Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

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Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby jarkko » Thu Dec 17, 2015 9:16 am

Twenty Questions with Hattie Webb. Posed by John Etherington.

J.E - You come from a family where there is much musical aspiration. Both your dad and brother are drummers and your older sister, Charley sings and plays guitar. At what age did you decide to pursue a career in music?

H.W - I started singing with my siblings when I was 3 or 4 and it evolved from there. It’s hard to put a finger on when it became a full time career. It was always such a focus across my childhood and never stopped!

J.E - There aren’t many harp players that I can think of in the world of contemporary music. Why did you choose to play the harp, and was it your first choice of instrument?

H.W - It was my first instrument of choice, I wanted to play when I was 4. My Mum would often have the radio on when she was cooking and as a little girl I would sit in the kitchen at a little table and chair. I think it was there that I heard the harp and fell in love! It took a few years of asking my parents, them obviously making sure it wasn’t just a whim! I took up the piano when I was 6 and the harp at 8. My parent’s kindly discovered harpist and teacher Danielle Perrett and I never looked back.

J.E - Do you play any instruments other than the harp and mandolin?

H.W - I play a bit of piano but mainly just for writing... The tinkle-of-the-ivories works great with harp as a duet too....

J.E - When did you record your first album “Piece of Mind” (an album that’s very hard to find) and how do you feel about that album now?

H.W - I was 18 and my sister Charley was 20. I listened to ‘Piece of Mind’ with my Dad in his car recently after not hearing it for a long time. I was moved listening to the songs. It was the first full record Charley and I wrote & recorded together and I am proud of what we did on that album.

J.E - I understand that you knew Amy Winehouse. Did you ever play music together?

H.W - We sang together in The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Amy was always such a character, great fun and in amazing voice. A few years later, Charley and I were working at a studio in Primrose Hill in North London and Amy was there working with Stefan Skarbeck on her album that would become ‘Frank’. I remember us talking with Amy one day there and they had just got back from the zoo and were writing a song about the animals! I don’t think it made the record..!

J.E - You have recorded with Russ Kunkel and Leland Sklar, who have played with James Taylor. How did you first get to meet these musicians?

H.W - Charley and I have been managed by Peter Asher since 2008 and it was through him that we met Russ and Lee. It was a dream come true to work with Russ and Lee after listening to them avidly growing up. We recorded half our record ‘Savages’ with them in LA. We were at Conway Studios in the wooden room and recorded live with Peter conducting in the middle!

J.E - The other most famous Webb in music is the great singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb (whose sons formed the Webb Brothers). Are you familiar with his music?

H.W - Yes! ‘Witchita Lineman’ is a favourite. Jimmy is amazing. The Webb Brothers are awesome too. When Charley and I lived in LA, we crossed paths several times. I remember us hanging out in the urban garden of Peet’s Coffee in Santa Monica. They had a Chai drink there that would send one up into the stratospheres of a caffeine high!

J.E - How did your audition with Leonard Cohen first come about?

H.W - We wrote three songs with Sharon Robinson in 2007. We loved writing with Sharon and found it was one of the best collaborations we had experienced. I remember us naturally singing in three part harmony even back then...I digress! When Leonard was rehearsing the following year, and still looking for singers, Sharon recommended us. We met Roscoe, Leonard and the band and played two of our songs for them. I think it was ‘Everything Changes’ and ‘Momentary’ that we played. Then we sang a couple of Leonard’s songs with Leonard and the band. The next day, Leonard asked us to join the Unified Heart Touring Co. It was a magic moment.

J.E - Were you familiar with his music before then?

H.W - Yes, I found my way to Leonard in my teenage years through Jeff Buckley’s breathtaking version of Hallelujah. I was particularly fond of Leonard’s early work, and still am. I had two funny incidents the week before Sharon first wrote to us about going down to Leonard’s band rehearsals. The first one was when I was walking along Venice Beach with my then boyfriend and there was a busker singing a song of Leonard’s and we stood and listened. And then a few days later, we got lost on a bus route and hopped off on Wilshire, at the very crossroads where I would go on to spent many weeks rehearsing, starting the following week. Serendipity...

