The Battle Festival is already in full swing, but one of the highlights of the event calendar is set to make a welcome return on Saturday (October 17).
Keane founder Tim Rice-Oxley will be passing on his wisdom to young hopefuls as part of the festival’s popular mentoring sessions.
Over the past few weeks, aspiring young musicians across 1066 country have been busy preparing their demos in the hope that Ivor Novello Award-winner Tim will pick them for a highly sought-after one-to-one mentoring session.
But as Tim told the Battle Observer this week, with such a rich pool of talent, narrowing the list down to the final eight was no easy task.
Tim said: “I think the standard of writing and production is just so high and from such young kids - mainly around 14 to 17.
“The demos that they send in are really of a higher standard than the demos I do! So I’m really inspired and excited to meet them.”
Some of the young artists are still immersed in their studies, with pupils from Claverham Community College in Battle and pupils from Bexhill schools amongst the lucky eight.
Tim said: “It’s really hard narrowing down the list from the incredible pool of talent. I really agonised over it.
“I felt terrible about having to eliminate anyone as they were just so good.
“It almost ended up with a couple of them which I thought were so good already I did not think I could actually improve on them!
“I’m just trying to look for the ones I feel I can offer something.”
Each act will enjoy half an hour with Tim, a long day which the musician admits last year left his brain feeling “quite frazzled”.
But despite a long list of talented youngsters desperate for some quality time with Tim, there are no plans to expand the mentoring scheme.
Tim said: “I do not want to do more people with shorter amounts of time.
“I feel you need a good chunk of time to get to know someone, find out about what they want to achieve and get into a proper discussion, otherwise it feels a bit rushed.”
But for those lucky enough to find themselves in the final eight, Tim’s involvement may stretch beyond that half an hour, if last year’s students are anything to go by.
Tim said: “I have tried to stay in touch with some of them.
“They are making music and I have been lucky enough to play with Rachel Wilson and Dorey the Wise back in the summer.
“Francesca Lewis, who is a very talented singer songwriter, also played at one of the gigs at the church before the festival this year.
“To see them getting better and better as performers is really inspiring.
“I think they are all going to go from strength to strength.”
Earlier this summer, Tim and fellow Keane founder Tom Chaplin revealed they were to perform on stage together for the first time in two years in aid of the Battle Festival.
Tim’s face lights up as he recalls the ‘amazing’ experience at Battle Abbey in August.
“It was such a great night and a beautiful, beautiful evening”, he said.
“It was a unique, spectacular location and so many fans from all over the world were there, and lots of fans from Sussex, and it was a wonderful atmosphere.
“There was a lot of singing along and we played a whole lot of songs we never played before and had a brilliant time.
“And most importantly, thanks to all the people who bought tickets and gave donations, it helped raise enough money to help the festival happen and to grow.”
And after such a wonderful night, Tim seems keen for a repeat performance.
He said: “I would love to do it again.
“It did feel like something that could have been bigger in theory.
“More people would mean more support for the festival, bringing more people into the town.
“But the logistics of putting a gig on at Battle Abbey is quite complicated.
“So we will see if it’s something we can work towards.”
Meanwhile Tim is very much looking forward to this year’s festival and is hoping to catch some of the fringe events which will be taking place around Battle.
He said: “There’s so much going on.
“Being the food lover I am, the food events are something I’m particularly excited about. I think it’s a good fringe event.
“I’m also excited about the Every Last Friday (ELF) event, where different bands play at different venues throughout the town.
“So I really want to be here for that and see those local musicians playing.”
Tim added: “It’s a festival for the town and local people and the local area and to get people involved.
“The more people that get involved and come and see what’s happening, the better its going to get from year to year.”
Aside from his role as patron of the Battle Festival, Tim has been busying himself by collaborating with Lily Allen, writing songs for new blockbuster film Pan, and is about to start making another album with his side project, Mt Desolation.
And following on from his triumphant on-stage reunion with Tom Chaplin back in August, is Tim tempted by the possibility of a Keane reunion?
“Tom is still making a solo album that he seems to have been working on for about ten years now!” Tim joked, adding: “But after that I would like to do more Keane stuff. But we will have to see.”
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