Wolverhampton unsigned artist Cariss Auburn wants to promote city through music
'I've got to give credit to my mum, it was her idea for the series'.
It might not be seen as rock 'n' roll to thank your mum for supporting your fledgling music career - but that sums up the down-to-earth attitude of Cariss Auburn.
Wolverhampton born-and-bred, from Finchfield, the 27-year-old talks at length about her love of her home city, her penchant for local musical collaborations and her passion for promoting Black History Month.
The series she is talking about is her Wolverhampton Wanders project. It involves Cariss taking her guitar and a locally sourced film crew to her favourite places in the city, performing a song that means something to her and using her platform to highlight the beauty within our postcode boundaries.
So far she has filmed four entries - 'the indoor series' - which are available to view on her website and YouTube. The first episode saw her take to the currently-troubled Light House centre at the Chubb Buildings to perform a mix of Mary J Blige's Everything and Sweet Female Attitude's Flowers. Next up was her performing Water Baby by Tom Misch and Loyle Carner at WV Active Central, before No Doubt's Just A Girl at Wightwick Manor and then Solange's Don't Touch My Hair at the Grand Theatre.
"I wanted to reach out to a wider audience," she says, "I just wanted to perform some of my favourite songs and it evolved into a series.
"I've always been told I am horrendous at using social media so I thought if I was to improve at that then I would have to present something that I want to do and connect to myself first.
"I've lived here all my life. I went away for uni but then came back because it's home. So for this series I decided to connect with my past and visit places I have spent a lot of time at. Through speaking to the staff I really had a chance to think about the songs I was performing and find ones to match the venues.
"For example with Wightwick they have always had a link with the Suffrage movement so I picked No Doubt's Just A Girl. It's a feminist anthem and is still very relevant today.
"It came about quite organically," adds Cariss, who also performs at weddings and sings backing vocals in Darkside - The Pink Floyd Show. "It just evolved into a series and I like to film with KWT Media."
Cariss is a former Highfields and Wolverhampton Grammar pupil and hopes her work could highlight the strengths of the city for the next generation of school leavers - with 'the outdoor series' soon to get going.
"I wanted to shine a light on the city, I wanted to put the venues and city by my side.
"It's my hometown. Everyone at some point will feel their hometown can get a bit tired but I wanted to dispel that discourse and negativity. Wulfrunians are generally quite proud and they should be, there's so many amazing places.
"I've had a really positive response from all I've approached and it's really important to support local landmarks like the Light House. Most just shut down. Hopefully some people may find something new through this."
But it's not just tourist attractions and beauty spots Cariss looks to highlight. Her culture is equally important to her and through that she has performed at venues like the MAC in Birmingham taking part in concerts for Black History Month.
"I've always wanted to be involved in Black History Month," she adds. "It's second nature to me, every year I want to do something. It's a great cause. It's a real celebration and it makes me proud to take part in it."
Her performance at the Cannon Hill Park venue last year was highlighted by What's On Brum as one of the highlights of the month-long program.
"That was amazing. This is something that gives me a platform and a voice. If you look at everything recently, especially with the Windrush situation. It's personally disturbing, that's the generation of my grandparents. So that's why I perform songs like Solange's Don't Touch My Hair. That is something I have had to put up with a lot!"
A couple of years ago Cariss dropped her debut EP - Unphased - and watched it bring in positive vibes. Again available on her website, she says: "It got a good response, good feedback.
"I can't say it did amazingly but it was created with local people and people liked that. I produced the EP very much in my bedroom and then finished it with beatsabar and Crown Works Studio, both in Wolverhampton.
"I put it on Soundcloud and it got played on BBC Introducing and was their find of the week. I saw it as an eye opener into the industry. It enabled me to put my stuff out there and make people aware of me. It also got me more shows in the West Midlands and Birmingham.
"One of the songs - Oil On Water - was also picked up by BBCWM and did particularly well. The launch was a success because of it and even the mayor came.
"But it's important for me not to rest on my laurels. I want to explore and develop. I am always working on new music and collaborate early in the process to widen my scope.
"I'm always teasing new songs at my live shows to see people's reaction. It makes me excited for the next release."
Cariss Auburn will be appearing at the Live Vibe Festival at Zara's Bar Club in Birmingham on August 5 and is part of the Project Sound Lounge Festival at Birmingham Town Hall on August 18. Cariss is always looking for suggestions for new Wolverhampton Wanders filming locations, you can get hold of her on Facebook @carissauburnmusic or Instagram @carissauburn - or by visiting www.carissauburnmusic.com where you can also hear the Unphased EP. The series so far can be seen by searching her name on YouTube.