At the risk of putting myself out of a job, it occurs to me that while we music critics perch on our gilded thrones passing lofty judgement on every new download flung our way, other musicians have been doing a decent job of recommending fresh talent the whole time. Every successful act brings along a selection of potential stars in their wake, like a row of baby ducks following mother. They might take them on tour as support bands, talk them up in interviews or even, in the case of the most energetic enthusiasts, sign them to their own record label. Perhaps they don’t always get it right but they’re still worth heeding. Who has a better idea of what it takes to make it in music than someone who’s already at the top?
LILY ROSE COOPER (NEE ALLEN) LOVES… TOM ODELL
Having run a shop with her sister, the former Lily Allen is currently running a record label too. In the Name Of, backed by major label Sony, has had a quiet start, only releasing the excellent debut fromNew Yorkduo Cults so far. Tom Odell, a solo pianist fromBrighton, is the second signing, with a debut EP, Songs From Another Love, out on Oct 29 and an album pencilled in for next year. “He’s just a really charismatic and interesting songwriter,” Lily tells me. “He’s incredibly good looking – my husband would hate to hear me say that – and he’s got a real presence about him. His songwriting is getting stronger by the minute which is why we haven’t put an album out yet. He keeps coming up with brilliant new stuff.”
RADIOHEAD LOVE… FLYING LOTUS
Radiohead, particularly singer Thom Yorke, andLos Angelesjazz/electronica maverick Flying Lotus have formed a mutual admiration society for some time now. FlyLo, real name Steven Ellison, supported Yorke’s side-project Atoms for Peace on aUStour in 2010, and Yorke has sung on his last two albums. Yorke has told the producer how impressed he is with his international acclaim: “InLos Angeles, your record to me makes total sense. It’s like your head opening up. And the fact that people get it so much in this country [theUK] I find fascinating. Because it’s cold here, and wet,” he said. Ellison, whose glitchy digital sound is clearly audible in Radiohead’s most recent music, has taken inspiration from his elder’s work ethic: “The thing about Thom is that he knows what he likes and I love that about him,” he said recently. “He knows when things work and they don’t. He doesn’t bullshit in that way. He spends his time wisely.”
BON IVER LOVES… THE STAVES
Sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor are literally stepping out from the background, having first been heard singing backing vocals on Tom Jones’s recent gospel and blues album Praise and Blame. Now Justin Vernon, who is American indie-folk sensation Bon Iver, has fallen hard for their wistful harmonising. They’re “the best live singing group I’ve ever heard… See them! Get their music!” he’s said, before inviting them to support him in the daunting space of Wembley Arena on Nov 8. Their debut album, Dead & Born & Grown follows on Atlantic on Nov 12.
LADY GAGA LOVES… ZEDD
German producer and DJ Anton Zaslavski is an increasingly large presence on the US dance scene, a sound they call EDM. Gaga is an enthusiastic convert, asking him to remix her song Marry the Night for the deluxe edition of her Born this Way album, and inviting him to tour the US with her early next year. She called his recent song Spectrum “pure EDM fantasy” and announced, charmingly, “I have a major musical boner.” “I’ve always been a fan,” he said in return. “I was more than happy when I got the chance to remix her. I think she’s an amazing singer. She’s a great writer.” Zedd’s debut album Clarity is out on Monday on Polydor.
ADELE LOVES… AMOS LEE
Not such a newcomer, 35-year-old Philadelphia singer-songwriter Lee has four albums, including a US number one, to his name. Adele has since dwarfed his success and invited him to support her at some of her most recent shows. “His voice is so stunning and so is the way he plays guitar,” she has said. “It just blew my mind. I thought he was amazing live and I love how honest he is in his songs. I think he’s truly, truly amazing.” However, back in 2007 it was she who was supporting him at the Jazz Cafe, and it doesn’t sound like he was too bothered. “I feel really bad about admitting this, because I know she’s said some wonderful things about me, but the truth is, when she was on stage at the Jazz Cafe, I think I was asleep.”
