Diane Parkes meets a singer-songwriter who has landed a five-album deal at the tender age of 20
Fame beckons for Florence
Is Florence Rawlings about to be the next big thing? Composer and producer Mike Batt evidently thinks so, having signed the 20-year-old Londoner to a five-album deal last year.
The singer-songwriter, hotly tipped to emulate the success of another Batt protegee, Katie Melua, was in Birmingham this week to record a session with radio station BRMB as part of a hectic promotional schedule which is taking her up and down the UK.
Florence is a precocious performer who first attempted to launch her career at the tender age of 13
She reveals that she first practised by singing the choirboy classic Walking in the Air, but her mature, soulful voice now makes it difficult for her to reach the notes in the song made famous by Aled Jones.
“It is just too high,” she laughs, breaking into a rendition and proving the point.
And she is hoping all the work will be worthwhile as her debut single Hard To Get is released on August 31, closely followed by the album A Fool In Love on September 7.
“I always wanted to be a singer,” she says. “I started singing when I was six and I started gigging when I was about 13. It was then that I met Mike Batt, but I was too young really and my parents were really keen for me to finish my education.”
With her A-levels safely under her belt, Florence rejoined Batt to create the new album, which features six new songs and six covers of jazz and blues tracks such as Allen Toussaint’s Riverboat and Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me.
“Mike Batt met Katie Melua the same year he first met me,” says Florence, cheerfully accepting the comparison which has already been frequently made. “She is a very successful lady and it would be great to have the success of Katie.”
Florence has already had her taste of the huge crowds she hopes will come by playing a number of festivals this summer.
“My first gig with this band was the Isle of Wight Festival and we have also done Guilfest and the 02 Wireless.
“Festivals are brilliant because everyone is just there to have a good time. And actually for me, I find it more nerve-racking to play in a smaller venue where you can actually see everyone’s faces.
“I also made sure I stayed to see some of the other artists. Brian Wilson was really good, and Kanye West and Daniel Merriweather were also good.”
The future is uncertain for the ambitious young singer but she is hoping these early tours of radio stations will kickstart a career which could take her round the globe.
“I really want to go on singing and doing gigs,” she says. “I am not sure what we will do next but I imagine it will still be jazz, soul or pop. What I would really like to do is some duets with big stars – someone like Macy Gray.”
Meeting at the end of a tiring day in which Florence had already done four interview across four cities, her immediate plan, however, was much more mundane.
“We are staying in Birmingham for the night, so we will go out, have a look around, eat somewhere,” she says. “I have never been to Birmingham before – isn’t that terrible for someone aged 20? But I am here now.”