Alone On A Hill

In December 2019, I moved from central Birmingham, on my own, to a tiny house on a hill next to an old farm on the rural outskirts of the city, in search of some peace and calm, and a creative space after a challenging few years.

I hadn’t banked on it becoming quite so peaceful. (Careful what you wish for, eh?!)

For the subsequent year-and-a-half, my main companions have been the sheep, (many) birds and deer on my hill. And my excellent friends who came on walks with me (when it was permitted) and who tolerated me being endlessly distracted by the aforementioned birds.

It was in this context, mid-pandemic, that I managed to get some funding from Arts Council England to experiment and explore the process of creating music with (many layers of) just my voice - and a bit of body percussion. I think the project was initially called ‘Acappella Deep Dive’ or something like that. I did indeed dive right in.

A typical day in the 3 months of the process would be: get up, walk 20 minutes round the fields near me or down the very muddy bridleway (looking for a melodic or lyrical idea to strike), make a cup of tea, sit with my head over a steamer to loosen up my voice and then head in to my ‘studio’ (aka the the hallway between my kitchen and lounge).

I’d record a vocal idea and then add another layer of voice over the top, followed by another, just seeing what worked and what didn’t. The act of recording was an integral part of the songwriting process. There was a lot of playing around with reverb and delay effects which I got totally lost in for days - some of which made it onto the final record!

Most of the songs on ‘Alone On A Hill’ were created this way in my little house on a hill. They are songs of loneliness, isolation, connection, trees, birds, the natural world, the wind, the sun, insomnia, worry, nostalgia, belonging and gratitude for the people and things that have kept me going.

I never intended this process to lead to an album and it was perhaps this freedom from expectation which, paradoxically, made it easier to create an entire album.

(Each song on the album is represented by the little charcoal icons above).

It is the first time I’ve recorded and produced a collection of songs on my own, self-sufficiently.

It was both creatively liberating and also sort of terrifying. There were times when I thought something I’d made was the best thing I’d ever done and then 2 hours later I’d think the very same thing was terrible (welcome to my brain!)

Luckily I had another pair of ears I could call on (via Zoom) for sound advice and musical mentoring in the form of my friend, composer and sound designer Jim Cornick. His steadying words and support were vital to the creation of this album. Cheers Jimmy!

All the songs were written by me except ‘I Have A Song’ written by me and my cousin Lucy Minford.

Jim Cornick and his magic ears mixed the album, James Trevascus skillfully mastered it, Robin Beatty graphically designed the gorgeous artwork and Natalie Wootton took the beautiful photographs all over it (including all the photos on this blog post!)

I feel really lucky to have been able to make this record in a period of time which has been so challenging for so many. It gave me a focus when the future was feeling so uncertain. I’m very happy to share it with you.

Alone On A Hill is out physically and digitally on 24th September 2021.

Album available to pre-order NOW on bandcamp.


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