INTERVIEW: Becca James | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Nikki Robson

What does perfection mean to you? Do you strive for it, or reject it? Does it equal happiness, or is it a symbol of oppression? Our relationship with perfection is the inspiration for Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Becca James’ latest project, in which she collaborates with local artists and the general public to better understand how perfection impacts our lives and the decisions we make.

The catalyst for the project was James’ own personal and professional frustrations, particularly the difficulties of forging a career as an artist. In the opening line to her soulful new single, Perfect Girl, she refers to herself as a ‘blank canvas’, its space quickly taken up by the expectations and projections of others. “There’s a ‘more, more, more’ mentality to the music industry,” she sighs. “You go to meetings and you speak to industry professionals about what you should have and should do, and so the song was just born from frustration. I don’t want to be this perfect thing, and you know what, I can’t be, either.”

The conversation turns to class, specifically the intersection between class and entitlement. “It took me a long time to feel like I had the right to make music,” James admits. The disparity around gender, ethnicity and ability within music are widely discussed and rightly so, but why is class so rarely acknowledged as a barrier to making music? “I really don’t want to perpetuate the starving artist mentality, but class is a key determinant when it comes to who’s successful and who isn’t. Not regarding ability of course, but in terms of who has the support and resources.”

I really don’t want to perpetuate the starving artist mentality, but class is a key determinant when it comes to who’s successful and who isn’t

It’s unsurprising then, that through The Perfect Girl Project, Becca sought to collaborate and platform the perspectives of others when it comes to wrestling with the idea of perfection. Along with spoken word artist Midge Ryall, photographer Nikki Ryan and videographer Gareth Williams, she collated public reactions to four key questions around perfection, culminating in a film in response to the track. “It can be difficult to articulate your intentions when developing something community based,” she explains. “It’s not an official music video as such but serves as more of a B-side to the single.”.

Whilst the track is quite gendered in its subject matter, there was an entirely open call for submissions, which came in written, audio and video format. “It’s been really powerful to hear the community reflections on perfectionism,” says Midge Ryall, who created a spoken word piece as part of the project. “It’s always challenging to revisit your own definition of such an emotive concept and realise that everyone is at a different point on this journey to self-acceptance. It’s incredibly hopeful to remember that so many make the choice to reject society’s definition of it too.”

For some, rejecting society’s definition of perfection was easier said than done; one male participant describes perfection as “a trap”, whilst another admits that for them, perfection is predominantly linked to aesthetics, feeling that their reflection “would never be up to standard”. Fitting then, that the final line of Perfect Girl asks the listener ‘have you seen yourself lately?’, a parting reminder that where we are now, is exactly where we need to be.

Becca James releases Perfect Girl on 14th April. To find out more about The Perfect Girl Project, follow Becca on social media

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