Singer songwriter sensation Becky Hill talks to David Johns about The Voice, chart-topping collaborations, her new hit singles – and playing a pink guitar in her bedroom in Bewdley
If you ever doubted that the music business is a tough gig, ask Becky Hill. The singer songwriter has experienced just about every emotion since reaching the semi-final of the first series of TV’s The Voice as an 18-year-old six years ago – from the highs of a number one hit single to the lows of being dropped by her first record company.
A stint setting up and running her own record label and collaborating with the likes of Rudimental, Wilkinson and Matoma has seen Becky go from strength to strength with a new record deal with Polydor and in June the release of the single Sunrise In The East, which was brilliantly received by critics and fans alike.
We caught up with Becky just hours after she returned from five days in New York where she filmed the video for her next single, I Could Get Used To This, which is due out next month. And the excitement in her life right now is obvious – as is the determination to get her music sounding just the way she wants. “I’m a perfectionist.” she says, “and while we were filming, I was listening to the new song and thinking the production of the music needed slightly changing. I am a very hands-on person and I think some of that comes from having had to organise and run my own label for a bit. I want to be involved in everything.”
Becky’s music journey started way back with her family living in Bewdley and her mum buying her a pink guitar. Becky’s brother who she says she ‘idolised’ could play and Becky was determined to play too. She proceeded to learn the basic chords in quick time and by age 13 she had written her first single. “By 16, I had composed my first album,” she says with great pride.
After impressing her friends, Becky became part of what she admits was ‘one of the most bizarre bands ever’. “There was a 48-year-old balding drummer, a 26-year-old Russian chef, a scientist who played the piano – and me! We called ourselves the Shaking Trees,” she recalls. Then while working at her local, the Cock and Magpie, Becky did an open mike session and someone said she should go and audition for a new series called The Voice. “I arrived at the audition slightly the worse for wear from the night before, and with the lyrics to John Legend’s Ordinary People written on the back of my hand so I wouldn’t screw up,” she says with a laugh.
Becky impressed the judges and got as far as the semi-final in 2012 before losing out in the public vote. But while many of the show’s winners have slipped to obscurity Becky made her mark, becoming the first Voice contestant to achieve a number one hit. After a short-lived deal with Parlophone, she set up her own record label called Eko Records which attracted the attention of Polydor, who signed her nine months ago.
“They could see I was making waves independently and offered me a deal reflecting that,” she says. “They treat me as if I am an equal. They respect me because I ran my own label and because I want to know things like what’s the budget for something.” The partnership is energising Becky who said: “I am so excited about my new music.”
She describes her music as ‘timeless electro pop with great storytelling’. “My music comes to me in various ways. Sometimes I come up with a title, usually just before I fall asleep at night – so I rush around to jot it down otherwise I forget what it was. Other times, I can come up with the melodies first. I also find creative sessions with other people really useful too.”
She explains that as someone who first started writing music on her own in her bedroom at home, she craves ‘validation’ of her songs. “I’m someone who likes other people to say ‘that’s good!’ You have to be very humble in this job as it takes a massive number of people to determine if you song is a hit or not. If you don’t connect with people you can’t be the greatest you can be and it doesn’t work.”
Becky lives in London “because you have to in this business”. She says she has tried in the past to avoid the move from the Midlands but it just didn’t work. “If I could do my job in Bewdley I would because I adore it there and all the family are there or thereabouts. I come back as often as I can, and I wish it could be more often because I don’t feel that I see them enough, but it’s so difficult.” Becky’s parents, grandparents and brother all still live in Bewdley, while her two sisters are in Worcester and Lichfield. Her other brother is also in London.
Home is where Becky can truly unwind and relax because as she admits: “I freak out with every release and I question every song I put out. It’s really hard work but it’s the job I love.” That hard work is only set to get even tougher as Becky releases the new single and then an album and also appears at a line-up of festivals and gigs, including shows with Pete Tong and an appearance in October at the O2 Institute in Birmingham.
“My dream is to write classic, timeless songs that people will always remember,” says Becky. “And I want to write eight albums throughout my career, how ever long that may be.” Becky says the number ‘eight’ in a powerful, assured tone. Why eight? Why so sure? “It just sounds a great number, the right number and a very definitive number,” she explains…