Interview: Helghyer

U2

“I suppose my interest in music started when I was tiny and my dad used to play a Queen tape in the car on the way down to Cornwall. I was obsessed with Bicycle Race from their Jazz album.”

 

We interview multi-instrumentalist Natalie Earl, who commands the solo project Helghyer (pronounced Hell-hear), an upcoming act hailing from Cornwall, Southwest England. The name itself is the Cornish term for ‘hunter’, as she tells us below and more.

 

1. You might have got this one plenty of times before, so bear with us! How did you come around to the name, Helghyer?

 

Yes, I do get that quite a lot but I guess it’s quite an unusual name! It’s actually the Cornish word for ‘Hunter’ and as my family are Cornish I’ve obviously spent a lot of time down there. This one time in between eating Saffron buns and getting my hair cut (it’s much cheaper down there!) I was in a small bookshop in Launceston and I stumbled across a Cornish dictionary, found the word ‘Helghyer’ in there and really loved it. It’s stuck with me ever since. It’s my moniker.

 

2. Tell us about your story; when did your interest in music take shape, all the way through to deciding to being a musician in a professional sense, and then finally landing up here, shortly after the release of an EP.

 

I suppose my interest in music started when I was tiny and my dad used to play a Queen tape in the car on the way down to Cornwall. I was obsessed with Bicycle Race from their Jazz album. Then when I was in primary school a string quartet came in and did a demonstration where they used their instruments to imitate a rocket taking off. It was very percussive and just blew my mind. I took up the violin and from there on it was a natural progression through various choirs, orchestras and ensembles.

 

I was never really happy with the violin though, or I guess classical music on the whole, though I have much more respect for it now than I did back then. I was more interested in popular music, whereas our school was very focused on the classical tradition. When I discovered the electric guitar, that’s what really set me off on my current journey.

 

The hardest part for me has been having the courage to go out and make things happen. Throughout school and university I had a lot of people telling me that it’s a hard path to follow, there’s a lot of competition and no money to be made and after a while that kind of attitude starts to wear you down but I’m determined to make it happen one way or another, I’ll make my own path. I didn’t really chose music, it chose me.

 

3. Which artists from your perspective have had a profound impression on your work – be it voluntarily or otherwise?

 

There’s far too many to mention here, I believe everything we ever come in contact with influences us in someway, either consciously or subconsciously but notably I’d probably say in terms of singing, Karen Carpenter. My Mum had a Carpenters tape and I learnt the words to every song, I would sing along every night when I came home from school. Then at University the same thing happened with Ella Fitzgerald who is incredible.

 

In terms of songwriting I love Mike Kinsella (Owen, American Football, Cap n’ Jazz) that’s what made me fall in love with fingerstyle guitar, then later down the line I was introduced to Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Elliott Smith. Conor is a phenomenal lyricist and storyteller but Elliott is my ultimate hero (sorry Conor!); he was so honest, humble and understated. If I could be half the musician he was I’d be happy.

 

U2

“Conor is a phenomenal lyricist and storyteller but Elliott is my ultimate hero (sorry Conor!); he was so honest, humble and understated. If I could be half the musician he was I’d be happy.”

 

4. I can spot that your tunes veer away from the usual fare, which is always welcome. How did you become interested in this particular genre?

 

It wasn’t intentional, I originally wanted to be in a rock band but my voice really didn’t suit it! Oh really? I’m glad you think that, I think I played it too safe on this record, I want to experiment more on the next one.

 

5. Your music has a very honest appeal to it which is great. The overall mood doesn’t come off as about making a statement; it is just an honest musician singing whilst playing a ton of instruments. You know that’s a rare phenomenon these days, right?

 

There’s sometimes a statement in there but it’s usually quite subtle. I haven’t quite conquered the drums yet, haha! I’m terrible at the drums! That’s my goal for the next record. I’d love to be able to play drums on it but we shall see!

 

6. Though are you ever afraid that being so different might not make you a huge crowd puller? Or is that never the explicit intention to begin with?

