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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Other, Alternative, Electronic, R&B/Soul, Dance, Alternative Dance, Disco, Electro, Electroclash, Electronica, Europop, Indie, Synthpop, Electropop
Victoria Christina Hesketh (born 4 May 1984), better known by her stage name Little Boots, is an English electropop singer-songwriter and DJ. Her stage name comes from a nickname given to her by a friend, a reference to her unusually small feet. As a musician, Little Boots sings and plays the piano, keyboards, synthesizer, Stylophone and a Japanese electronic instrument called Tenori-on. After a return to college to focus on her studies, Hesketh along with two of her fellow students formed the electropunk band Dead Disco. The band had limited releases of their four singles but due to increasingly different ideas about the band's musical direction Hesketh left to pursue a solo career. Hesketh has cited as influences The Human League, Pink Floyd, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Captain Beefheart. She has a soprano vocal range.
Hesketh began writing her own songs and posting covers on social networking sites such as YouTube and Myspace. After appearing on several shows including Later... with Jools Holland and Last Call with Carson Daly, Hesketh entered production on her debut album Hands. With increasing media attention regarding her then-yet-to-be-released debut album, Hesketh topped the BBC Sound of 2009 poll and received a Critics' Choice nomination at the 2009 BRIT Awards. With the release of her debut, she was linked to a recent wave of breakthrough female artists in their twenties playing 1980s-influenced music, including Lady Gaga, Ladyhawke, Florence and the Machine and Elly Jackson of La Roux.
Her debut album, Hands, released on 8 June 2009, peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart and at number twenty on the Irish Albums Chart. The first single off the album "New in Town" became a top twenty hit, while the next single "Remedy", produced by RedOne, reached the top ten. She has also released the EP Illuminations in the United States. Her second album Nocturnes was released on 5 May 2013.
1984–2005: Early life and career beginnings
Hesketh was born in Blackpool, Lancashire; her father has a car sales business and her mother is a writer. The oldest sibling with three brothers, she was raised in Thornton, Lancashire.
From the age of five, Hesketh played the piano and began lessons at six, later taking lessons from Arthur Lingings and eventually winning a music scholarship. During this time she was taught how to play the flute, was a member of the school choir and travelled regularly to Manchester to take lessons on her harp. Trained initially in classical singing by Janet Wunderley, by the age of thirteen Hesketh was writing her own songs.
Hesketh attended the Rossall School in Fleetwood, and then Blackpool Sixth Form College; it was around this time that she entered the ITV talent competition search Pop Idol aged sixteen. Reaching the third round, she was eliminated by the producers of the show and did not reach the panel of judges. She stated, "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."
After singing with the Lancashire Youth Jazz Orchestra and performing with a jazz trio for some time Hesketh decided to prioritise her education and studied cultural studies at the University of Leeds, attaining a first-class honours degree. She subsidised her course by playing "awful, schmoozy lounge versions of Norah Jones songs" in hotels around the north-west. "It paid me loads of money, but it's not what I wanted to be doing" she said. It was during her time at Leeds University that Hesketh, along with two of her fellow students, formed the all-girl band Dead Disco, Hesketh herself eventually becoming the lead singer.
2005–08: Dead Disco
While studying at the University of Leeds, Hesketh answered an online advertisement posted by Lucy Catherwood and Marie France looking for a lead singer to start a band. Sharing an interest and love of The Killers, Ladytron, The Rapture and Siouxsie & the Banshees, they formed the electropunk band Dead Disco in August 2005, The band got their name through randomly picking words from a hat. With Dead Disco, Hesketh sang lead vocals and played synth, while Catherwood and Franceon played guitar and bass, respectively.
With only a few songs written, Dead Disco began playing gigs around the north of England; their live gig in the headline slot at the "In the City" event in Manchester gained them enough recognition to get a recording stint with James Ford. Working with Ford in his London attic studio, the band issued a limited release of their debut single "The Treatment" in April 2006 on the record label High Voltage. Their second release "City Place" was a digital-only release through Playlouder Records.
