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Joni hits another high note
Joni Fuller
Joni Fuller has played to 60,000 people and she's still only 17!

Joni Fuller has struck a chord with some of the biggest names in music, played to 60,000 people and won major awards for her song writing - and she's still only 17!

Joni from Lytham St Annes is on song with Coldplay's Chris Martin who chairs the Make It Break It panel, a national contest for young musicians.

The MIBI panel named her best female solo performer in both 2008 and 2009.

And the teenager has also shared the stage with Phil Collins.

She has been making sweet music since persuading her parents to buy her a violin for her fifth birthday. By the grand old age of eight she was writing her own songs and had been accepted into the Junior School at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Three years later she was accepted into Phil Collins' Little Dreams Foundation for her songwriting skills. It was quite an achievement to be taken on by the Foundation which provides support for talented kids in their chosen field: Joni was the first youngster from the UK to be sponsored by the scheme.

I remember playing John Lennon's 'Jealous Guy' over and over again one night and wishing I might write a song that good one day
Joni Fuller

She played at the Montreux Jazz Festival when she was 12 and when she was 14 she supported Collins on his Farewell Tour at the LTU Arena in Dusseldorf where she performed in front of her biggest crowd to date. Joni said: "He introduced me and then left the stage; so it was just me, a keyboard and 60,000 people!"

Although daunting, the experience has helped her cope with nerves. "There's always a lot of adrenalin just before a performance but I try to use it to help me play better. I used to get very nervous but I manage it a lot better now."

Collins was so impressed he asked her to sing the backing vocals on his song 'Who am I?' on the Tarzan 2 soundtrack. Joni can be seen playing the piano in the video. He also asked her to perform at his son's christening in Geneva.

Joni's father Chris said Phil has been a great support. "Phil still keeps in touch and keeps a track of what she's up to."

He says getting backed by his Foundation was instrumental: "It has made such a difference especially when Joni was starting out."

Supporting the former Genesis singer and drummer has stood her in good stead and despite her tender years Joni is now a seasoned performer. She received a standing ovation at the first Montrose Music Festival in May 2008 and spent the rest of the summer playing live at venues across the UK. She returned to Montrose and played three gigs in the 2009 event.

She received rave reviews for her performance including praise indeed from Paul McGuigan, Oasis' original bass player, who described her as "a star in the making". His wife Ruth also said 'Paper Cuts' made her cry which she took as a huge compliment. "I was really pleased that my song had had such a big affect."

What is her secret to writing such poignant lyrics? Well, she lets them flow rather than manufacture them. She explains: "I write all my songs at the piano and wait for a moment of inspiration rather than sit down with the intention of writing a song.

Keyboard caddy

"Once I get hooked into something I play it over and over again until it develops, without analysing it too much. I then step back and see what I've got. The music always comes first but often key lyrics come at the same time."

Has she any strange rituals or superstitions before a performance? "Not really. The best way for me to relax before a performance is to play the piano. I tend not to eat much before I play, so I'm always starving afterwards."

The singer songwriter violinist pianist and guitarist says she doesn't come from a particularly musical family although her dad plays the guitar. Chris Fuller accompanies her to all her public appearances and he often plays the guitar at her gigs although he would describe himself more as the keyboard caddy.

Like his daughter, he is very modest about her success as well as his own musical talents. "Oh, I go along because Joni likes me there and besides she needs someone to carry her keyboard! I only play because I'm there."

He sacrifices much of his spare time to go on the road with Joni but is more than happy to do so. "As a parent I support her because it is what she wants to do. She absolutely loves performing and works really hard."

Joni says her parents always had CDs on in the house when she was growing up. "I used to pick out the songs I liked the most and apparently I especially loved songs with violins, like 'Fisherman's Blues' by the Waterboys which I now play live during my own gigs."

Joni continued: "I was always quizzing my parents about who wrote songs I liked. I remember playing John Lennon's 'Jealous Guy' over and over again one night and wishing I might write a song that good one day."

Although classically trained she mainly listens to rock music."I'm really inspired by great songwriters and performers. Some of my favourite artists are Tori Amos, Bat for Lashes, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Joni Mitchell."

She laughs off the suggestion of being named after Mitchell. "It really is just a coincidence."

Joni Fuller
Joni Fuller

Her music is best described as acoustic rock but there are classical influences which come out especially in her use of the violin and piano. "I've always tried to be strong and follow my own style."

Her unique sound is certainly in tune with the Make It Break It judges who made her their winner for the second year running with 'Change Girl'.

"Winning the award once was great - winning twice is amazing and it gives me a real boost of confidence for my song-writing. It'll also hopefully open some doors!"

Sweets and chocolates

As part of the prize she will get a five day residential academy at Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts, and get to perform at a showcase concert in the Paul McCartney Auditorium on 31 October. There is also a recording session with EMI at the London studios to look forward to.

She is very excited in particular to return to LIPA: she recorded the songs for her six track 'Run for Cover' EP there in June 2009.

She might rub shoulders with rock stars and play to sell-out arenas but she still finds time to do her A-Level homework. "I take school work away with me and get a lot of work done whilst travelling and waiting around."

What do her class-mates make of her musical talents? Joni says they are supportive and go along to her gigs when they can. She explains: "My friends can't remember a time when I wasn't playing music. I used to take my violin into school and play for them.

"I travelled abroad a lot with my music so I would bring back sweets and chocolates into class - that might have helped!"

So what is her ultimate ambition? "I've been lucky in that I've had lots of great experiences and success. I want to build on this and go on to have a career in music.

"There are really exciting opportunities on the horizon thanks to my Make It Break It win so who knows what the next 12 months will bring?"

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