Ahead of her gig in the Cellar Bar on Friday, we asked singer-songwriter Hattie Briggs a few questions about her style of music, who her influences are and her upcoming album Young Runaway.
For those who haven’t heard your music, tell us a bit about your style and who your influences are?
First and foremost, I see myself as a singer-songwriter. I feel you can pull a number genres out of my music whether it’s folk, pop, jazz, blues or soul. My influences are hugely varied from James Taylor, Eva Cassidy (my first album includes a cover of Eva’s version of ‘Fields of Gold’, produced by Eva’s brother, Dan Cassidy, who also plays a violin solo on the record) and Joni Mitchell, to Queen, Abba and Elton John. My more contemporary influences include Hozier, Coldplay, James Blake and Adele, to name a few.
What was the trigger for leaving university and focusing full time on a career in music?
I started writing music at the age of 17 really as a bit of fun. I then went to Oxford university to study a Russian Degree. It was in the second year of the degree that I found I was more and more distracted with musical creativity. It was a bit of a eureka moment and I knew then that I wanted to focus full time on developing a career in music and I left university in January 2014.
Towards the end of my first year, I met Henry Fraser who is a Sydney born singer-songwriter based in London. Henry was already doing gigs in London and knew some promoters. In 2013, we started to play gigs together, and though he’s not a full time musician, Henry has been a key member of the band ever since and hugely influential in my journey into music.
You have a growing (and loyal) fan base. When did you notice the growth and how do you as artist form a personal connection with them?
The BBC Folk Awards were a catalyst for increasing my fan base, as doubled it within a couple of weeks after my performance. Bigger venues are great for more exposure and I will be playing a showcase at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Cornbury, the London Folk Festival and others later in the summer. I also believe that committing full time to my career helps because people seem to take me much more seriously as a result.
I’ve also introduced a performance concept called the “living room gigs”, which is where I literally turn up at someone’s house and play for an hour. I really enjoy these gigs as they are much more intimate and I get a chance to engage with the audience even more than at other shows. At these events, I sometimes sell more albums than at larger venue gigs because people really connect with you as an individual as well as with the music.
On the more day-to-day level, I write a regular newsletter/blog which appears on my website and try to use social media as much as I can, without posting things that are too random or irrelevant.
You’re venturing out into Europe on this tour. How has your fan base grown there and do you have ambitions to tackle the US market?
Yes, I’m going to Holland for the second time in June which is great as I have an amazing fanbase out there. I call them my “super fans” as they basically promoted the first album via blogs and reviews, and were really influential in making people want to hear more from me. The aim is to tour Italy, Germany, France and Holland next March/April. Beyond Europe, I really want to tour Australia next year and America is in a longer term plan. Australia is much easier to approach as with America I will need a working visa as well as sponsors which I won’t need in Australia.
You have had your music played across BBC Radio 1, 2 and 6. How did the radio coverage begin for you?
The first success in gaining radio coverage for my music was when I sent my track to Claire Carter at BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Claire picked this up and then interviewed me, and regularly played the track. The BBC Folk Awards gave me more exposure and then the coverage really picked up via BBC Introducing, as I was being played on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 6.
With the release of my first album, I employed a radio plugger to gain more exposure and I work closely along side a PR company to work out different methods of promotion. It costs a lot to add these people to the team but there’s no point making an album you’re really proud of if nobody ends up hearing it!
It is generally incredibly tricky to get radio play as most major stations tend to stick with either pop or indie records, and there isn’t much room in between. However, artists such as Jake Bugg and Passenger show that cross-genre singer-songwriters can gain exposure, so I’m remaining persistent.
Can you give us a little insight into your upcoming album Young Runaway? How is it different from your debut Red & Gold?
I’d say Young Runaway is more fun and upbeat than Red & Gold. It has a wider range of instrumentation and the production style is more percussion driven and a little further towards pop than folk. Where my debut album included two covers, I wrote all of the songs on this album, which makes me especially proud of it. I also added ukulele to my repertoire, which gives the whole thing a different feel – more summery and laid back. There are still some sweeping ballads with our beautiful cello sound, but there are also a couple of more “arty” pieces, which frame the album and really capture the imagination. I’ve also just announced that the first single from the new record will be Here’s to Hoping.
Hattie will be performing in the Cellar Bar on Fri 15 April. Book your tickets here.