The best bands at TRNSMT - new host Shereen Cutkelvin gives us her top tips

Shereen Cutkelvin, the new host of TRNSMT coverage for the BBC. Pic: BBCShereen Cutkelvin, the new host of TRNSMT coverage for the BBC. Pic: BBC
Shereen Cutkelvin, the new host of TRNSMT coverage for the BBC. Pic: BBC
From Calvin Harris and Liam Gallagher to up and coming acts, the singer, presenter and actor is a sucker for authenticity and soul

Whatever the weather throws at TRNSMT this weekend, BBC Scotland’s host Shereen Cutkelvin will be ready for it as she usually spends her Saturdays up to her elbows in slime anyway. And the Scottish singer, TV and radio presenter and actor will be co-hosting CBBC’s Saturday Mash-Up! as usual alongside Joe Tasker, with the usual helping of games, guest and gloop before hot-footing it to Glasgow Green to present BBC Scotland’s coverage of the festival.

Taking over from Edith Bowman, who has been presenting the festival since it started in 2017, Cutkelvin is a natural choice as host, with a wealth of relevant experience that reflects her passion for music.

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Now 27, she’s been singing since she was a teenager in Lanark and has performed at festivals herself, with girl band Neon Jungle in 2014/15 at T in the Park and Wireless, reached the semi-finals of The X Factor with two of her brothers back in 2017, sung on the BBC’s Hogmanay live show this year with Skerryvore.

TRNSMT Festival 2023 at Glasgow Green. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)TRNSMT Festival 2023 at Glasgow Green. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
TRNSMT Festival 2023 at Glasgow Green. Pic: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

As for presenting, she’s co-hosted BBC Introducing in Scotland on BBC Radio Scotland from 2020 to 2024, celebrating unsigned and undiscovered music, presented BBC Radio 1’s Early Breakfast show and CBBC’s music magazine show Love, Love, Love and is back on Saturday Mash-Up! as it starts a new season this week.

She’s also a familiar face from acting roles in Irvine Welsh’s Crime, starring Dougray Scott, and detective drama Annika with Nicola Walker and Jamie Sives. On top of all of that she’s a bundle of energy.

We caught up with Shereen ahead of TRNSMT to get the skinny on what to watch at the festival and who she’s hoping to catch up with backstage.

HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT HOSTING TRNSMT FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Scotland's largest music festival, TRNSMT,  is at Glasgow Green on July 12-14. Pic: J Mitchell/Getty ImagesScotland's largest music festival, TRNSMT,  is at Glasgow Green on July 12-14. Pic: J Mitchell/Getty Images
Scotland's largest music festival, TRNSMT, is at Glasgow Green on July 12-14. Pic: J Mitchell/Getty Images

Incredibly excited, also nervous because it’s such a massive festival and it’s on home turf. But there will be familiar faces onstage and backstage. I’m mostly just ecstatic to be going into this new position and getting a chance to be backstage and see all the live action. It’s like with performing music, as soon as your song is on you’re fine and then afterwards you get hit with a wave of emotion. I think I’ll be going through adrenalin and it’ll be all go then by Sunday night I’ll just take a giant big breath and be like ‘oh! I’ve done it’.

HAVE YOU BEEN TO TRNSMT BEFORE?

This is my first ever experience, which is mental, and I’m diving in deep. I love to put myself in the situation where I can grow. It’s going to be really exciting, three days of bam, bam, bam, just epic music, great vibes, so I’m looking forward to it.

DOES IT HELP BEING A SINGER AND MUSICIAN YOURSELF?

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The girl band Neon Jungle, (L-R) Asami Zdrenka, Jess Plummer, Amira McCarthy and Shereen Cutkelvin in 2014. Pic: LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty ImagesThe girl band Neon Jungle, (L-R) Asami Zdrenka, Jess Plummer, Amira McCarthy and Shereen Cutkelvin in 2014. Pic: LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images
The girl band Neon Jungle, (L-R) Asami Zdrenka, Jess Plummer, Amira McCarthy and Shereen Cutkelvin in 2014. Pic: LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Yeah. I’m looking forward to bridging that perspective because I’m lucky enough to experience what it’s like being both on stage and off.

WHO ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO CATCHING UP WITH BACKSTAGE, BECAUSE IT’S A GREAT LINE UP - LIAM GALLAGHER, GERRY CINNAMON, CALVIN HARRIS, GARBAGE, THE SNUTS…

Calvin Harris definitely and if I can grab him for a chat that will be amazing. I’ll try and keep my fan girl limited because I don’t want to look too uncool. Jalen Ngonda, because he’s somebody I’ve been constantly playing on my Spotify list and he’s really popping off at the moment. And we’ve got some BBC Introducing favourites I’m really excited about, Bottle Rockets, who were the BBC Introducing Scottish Act of the Year winners, Katie Gregson-MacLeod and Dead Pony.

