Singer-songwriter Becka Pimenta says of her burgeoning music career: ‘I’m always one phone call away from something bigger,’
The 21-year-old from Emsworth had been hand-picked along with nine other unsigned artists by Russell Simmons, one of the founders of US record label Def Jam, for a competition he was running on Myspace.
Becka was the only artist outside America to be picked for the contest, which was to be voted for on the music-based social networking site. The winner would receive a mentoring session with Russell himself.
‘It was early in the morning for my manager, because he’s five hours behind in New York,’ explains Becka. ‘So I was surprised when he called.
‘He said: “I’ve just seen on Myspace that Russell Simmons has picked out people on his radar for a competition and number four is Becka from Emsworth”.
‘I said “No you’re lying”. I was so shocked. Then I ran into Starbucks, switched on my laptop and there was my face on Russell Simmons Myspace.
‘I was amazed just to be on the same page, then I realised I was the only non-US artist that he’d picked,’ she continues.
Though Becka’s spent much of the past three years travelling back and forth between the US and the UK, her home has always been in Emsworth.
Becka studied at Bishop Luffa school in Chichester and then Havant College, where she realised that singing was what she wanted to do with her life.
‘I studied law,’ says Becka. ‘But in my classes, I was always writing songs.
‘Then one day I realised that I didn’t want to go to uni and start a law career and then look back and think “what if I’d tried that”.
‘I realised I need to do it because, before you know it, life gets in the way of your dreams,’ she continues.
So Becka and a college friend who shared her ambitions of breaking into the music industry started making and sending out demos and meeting with producers.
Though she took a lot of time off college to follow her dream, Becka finished her A-levels. Then, at 17, she began focusing on music full-time and signed with Fernando Gibson, a manager who had previously represented Grammy award-winner India Arie.
Label meetings in Los Angeles and Manhattan followed, and soon Becka was living a life split between LA and Emsworth.
‘They are two different worlds,’ laughs Becka.
‘I come back home and it’s really easy to forget I was ever in LA. But when I’m there I’m absorbed in the culture, the people and the sun.
‘It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks. It’s all pretence, fakery, smoke and mirrors. And that was a rude awakening for me.’
Becka spent the whole of 2009 in LA working with established producers and writers.
‘I got quite involved in the LA singer-songwriter world,’ she explains. ‘It’s acoustic and beachy, which suits my personality in a lot of ways and it was familiar because I’d grown up by the sea.
‘But still I struggled to find an identity in my music,’ she admits.
‘I worked with award-winning producers from Nashville to New York, but no-one “got” me.
‘I was so confused. The songs were brilliant, they just weren’t right for me.’
When Becka was offered a deal with music giant Warner Bros, she turned it down.
She remembers: ‘Everyone thought I was mad, but I didn’t want them to take me on and make me someone I don’t want to be. I didn’t want to be moulded into something I’m not.
‘My struggle when I go away is that Emsworth encompasses who I am. I’ve lived in the same house all my life. Heaven forbid my parents should ever move, I’d be mortified, because this is home.
‘I like coming home to Emsworth. It’s quiet here. I’m not a city girl.’
Becka came home to Emsworth to record her debut EP, Barefoot Sessions. That EP took her back to New York last summer for more meetings with major labels including Universal.
Then her second EP, Restless, was released at the start of this year.
‘I’m at such an exciting stage,’ explains Becka.
‘And I’m 100 per cent hands-on. The last two EPs I produced, just sitting with a sound engineer.
‘I’m involved in every step – styling, photography, video – any decision that’s made.’
Amy Winehouse’s publicist recently volunteered to help Becka.
‘She got involved for no pay. She’s just so excited about what I’m doing,’ beams Becka.
Becka is clearly teetering on the cusp of big things. But she is just grateful for what she’s achieved already.
‘Just to be picked by Russell Simmons was a big achievement,’ she says.
‘The artists who came in the top three already had millions of fans, massive followings. And I finished fourth.
‘It’s opened so many doors, just being involved.’