Glasgow Singer-Songwriter Hugh Kelly is weeks away from finishing his Music Degree at Glasgow Uni, on their “Composition & Performance” course, he’s just released his new single “Behind Us”, a radio friendly ear worm, which every Scottish radio station should be playing.
Hugh will be releasing another single soon, plans for five releases this year and he has gigged constantly for the past few years, with some very interesting stage sharing !
(If there’s somethin strange, in your neighbourhood….who ya gonna call..”)
We find out more about the soul & blues brother…
Q: How did you first become involved in music, how long have you been playing for and why play the guitar ?
“I was given my first guitar when I was roughly ten years old from my uncle and began lessons from the age of twelve. My sister was always the more musical one of the family, but as soon as I started guitar lessons, my teacher cultivated a much deeper interest in music for me. He showed me many musical styles, which I had never encountered before and I still draw inspiration from today.”
Q: Do you play any other instruments ?
“I have been playing piano for around seventeen years now, which I consider to be my main instrument, despite very rarely playing it live! I also play alto saxophone.”
Q: Do you have a music education or self taught and what inspired you to write songs ?
“I’m a few weeks from finishing a degree in music from the University of Glasgow, with particular focus on “Composition and Performance”. Despite this, I still feel that a fair part of my musical education has been self taught. I only started writing songs when I was in my late teens, however I have been writing instrumental music for as long as I can remember.”
Q: Who are your main influences – are they the same for songwriting and singing or do you have different ones for both ?
“I’ve found my main influences consistently changing over the last few years. I listened to a huge amount of old blues and soul music growing up, as well as singer/songwriters such as Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake. More recently, I’ve been getting far more into production and have been drawn to more electronic acts such as James Blake, Tourist and Maribou State.”
Q: How do you approach writing a new song – what processes do you go through. Melody first, or chord progression, guitar/piano ideas come first, or does it all differ for each song ?
“Generally, I’ve found the most consistent method has been starting with chords, trying to extract a melody from those chords and then putting lyrics to that melody. However, quite often I may start with a certain lyric or melody – it’s never always the same. I have a large catalogue of musical ideas backed up in my voice memos on my phone, which I often go to for inspiration.”
Q: What are your main topic areas for songwriting, love, loss, life etc ?
“I quite like to reflect on something that’s occurred in my life from a distance. In other words, I struggle to write about something that’s happened very recently. I quite often like to think about it a little more introspectively as well – writing about my reaction to a situation rather than the situation itself.”
Hugh performs his stunning “Morphine Dreams” in the Sofar Edinburgh video >>> He has a new, full version out soon. A great song.
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Q: Do you co-write with anyone and if so, how did that come about?
“My first two EPs were written by myself. However, I wrote all but one of my upcoming 2020 releases with Ciaran McEneny (Lewis Capaldi, Fatherson & Be Charlotte amongst many others) I made the link with him through his manager Louie, who put the two of us together. He’s a class writer and has worked with some interesting folk, so was great to work with him.”
Q: How do you get ideas for songs, do you listen to other songwriters/music artists ?
“I think there’s always a certain amount of ‘borrowing’ that goes on with songwriters. There’s no doubt that a few of my songs have started as a result of listening to another song and thinking ‘oh that gives me an idea’. Needless to say, it never crosses into the territory of plagiarism! Sometimes it’s just the initial idea that then gives you the momentum to move in a totally different direction with the song.”
Q: Have you had writers block, if so how do you cope with it, just leave it until it’s ready to come out, or do you “fight to write” ?
“What has been helpful for me is having the ability to write on guitar as well as piano. Quite often I may ‘fall out of love’ with one of the two instruments, in terms of writing – it can help to swap over to the other one for a wee while.”
Q: How was your new Single “Behind Us” recorded – What made you choose a Producer (Mark Morrow) ?
“I’d heard great things about Mark and certainly wasn’t let down, he’s a great Producer. I’d also heard he was great at putting in a certain amount of creative input into the songs he produces. I felt this was a really important quality, as being a solo singer/songwriter, I don’t necessarily have the same idea about what sound I’m wanting in the same way that a full band might have.”
Hugh’s new Single “Behind Us” out now
Q: Did you have any ordeals or issues when writing or recording it or previous works?
“Not so much – I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed the process of going into a studio with new songs. There can sometimes be a bit of a stress when myself or the Producer isn’t sure where to go with a certain song, but it’s something that I’ve almost always been able to overcome.”
Q: Have you had any interest from Labels or Publishers ?
“I have dealt with a few independent publishers in the past, but nothing major so far. Thankfully, I’ve managed to survive the last four years by self releasing, radio plugging & promoting myself. However, I do understand that to get to the next level or two, bigger plans need to be in place.”
Q: What’s the plan with the Single/s and for 2020 – more gigs etc Tours ?
“The main focus is on releasing the singles. I have spent much time gigging over the last few years with less of a focus on releasing new music, so it will be nice to swap the priorities around. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of local & regional radio airplay throughout UK over that last few years, so the aim is to keep that growing and to eventually get onto the national stations on a regular basis – easier said than done though.”
Great reviews for previous releases
Q:You’ve performed with former Westlife member Brian McFadden and supported The Hoosiers. How was that for you ?
“It’s great being able to perform alongside people who are clearly at the top of their game & learn from them. You also forget that they are also just musicians themselves doing their job – they were all a really sound bunch of guys.”
Q: You’ve sung “Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” with iconic American actor Bill Murray – how did that come about ?
“I had been performing in St. Andrews last year as part of the Dunhill Links Championship, which is a golf tournament where celebrities are paired with professional golfers. It so happened that he was at my gig on the Sunday night, and someone managed to get him along to the after-party. I was playing ‘Loch Lomond’ and he just emerged from the corner of the room and decided to join me. Mental stuff.”
Q: What stumbling blocks have you had as a music artist or songwriter/composer ?
“I can be bad at being overly self-critical, whether it be of a recent performance or a recent song I’ve written. It seems to be quite a common issue that a lot of musicians I know come across. I’ve recently learnt to not overthink it, which seems to help, but I feel it will always be at the back of my mind.”
Q: When you write, do you go away somewhere or do you have a workspace at home ?
“There is no specific place where I find myself writing – it can kind of happen anywhere. I’ve always liked the idea of going somewhere remote, up north with a load of instruments and recording equipment and writing a bunch of tunes. I remember reading that’s how Bon Iver wrote his first album, so I would love to do something similar.”
Q: Do you think there’s enough support out there for Songwriters in Scotland – what else could be done to help them ?
“It would be great to have more support, but I understand that’s not always possible. What I have found is that there are some great events in Scotland for songwriters/musicians, with the likes of Wide Days and Queen of Noise. I, & many people I know, have hugely benefited from these events. There is also great support from the Musicians’ Union in Scotland, which has helped me out several times in the past. Creative Scotland assists with finance, by awarding funds from the National Lottery. It’s not something I’ve been able to take advantage of, as they don’t offer funding to students. It’ll be something I will look at once I graduate this summer.”
Wishing Hugh and Manager Tom every success in 2020 and beyond
- Spotify – Hugh Kelly
By Pete Carroll (March 2020)