Q&A with British singer/songwriter Claire Hamill, celebrating over 50 years in the music industry with a new album

"The thing I miss most about the music from the past is that in those days every singer seemed to have their own sound and voice. Now it seems like people chase a sound that someone else has made popular. I’m also sad that the music being made in the 70’s was, until the Punk era, lyrically full of hope and love. It was essentially uplifting."

Claire Hamill: A Pocket Full of Love Songs 

Claire Hamill released her new solo album, “A Pocket Full of Love Songs” (2022), which she wrote and recorded in and around lockdown. Claire Hamill is celebrating over 50 years in the music industry and she’s best known for her hit “Baseball Blues”, her work with Wishbone Ash and for writing Eva Cassidy’s hit “You Take My Breath Away”. Claire Hamill released her much-loved debut album “One House Left Standing” on Chris Blackwell’s Island label in 1971 and worked with John Martyn, Steve Howe from Yes and a host of others as she developed her folk roots into new age music and beyond. “A Pocketful of Love Songs” was written during lockdown and features songs from the heart on all aspects of love and life.                                                (Photo: Claire Hamill)

She’d be the first to admit that making a living on the fringe of the music world has been very precarious at times but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Clair says: ‘My songs are crafted in the hurly burly of life, I roll with the seasons like you do, I occasionally rise to the triumphal summit like you do and I deal with the hardships that come along from time to time, just like you do.  I still have songs inside me yearning to come out, I hope you’ll find them relevant.’

 

Interview by Michael Limnios          Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Roots and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I think people who love Roots and Rock music don’t just follow the mainstream opinion, they think for themselves. They tend to look behind the façade of what is current culture with a mild rebellious outlook. I constantly have to steel myself to voice my opinions as I know I sometimes think differently to my milieu. I don’t post on Facebook anymore, my kids kill me if I do!

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My music philosophy is simple, make it heartfelt and aim for beauty. Explore as much as you like, just let it come out of you. I have occasionally expressed myself in dramatic terms but I’m happier making music that has beauty and sings on the ear. My creative drive comes from heaven and after all these years, I have just realised that!

What moment changed your music life the most? How do you want your music/songs to affect people?

My music life was changed most dramatically when I recorded my instrumental New Age album, ’Voices”. Firstly, I had never made a concept album, secondly I had never made an instrumental album just using my voice and thirdly I didn’t anyone else to be involved in the process. It was mind-blowing! The whole thing was recorded in 6 weeks. Just me, the sound engineer and the Prophet 2000 sampler. I’ll never forget the first track I recorded, ”Awaken: Larkrise”.  The sound engineer was saying “Wow, this is amazing, it’s so original!” and I was saying ‘This will never sell!” It was my most successful album… In answer to your second question, of course I want people to be moved and affected/delighted by what they hear, inspired too if possible. In the case of ‘Voices” I had many people telling me that the music gave them lots of visual stimulation. It transported them visually. That was so nice to know.

"I think people who love Roots and Rock music don’t just follow the mainstream opinion, they think for themselves. They tend to look behind the façade of what is current culture with a mild rebellious outlook. I constantly have to steel myself to voice my opinions as I know I sometimes think differently to my milieu. I don’t post on F/B anymore, my kids kill me if I do!" (Claire Hamill / Photo by Bob Mazzer)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Many memories but here’s one. I had just been signed to the Kinks Label and their distributor in the USA was ABC Records. They brought me out to The USA to promote the album on tour and advanced some money to put a band together to play my songs. This was very new to me, I had been a soloist until then.

During rehearsals I tried so hard to impress them that I sang my heart out which resulted in me losing my voice three weeks into the tour and lots of dates had to be cancelled! But the most important thing that happened was when the drummer came to me and asked me if I’d noticed that the bass player was drunk every night on stage.

No! I realised then that I just hadn’t been listening to the band at all! I was so wrapped up in my own performance! So, then I opened my ears and yes he was right. We had to let the bass player go but the result was that I was then able to enjoy my fellow musician’s contribution to the sound. It was a revelation!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The thing I miss most about the music from the past is that in those days every singer seemed to have their own sound and voice. Now it seems like people chase a sound that someone else has made popular. I’m also sad that the music being made in the 70’s was, until the Punk era, lyrically full of hope and love. It was essentially uplifting. After Punk, Rap continued a path of ugliness, anger and alienation. It hasn’t proved to be helpful to how people need to feel about themselves. As for the future, how does anyone get a chance to be heard when 60,000 songs a DAY are being uploaded to the internet? It’s so much harder for young songwriters today, I think I was so lucky to have been signed to such a great label all those years ago.

"My music philosophy is simple, make it heartfelt and aim for beauty. Explore as much as you like, just let it come out of you. I have occasionally expressed myself in dramatic terms but I’m happier making music that has beauty and sings on the ear. My creative drive comes from heaven and after all these years, I have just realised that!" (Photo: Claire Hamill, 1972)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I have alluded to this answer in the previous question. We are all very much affected by what we see and hear. We are living in a constant state of anxiety because it sells papers and TV programmes. Where has it got us? Unfortunately, Music is a reflection of our social unease rather than being a counter to it, as the one plays in to the other. Probably what we all should do is turn off the TV and go and listen to some Brahms or the Beach Boys and we’d all calm down a bit!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

What have I learned from my music path?, That it’s just a job like any other, that I can’t change the world as I had hoped (if the Beatles couldn’t do it there’s no hope for me…) but mostly that I have been jolly lucky to survive and bring up my family on such a meager income! Hahahah! It has been such a great ride!

John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?

I have recently renewed my Christian faith. I have never felt so connected to my spiritual life since I was a little Catholic Schoolgirl in love with Jesus! My life has entered a new phase and dimension and I’ve never felt more stable and secure in myself which is wonderful. As for the meaning of life? We are here for such a short time, let’s have some fun, have some kids, make someone else happy and leave everything to God to decide. But I just wish God would make all our politicians take ecstasy before they sit down to their war negotiations. There is absolutely no need for bombs anymore when the deserts need re-foresting and people need food. My music future is still so abundant. I had thought, because I’m busy with daily life that the songs would dry up, not a bit of it. There is still so much inside of me I want to release…sorry world… you haven’t heard the last from me!

Claire Hamill - Home

(Photo: Claire Hamill)

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