Bella Hardy at the Eastgate Theatre

  • Bella Hardy
  • Bella Hardy

 

The Tweed Valley hosts one of traditional music’s most prolific and inventive artists when Bella Hardy plays at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles on 26 March as part of a finale tour for her latest album, With The Dawn. We caught up with Bella to learn more about her music and what audiences can expect from the gig

For those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it … folk seems just one part of the picture

Music is such a hard thing to describe, especially your own! I write my own songs and try to encourage people to have a listen and come up with their own ideas. Since a teenager, I've been performing folk music, fiddling and singing, and that comes largely from my love of traditional ballads. I think that will always be present in my music. But everything else I've listened to seeps in too – Tom Waits, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgereld. I'm a classic mishmash of musical thoughts. 

And how has your music evolved over the years?

Well, to start at the very beginning, I did a lot of singing growing up in my village in the Peak District. My dad loved traditional songs, while my mum played piano and also encouraged my sisters and I to learn to play my grandad's fiddle. We all sang in the tiny church choir. Into the mix came my primary school headmaster, who loved jazz and taught me a lot of the standards: Basin Street Blues, Mississippi Mud and so on. As a teenager, I began performing at folk festivals in various bands, which was mainly traditional music. But I'd pass the time on school buses writing in my note book, and three of my own songs crept into my first album, Night Visiting, in 2007. When I wrote songs in my early twenties, I tended to write my own feelings in other protagonists, but now I don't hide myself so much.   

You were recently selected by the British Council for a musician in residence position in China. Sounds fascinating – tell us more

The experience was amazing. I was invited to apply for one of three residencies in China, and I spent seven weeks in Yunnan Province in the very south of the country. I was lucky enough to travel in the countryside and talk to traditional singers about their culture and their music. It was an incredibly beautiful place, and I learnt a lot of music, and wrote a lot of songs, a couple of which I'll be playing on this tour. I kept an audio snapshots blog throughout the trip.

You are about to begin a finale tour for your latest album, With The Dawn. How does it differ from previous work?

With The Dawn features all my own songs taken directly from a notebook I kept for a year of my life when I turned 30. I was re-evaluating the world, and trying to make sense of it in my writing. I wanted to capture the feeling of each experience through sound and atmosphere, so the producer and I experimented with electronics and brass and rhythm. 

And how has it been received so far?  

Well, I think. The reviews have been very positive. And it was nominated for International Album of the Year at the Folk Alliance Awards in America last month, so that's nice!  But I try not to pay too much attention. I want to create the music that comes to me naturally and not end up changing to try and please critics.

What can audiences expect from a Bella Hardy gig?

I'm first and foremost a singer. I love to live within the story of a song and connect with it myself, and do that without pretence. I think that makes a listener connect as well. Then you've got the brilliant musicianship of Anna Massie (from Blazin’ Fiddles) and Thomas Gibbs on guitar/banjo and keys, plus me on fiddle. It's all about stories and shared experiences and songs that hopefully speak to everyone in some way. 

What do you love most about what you do?    

Singing, getting lost in a song. And taking listeners to that lost place with me. And writing – the feeling of creation is magical. 

Finally, what are your plans for after the tour finishes in May?  

Well, I'm not entirely sure! I'm feeling very inspired to write at the moment, so I'd like to just have a quiet spell and see what happens. I'm releasing With The Dawn in North America in April, and doing some European gigs over the summer, and I'd love to go back to China soon and learn more of the traditional music of Yunnan. So, lots of potential adventures! We'll just have to wait and see what life does next …

 

Further info

Bella Hardy has appeared on numerous BBC radio and TV programmes, sung solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms, written with Beautiful South founder David Rotheray, formed an all-female fiddle group with folk royalty Eliza Carthy, and was a recent winner of BBC Radio 2’s Folk Singer of the Year. You can hear more of her music at https://soundcloud.com/bellahardy

Bella Hardy plays at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles on Saturday 26 March, 7.30pm. Tickets are £14, £6 schoolchildren. Available from Box Office now on 01721 725777, or www.eastgatearts.com

 

 

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