Little Boots

Little Boots

Artists like Madonna, Beyoncé and Celine Dion have worked hard to establish a permanent place for women at the top of music’s food chain, and the recent crop of Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga boasts chart positions, box office numbers and a mantel full of awards. But how many can say they built their own laser harp?

OK, maybe Lady G. But constructing a fully functioning copy of Jean-Michel Jarre’s instrument is just one example of what sets British singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Victoria Hesketh, aka, Little Boots, apart.

“Surprisingly, they do not sell them at [U.K. retailer] Argos,” she told Pollstar.

The 25-year-old Blackpool native was a contestant on “Pop Idol” at 16 and did a three-year stint in now-defunct group Dead Disco. But the singer didn’t really catch the public’s attention until early 2008, when she documented her transformation into Little Boots by posting a series of clips on YouTube featuring around-the-house and in-studio performances of originals and covers.

Photo: John Davisson

Hesketh, accustomed to a collaborative writing and recording environment, had difficulty applying her new solo efforts to a live show.

“At the start it was difficult figuring it out because I recorded all the songs first,” the singer told Pollstar. “When you’re used to working with a band and you write songs as a band, you kind of play them first and then you hit the studio.

“This is kind of the other way round, so I had to relearn everything and break it all down and figure out how to play it live and who should play what. We’ve got it nailed now. It’s actually quite fun to do it that way.”

Hesketh is an admitted tech-head who tours with an impressive collection of equipment: banks of keyboards, synths, a ’70s-era toy electronic keyboard called a Stylophone and Yamaha’s Tenori-on – a sequencer/synthesizer/drum machine about the size of an LP sleeve that looks like an electronic board game.

The high-tech gadget, which features 256 sounds ranging from drums to piano to guitar, allows the singer to visually compose and record an entire track on the fly. It also makes for a wicked cool light show.

Although Hesketh’s debut album, Hands, just hit shelves in the States, the rest of the world has been enjoying it since June. Even without many North American dates, the singer’s touring schedule was a busy one and included sold-out headliners in the U.K., Europe, Australia and Japan, plus 33 festival appearances from to Norway’s .

“It was great going to different countries and seeing how different festivals work and the different crowds and their reactions,” Hesketh said. “It was all tremendously positive. We had great turnouts all over the world.”

Because the singer’s schedule was so heavy last year, a decision was made to hold off releasing her full-length in North America and test the waters with five-track EP Illuminations.

“By waiting, it means I can come to America properly and concentrate on it, rather than it being divided up with the rest of the world,” she explained.

Even so, capacity crowds turned up at the handful of shows she did in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The singer said the most challenging thing she’s done Stateside is a handful of showcases at but they were worth it.

“I had a great time,” the singer explained. “We did five shows. It was definitely full-on, but you just get caught up in the whole spirit of the week.”

Hesketh’s talent as a lyricist and composer means her songs transcend the “no-thinking-required” nature of most dance-club tunes. That may be why the singer’s music and live show have struck a chord.

Photo: Daniel Sannwald

“We’ve tried to mix her up between traditional venues and clubs that have established parties to get her in front of a lot of different people, so they can make a decision for themselves,” said The Windish Agency’s Tom Windish, who’s been working with Hesketh since a few months before her 2008 transformation to Little Boots.

“So far, people in the U.S. have responded really, really well to her. She’s got a pretty unique style, and I think people are open to different things these days.”

While some artists might take offense at getting lumped into a mini-British invasion (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy), Hesketh brushes it off.

“It’s cool. But I think we’re all really different,” the singer explained. “There’s some exciting stuff coming out and it feels like a good time to be making pop music.”

Little Boots is touring North America through early May on a run scheduled around her April 18 appearance at , with additional North American and European shows on the horizon.

Editor’s note: According to a message posted March 9 on Little Boots’ MySpace page, unforeseen circumstances and commitments have forced the cancellation of all dates after her April 18 Coachella performance. Refunds are available at point of purchase.