Hands up for Little Boots
She's known as Little Boots, but pop-icon-in-waiting Victoria Hesketh thinks it's funny when people say she's cool. By Pauline Weeks
When Victoria Hesketh began playing the piano at the age of five, she dreamed of one day becoming a famous musician.
Now, 20 years later, all her hard work is about to pay off as the singer -- known as Little Boots -- is on the verge of becoming a big name in the pop world.
Raised in Blackpool, Victoria began her musical journey by honing her piano skills before using them to play classical music. She moved on to jazz and then switched from keyboard to microphone when she started singing in bands.
She enjoyed growing up in a seaside town but it proved to be an extra obstacle in her way. "Blackpool's weird because it's really big for entertainment but not so good for musicians or songwriters," she explains.
"It's not like there's a great music scene to get going on, so you've got to be quite resourceful and proactive. If you want to get ahead you've really got to work for it."
For Victoria, this involved endless music lessons and lots of practice. "Music's one of those things that if you want to be good, you've got to spend a lot of time doing it. It's quite a solitary pastime. At school I'd always play piano at break times and people would come and sing along." Aged 16, she auditioned for TV talent contest Pop Idol, making it to the third round. Looking back, she believes the experience helped to shape her as a musician.
"It gave me a thicker skin and it made me realise that it wasn't a short cut to getting where I wanted to be. Like anything else, you have to work for that.
"Getting through would not have suited me at all and wouldn't have been a good thing for me to do, but at the time it seemed to make sense. It was an opportunity and I've always been very proactive, so when it came along I had to give it a go." Returning home to Blackpool, she decided to put education first and, after completing sixth-form college, she took a degree in Cultural Studies at Leeds University.
"I always did music but I didn't want to do a degree in music, but music was always more than a hobby. Studying, though, was separate," she explains.
Completing her studies, she moved to London and formed an indie band.
It wasn't long before they were signed to independent label 679 and, by the time she decided the band wasn't for her, the label had joined Atlantic Records which quickly snapped her up on a solo deal.
After years of indie, jazz and classical, she finally decided to focus on pop.
"I think it's just what I write the most naturally to be honest. I've always been very much a pop writer so I decided to stop fighting it and embrace it rather than trying to do something cool. I just thought this is what I do the best so I just need to go with it."
It's ironic that after years of resisting pop, she's now quickly becoming 2009's new pop icon.
With other pop bands such as Girls Aloud hitting the charts, pop is once again cool and Little Boots is seen to be leading the revivalist pack.
But being tagged as cool has baffled Victoria. "I think it's quite funny, I never thought I'd be in things like Dazed And Confused. It's funny how it goes, and it's nice you can cross boundaries. There's no longer these distinctions of what's cool and what's not."
And now she's trying to keep a cool head despite all the plaudits coming her way.
"I guess there's a bit of pressure, but you can't get caught up in it. If you think about it too much it'll add more pressure. I have to keep focused and keep making music and just enjoy what I'm doing."
Her debut album Hands is released on June 8, preceded on May 25 by the single New In Town, which she explains "is about when I lived in LA. I was feeling quite excited but daunted. I didn't know anyone, so it's about going out and having a fun time but in a strange place and mixing excitement and danger".
Now firmly settled in London with a busy schedule, she still visits her home town and family as often as possible. She says: "It's a very special place. I really love Blackpool! I love where I'm from and it's definitely been a huge influence on me as a person and a song artist and it's like nowhere else really."
Music and family life aside, she has little time for anything else but reveals: "If I couldn't make music any more I'd be devastated, but maybe I'd do gardening. I really like it! I've just got some courgettes, but I haven't had the time to plant them yet."
Despite her relatively young age, Victoria is not short of experience. She says: "I learned a lot through being in a band. When you first get signed [by a record company] you're quite naive and you feel like you'll do almost anything to get there.
"After a while, you realise being signed isn't the answer to everything, it's just the beginning. Understanding that is invaluable and that experience has been really good for me."
Little Boots releases her single New in Town on May 25 and her album Hands on June 8