Award-winning recording engineer with Foo Fighters and Coldplay is standing for Labour
A collaborator on television and film scores alongside composers such as the Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer, Ms FitzRoy, 37, is at the peak of her career in an industry where women are still poorly-represented behind the mixing desk.
So why would she give it all up for a life of select committees and constituency surgeries? “It’s a good question,” she admits.
“I could be working with some really amazing bands over the next ten years and it would be really fun. But fundamentally I’d still be turning snare drums and vocals up and down.”
“If I was elected an MP, I felt that I could really make a difference.”
Tom Watson tip
The engineer, tipped by departing deputy leader Tom Watson as a future Labour star, describes her arrival on the political stage as “accidental.”
“Most people in the creative industries work freelance and it really screws your career,” she says. “I found out who to write to and started a campaign to change the law.”
“I was soon getting emails from people working in film, photography and fashion who had lost a big chunk of their career. And without being able to earn proper money how can you actually afford childcare?”
Shared leave campaign
Her campaign was backed by Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP and former Coronation Street actress, who tabled a Selfie Leave Ten Minute Rule Bill in Parliament.
That spurred the Government to launch a consultation on the issue and last week Ms FitzRoy was named Campaigner of the Year at the Music Week Women In Music Awards.
Pleasantly surprised at the “accessibility” of the political process, MsFitzRoy explored making the “big leap” to becoming a Westminster candidate.
Jo Cox programme
She applied and was accepted to join the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme, set up in memory of the murdered MP.
A “training programme for passionate and experienced women members who are ready to lead in the Labour Party,” Ms FitzRoy says the course “gave me confidence. There are actually normal people who apply for that sort of thing.”
MsFitzRoy’s story is far from the norm though, in the grey world of politics. She was born in West Berlin to a Scottish father and a German mother.
“I witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember my mother took us to stand on the Wall on November 10 (1989, the day after the fall).”
The family moved to Scotland and the teenage Olga harboured dreams of being “the drummer in a rock and roll band.”
She transferred her ambitions to the recording studio because “in a band you had to rely on a bunch of other people.”
An audio engineering recording degree offered the opportunity to intern at Sir George Martin’s AIR Studios. “They offered me a job straight afterwards. George Martin was my first boss. It was amazing to hear him talk about the Beatles recordings.”
Ms FitzRoy got to work on the last “new” Beatles album Love (a 2006 soundtrack remix.) “We did a string arrangement for While My Guitar Gently Weeps. It was a great moment to see Sir George, who was elderly then, walk out of the control room to conduct.”
Named Recording Engineer of the Year at the Music Producers Guild awards in 2016, she formed a close working relationship with Coldplay, engineering the band’s Ghost Stories album.
“That started of with really informal sessions at (bassist) Guy Berryman’s house and a lot of the writing and demoing ended up being used on the album,” she recalls.
Ms Fitzroy, who has her own hi-tech digital recording studio at her Streatham home, sets up all the instruments for the band before they arrive. She will, politely, suggest to Chris Martin if a vocal take needs to be repeated.
The Foo Fighters like to crank up the volume, yet frontman Dave Grohl remains “the nicest man in rock”, making tea for all the technical staff.
Mixing the soundtrack for the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, seamlessly stitching together tributes to John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, was a huge challenge.
It’s a world Ms FitzRoy may have to return to if the voters of Croydon South retain their loyalty to the Conservative MP Chris Philp, who is sitting on an 11,000 majority. The constituency’s affluent suburbia does not look particularly propitious territory for Labour.
“They got 4,000 votes last time and we got 22,000 so it would make sense for them to stand down but given the rhetoric between the party leaders that’s unlikely to happen. The Lib Dems say they want to stop Brexit but they have shown they’re not team players.”
‘Just getting started’
If she wins, Ms FitzRoy promises to provide “backing vocals” for MP4, the parliamentary rock group fronted by SNP frontbencher Pete Wishart, a former member of Runrig and Big Country.
Tom Watson believes she will carry on his battle to shift Labour to a more centrist position. “With people like Olga fighting the good fight inside the Labour Party and out of it, I know that everything’s going to be alright,” he said.
But if she loses, will Olga return for another run? “Let’s see how it goes after the election. I’m only just learning the process and we’re only just getting started in Croydon.”
Showbiz to politics
Tracy Brabin – TV writer and soap actress who appeared in Coronation Street, EastEnders and Casualty, Brabin was elected MP in her home town of Batley and Spen following the 2016 murder of Jo Cox.
Esther McVey – Housing Minister co-presented GMTV with Eamonn Holmes. She blamed a “Labour cabal” in breakfast TV for Lorraine Kelly’s hostility towards her. Gloria de Piero, the retiring Labour MP for Ashfield, was GMTV political editor between 2003 and 2010.
Pete Wishart – Keyboard player with Celtic folk-rock group Runrig became the first MP to have appeared on Top of the Pops when he was elected in 2005. SNP frontbencher is founder-member of Parliamentary pop group, MP4.
David Morris – Tory MP elected in 2010 gurned his way through a Top of the Pops appearance playing keyboards for Rick Astley. Morris wrote songs for 80s pop idols Sonia, Brother Beyond and Jason Donovan.
Dave Rowntree – Blur drummer-turned-qualified solicitor unsuccessfully fought local council and Westminster seats for Labour. Was elected a county councillor in 2017 in Norfolk, where he floated streaming council meetings live on YouTube.