Since the release of the critically acclaimed ‘With The Dawn’ two year ago ('…nothing short of a masterpiece' - The Sunday Times), Bella Hardy has spent a winter in China as British Council Musician in Residence, extensive time in Nashville co-writing and observing from coffee shop windows, and opened tours for Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter. Bella, her fiddles and her notebooks, have once again been traveling, thinking, flying, driving, training, reading and gazing.
Her new album is due for release later this year. Starring Thomas Gibbs (keys), Iain Thomson (guitars), John Blease (drums) and James Lindsay (bass), Bella’s five piece band tracked the new songs live, and her new album was born. It includes tracks such as ‘You Don’t Owe The World Pretty’ dedicated to daughters of all ages, ‘Stars’ based on an ancient poem from the Chinese Shijing, and ‘Learning To Let Go’ written underneath a magnolia tree in Berkeley California.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Singer of the Year 2014, Bella grew up in Edale in England’s Peak District. Although the Hardy family sang in the local choir, it was a combination of her childhood love for ballad books and visits to local folk festivals that decided her future. At 13 she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals and in 2004 reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award, having taught herself to fiddle sing. Following a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Music, Bella released her debut album Night Visiting in 2007. One of its songs, Three Black Feathers was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. It was her first original composition.
Since then Bella has continued to record and perform at a tremendous rate; appearing on numerous BBC radio and TV programmes, singing solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms, composing the music for a Radio 4 documentary on the Post Office, writing with former Beautiful South founder David Rotheray, forming an all-female fiddle group with folk royalty Eliza Carthy, and winning yet another Radio 2 Folk Award for her original song The Herring Girl (2012).
New album out November 24
Hey Sammy is the long awaited ninth solo album by Edale-born singer songwriter Bella Hardy, a record that bears the stamps of extensive musical expeditions far from home.
In the time since 2015’s 5-star reviewed With The Dawn, Bella temporarily relocated to Nashville where she became immersed in Music City’s culture of collaborative songwriting and also worked happily in the company of horses as a ranch hand. Two music-finding trips to Yunnan Province in Southwest China also saw this BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year Award winner return with a suitcase overflowing with new lyrical and musical notions. These radical changes of life and perspective flow through every word and note of the 11 new songs on Hey Sammy – a glorious, accomplished, grown up record.
Produced by Paul Savage (The Delgados, Mogwai, Arab Strap) at Glasgow’s Chem19 studio, Hey Sammy combines innovative, artful arrangements that at times bring to mind Bon Iver, Midlake and Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, with an unabashed embrace of gleeful, melodic choruses delivered in Bella’s unmistakeable soaring and swooping voice.
Two songs (Queen of Carter’s Bar and In My Dreams) were penned in collaboration with Nashville producer and songwriter Peter Groenwald and two more (Busy Head and Heartbreaker) with in-demand Scottish jazz pianist and composer Tom Gibbs who also played keys on the record, alongside Iain Thomson on guitars, James Lindsay on bass and John Blease on drums and percussion. All other instruments were played by Hardy herself.
Humanist hymns, ancient Chinese poems, feminist battle cries and the title track’s reflections on the rise of racism in Britain make this Bella’s most wide reaching and richly rewarding album to date. She also returns to her traditional roots with a retelling of the supernatural ballad Tam Lin.
Bella Hardy found her first home in folk music through a childhood love for ballad books. A self-taught “fiddle singer”, she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals from the age of 13 and eventually took a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Music. Her debut album Night Visiting, released ten years ago, established her reputation as a songwriter when her first original composition Three Black Feathers earned a BBC Folk Award nomination.
Bella has since become a regular on radio and television, notably singing solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms. She’s written and recorded with everyone from Beautiful South founder David Rotheray to folk luminary Eliza Carthy, and performed with the great Mary Chapin Carpenter on her 2016 UK tour. Her seven-week residency in the Chinese city of Kunming was arranged by the British Council and the PRS For Music Foundation and resulted in the 2017 recording and release of Eternal Spring - an album of songs and poetry made in collaboration with Chinese singers and musicians.
It seems entirely fitting that Bella Hardy should mark a decade of remarkable recordings with the exceptional step forward that is Hey Sammy.
Tracklisting for Hey Sammy:
2. Learning To Let Go
3. Driving Through Harmony
4. Queen of Carter’s Bar
5. In My Dreams
6. You Don’t Owe The World Pretty
7. Busy Head
9. Hey Sammy
10. South Lake
Bella Hardy will be touring the new album Hey Sammy with her acclaimed live trio, featuring leading Scottish guitarist Anna Massie and songwriting collaborator Jazz pianist Tom Gibbs.