With the success of several sell out gigs and an appearance at the Leeds Festival, the band moved to Los Angeles to begin recording their debut album with Greg Kurstin. However, it was around this time that Hesketh herself began to write songs not in keeping with the band's "indie" style. Choosing a new musical direction, Hesketh left Dead Disco; they officially revealed their disbandment on their Myspace blog in December 2008. In an interview with The Times, Hesketh spoke about her gradual shift away from the band: "All the time I'd been hiding my own songs and finally I had to make the sort of music I actually wanted to listen to. [...] Before I used to always think, 'What would a jazz performer do?' or 'What would the band do?'—Now it's so easy because it's 'What would I do?' It's just me." In a later interview Hesketh noted that the bands' label was pressuring the group to have a certain style and that her band mates lost confidence in her because she wanted to write "cheesy" songs.
2008–10: Mainstream success, Hands and Illuminations
With her departure from Dead Disco in August 2007, Hesketh decided to begin a new solo career in pop. She returned to her parents' house to begin recording various covers of pop songs by artists which included Girls Aloud, Kate Bush, MGMT, Hot Chip, Madonna, Blur, Estelle, Alphabeat, Wham! and Miley Cyrus and posted them on social networking websites YouTube and Myspace. Within a year she had narrowed down a list of her songs to create an album and by getting in touch with Greg Kurstin, with whom she had previously worked with Dead Disco, Hesketh started production on her debut album Hands. In early 2008 she began using the stage name Little Boots. Hands was recorded in Los Angeles with Greg Kurstin and Joe Goddard, and by January 2009 she had begun to compile the album's track listings. During this period Little Boots topped the BBC Sound of 2009 poll ahead of the likes of White Lies, Florence and the Machine and Empire of the Sun, leading to surge of media attention regarding her then-yet-to-be-released album.
Hands was released on 8 June 2009. A limited edition 12-inch vinyl of the album was also released on 10 June, which was limited to 1000 copies. The album peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart and has produced the top twenty hit "New in Town" and top ten hit "Remedy". The album also did well in Europe and Japan.
Critical response to the album was generally favourable, generating a score of 70 on Metacritic. In a review for musicOMH, Michael Cragg called it "a well-crafted, glorious pop record." ClashMusic.com reviewer Joe Zadeh disagreed, writing that the album "falls victim to attempts to reach beyond more boundaries than necessary, and thus ironically loses the concentration of the more earnest listener." David Renshaw of Gigwise.com described Hands as "a big pop album" that "rival[s] Lady Gaga, Girls Aloud or Lily Allen." Ben Thompson of The Guardian wrote that the album's production was "diverse" and called the song "Symmetry", a duet with Philip Oakey, a "joyous cross-generational head-to-head." NME reviewer Emily Mackay wrote that "Little Boots gives us an inspiring story of self-realization" and called the album "brilliant." Pete Paphides of The Times named "Stuck on Repeat" the album's "best moment" due to its "exquisite vulnerability." Little Boots was also nominated for Critics' Choice at the 2009 BRIT Awards. She was included on Esquire magazine's list of sixty "Brilliant Brits 2009", and was named a 2009 artist to watch by American magazine Rolling Stone.
Little Boots collaborated with illustrator and artist Chrissie Abbott for the artwork of the album. The artwork for the album has been compared to Pink Floyd's 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon because of its geometric design and fairytale imagery. The album was released in the United States on 2 March 2010, debuting at number seven on the Heatseekers Albums chart.
On 9 June 2009, Little Boots released an EP titled Illuminations in the United States and Canada. It includes "Stuck on Repeat", "New in Town", "Magical", "Love Kills" (a cover of Freddie Mercury's 1984 song) and "Not Now" (which is only available on the US edition). Designed to help relaunch Elektra Records, the EP peaked at number fourteen on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart on the issue dated 27 June 2009.
