Play Hard

In 2021, HLN met the musicians

Since launching our Meet the Musician series in March, we’ve interviewed some of the most exciting female talent in the North East, filming HLN-exclusive performances in iconic local venues – and we took you along every step of the way.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 30.12.2021

Jodie Nicholson

Originally hailing from Hurworth-on-Tees, Jodie describes herself as a singer-songwriter-plus – a title which gives her the creative freedom to flex her musical muscles and to (somehow) bring together genres as far-ranging as folk-pop, soft jazz, indie and electro under her creative wing.

When we caught up, lockdown restrictions were still in place, so it was a strictly Zoom affair. But that didn’t stop Jodie singing the heck out of her single ‘Be Back Soon’ from her 2021 EP, Can’t Escape The Feeling.



Cortney Dixon

We sat down with South Shields’ singer-songwriter Cortney over Zoom, too. Now, we know first impressions can sometimes be deceiving – not least when they’re over video call – but we’d imagine that if Kate Bush and David Bowie had a musically-gifted child together, sprinkled her with Geordie charm and appointed Stevie Nicks as her fairy godmother, she’d have turned out something like Cortney.

A producer as well as a performer, with old school rock ‘n’ roll glamour in bucketloads (as well as a healthy kick of modernity and rebellion), we’re pretty sure we’ll be seeing her name up in lights very, very soon.



Lizzie Esau

We chatted to Geordie singer-songwriter Lizzie about everything from pretending to be Kylie Minogue and pre-show yoga rituals to her dreams of playing Glastonbury when we caught up with her over Zoom back in May.

Despite having only released two singles back then, Lizzie was already getting a lot of attention from all the right places. Since then, she’s signed a deal with DMY Artists, has more than doubled her release output and has officially started headlining her own shows, (we’ve been lucky enough to see her live this year and she’s cracking). Destined for greatness this one, trust us.




We had to wait until June before we could actually get out and about to meet some musicians in person, and even then we kept things strictly outdoors-only. But it was bloody lovely to catch up with Dayna and Jaimie – aka Badmind – over a few bevs at By The River Brew Co. after so long in lockdown, against the iconic North East backdrop that is Newcastle’s Quayside.

As we sat and supped by the Tyne, we chatted to the pop/R&B duo about their serendipitous start in the music business, why 2021 was the year to be stripping down their sound, and why local hero Sting will always hold a special place in their hearts.



Chloe Castro

July’s musical instalment came in the form of Durham local and former The Voice contestant Chloe Castro, in the suitably magnificent Jesmond Dene House. It was also the first time we brought Ben and Connor – aka the filmmaking dream team – from Amity Studios into the mix too. The result? A pretty darn epic, HLN-exclusive performance of Chloe’s attitude-laden anthem, ‘Future’.

Armed with sass, sensitivity and soul, as well as a powerhouse of a voice, we know this singer-songwriter has everything she needs to go all the way in the music industry.



It was August when we caught up with Nadedja, who was the new kid on Newcastle’s musical block back then (even if now it seems she’s part of the furniture!). At Cake Stories Ouseburn cake house, we spoke about how the North East compared to her native Brazil, why music will always mean adventure to her, and how all of life’s problems can probably be solved with a grand piano.

Nadedja may have performed her hit single ‘Bittersweet Move’ on that day, but the entertainment (not to mention the tray of freshly-baked goodies on hand) ensured that the afternoon was entirely delightful.



What HATi discovered when she first came up to Newcastle from rural Lincolnshire was a musical kaleidoscope of a city that led her astray from her classical roots and into the open arms of popular songwriting, toplining and producing. And now she’s signed to a record label, performs all over the UK, writes music for Love Island and Zooms with Grammy-nominated producers on the reg.

We were lucky enough to watch her perform a special rendition of her track ‘Wildlife’ against the decidedly apt backdrop of the animals in the Great North Museum: Hancock, while chatting imposter syndrome, learning to breakdance and crafting trip-hop tracks out of endangered animal noises.


Georgia May

When we decided on Newcastle’s newest (and swankiest) subterranean cocktail bar, WC, as the venue for our October MTM shoot, we knew just the musician we wanted to work with there. After all, the occasion demanded someone just as pioneering, just as fresh – which is why we reached out to Georgia May.

For purely solo success isn’t just what drives neo-soul singer Georgia. She’s determined to carve out room for a whole genre, too. A fierce defender of the musical sisterhood, Georgia is one of the rare few who are fully committed to raising others up on her own journey to the top of the music business. And believe us, she’ll make it to the top.



Hexham-born singer-songwriter Sophia is just like us – she celebrates important achievements with pasta, her festive season starts with a healthy dose of Love Actually, and she loves Taylor Swift.

That’s why we had a right blast when we caught up in Jesmond’s Hancock Gallery to record an HLN-exclusive performance of the title track from her debut EP, ‘Hometown’. But more than that, we discovered that the lyricism in Sophia’s perfect blend of uber-melodic, country-pop is all about bringing together everything that we, as ‘normal’ (we use the term loosely) women living here in the North East, are all about – post-breakup antagonism and lovelorn dreams; childhood nostalgia and wistful imaginings; self-doubt, self-worth, and self-realisation.




Here’s to all the incredible musicians we’ve met in 2021 and the many more we’ll meet in 2022!

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