The hotlist 2009: The pop singer: Clare Maguire

The pop singer: Clare Maguire

The cusp of the musical year has its sacred traditions. There's the annual tizz over the Christmas number one single, swiftly followed by the Hogmanay crush of hot new artists vying to be the sound of the coming 12 months. This process is heavily stage-managed and journalists hungry for new sounds, myself included, are more or less happy to play along, tipping from a pre-selected sheet of acts with records coming out in 2009.

Perhaps it's all down to the power of MySpace, but this year we can't help but get excited about an artist who is not yet fully formed - 21-year-old Clare Maguire. There are no publicity photos of her available, just some live shots from her set at last August's Green Man festival. Maguire has only just signed to Universal Island after a label chase that involved Rick Rubin, Jay-Z and much of the rest of the music industry besides. The deal is said to be eye-watering. Record company and management aren't keen on showcasing Maguire this early in her professional development, but it's hard to put a stopper on enthusiasm.

Her MySpace plays for a demo, Strangest Thing, are nearing 500,000, showing the weight of scouts checking out this most extraordinary of new voices and growing numbers of fans. Strangest Thing is certainly raw, but it's a riveting soul tune that showcases Maguire's powerful pipes, making her 2009's most obvious heir to Adele, Duffy and Amy Winehouse.

Nothing of hers has yet been committed to master tape, but there is talk of her writing this year with some of the most bankable producers going, like Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse) and Cee-Lo; she impressed Jarvis Cocker enough early on for him to offer her a song of his. As a performer, Maguire is only a few gigs old, having played Green Man in August and Cardiff's Swn festival in November; her next date is supporting Tift Merritt on 23 January in Glasgow as part of the Celtic Connections festival. Promoter Francesca Neumann of the Mean Fiddler organisation saw her at Green Man. "She was keeping everyone's attention in the rain and the crowd just grew. She has a really endearing quality, as well as this really powerful voice."

Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens recently put Maguire on at Swn. He heard about her by word of mouth, generated by her performance at Green Man."More than one person said that she was the highlight," he explains. "So I went on to her MySpace and fell in love with her tunes, especially Strangest Thing. Her voice says it all; it's breathtaking, stunning, show-stopping." Maguire cites Howlin' Wolf and Rosetta Tharpe as influences, but she is no mere heritage act. At Swn, she covered No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. Consider our interest piqued.

Three others to watch

Florence and the Machine
Arty weirdo who will shake, rattle and roll her way through NME's annual new bands tour starting on 29 January.

Everything Everything
Johnny Marr has fallen for their psychedelic charms and quirky harmonising. See them at Glastonbury and South by Southwest.

Golden Silvers
Old-fashioned vocal values wedded to off-kilter guitar pop. Shiny!


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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