In an interview with music website Artistdirect on 1 March 2010, Little Boots stated that her second album would be "rawer and a bit more down-to-earth. It'll still be magical, but quite dark and spooky at the same time." She added that she has drawn inspiration from the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. On 1 May 2011, she performed at China Music Valley Music Festival in Beijing, during which she performed a new song called "Crescendo".
In late September 2011, Little Boots performed several old and new songs acoustically at the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles. One month later, on 24 October 2011, she released a mixtape called Shake Until Your Heart Breaks and announced that she would embark on an international DJ tour to promote her new material. She would later release the song "Shake" digitally and on a limited edition vinyl on 13 November 2011. Little Boots collaborated with English electronic producer Michael Woods on the song "I Wish", which premiered during Woods's set on BBC Radio 1's Essential Mix on 10 December 2011.
Little Boots unveiled her third mixtape, Into the Future, on 9 March 2012 via her official SoundCloud page. The mix includes re-workings of Azari & III's "Reckless with Your Love", Kylie Minogue's "Slow" and the title track a Tensnake remix of "Every Night I Say a Prayer" which she wrote with Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair. On 22 April 2012, "Every Night I Say a Prayer" was released as a free digital download and on limited 12" vinyl on 679 and Trax Records to coincide with Record Store Day. She supported the launch with a short live set at Rough Trade East in London on 21 April. This was followed by "Headphones", released on 3 June, with the accompanying music video inspired by Paris, Texas. Little Boots toured internationally that fall which included performances at San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair and Ibiza's Space.
In an interview with This Is Fake DIY on 12 December 2012, Little Boots revealed that she is putting the finishing touches to her second album, commenting, "I feel a lot more at peace about where I'm at creatively as an artist now than a year or so ago [...] I think everyone is always nervous releasing anything they've created into the world, but I've realised what I want to do and how I can achieve it, rather than trying to please other people." Sonically, she stated the album "definitely feels more representative of me of an artist, at least now in 2012. It's less 80s synth pop influenced, it's quite an upbeat album, which I think has stemmed from the fact I have been DJing a lot, and listening to a lot of dance music."
On 15 January 2013, Little Boots confirmed that her second album was completed, and it is due to be released in March 2013. Popjustice reported on 18 January 2013 that one of the two songs that Little Boots released on vinyl under the pseudonym LB, titled "Superstitious Heart", surfaced online. On the weekend of 23 and 24 February 2013, Little Boots made several posts on social media directing people to follow her Instagram account for an update that would reveal the album's artwork, culminating with the post late on 24 February with the album's cover, with the title revealed to be Nocturnes. A post earlier in the afternoon also revealed several tracks on the album, including the singles "Shake" and "Every Night I Say a Prayer", along with songs from live sets such as "Motorway" and "Crescendo" and other titles such as "Confusion", "Broken Record", "Beat Beat", "Strangers", "All For You", and "Satellites". "Motorway" is the opening track on the album and was made available to download for free on Boots' website from 25 February.
Nocturnes was released on 5 May 2013 via Digital download. A day later on CD, and From 6 May 2013 limited and exclusively via Little Boots music online, the first 1000 copies of the album were signed on vinyl or CD, which included a digital download add a limited edition Millionhands T-shirt. The album was released on vinyl on 20 May 2013.
Touring and performances
Little Boots' first televised appearance was on Later... with Jools Holland on 7 November 2008. She was invited to perform on the show after posting songs on MySpace. On 4 March 2009, Little Boots appeared on late night television show Last Call with Carson Daly in the United States where she was interviewed by Daly and several clips from a Los Angeles nightclub performance were shown. Little Boots performed "Stuck on Repeat" using the Tenori-on on 11 May 2009 edition of BBC Breakfast. She returned to Later... with Jools Holland on 15 May 2009, becoming the only artist to perform on the show twice prior to having an album released. This was followed by an appearance on the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour on 27 May 2009. Also in 2009, the song "Meddle" was featured in an advertisement for Victoria's Secret. On 5 June 2009, she appeared on the Bebo music show Beat, performing "New in Town" live in the studio.