ARE YOU PLEASED TO SEE SCOTTISH MUSIC SO WELL REPRESENTED AT TRNSMT?

Shereen Cutkelvin performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on BBC's Burns Night 2024. Pic: BBC Scotland/Sean PurserShereen Cutkelvin performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on BBC's Burns Night 2024. Pic: BBC Scotland/Sean Purser
Shereen Cutkelvin performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra on BBC's Burns Night 2024. Pic: BBC Scotland/Sean Purser

Oh yeah 100%. It’s such an important thing to see opportunities for artists that have been worldwide but also that are up and rising, whether it’s on the River Stage or King Tut’s Stage and then eventually you see them up on the Main Stage shining to thousands across the world. I think it’s important to give representation to artists that are watching from home or at the festival, to say ‘I can do that as well’. It gives inspiration.

YOU’VE DONE T IN THE PARK AND WIRELESS, SO IS IT AN AMBITION TO SING AT TRNSMT?

Festival season is one of the best things in the world anyway. People want to come and just let loose, so the vibe, whether you’re watching or working at it is going to be incredible. But to sing at TRNSMT, I’d love that. Whenever I’ve performed in Scotland it’s just the best feeling because of the Scottish crowd. You feel so proud to be doing it and Scotland brings the energy 100% of the time..

HAVE YOU GOT YOUR OUTFITS PICKED OUT?

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No. There’s a high chance it might be raining but I want to wear something bright and colourful that speaks to my personality. And something comfortable, so my heels will definitely not be on in the TRNSMT field. I don’t want to get stuck. I’ve got my welly boots.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN MUSIC?

Shereen Cutkelvin has been singing since she was a teenager with her band Neon Jungle and reached the semi-finals of The X Factor with two of her brothers in 2017.  Pic: Getty ImagesShereen Cutkelvin has been singing since she was a teenager with her band Neon Jungle and reached the semi-finals of The X Factor with two of her brothers in 2017.  Pic: Getty Images
Shereen Cutkelvin has been singing since she was a teenager with her band Neon Jungle and reached the semi-finals of The X Factor with two of her brothers in 2017. Pic: Getty Images

It’s a mixture because I grew up on soul and Motown. My dad is a soul singer - Derek Cutkelvin, but his stage name is Lewis J Jackson - and he toured with Ben E King, Dionne Warwick, big artists like that who are still on my playlist today.

If you look at my playlist you’d probably think ‘she’s stuck in the past’ because I’ve got so much old stuff on there so that’s where my inspiration comes from but I’ve released kind of dance music with soulful vocals - I do love a ballad. I’m quite an emotional person so I love crying my eyes out on the dance floor to a sad song.

Music for me is expression and I often feel different emotions so it depends what I’m feeling at the time.

Recently I’ve been writing a lot more soulful stuff, and a lot more summery vibes, so you’re automatically thinking about that kind of high energy. I’d say it’s quite an eclectic sound.

HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY BACKGROUND INFLUENCED YOUR MUSIC?

My dad was born in Edinburgh but my grandad is from Belize and he came over to help rebuild Scotland after the Second World War, working in forestry, and he used to make cars too. I guess he’s where the music originated from and I’ve seen my dad and uncles and aunties performing growing up so I’ve been around the entertainment industry and chose to be in it from a very early age.

HAS THAT HELPED YOU KEEP YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND?

Oh yeah, I think it’s been a real blessing to be able to see the ins and outs from a young age because you see it is not all glitz and glam. You see the hard work and how sometimes you’ve got loads of work in, sometimes you haven’t. But I want to do it because I’m passionate about it.

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Also my mum keeps my feet on the ground because if ever I was to get away up in the clouds, she would definitely bring me back down. She used to manage my dad so she tells me if something’s off and is always in my corner and saying you should check out this person’s music, so she’s very tuned in with it too.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST GIG YOU WENT TO?

It was a JLS performance in Glasgow or Edinburgh, and then I saw them at Hamilton race course. I’m a massive JLS fan and supporter. I had the posters in my boy band era and I’m gutted they’re not on the TRNSMT line up.

My first festival was T In the Park and I was there gigging with Neon Jungle and that was an incredible experience. The other girls in the band are English and I remember we were on stage and the crowd were doing the ‘Here We…’ chant and they thought we were getting booed off. I said no, this is acceptance, we can stay on. I remember I had tears in my eyes because it meant a lot to me to be in Scotland at T in the Park performing. That was also my first time at a festival in the audience and once we had performed I put my festival clothes on and just enjoyed it. I won a massive teddy bear, ate lots of sweets, had a great night, met my brothers, and it was a great experience. My first festival, being on stage and also being in the crowd, that was just mental.

WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?

I’ll start with my old school stuff first. David Ruffin and Walk Away From Love, especially when I’m cooking, with a wee glass of wine while I’m chopping up garlic. The Temptations and Smokey Robinson, he’s another favourite - an inspiration in terms of music and songwriting.

