Becky Carewe-Jeffries (Becky CJ) is a bona fide internet sensation.
With over three million YouTube fans watching and sharing her videos, the twenty-one-year-old singer songwriter – whose cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Lego House’ was extoled by Ed himself - is having her moment in the spotlight.
But it seems music was always Becky’s destiny and there is much more to her than just social media hype. A child star, the progeny of a musician father and singer mother, in her pre-teen years she could be found treading the boards of West End musicals before she released a couple of critically acclaimed, self-penned singles. Then tragedy struck in the form of stage fright and Becky retired to her bedroom; which turned out to be her own private Carnegie Hall, as she began to film herself putting her own ethereal vocal interpretation to well-known tracks, growing a cult following for her YouTube channel. Now, signed to Soundplate management, Becky has recently headlined her first sell-out London show.
We caught up with her rehearsing for a TV appearance – she tells us she’s a perfectionist and intersperses our interview with her vocal warm up and impeccable piano playing – and it seems we caught her in a festive mood…
WSI: How and where will you be spending Xmas, Becky?
Becky CJ: Christmas will be at home back in Purley with my Mum, Dad, sister and grandparents. This is my first Christmas not living at home so it will be nice to actually feel like I’m 'going home for Christmas”. It's a very comforting idea.
WSI: With a family who have achieved musical success via traditional methods, how do they feel about you as an internet phenomenon?
Becky CJ: My parents completely appreciate that the music industry is forever changing, and you have to adapt in order to keep up. They did the same when they were younger, learning to record from home in a home studio and becoming more self-sufficient. They would never judge me for the choices I've made … It's also important for me to remind people that although yes I use YouTube as a medium to introduce people to myself and my music I do exist in the real world! I gig, I write, I rehearse with musicians…It's slightly more difficult to explain the internet route to my grandparents, they are classical musicians who are complete masters of their craft and for them it is maybe seen as a slightly lazy option. But each to their own!
WSI: How did you feel about uber-blogger Zoella championing you?
Becky CJ: It’s lovely to have the support of someone with such a large fan base of course! (She chortles) But most importantly for me is that she has championed me from far before she was the phenomenon she is now, I really feel she is a genuine fan of what I do…I think perhaps the YouTube community is especially supportive to one another, but perhaps this is down to it all being relatively new still. It's still very exciting for those who are ‘internet personalities’ as they are still the first generation of people to really hit this global scale of fandom on mass.
WSI: What was it like being a child actor in a West End show?
(Becky beams) It was quite a magical thing to be a part of as a child! If a little stressful and relentless for my poor parents… And anyone who had to put up with my untamed ego, it's never good for a ten-year-old to be made to feel that special… I was never really starstruck as I was an annoyingly confident child, however I’ll never forget my embarrassment when I was in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ playing Jemima of zoning out just before I had to start the song 'Truly Scrumptious' and coming in far too early and the panic on the conductors face as he tried to get the orchestra and me back on track. (She shakes her head) Awful.
WSI: You have a hauntingly beautiful vocal style and a huge range and you have injected your own magic into tracks as diverse as Abba’s ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ and TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’. Is there a Christmas Number One you'd like to add to your covers repertoire?
Becky CJ: I've just looked through all Christmas number ones from '52 and I’m torn. It would be a toss-up between Queen 'Bohemian Rhapsody', Human League 'Don't You Want Me' and The Beatles 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'. Nothing that Christmassy … (she grins)
WSI: You are often compared to Adele (who was signed via a Myspace demo). What do you think of this comparison?
Becky CJ: To be compared to the most successful female singer/songwriter of our generation is quite the compliment. It makes sense I suppose, we're both ballad heavy, strong female vocalists. She's got a bit more soul than me, I'm probably more Musical Theatre than Motown (she looks pensive…)
WSI: Who were your early musical influences?
Becky CJ: The artist who made me really want to be able to sing was Alison Krauss. I loved her perfect, angelic voice and wanted to emulate that. Female artists have always featured heavily in my playlists, I love being able to sing along. Regina Spektor, Alanis Morissette, ABBA, my parents would play be a huge variety of pop music. More importantly though is that my parents are my main musical influences. My mum has an amazing voice and she's the one who taught me, let me sing every day … And my Dad and I have always played together, he is a piano player and even now I will never enjoy singing with anyone else accompanying me as much as I do with him.
WSI: And who are you listening to now...?
Becky CJ: (listing…) Banks, Frank Ocean, Paul Simon, Haim, Gabrielle Aplin, The Civil Wars, alt- J, Ed Sheeran, FKA Twigs...
WSI: What does 2015 hold for you?
Becky CJ: Hopefully lots! I'm heading to the studio with a lot of producers to really work on my original material, as well as writing with a few songwriters. I'm also looking to gigging a bit more as I’d taken a bit of time out from it all…
We wish Becky good luck for her future – but with talent such as hers, we very much doubt she will need it! Find out more at www.youtube.com/user/beckycarewejeffries