Alice performing her EP release at Jazz Map StudioAlice Markham with permission for Varsity

Name: Alice Markham

College: St John’s

Subject: English Literature

Number of monthly listeners: 24.2k

When did your love for music begin?

For as long as I can remember. I was brought up in a house full of noise and chaos in a family of music lovers, so it was inevitable really!

Have you always wanted to be a singer?

Yes, apart from the very brief period of wanting to be an astronaut. (Which ended when I found out Physics was not my strong suit.)

Why did you choose to study English rather than Music?

I’ve always loved reading and learning through literature. I feel that English is a very special subject in helping to grow a deeper understanding of the world and how it is/has been through different voices. I’ve always found the two subjects to be very complementary of each other; I’ve often found the same beauty in pieces of writing as I do in music, and have felt the two go hand-in-hand.

“I’ve often found the same beauty in pieces of writing as I do in music”

How many gigs do you do per week (or term) on average?

I do seven services at John’s a week, and around 1–3 gigs, depending on the week of term. The last week before Christmas is usually crazy (a gig every day) and May Week of course is packed!

What’s May Week like for you and your band?

Fun, challenging, exciting, exhausting, and everything in between … not to mention that most members are in various different groups and will have multiple sets throughout a night, so it really is crazy. It can be hard at times when performers put a lot of time and effort into their craft but are under-appreciated, or aren’t treated with quite the professionalism they deserve. This was widely discussed by all Cambridge artists last year, and I believe colleges are working hard to ensure that performers are given appropriate payment and are treated mindfully.

What was it like being one of the first women admitted into St John’s College Choir?

Terrifying and exciting. Terrifying because I had very little experience in classical/choral singing so often felt like I was crawling amongst a group of runners. But exciting because I knew I was in the best hands to tackle the challenge. Andrew Nethsingha and the choir made me feel so welcome and appreciated, regardless of my experience (and gender), and I really felt I was part of a new family.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts about Cambridge?

Favourite: Beautiful buildings and streets, so many incredible, talented and kind people, my college “wife”, the best teaching I’ve ever experienced, amazing facilities, so many arts and sports opportunities, lots of nice cosy study areas and cafes.

Least Favourite: Slow walkers, when it’s cold it’s very very cold, and Cambridge also tends to be very expensive.

How do you balance all of your music with your studies?

My music commitments actually really help me to be disciplined about my timetable and more focused in my study time. They also provide breaks in my studying to alleviate any stress and help regain focus. It can obviously sometimes get overwhelming, as it can for anyone, particularly when personal life can get tough. However the support I’ve received here has been amazing, which I’m so grateful for.

“Usually the lyrics and tune come together as an inseparable pair”

What’s your song-writing process like?

It often just starts with an idea of a storyline or motive, which transforms into lots of experimenting at the piano, which transforms into the rough idea of the song. Usually the lyrics and tune come together as an inseparable pair, but if my inspiration ever runs low, I’ll try to kick start it by writing some lyrics.

What’s your favourite genre to sing?

This changes all the time, depending on my mood … I would usually say jazz or soul, but I have a growing love for classical and folk, and a guilty pleasure for musical theatre. I really enjoy fusions of pop, jazz, funk and soul, because I get a bit of everything I love.

Biggest musical influences?

Sarah Vaughan, Laura Marling, Nina Simone, Norah Jones, Laufey, Aretha Franklin, João Gilberto.

Top three artists on your Spotify?

Esperanza Spalding, Paris Paloma, Benito Di Paula (currently).

If you could take three people to formal hall, dead or alive, who would they be?


Mountain View

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Three people who I’d love to watch interact – there are endless possibilities, but an example would be Emmeline Pankhurst, Julian of Norwich and Kim Kardashian.

Where do you hope your music will take you?

With my own music, I’m hoping to keep progressing to a stage where performing and writing is my sole source of income. With music in general, I will just continue to enjoy the beauty of meeting other musicians, experiencing their talent, and sharing the thing we love!