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Interview: Hattie Briggs

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It’s hard to believe that Gloucestershire singer and songwriter Hattie Briggs is only 22. Starting out in the music industry only three years ago while she was studying Russian at university, she’s got hundreds of gigs and various award nominations under her belt.

Her music, self-described by Hattie, is “It’s an intelligent fusion of pop, folk, country, americana and blues that I just call “singer-songwriter” if somebody asks me about genre. 

“I’m a lyrics person so the words are interesting and emotive while being memorable and universal.

"I combine these with catchy melody lines and a pure vocal, which seems to really move people in different ways.”

Though only quitting university in 2014 to continue full time with her passion for music, music has been a part of Hattie’s life for as long as she can remember - perhaps something that reflects through her obvious talent and outstanding lyrical ability.

A journey into music (sans ITV talent shows which appear to be a popular route at the moment) can usually be a long and tiresome one, but with music being at the forefront of Hattie’s youth she’s ahead of the game.

“I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a big part of my life,” she says. “I grew up listening to my parents' CD collection and was a especially drawn to great singer-songwriters. I remember singing along at the top of my lungs to James Taylor, Elton John, ABBA, Queen etc in the car.

“My Mum encouraged me to take up instruments at school. This started with the recorder, followed by the guitar and the cello. I later learned electric guitar, bass guitar and percussion. I took singing lessons for a while when I was 11 or 12 years old, but singing has always come naturally to me so I’ve never worked much on vocal technique etcetera. I began teaching myself the piano at 17 and picked up ukulele last summer.”

Soon Hattie started studying Russian at Oxford University, which was to be a short lived experience - she dropped out at the start of her second year to pursue music full time.

Hattie mentions on her choice of subject “I’ve always enjoyed and been good at learning languages. I studied Russian at school, had a very inspiring teacher, and it was my best subject.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career at that stage so I just applied for a degree at what I was good at and what I thought might be useful in getting a job. I enjoyed my first year at uni as I was able to fit in music and playing hockey as well as my academic commitments. As time went by I got more and more into gigging and writing songs and I lost interest in my course.”

Delaying the start of her music career to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the UK isn’t a regretful decision, though: “I’m still glad that I went to Oxford as I made some great memories and met some lovely people, including singer-songwriter and band mate, Henry Fraser, who introduced me to the whole gigging scene in the first place.

"In a way, I had to go there to realise that I wanted to do something completely different with my life.”

Dropping out of uni was the first step towards Hattie’s full time music career.

"When I quit I wrote a list of all the things I should be doing on a day to day basis to keep busy and progress in my career, then I started ticking them off,” she says to a question about what she did to make sure she was doing everything she could to make the decision to leave studying worth it. 

“I also started working with my Producer Peter Waterman on my first single and then my first album so that I had a good body of work to present to the world. While I was at uni I was writing songs all the time, playing open mic nights and other small gigs, and most importantly I applied for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, for which I was later nominated.”

It isn’t an easy option deciding to bring studying at university to a halt and enter the world of music straight away - in fact, no matter what your hobby is, the self-debate between degree and passion can become quite heated. I asked Hattie what advice she would give to anyone else currently facing the “Do I? Don’t I?” about taking up their hobby full time.

“I’d say that you need to be sure that it’s what you want to do and you need to make sure that you have the support of friends and family.  Having talent is one thing, but you need to have a huge amount of grit, determination and belief to be successful in the music industry.”

“Pursuing music wasn’t really a decision for me in the end, it was something that I couldn’t not do. It was taking up all of my thoughts and concentration and I couldn’t switch it off. I was too distracted with writing a song when I should have been writing an essay and I couldn’t sleep because I had lyrics coming into my brain all the time. If you’re able to finish your degree before going into music full time then I think you should do it. For me it wasn’t possible, but I think that’s partly because I was at Oxford, which isn’t the kind of place you can coast along half-heartedly and succeed - it was all or nothing.”

If you’re wanting to catch Hattie this summer, she’ll be appearing at Nibley Festival, Sun Fest, Cornbury Festival, Smoked and Uncut, The Secret Garden Party, Cambridge Folk Festival and Sidmouth Fringe Sessions, with Cambridge Folk Festival and Secret Garden Party being the two she is most excited about.

Her second album, “Young Runaway” is out on 8th July. And then?

“Better and better music I hope and bigger and better gigs! I’m heading to the US in September for two months and will be doing a more extensive European tour next spring.”

Young Runaway is released on 8th July.




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