J.E - While touring with Leonard, you and Charley often did a cartwheel while the song “The Future” was being sung. Presumably you had to keep up a very healthy routine to do that so often?

H.W - Extreme exercise to manage that not really! I think a lot of people who tour full time are aware of staying healthy. I always wanted to bring my ‘all’ creatively night after night. When on the road, the travel, changing time zones and long shows are a good challenge and any moment is spent gearing up to the show, the reason we are all there. So having a healthy mind and body routine really helped me on the long travels. Plus the occasional whisky.

J.E - You were very lucky to be one of the few ladies to sing a duet with Leonard on “Joan of Arc” (a song that is featured Leonard’s live album” I Can’t Forget”). Presumably that was one of the highpoints of the tour for you?

H.W - It really was John. I had always loved Leonard’s ‘Joan of Arc’ and was so excited to have the chance to sing the song with him. Leonard took the key down a fifth so it meant the female register, so not being too low, went up in the register. It was quite high in my register but I still hoped to bring the strength to it that Joan inspired. I love the turn-around in the last chorus, it was exhilarating to sing.

J.E - When writing songs with Charley, does one of you tend to take the lead in writing the music or lyrics, and are there some songs that belong more specifically to you or Charley?

H.W - It changes depending on the song. I feel the song indicates what it wants. Sometimes Charley or I would have a substantial idea and we would bring it to the other. And sometimes, we would plan to write for the day and see what came up. I think there are some songs which really reasonate with one or the other of us due to it being connected to an emotional experience. When put through The Webb Sisters filter I feel we both find ourselves having our individual connection and find our place within the song.

J.E - There’s a centre in Kent called Hattie Webb House that is associated with people who have physical or learning disabilities. How did your involvement with this begin?

H.W - My Dad Graham has always had a very generous spirit when it came to charity work. After being born with Spina Bifida, Dad has overcome a lot of challenges and he gives a lot back to the community. Charley, my brothers Brad, Rod and I grew up being very involved playing at different charity events and get-togethers. One of our favourite yearly Christmas concerts was for a retirement home that had a very lovely deaf lady as a resident. We always loved playing for her because she would have a huge grin across her face and would often laugh out loud whilst we were playing! In a way it’s not just through ears that we ‘hear’. We thought she loved the energy of people playing music or maybe we were that bad... !
8 years ago, I began helping out with the charity KASBAH. I have been working with resident Ross Briffitt collaborating and mentoring his songwriting ever since then. We meet from time to time and are meeting this Friday to run through some ideas. I’m looking forward to it. It was an honour and a surprise when KASBAH named a house in my name.

J.E - I was lucky enough to win one of your beautiful embroidered tea towels last year. Is embroidery one of your favourite pastimes?

H.W - I love to embroider. Anything using my hands, I love using watercolors and making cards for friends and family. Weaving is also a favourite of mine. I hope one day to do a fine art degree.

J.E - I understand you played a private gig with Charley recently. Are you planning to perform as the Webb Sisters again in the foreseeable future?

H.W - Yes, we played for the Children in Crisis fund-raising event in London. No plans at the moment but I am sure we will do down the line. There are different chapters in life. I love singing and playing music with Charley and have done full time ever since I can remember. I am sure when the time is right, it will happen.

J.E - How did you choose the musicians that you are currently working with?

H.W - James McVinney is an amazing organ player that I went to school with. James is one of those unique classical musicians who can crossover, improvise, knowing how to ‘serve the song’. We have been friends for over half our lives. When I started to plan playing my new songs out, I asked him to join me. I had heard of Pedro Segundo through several friends and was lucky enough to hear Pedro play at Ronnie Scotts with the Kansas Smitty’s. I was blown away by his passion and musicality when he plays drums and percussion. I love playing in a three piece!

J.E - The last Webb Sisters album was produced by famous producer, Peter Asher. Who will be producing your new album?

H.W - I am. I have a clear idea of how I would like the album to sound and the instrumentation I believe would bring my songs to life. I also think it is also about choosing the right musicians that you feel will understand the creative direction.

J.E - You include a unique version of “The House of the Rising Sun” in your live set. The song has been recorded by many famous artists including Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, and the Animals. Which version of the song inspired you to sing it?