 

My ego is afraid of that yes, I think as humans we all like to be liked. There’s always the temptation to use my sexuality as a crowd puller or record covers of mainstream songs to attract fans on YouTube but I realised a long time ago that’s just not who I am. I believe people gravitate towards honesty, if I was something I’m not people would see right through me. So I write about things I think are important to write about, things that I think need to be said and if that resonates with people then great. A lot of people I admire in music found success as a by-product of doing what they love, I’d like to be like that.

 

I’ve had moments where I’ve had a mini melt down and said to my family “I feel like I’m working so hard and not getting anywhere!” Sometimes it’s really tough because you see people around you getting on with their lives; a lot of my friends are getting married, moving in with a partner, going traveling etc and because I work almost full-time and write, record, gig and promote my music in my free time there’s not much time for much else. Also financially it’s really hard, I don’t think everyone realises how much it costs to record and perform music, but that’s the bed I’ve made for myself, it’s cosy and warm and I like lying in it. You know, you just have to be really strong, keep pushing forward and remember what you set out to do, for me that’s staying true to myself and never giving up. I have my goals and aspirations on the wall where I can see them everyday. My dream is to be able to tour Europe and America, and if I’m lucky, the world.

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1obQ7yRCzC8?rel=0&w=500&h=281]

 

7. Your lyrics for ‘Broken the Spell’ run like a story, and the video is very creative too. How did you get the idea to script the track? And did you make any last minute changes to spruce things up prior to its release?

 

Yes, the lyrics to Broken the Spell are about someone that discovers that a witch has tried to curse them but failed. ‘The spell’ can be interpreted anyway you like. The main idea behind the video was a lack of colour contrasting with a lot of colour, the narrative just came to me one day so that didn’t really change, I knew what I wanted for it from the beginning, it was my first animation so that was really exciting and I’m really happy with it. There weren’t many last minute changes, just editing the stills to make it fit the time frame of the song. The big challenge now is coming up with a video concept for the next single!

 

8. I also notice that you are really active on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (among other online networks). How effective a tool has social media been for the Helghyer brand thus far? I mean the business aspect of it all isn’t just about playing at a few bars and getting an audition, it’s much more than that. Does it ever overwhelm you?

 

It’s never overwhelmed me as such, I was quite busy in June when I was trying to organise a charity event for my EP launch with a raffle, cake, support acts and trying to get the EP pressed in time. That was a bit stressful! I’m often guilty of taking on too much at once but I’m trying to work on that.

 

I guess any independent musician will tell you they would prefer to just be writing and playing everyday and not have to worry about the business aspect, which in this case is social media but it’s a necessary evil and I’m grateful that there is the opportunity for independent artists to have a platform to showcase their art.

 

I’m in this for the long haul, I’m not looking to be an overnight success story, I think that would overwhelm me. I want my fans to have trust in me to know who I am, that takes time, it can’t be rushed.

 

9. Lastly, I picked up a nifty factoid off of your Tumblr Page: ‘Image comes before Music’, and I couldn’t agree with you more. You also say that room for independent brands has all but diminished thanks to the high-voltage levels of commercialism abound today. Would you like to elaborate on that one?

 

I think it’s all got a bit stupid to be honest. Image and shock value come before music now, it’s got to the point where they must have exhausted the shock element surely? We are almost at full nudity in music videos now. What will be next?

 

I think we need a music industry revolution but although they are easy to blame it’s not solely the major record company’s fault and we would be foolish to hold them entirely responsible. For a revolution to happen I think mainstream consumers would need to be sick of being fed the plastic packed, bubble wrapped, manufactured singles; be it Rock, Pop, R&B, even Folk (because it happens across all genres) and crave something organic.

 

When that time comes there will be a lot of us waiting in the wings. It would be refreshing to see and you know, I think it will happen sooner or later. Then either the major labels would have to start supporting independent artists giving them scope to experiment as artists, or fans would have to start to seek out and support independent artists financially.

 

Can you imagine a world where audiences went straight to the bands via the internet and cut out the middle man?

 

U2

” For a revolution to happen I think mainstream consumers would need to be sick of being fed the plastic packed, bubble wrapped, manufactured singles; be it Rock, Pop, R&B, even Folk (because it happens across all genres) and crave something organic.”

 

Want to know more about Helghyer? Begin by looking up her YouTube page, and give her a shoutout on Facebook or Twitter too. (Photo Credits Carly Kenny)

 

 

 

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