On 3 July 2009 Little Boots closed out Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. A week later, she performed at Oxegen 2009 on the Hot Press New Bands Stage, her first performance in Ireland. The following weekend she performed at T4 on the Beach 2009 on both the T4 and 4Music Stages.
Little Boots performed "Remedy" and a cover version of JLS' "Beat Again" as part of the Live Lounge segment of BBC Radio 1's The Jo Whiley Show on 19 August 2009. Later in the month, Little Boots performed at the Reading and Leeds Festivals on the Radio 1/NME Stage. Between those appearances, she also performed at Manchester Pride 2009, an LBGT pride event. In September 2009 she was scheduled to embark on a five-city North American tour to support the Illuminations EP. The following month she performed on the main stage at the Bestival 2009 in Downend, Isle of Wight.
Little Boots went on a five-city sold-out US tour in the autumn of 2009 in support of Illuminations. On 26 October 2009 Little Boots performed as the main act at 53 Degrees in Preston, Lancashire. Along with this, Little Boots revisited the Blackpool Sixth Form College to film a 360 Session for Channel 4. The college's media studies, music technology and college magazine all got to work with her and Sixth Sense, the college magazine, managed to get their second exclusive interview with Little Boots, which was published in January 2010. On 7 December Little Boots dueted with Gary Numan on the 6 Music Live Combos show, broadcast on 11 December.
On 2 March 2010, Little Boots was scheduled to embark on a thirteen-date North American tour to coincide with the release of Hands there. She toured without her laser harp because she was not a certified laser operator (which is a legal requirement in the US for certain laser appliances) and therefore she was not allowed to travel with the instrument. However, on 17 March, seven of the planned concerts were cancelled; Little Boots cited this was due to "unforeseen circumstances and commitments in the UK".
The following month, Little Boots performed a set in the Gobi Tent at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. She told the audience that much of her crew and costumes had been stranded in the UK due to the Icelandic volcano—which had forced some UK artists, such as Gary Numan and Bad Lieutenant, to cancel their Coachella engagements entirely—and that aspects of her set had to be improvised at the last minute. Two months later, Little Boots performed on the NewNowNext Awards show on the United State LBGT cable channel Logo.
In May, she performed a one-off show at London's XOYO on 5th. In the same month she was a support act for The Scissor Sisters London shows on 16 and 17. From October to November, she embarked on an international through Europe and South America performing in Madrid, Barcelona, Poland, Brazil and Chile. On 21 December, she uploaded a short feature on her official YouTube page, which showed behind the scenes footage of her touring in Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
Other pursuits and appearances
Many of Little Boots' songs have been used on television and film. "New in Town" has appeared numerous times, including in the 2009 American horror film Jennifer's Body. "Remedy" was used in the Dollhouse episode entitled "Belle Chose". It was also used in a scene in the third series of Gavin & Stacey.
"Meddle" was featured in the ninth episode of the third series of the British teen drama Skins, titled "Katie and Emily" and broadcast 19 March 2009. It also appears in a Victoria's Secret commercial, along with appearing in the new Channel 4 comedy series, Friday Night Dinner. The Hands track "Click" was used in the twentieth episode of The Vampire Diaries, "Blood Brothers", and in the sixteenth episode of Melrose Place, "Santa Fe", which aired on 30 March 2010.
Little Boots has contributed to a documentary about the Stylophone. She has also collaborated with RjDj, and released a remix app for the iPhone titled The Little Boots – Reactive Remixer, which allows users to remix "Remedy", "Meddle" and "New in Town" and share it over social networking sites.
Boots has joined the War on Want campaign, part of which supports protests against sweatshops in India.