H.W - It was The Animals. Their gritty version with that slightly eerie and menacing video, I like!

J.E - You used two different harps on your recent live gig. What can you tell us about these?

H.W - The little harps are the same harps I play in The Webb Sisters and with Leonard in his band. They are called an ‘Eve’ design by a harp building company in Minnesota called Stoney End. One of the harps, ‘Harry’, has been with me since I was 11, has been on every record I have made and played ‘If It Be Your Will’ with me across the whole Unified Heart Tour.
The bigger harp was from Leonard. It is a Dusty Strings harp in bubinga wood and has a depth in the lower end which is amazing.

J.E - It seems to be very hard for indie musicians to earn a living these days. What are your plans for funding the new recording?
It’s an interesting journey, after being on a big tour, you can feel quite alone out there. I decided to get the ball rolling and take the reins to make this record with my friend and engineer Marcel Van Limbeek.
By funding it independently it means we can take the initiative ourselves. We are running a Pledge campaign where anyone can pre-order the album and any other features. By ‘Pledging’, you receive an ‘Access Pass’ into the making of the album and will receive the album before anyone else. Behind the scenes videos, early mixes of songs, and other juicy features will be available to ‘Pledgers’ throughout the making of my album :) And this means any ‘Pledges’ go towards album costs, paying musicians, for studios and to finish the album.

Thank you to Jarkko and John. It is an amazing community at the Leonard Cohen Forum and Leonard Cohen Files. Thank you for your support!
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby 199Dan » Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:17 pm

A great read !! Thanks for sharing it .
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby HugoD » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:34 pm

Thanks very much for sharing with us. Enjoyed reading it!
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby anny » Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:01 am

thank you John and Hattie for sharing !!!!
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby friscogrl » Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:44 am

Thanks John. Great interview, I enjoyed it very much.

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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby Steven » Fri Dec 18, 2015 5:56 am

Hi John,

I'm with the others in expressing thanks and appreciation for the enjoyable and very fine interview. :)
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby John Etherington » Sat Dec 19, 2015 12:43 pm

Thanks to you all for your kind comments (I learned quite a lot from this Q & A, myself). I hope everyone here will make this work for Hattie, who at the time of writing is almost half way there! The least you can do is pre-order the album from ... o-the-bone
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby its4inthemorning » Sat Dec 19, 2015 5:27 pm

John, this was a very nice thing to do, for Hattie and for all of us on this forum. Just did "the least you can do" by ordering Hattie's CD and am looking forward to hearing it. (Would love to have ordered the package with handwritten lyric sheet, but that came with an album rather than CD.)

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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby musicmania » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:49 pm

Thanks John, great interview. I have of course pledged. Hattie is wonderful and so kind to all of us, and is an amazing talent, and most certainly deserves our help and support.
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby sereneava » Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:01 am

Thanks for the link to your blog Gwen. Loving it.
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby John Etherington » Sun Dec 20, 2015 11:00 pm

I'm pleased to hear that, as of today, that Pledge Music has reached 50 per cent if its goal with Hattie's album.
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby John Etherington » Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:59 am

John Etherington wrote:I'm pleased to hear that, as of today, that Pledge Music has reached 50 per cent if its goal with Hattie's album. Gotta make it happen, now...eleven days left to hit the target!
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby asta » Mon Dec 21, 2015 1:59 pm

It's 4 in the Morning: Hattie's 'album' IS the CD ! I see Hattie's campaign has reached 50% of her goal with 10 days to go. 248 Pledgers as of this morning. Great .......but SEVERAL MILLION Cohenites have enjoyed Hattie and Charley - and the harp used on Hattie's Pledge Funding video - link below - was a special gift from Leonard to Hattie. COME ON AND SUPPORT HATTIE in the next 11 days.
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby its4inthemorning » Mon Dec 21, 2015 2:46 pm

Oh, I thought "album" meant vinyl rather than CD. Anyone know how I can "upgrade" my pledge? Thanks.
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Re: Now: Interview with Hattie Webb

Postby asta » Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:20 pm

I think you just buy 'Here Comes the Sun' package...........

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