NOEL GALLAGHER LOVES… JAKE BUGG
The elder Gallagher does his best to give the impression he’s got someone other than The Beatles on his iPod, as long as whoever he’s tipping also sounds like they entered a cryogenic freezer in 1967 and have just been thawed out. Jake Bugg is only 18 but hates that dance music rubbish and spends his time listening to Don McLean and (who else?) Oasis. “Little Jake Bugg, he’s great,” said Noel before inviting the youngster on a long US and European tour. “Oasis were a big band forme.,” Bugg told me. “They just had great tunes and Liam’s voice was briliant. Their songs make you feel good, don’t they?” His self-titled debut album is out on Oct 15.
DAMON ALBARN LOVES… THE BOTS
You might have expectedAfricaafficionado Albarn to have a current favourite band who’ve never been heard outsideMali, but instead he’s currently sweet on two young brothers fromCalifornialiving inLondon. Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei, 18 and 15 respectively, have an even more raw take on the guitar/drums blues-rock format of The White Stripes and The Black Keys. They supported Blur on some of their summer UK dates. “The Bots are the only people I know who can skateboard on a train. They’ve got so much potential and energy, I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do,” he tells me.
NE-YO LOVES… CONOR MAYNARD
Like Justin Bieber with Usher, our own schoolgirl fantasy has an older mentor to guide him in the world of urban pop.Brightonteen Maynard started out uploading videos of him singing covers to YouTube, including Ne-Yo’s hit Beautiful Monster. “His friend told him, ‘There’s this kid on YouTube who sings your song better than you do.’ Sure enough not long after that I was sitting talking to him on Skype with him wanting to sign me to his label,” Maynard told me.
Ne-Yo, who had aUKnumber one of his own last month, said: “I got online and looked him up and sure enough he was singing Beautiful Monster and yeah, I do admit, he sounded better than me.” The older star has appeared on Maynard’s recent single Turn Around.
KANYE WEST LOVES… PUSHA T
Instead of hunting for young talent, sometimes a star pushes through an older act who they feel has been underappreciated to date. Terrence Thornton, 35, used to rap with his brother in Clipse. Their 2006 album Hell Hath No Fury is a cult classic but was never a hit. Now he’s signed to West’s GOOD Music label and is all over the new showcase compilation, Cruel Summer. “It was like a dream for Pusha to be on a record with Ghostface [Killah],” West has said. Pusha T, who wisely states that West’s song Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ is “my favourite song that’s ever been made”, is happy to share the workload with his new boss. “I’m being taught to hone in and really focus on a certain part of the beat that I love, and just to give that portion my everything without having all of the other elements, because Ye [Kanye] is gonna come on the back end of the record and add all of those elements. I just have to have faith”
PLAN B LOVES… MAVERICK SABRE
Now he’s urban soul success Maverick Sabre, but Plan B met him when he was just teenage rapper Michael Stafford. “I gave him somewhere to stay, I listened to his songs and explained to him how he could make them better,” Plan B told me. “I suggested other things to try. With the structure and content of his songs, and told him to sing more too. He went away came back a year and a half later with a cool band and great songs and I was just so pround of him.” Maverick Sabre says: “He’s stil one of my very close friends and a lot of his friends have become my best friends over here.”
MUMFORD & SONS LOVE… JOE BANFI
This week they’re a bit busy being the biggest selling band inAmerica, but one of Mumford’s Sons in particular has long been a champion of grassroots acts. Keyboard player Ben Lovett has been jointly running Communion Records with Kevin Jones and Ian Grimble since 2009, an extension of theLondonclub night that hosted early performances by the likes of Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling. On a recent compilation and at gigs they’re currently championing Joe Banfi, a Northwich singer-songwriter who has heavy rock influences among the more obvious folky flavours.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN LOVES… THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
Being fromNew Jersey, just like the Boss, The Gaslight Anthem were set for life when they and Springsteen appeared during each other’s sets atGlastonburyin 2009. Their blue collar rock ‘n’ roll has obvious Springsteen echoes, and they don’t seem to know whether to shout or play down the endorsement. “We got offstage and I said to myself, ‘I don’t think people will view us the same after this.’” said singer Brian Fallon. “I feel like he introduced us to the world, but now he’s like: ‘We’ve played together twice, my fans know about you, people associate us together, now you’ve got to be your own band.’”