More recently working on BBC Introducing has broadened my taste because you get a lot of genres there, for example indie and rock was never on my playlist before. One of the bands at TRNSMT is The Last Dinner Party and I love their song Nothing Matters.

I love how music is universal and you can hop here, there and everywhere. Rihanna, I love her old stuff and Beyonce, Jalen Ngonda, Teddy Swims, so it’s a bit of a mixture. What shouts out to me is where I feel realness through the music so it doesn’t matter what genre it is. I also listen to a lot of jazz. If I feel a real message of authenticity then I’ll be hooked.

IN THE MIDDLE OF HOSTING TRNSMT YOU’LL ALSO BE DOING SATURDAY MASH-UP LIVE FROM THE BBC STUDIO IN GLASGOW?

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Yes, it’s starting again the same day so it’s going to be a wild weekend for me. It’s a brand new series, new games and guests, live at 9am, then I’ll fire straight over to TRNSMT.

NEW GAMES, YOU’RE NOT GETTING RID OF THE SLIME ARE YOU?

No, more slime actually. Lots and lots of slime. It’s something that not only the kids enjoy but we as presenters enjoy getting to slime people too. Something that was important for me before I even started Saturday Mash Up was not losing my inner child. I’ve always wanted to keep that kind of energy. So when I got the opportunity to present Saturday Mash-Up it felt perfect because you literally get the chance to be silly and not take yourself too seriously. You’re dressed up in ridiculous costumes and it’s fun and refreshing. You also meet a lot of cool people.

WHO’S THE COOLEST YOU’VE MET?

Obviously I get along great with my co-presenters Joe Tasker and [Stanley the puppet monster] Dave Chapman, and we had Dani Harmer on who is Tracy Beaker. I loved that show and I always pictured myself on it and had this whole plot I was going to send in to CBBC but it never happened. The closest I got was when Dani Harmer came on and we slimed her and I felt terrible. I thought, oh no, she hates me.

WHAT ABOUT BBC INTRODUCING, WHO HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ON THAT?

One of the first people I fell in love with in terms of voice and vibe was the singer songwriter Christy, Bemz, who went on to win BBC Introducing Act of the Year and performed at TRNSMT last year a surprise guest with The Snuts. Also Katie Gregson-MacLeod who’s performing TRNSMT this year, she’s a beautiful singer and can bring you to tears, and I liked was SIIGHTS, who are performing this year as well. There are loads of artists that came through BBC Introducing and I loved that, each week finding a new track to add to the playlist and it really broadened my music taste.

HOW HAS YOUR CAREER PROGRESSED?

Singing is always my baby, it’s how I got into the industry and it’s always been a massive passion for me, but I’ve found so many other passions through it and they’ve all created who I am today.

It’s all kind of strung itself together but presenting has helped me so much as a person, because I was really shy as a kid growing up. Speaking in front of people in a class was something I would never do and now I do it for a job and I love it, so it shows you how much you can grow as a person. If you told me when I was young I’d be presenting TRNSMT I’d be ‘on your bike, that’s not happening’. And here I am.

YOU WERE IN ANNIKA AND CRIME, TELL US ABOUT THE ACTING.

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Acting is something I’ve always wanted to get into but again it goes back to that thing of being shy and I wasn’t sure how I’d get into it. It was through a music manager and then I signed to an acting agent and that’s been amazing. That’s another passion. I like to put myself in situations where you can grow and this is another place where you’re working alongside, in Crime for example, Dougray Scott and incredible actors and you think I’m learning from the best here. I went into that with no experience so you make mistakes but learn on the job. I think it’s one of the best ways to pick up things and learn from the greats that are doing it right in front of you.

I’ve got quite a few auditions in the pipeline and I feel like I’m filling my life up with exciting people and opportunities. You don’t know what’s coming next, it’s living life on edge a bit, but I kind of like living that way. It keeps that excitement in it.

WHAT THREE SONGS THAT ARE THE SOUNDTRACK OF YOUR LIFE?

My dad does a rendition of The Impossible Dream, so if I’m feeling down or nervous that puts me into good spirits, and Smokey Robinson Cruise With Me, that’s a good bet, or David Ruffin Don’t Walk Away From Love. And Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross, if I’m sitting on the tube and it’s really busy I put the headphones on and calm myself. Can I have four? They’re all mean something to me.

Shereen Cutkelvin will be hosting the TRNSMT Music Festival, taking place from 12-14 July. trnsmtfest.com

Live coverage from TRNSMT at Glasgow Green will include highlights from the three-day festival. BBC Scotland’s coverage will be available to watch on the BBC Scotland channel and BBC iPlayer from July 12th. Audiences can also tune in to BBC Radio Scotland Extra for nightly broadcasts during the festival.

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