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Are you looking for new music? Well, we’ve got you covered. As part of Coke Studio and GAY TIMES’ Breakthrough campaign, we uncovered four brilliant unsigned LGBTQIA+ acts (Celaviedmai, Callum Crighton, Lleo, Keanan) that deserve to be heard. The campaign set out to support independent musicians across GB and Ireland. Together, Coke Studio and GAY TIMES recognise that the music industry can be an extremely challenging space, particularly for those who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Music is more than a career, it’s an opportunity for upcoming creatives to unapologetically express themselves on and off the stage. With Breakthrough, Coke Studio and GAY TIMES directly support rising musicians, from all backgrounds, to make the music scene more accessible to all. London-based DJ Callum Crighton and musician Lleo were two of the four unsigned acts selected for the campaign . This year, Callum kicked off a fun-filled summer, making their Coke Studio debut at Pride in London, as part of Coca‑Cola’s Parade Float, while fellow Breakthrough acts Lleo, Keanan and Celaviedmai made their festival debut with various performances across the likes of Luno presents All Points East, Boardmasters and Longitude, as well as performances at various Pride events across the UK and Ireland – it’s been quite the tour!

Callum Crighton and Lleo reunited to reflect on their “incredible summer” as Breakthrough’s star artists and update us on their musical journey. Keep reading to find out more…

What have you been up to lately?

Callum Crighton: I’ve been playing loads of shows, doing 9 the week before Christmas, which is slightly feral but very fun regardless! I’ve also been working on my new solo record with the first single coming early next year!

Lleo: Life. Has. Been. Crazy. After a whirlwind summer of shows with Coke Studio and GAY TIMES, I played my headline show in London, and it felt like the perfect way to round off an incredible summer. I’ve locked myself away to focus on the production of my next EP, and I finished the last tune yesterday. I’ve been really busy making the artworks, visuals, and other cool bits for the release, as well as gearing up to go on tour next year. I feel like I’m moving at 100 miles per hour but in a good way!

What did you enjoy most about being part of Breakthrough with Coke Studio and GAY TIMES throughout 2023?

Callum Crighton: I enjoyed playing the Pride events and festivals and getting to travel on a tour which is something I hadn’t had the chance to do beforehand! Also adored the photo and video shoot, and all the content that came with it!

Lleo: As an independent artist, the best thing about being part of Breakthrough was feeling supported. To have the backing of GAY TIMES and Coke Studio is a big thing, and it has given me so much confidence in my abilities and my music. Knowing that you guys have my back is the best feeling. I’m also so grateful to have been given the opportunity to play at some of the biggest festivals in the UK. I’ve wanted to play these shows for years, and so to make that happen this summer was honestly a dream come true.

How was the Coke Studio festival and Pride experiences?

Callum Crighton: Brighton and London Pride particularly were amazing, I’ve never seen so much love and brilliant energy in one place, and I felt so proud to be playing the music as we drove through the crowd of (literally) over a million people! Some of my favourite moments in the whole year.

Lleo: It was awesome! I’ve played Prides around the world, and the energy is always unmatched. They are my favourite shows ever, and playing Brighton Pride for the first time was so much fun. I’ve been going to All Points East and Boardmasters for years, so playing the festivals was surreal – so sick. Playing in Ireland for the first time was amazing too, and the crowds in Galway and Electric Picnic were amazing.
What have you learnt about yourself and making music since the Breakthrough campaign?

Callum Crighton: Working closely with musicians whilst I was focusing more on DJing was invaluable. It really inspired me to put more energy into my own music, which I hadn’t really put effort into for a while due to being swept up with DJing!

Lleo: The Breakthrough campaign with Coke Studio and GAY TIMES helped build up my confidence so much. To play that many shows back to back, I had to make sure the set was really solid, and by the end of the summer, I really noticed how much my playing and stage presence had improved. I’ve also learned that people actually care about what I have to say, which is a really cool feeling. I talk a lot about my mental health in my music and have worried in the past that people might find it too heavy or alienating, but seeing people at the shows who were genuinely into what I was playing was a massive confidence boost. It has taught me to be even more honest in terms of the music I’m writing next.

What’s the biggest challenge artists face in your opinion?

Callum Crighton: Being taken seriously by the industry. The industry is putting a lot of attention and effort into artists who have followers on social platforms as opposed to nurturing artists with creative visions. I worry that the growing pressure on artists to have ‘short’ ‘viral’ songs is overpowering the pressure of actually making thoughtful creative music.

Lleo: Money (or lack of it). The majority of the time, artists don’t get paid for what they do. When you’re the artist who is working with producers, mixers, videographers, and musicians (who all need to get paid), but you aren’t paid for what you do, it can be an absolute nightmare to try and juggle everything to make it work. So many artists who are doing amazing things have day jobs – it’s crazy. Independent artists need more funding, and to be paid fairly for what they do.

What’s next for you?

Callum Crighton: Lots of exciting big gigs next year as a DJ and a revival of my solo music career! As well as this, I’m launching my new electronic indie-disco duo with my best friend Zuzu called ‘The Darklings’ which is gonna be major!

Lleo: My first single from my EP drops in January. I go on tour in the UK in February and March, and then the rest of my EP will be out next year. I’ve also got a sick remix coming out for an artist I love! Next year is already shaping up to be a big one and I’ve got a good feeling in my gut.

For anyone wanting to be part of the Breakthrough with Coke Studio and GAY TIMES Campaign in 2024, what advice would you give them?

Callum Crighton: Be true to yourself and your image, trust in your passion and be open to every opportunity that excites you!

Lleo: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go for it! I applied on a whim, and couldn’t believe it when I was selected. Be confident and go for it.

Now you’ve come through the other side of Breakthrough together, what questions do you have for each other?

Callum Crighton: Lleo, if you had a budget of 10 million to make a music video, what would you do with it? Also, wildcard, do you believe in the Loch Ness monster?

Lleo: All I would do is take Kanye West out to dinner and film it, so would need enough money for dinner and one camera. I would just let the rest happen! Yes, I do, I’m sure she is so fab! What would your ultimate venue – real or made up – look like?

Callum Crighton: My ultimate venue ever would be to play on a stage in the middle of the ocean surrounded by sharks.