TBMP Meets: Craig Aaron and Bethany Dyson

What happens when a rapper and pop/country singer meet on Capital XTRA’s Music Potential programme? Well, a collaborative EP happens, that’s what! We chat to musicians Craig Aaron and Bethany Dyson to find out what it takes to bring 2 different, distinct styles together.

Craig and Beth started working together on their Song-Writing & Performance course

 Hey, Craig and Beth! We’re so excited to catch up with you both today. Can you tell us a bit about your music and how you came together as a duo?

Beth: We worked together during the Music Potential programme and have carried on even though it’s over – now we’ve started to write material which we aim to put in a future duo EP.

Craig: We’ve gone for acoustic, stripped back tracks on the EP. Beth’s a country and folk singer and I bring a bit of hip hop too, it’s really different to what’s out there at the moment. I’m obviously still doing a bit of rapping as well as indie and acoustic songs too. We’ve got a few tracks ready to record, including 3 really nice acoustic pieces ready, they’re all quite different.

Beth: We’ve been writing loads of songs together, we’ve been trying to combine our styles and find a market for people who enjoy acoustic but also like hip hop. We’re only in pre-production at the minute, so we’re getting time booked in the studio and finalising a few last details, we’re both being perfectionists about it so it takes time.

Sounds good! How do you gage what will work on the EP?

B: We’ve started to do gigs together, which is really nice as we can just try stuff out and see what people like. That’s our research, to see what works.

How do you find the gigs you play? Is it through word of mouth, or do people recommend you?

B: The ones we’ve played at so far have been through Jasmine, who is part of Punch Records – they delivered Music Potential in Birmingham. She had people ask after some acoustic duos, so she sent off videos of us performing and they responded saying they wanted us! She’s been absolutely amazing at helping with stuff like that.

Craig and Beth perform live at Power Up, The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Entrepreneur Accelerator launch in Birmingham

That’s a great result to come from the Music Potential programme. Do you ever reach out to event organisers yourselves?

B: Yes! Because I perform my solo material too, I put a lot of hours into it. I sit at my laptop, find out what’s going on in the area, who the promoters are, I email them to see if they’ve got a spot or see if I can perform at an open mic so they can see me and see if they like my sound. It gives them the chance to see if I’m right for the event. I spend a lot of time trying to connect with people, trying to open a door somewhere. Time spent online is so powerful, especially for sharing videos. I found sharing videos with the right people is the best way to get gigs locally for me.

Awesome. Craig, do you have an idea of a leading track for the joint EP?

C: We’re looking at releasing ‘Roads’ as the single, and getting it remixed in the future.

We can’t wait to hear it! Who would you want to remix it?

C: We’ve got a few ideas, we’ll see where it leads to. The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur. Through Music Potential, we’ve met some really great people too. I think a house remix, in an EDM style would suit it. It’s obviously a really big switch up, but means it will appeal to a whole different demographic. We’d love to get a live band going instead of just guitar, to make more of the performance.

A live band can add so much to a track. Does mixing your styles come naturally to you?

C: Yeah it does. I’ve done a lot of underground hip hop, I started off as a freestyle rapper and progressed to more melodic pieces, so a bit more guitar, a bit more singing. What me and Beth do is more marketable but I’m still doing hip hop separately. That’s the way forward, especially with the female vocals. The way Beth’s voice is, I thought it would be really nice stripped back to just 2 voices on it. It’s folky and it’s worked together, it’s expanded her range of what she’s been doing.

 It sounds like making new music is pushing both of your boundaries.

C: Yeah, exactly, that’s it. It wasn’t until a few weeks back that I even performed or sang with a guitar. I started out 2 months ago and it’s all just taken off like crazy. When we first met, we started singing ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and we thought, let’s try and switch it up completely by making it more hip hop.



Craig and Beth rehearse a new track at Base Studios


What kind of creatives would you like working with in the future?

B: I’m going to be really vague and say I like working with all creatives, I feel like creative people have this kind of energy, they just kind of go towards each other. It doesn’t matter what field they’re in, just with creative people you end up chatting as if you’ve known them for years.

There’s always something to talk about! 

You’re right, there’s no awkward pauses. It’s just like, you love what you do and crack on. I love that.

And Craig, what artists do you look to for inspiration?

C: I’m really into Ben Howard and Jack Johnson. With hip hop, it’s so different, I can go from listening to really chilled music to all of a sudden spitting grime bars. I like Newton Faulkner and Ed Sheeran but with a bit of hip hop and rapping too.

Craig is inspired by the likes of Ben Howard and Jack Johnson

Do you work with other rappers?

C: Yeah! We’re working on a couple of collaborations with rappers, helping them to branch out. We can jam on the guitar, I’ll sing with them and try to get a feel for different things. So it’s all acoustic vibes and then you’ll have a cheeky verse with some bars in, like, “ok that’s quite nice!”

Ok, at Big Music we like to keep you on your toes. It’s time for a quick-fire round! The aim is to answer as quick as possible, no hesitation! 

B: Let’s go!

C: Ready.

What’s your shower song?

B: ‘I Say a Little Prayer for You’, Aretha Franklin

C: ‘Banana Pancakes’, Jack Johnson

What advice would you give yourself at 16 years old?

B: “You are enough”

C: “Don’t worry”

What’s the silliest way you’ve been injured?

B: I got my foot trapped in the floorboards at a funfair. It lead to a fracture so it wasn’t cool!

C: I stepped on a cup, I had to have stitches.

Coolest animal to scale up to the size of a horse?

B: I’m a crazy cat lady, so I would have to have a giant cat.

C: A chicken.

Do you have useless talent?

C: I’m double jointed.

What’s one word your school teachers would use to describe you?

C: Loud.

What would autobiography name be?

B: Let’s go musical themed, I’m thinking something from ‘The Greatest Showman’. So, ‘This is Me’.

If you could take credit for any piece of art, what would it be?

B: Hmmm I would take credit for Ben Howard’s album ‘Every Kingdom’. I’d take every ounce of credit for that!

C: I’d go with something by Spielberg… ‘ET’!

Fabulous answers! Back to the music, what’s the one message you want to get across in your music?

C: Just keep doing you, don’t worry what everyone else is doing. Keep focused, it’s so hard to do. I think that’s the main thing for artists at the moment – everyone, no matter what level you’re at, is comparing themselves. But you’ve got to just keep doing you because it will work out, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

What have you both gained from doing Capital XTRA’s Music Potential?

B: I’ve learnt how to market myself, how to branch out. I’m currently working with record label, Big Help Music, on my Solo EP. They’re helping me to develop as an artist & I’m loving the process of doing just that!

Beth is also working on a solo EP

C: It’s helped me start a whole new career path I never thought I’d have. I’ve worked since I was 14, and I was going through a rough time and I just applied because I know someone else who did it. I didn’t expect to get through but I did, all the way until the end. And now I’m making music, I’m collaborating, I’m hosting my own shows – I’m doing loads of stuff. It’s been amazing.

Thank you, Craig and Beth! it’s been a pleasure chatting to you both and we can’t wait to hear the finished EP!

Thank you, Big Music!

Find Craig on Soundcloud, Instagram and Facebook

Check out Beth’s website here and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

If you’re interested in reading up on how another one of Music Potential grads is getting on, check out Reload’s Muisc Potential experience!