, but Twinnie says: “For me, country music was always big. Johnny Cash; Dolly Parton, one of the great songwriters; Shania Twain and now Taylor Swift,” she says.”
Twinnie has been travelling to Nashville, Tennessee, for the past six or seven years, leading to her co-writing in the capital of country with Grammy Award-winning writers Nathan Chapman, Liz Rose and Dave Barns.
“I also wrote with Ben Earle, before he formed The Shires with Crissie Rhodes, and two of my songs with him, Black And White and First Flight Out, ended up on their first album, Brave,” she says.
Now, after winning Best Breakthrough Act at the 2019 British Country Music Association awards and a support slot on Kiefer Sutherland’s tour, everything comes to fruition for Twinnie on Hollywood Gypsy.
This is a thoroughly modern country album, made with the likes of Little Mix, One Direction and Britney Spears producer Peter Hammerton, and recorded in Nashville, London and Sweden,with such song titles as Better When I’m Drunk, Type Of Girl, Whiplash, Lie To Me and I Love You Now Change.
“Every genre changes and country music is now so diverse, but everyone appreciates a good melody, strong lyrics, and that’s why people really respect country music,” says Twinnie, who loves the candour of country songs.
“Coming from the North, I’m always looking to make a real connection. That’s why I write so honestly, talking about all my faults,” she says.
“I have no shame in highlighting my flaws and being vulnerable: there’s a strength in vulnerability when we can all connect with it. Each song shows a different side of my personality: I either want to break someone’s heart or make them dance.”
Returning to the album title, Twinnie says: “It pretty much sums me up. As well as my love of Hollywood musicals, I’m a traveller by nature and by heritage, so I’m quite free. Hollywood Gypsy is about me, my life, my artistry.
“I’m representing my dad’s heritage, my mum’s heritage, and I’m very proud of that heritage. It’s who I am and why I’m free spirited.
“All of it, whether I’m acting, dancing, modelling or singing, I’m just not afraid to push my boundaries because, when you feel you’re getting out of your depth, that’s when the magic happens.”
Recording in Nashville, London and Sweden adds to Twinnie being a Hollywood Gypsy, she suggests. “I feel I’m a bit of a musical gypsy, taking from different genres, growing up listening to Tupac, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Joel, Shania Twain,” she says. “Obviously Queen too: I’m always so grateful to Brian May for when I did We Will Rock You.”
In the Coronavirus lockdown, Twinnie has set herself a three-week challenge that began a week ago to listen to an album a day and then pick her favourite song from each one to learn how to play it. “I never have time to do things like this, so I’m using this time to grow and get inspired,” she says. “I’m also trying to learn Spanish.”
Along with many musicians, she is “trying to find new ways to do things at the moment”. Such as? “I’ve written a song on FaceTime with Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics,” Twinnie reveals. “I’d never met him before, but he’s from Sunderland, I’m from York, so we had that banter of being northerners together!”
Still in the diary for July 11 is Twinnie’s appearance at Pocklington Arts Centre’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington (an event subject to further Coronavirus updates), but what’s coming next for Twinnie? “I was meant to be going to America to make an EP in Nashville, and that recording will still happen, but I may now have to find a way of doing it remotely,” she says.
Looking further ahead, she says: “Hollywood Gypsy is the first chapter. Next year will be the next half of the story. So it’ll be like a double album.”
Did you know?
IN Twinnie’s new video for I Love You Now Change, she is seen signing divorce papers.
“I put my ex’s name on the papers when we shot the video for a laugh, but some people actually thought it was real,” she says. “Just to clarify, I have never been married and Boris killed off the socialising and dating scene, so looks like I won’t be in a white dress anytime soon.”
The husband in the video is played by Gustav Wood. Watch it at twinnieofficial.com.
How did The Press reviewer judge 16-year-old Twinnie-Lee Moore’s lead performance as Dorothy in the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project’s The Wizard Of Oz in York in August 2003?
“Twinnie-Lee displays supremely confident skills in stage movement; her Kansas accent is spot-on too, and once her voice fully warms up after Over The Rainbow, she sings with expression, albeit in the modern pop style that might better suit The Wiz.”
Copyright of The Press, York