Photo by Vittoria Avigliano
On the second day of Brockwell Park’s Mighty Hoopla Festival, musician and producer T. Priestly graced the main stage with an ethereal set, of which the glitter-struck crowd was in awe. Shortly after, as he nestled in a corner backstage on some deckchairs, the joy Priestly had from performing was visible and infectious. Speaking about the opportunity to perform on the main stage, with a lineup consisting of Sugababes, Katy B, and Jessie Ware, Priestly gushed about how grateful they were to Mighty Hoopla for allowing them a space to share their music with such a large audience, that at its core is about celebrating queer joy.
Priestly has been producing and performing independently for several years now, and does recognise that compared to some of his counterparts that are backed by large, corporate labels, navigating the music industry and the festival circuit can be difficult — but he acknowledges that his support network is extremely important to his flourishing as an artist. For Priestly, being independent is at the core of their music: they often use it as a means of exploring their identity and all that moves beyond it, and there is a distinct personal element in their lyricism which shows through in their openness whilst we were chatting. When asked how he balances sharing such personal emotions and questions without fear of alienating a larger audience, he discusses how he aims to tell a story that at its core people can relate to; the electronic dance feel of their music also allows everyone to be able to enjoy the music as an art form. Priestly says that the music he’s writing now is at its core “about taking a feeling or a story that I’ve had and making it into [...] something [that] someone can understand, whether it’s like sexuality or whether it’s a love story [...] and how it feels”. Judging from his performance at Mighty Hoopla and the audience reaction to it, it seems they have succeeded.
Photos by Vittoria Avigliano
For Priestly, performing is equally as cathartic as their songwriting, as “taking that music out of that solitude space [...] and suddenly being in a huge space [...] makes you remember why you’re doing it,” as he sees people respond to his music in real time. It serves as a reminder that live music and performance is a collective and shared experience, especially for someone who writes and produces their music on their own. There is a resilience and determination behind Priestly’s work, born out of a desire to create art that can be shared and loved in equal measure. Luckily for him, despite the tough times artists can face, he is surrounded by “incredible people” and is keen to pay homage to figures in the music industry who are fundamental to his identity as an artist, such as Prince and Kate Bush, whose artistry is invested into other mediums like fashion. Priestly himself is very interested in the modernising of music; “looking at where music is going in the future” through its sonic style, and making sure it fits in with his whole visual world. Everything from production to performance is cohesive, and aesthetics absolutely act as an influence for their music, which they credit their Creative Director Wojciech Synak for bringing to life in their performances.
It is clear that T. Priestly is a dedicated and talented artist who gives everything to their art form, laying themselves bare in the process to create an immersive experience for their audience, in a way that most performers seem scared to embrace. They lament how it is tough sometimes, “weighing up against the world”, but they believe their passion for music is worth it. He loves the way making music and performing feels, but now ensures he takes time for moments of self-love and self-care, because it is so easy to become disillusioned.
For an artist on the current fringes of the mainstream, his brand is visible with such clarity, and their artistry holds so much integrity and honesty that it only seems a matter of time before their name will become synonymous with success in the music industry.
Photos by Vittoria Avigliano
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor