Two weeks ago, as music legend Rod Stewart was inking a deal with Universal Music Group, an 18-year-old from Fareham was signing up to the same mega label.
Laurel Arnell-Cullen was recognised by The News last November, when she won our Guide Award for Best Solo Artist.
In January we also tipped her as ‘one to watch’ in 2012.
Now the former South Downs College student is proving right all those who believed in her from the start, as she is taken under the wing of a major label.
‘Winning the Guide Award was great,’ says Laurel.
‘When you’re a new act, you don’t feel that appreciated – especially at gigs, where people talk over you. But realising local people were supporting me really lifted me up and made me think, “yeah – I’m going to do this”.
‘I’ve still got my award on a stand in my bedroom,’ continues the young singer-songwriter who also plays guitar and piano.
She’s speaking on a break from recording with The Invisible Men and The Arcade in Hammersmith, West London.
Laurel moved to Hammersmith from her family home in Sarisbury Green near Fareham after signing to Turn First, a development arm of Universal, which has artists including Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora on its roster.
Signing a deal with a major record label was a dream come true for the young star-to-be, who used to go by the stage name Under The Laurels, but now just calls herself Laurel.
She explains: ‘It sounds quite cheesy, but I’ve always known I wanted to be a singer.
‘I’ve sung solo and in choirs and bands since I was tiny, but I only recently realised there was a possibility I could spend the rest of my life doing it.’
At 11, the classically-trained singer began writing songs on her piano.
She played her first live gig when she had just turned 14. Six months later, she was a headline act.
Laurel says the music scene in Portsmouth really inspired her.
‘The Portsmouth music scene is great. All the different bands and artists are very supportive and there is a lot of room for alternative music. Plus people there like going out to gigs.
‘I wouldn’t be where I am without doing the Portsmouth gigs. They gave me so much experience and confidence and I really enjoyed them.’
In March, Laurel released a song with Radio 1 DJ, house producer and Southsea resident Dave Spoon.
It was spotted online by a representative of Mean Fiddler and garnered interest from Columbia Sony and Universal.
After two months of talks, Laurel signed to Turn First, Universal’s development label that is responsible for discovering artists like Jessie J.
‘They develop artists from an early stage, away from the pressure of a big label,’ explains Laurel, who hopes to move on to one of Universal’s bigger labels, such as Island or Polydor, in about a year.
‘I’m in the studio every single day at the moment. It’s really inspiring to be around so many musical people. Almost all we all talk about is music,’ continues Laurel, who will travel to America in a few weeks to work with artists in LA and New York.
Compared with her folky beginnings, Laurel says her new material is ‘chilled and a bit dubsteppy’.
‘The aim for now is just to get some really good music down and find my style,’ she explains.
‘Hopefully, I’ll release a single and make a video later this year and then an album after I’ve moved on to a bigger label.’
Laurel’s also collaborating on other artists’ tracks and planning tour support slots.
She’s looking forward to getting back into gigging. ‘It’s my favourite thing to do, but it has been put on hold while we’re writing and recording,’ she reveals.
‘I just want to be a stable recording artist. I’d love to be able to do this for the rest of my life.’