words: Joe Richardson
pics: Jerome Taylor
November - December 2004
If acoustic angels are your bag, baby, then York’s own HAYLEY HUTCHINSON might just be your Prada hold all.
Nobody ever said it would be an easy or beautiful occupation; in fact it must be hard to be a musician. Especially when you have annoying know-it-all critics and people such as myself constantly pecking away at you. Criticising or praising you every time you play a gig, as well as wanting to know every single detail about you, your family and even your bloody dog. It must be a pain in the arse actually. But try adding into the equation that both your father and brother are very successful professional musicians then things can get just that touch more pressurised. Not to mention a bit of sibling and parental rivalry going on in the home.
That doesn't seem to have affected our featured artist of the month. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the beautiful, talented and extremely intelligent, Miss Hayley Hutchinson.
At an age when most kids are playing in the mud or annoying the neighbours with knock-door-run, our Hayley was being introduced to the heady world of gig going as well as all the musicians that passed through her life. It was during these impressionable years that these people had an influence on her future.
"My brother and Dad were massive influences on me. They were always playing and there have been guitars lying around and various musicians and music related people wondering around ever since I can remember. If it wasn't for them I probably would never have started to play."
Hayley's music can best be described as chilled out and simply beautiful, the kind of music you could sit down to with a glass of wine and drift away into the acoustic sounds. But before this starts to sound like an advert for Steve Wright's love songs, it might be an idea to mention where Miss Hutchinson's musical background started.
"It was when we were living in Scotland. My Dad suggested that I should pick up a guitar and start playing but because it was my Dad I didn't take any notice but I ended up joining a band when I was fourteen which is where it all kinda started. We did Fibber's battle of the bands and all the usual gigs in the usual places. The rest of the band moved away to Uni and other things but I had loads of songs so I picked up my guitar and I've been plugging away at it ever since."
So somewhat deserted by her band in selfish attempts to further their education (not that it's a bad thing) Hayley made her first tentative steps into the wilderness of solo performance.
"I suppose I was kinds naïve and in a bit of a dreamland 'cos I thought if I went down to London and played a few gigs and whatever, someone would go 'there you go, have a record deal' but it doesn't always work like that even though I did get some interest. I started to realise that there is a lot of bullshit as I was promised things. I just got tired of being messed around!"
Not put off by the dark clouds of the recording industry, Hayley has recently released her debut album titled 'Independently Blue' which has earned her some glowing reviews as well as airplay on Radio Scotland and Bob Harris's Radio Two programme.
"They played Climb Through, nothing much," a typical understatement from this modest musician. It could have gone a completely different way for her as Hayley goes on to describe. "It got to the point where I either took out a loan and went to university or I made my own album with the songs that I had been writing."
The whole album which consists of 12 acoustic / folk songs came together in just seven days under the guidance of Frasier Smith at Studio Seven.
"Frasier sat down with me quite a few times before we started to record about how we could do it on such a low budget cos he needed to be paid and the musicians needed to be paid and that seemed to be the only way that we could do it. Because the money was so tight we made sure that everybody knew what they were doing before we went in then played it all live in the studio before putting in a few over dubs. I wanted it have that feel like they had in the seventies where they all piled into the studio and had a good time recording."
"We were panicking a little bit about how it was going to turn out and Fraiser had to convince me a little bit to do it cos I was questioning making it and I just didn't want it to turn out really shoddy and I wanted to do the best I could with what we I had available. I would just like to say thanks to everyone who helped me out on the album for next to nothing, they are all ace!"
For anyone who has heard Hayley play her music, the first comparison that comes to mind is with Joni Mitchell, which isn't too far wide of the mark.
"It used to really bug me when I was younger, I suppose I just didn't want to be compared to anybody but then I realised that people who have heard me need that comparison almost to see where its coming from. I actually liked the comparison to A Ferrero Rocher in the Peace Festival review from the last issue of Sandman! That's probably my favourite!"
Hayley's lyrics are almost like little snapshots of her life and her feelings at that particular moment in time.
"I hope that I don't wallow in the lyrics cos I don't want to unload a lot of crap onto the listener. That's why I think that guy who did the album review in Sandman got that bit spot on." But during our chat she very cleverly avoided being drawn into commenting any further. Every musician has a sense of privacy about some aspect of their life or work, "I did a gig last night and a woman in the audience asked what the songs were about and I quoted Gillian Walsh cos she said that everything that she wanted to say about a song was in the song and she didn't want to talk about it any more and I kinda agree with that. People can make what they want of it really."
"Ryan Adams, 'Heartbreaker', Wilco, 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' and Nirvana's Nevermind no wait the first two definitely but I want to change the third to Stephen Stills Manassus, that was like my musical bible when I was in the studio."
Hayley has an engaging character when you sit and chat to her. She has the knack of holding your attention at all times, never boring but interesting throughout everything she says. This comes through on record as well, as you the listener become involved with Hayley's world. A trick that you feel she may have learnt from the three albums that she talked about being her definitive trilogy that everyone should have in their collections.
The conversation shifts towards her live shows, something that Hayley could write a book on with the almost alarming amount of gigs that she plays.
"I am just happy if a few people clap really as there is nothing worse than getting up to play and everyone just talks through your songs. I don't know how I do it sometimes, to get up on my own and play. I'd be a hypocrite if I said that I never talked through peoples sets at gigs but I wouldn't say I was a perfectionist with my own performance, just my own biggest critic," surely not a bad quality to have from a solo performer. She has the full reign on what she does and no restrictions from other band members. "That's the thing when you are not in a band, you don't have anyone to blame apart from yourself, I just hope that everyone has a good time, including, me."
York's folk and acoustic scenes are thriving and you cannot walk around the city with out seeing another acoustic band or folk night being advertised. Hayley has been playing on this circuit for a few years now and thoroughly enjoys it.
"I think that the people and the musicians who are playing at these nights as well as helping out at them are all very sweet and I can't speak highly enough of them. But there is nothing in York as far as decent venues go for the kind of stuff. Fibbers is good to an extent and they have been very supportive of me but as far as venues such as art centre type places where people can actually sit down, listen maybe have a drink there really isn't anything. We need somewhere which maybe is a big venue but it has smaller rooms for the city's smaller bands or acoustic people could play, somewhere like Nottingham's Rock City. Somewhere with atmosphere. York as a place is nice but I suppose it's like anywhere, if you spend enough time here it gets a bit boring."
So what happens next for Hayley? High hopes of millions and a huge mansion to live in? afraid not. This modest young woman has modest ambitions.
"I really don't know what the future holds, I hope that more people get to hear the songs and that I can eventually make a decent living out of music, maybe buy a house and one of those Boston Terrier dogs, who knows, a white picket fence maybe?"