Musical success has come to a French exchange student who spent six months with a Freshbook family in the 1990s when she was just twelve, writes Liz Boden.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Angélique Raley's recently released first album Angels Go By is notable for most of the songs being sung in English, in part due to Angélique's spell in the Swindon during her formative years.
Angélique, who is now 27, says the main impact of her experience here was learning English and opening her eyes to a different culture.
"I became fluent in a few months," she said. "This was very handy back in France where I aced most English tests with little or no studying. Being fluent in English is so useful and determined many of my life choices and also my music. On my CD only four songs are in French, the rest are in English."
Angélique lived with the Phillippo family in 1994, after their daughter Amy spent six months with the Saulnier family in the Alsace, France.
Her first few weeks at Greendown School, in Grange Park were difficult. "School was tough at the beginning – not understanding the language and struggling to be accepted, being French."
But she soon learnt to fit in: "I remember playing a lot with kids in the neighbourhood. We had fun over that summer with water fights."
Angélique has fond, enduring memories of going to help on a farm at weekends with Amy's older sister, Rowena. "The couple at the farm, Ken and Gerda, had about 40 cows and every single one had a name. After milking was done we would all go back to their house and have breakfast together. Fresh milk never tasted better. They became almost like grandparents to me. And we kept in touch until they passed away."
Music was not a key part of her life though she had started learning classical guitar from the age of six. It wasn’t until later when she started playing folk guitar and singing songs by Radiohead, Nirvana and French pop-rock artists that her awareness was sparked.
Angélique now lives in Austin, Texas with her American husband, Brian. Without the fast-track Swindon gave her to learning English, she says they would never have met and her life might have taken a different turn.
Brian was a great pillar of support when it came to Angélique's music. She said, "my music career really picked up when I met my husband. He loved to hear me play and encouraged me to pursue this side of my life. I wrote a lot of songs after meeting him and going through a difficult time together as we lost people dear to us."
Angélique also says luck played a part in helping her into the tough world of the music industry. "Not knowing how anything in the industry works I was incredibly lucky to meet some great people along the way who guided me through the process and helped me. The whole CD creation process was a great experience and was deeply rewarding."
After those first six months in Freshbrook Angélique and Amy kept in touch, visiting each other every year until Angélique was 18. "It was always fun to come back and catch up with the people I had grown close to. To this day Amy and I are still good friends and we manage to see each other fairly regularly, despite being an ocean apart."
Hear samples of Angélique’s soulful mix of Austin hip with European influences at: www.angelraley.com