One of pop’s most recognised voices speaks about collaborations, her solo aims and the music industry ahead of her sold-out show at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms
The pop industry can be a tough and, at times, horrible business to be involved in. An increasingly competitive industry flooded with young and talented artists who act as mirror images to thousands of singers with budding futures, the pop world is a fickle and infuriating beast, and Worcestershire artist Becky Hill knows all too well of the emotional rollercoaster that the industry takes you on.
‘This industry makes you know who you are, it either makes you or breaks you and I really hope it makes me because I’ve been close to being broken,’ she confesses in her dressing room backstage on the final leg of her UK tour in Nottingham. ‘I always kind of knew in this game that artists had a lot of control taken off them. When I got dropped from my first record label, I had the classic teenage mentality of “fuck it all I’m going to start my own record label, spend my own money and get the songs I want released out there”. It was the best time of my career, shit was getting done and I was spending my own money. Then I got signed again to a major record label, which is great, but I noticed that it’s handing your baby over to a new family.’
As we chat backstage, it seems incredible to think that the journey Hill has undergone has been going on for seven years. Having first gained national attention reaching the semi-finals of the first season of The Voice UK in 2012, she then joined Hackney-born band of misfits Rudimental on tour before having her first major chart breakthrough on Wilkinson’s “Afterglow”, a single she co-wrote with the Hammersmith DJ. Despite releasing music solely under her own name, for some reason Hill’s natural talent as a hit-writer has only been recognised by collaborators. In 2014, she co-wrote and recorded “Gecko (Overdrive)” with Oliver Heldens, which topped the UK Singles Chart. In 2016, her MK-collaborated track “Piece of Me” also reached the UK Top 40, which was subsequently followed by “False Alarm”, a dance anthem co-written with Norwegian DJ Matoma.
Asked whether the success as a feature artist has made it more difficult to stand out as a solo artist, Hill states ‘I’ve always seen myself as a solo artist, and the thing that makes it worse is that the songs that I’ve written for these artists, were songs that I wrote for myself and have given away to other artists. What makes it worse is that because they were the bigger host, they’ve had more recognition than I have for writing it. I’ve always seen those songs as a part of me, as a part of my writing and as a part of my artistry. I am grateful that a wider range of audiences has been able to hear those songs, because if I had released them, nobody would have batted an eyelid.’
Hill’s honesty is something to really admire. She speaks with a frankness that is so easy to understand and her artistic journey so far is understandably frustrating. She is an artist of exceptional talent and capability, whose desire to be fierce and independent has at times come across as confrontational and mischievous in the public eye. Yet, underneath it all, she is a charming individual and someone with a boundless integrity so desperately needed in pop music at the moment. Whilst she admits that being a fiercely independent artist has ‘not helped, it’s probably hindered things,’
Hill seems to be excited over what the future holds, with potential collaborations with Ella Eyre and MNEK on the horizon, alongside shows at Reading & Leeds and Manchester Pride. For a singer who has already been on a rollercoaster journey so far, Becky Hill is determined to find some form of stability for the future. ‘I want to be a successful artist in my own right, branching out from the features, that I’m very grateful for, but I would like people to invest in me and my artistry,’ she says. ‘I want to keep releasing new music. I want an album out, I’d like to do eight albums if possible!’
With the aim of establishing a solo career for herself, Hill’s current UK tour has been the perfect platform for helping that goal. A resounding success, with Birmingham and London’s dates proving to be clear highlights for the artist, the tour has made her more appreciative of the smaller things in life. ‘Everything that I’ve been doing has a proper reason now,’ she confirms. ‘All the shit times you get in this job, and there are a lot of shit times, these sorts of shows make everything worth it. When I can go out and be confident that I can smash a show, nothing beats it. I’m going to take that forward into my work. Everyone misses touring. It’s hard work but it’s been so inspiring and motivating.’
Stepping out on stage at a sold-out Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, it’s clear just how her confidence can set her out as an artist for the future. Despite a shaky start on “Rude Love”, which can be accredited to end-of-tour fatigue, Hill offered the audience a glistening dose of prime chart music throughout the set, which spanned pop, dance and drum and bass.
Her MK-collaborated single “Piece Of Me” was met with rapturous screams before a new single, “Fall In Love Again” was performed. “Back To My Love” offered further encouragement as it launched into a scintillating drum and bass breakdown which merged into the ever-impressive “Afterglow”, a single so reliant on Hill’s vocals.
Following such a song was always going to be a hard feat to accomplish, yet in “I Could Get Used To This”, she managed to do so. The enthusiasm she has for the track, set to be released on March 29, is clear, and before the show she offered an insight into what the single was about. ‘I wrote that three years ago so you can see the turnaround over time. I wrote it before my fourth date with my boyfriend who I’ve just broken up with, we were together for three years, but there was always a part of me that thought we wouldn’t be together when this song was released, which is really sad as I now have to go on stage and sing about it. He was actually at the Bristol show. We ended it on beautiful terms but we’ve always said this was our song.’
“Unpredictable” proved a further highlight moving into the second half of the set, before “False Alarm” and “Gecko (Overdrive)” caused the sold-out crowd to launch into a frenzy of screaming, dancing and general jubilation, before Hill ended the pristine set with “Back & Forth”, a glorious collaboration between Hill, MK and Jonas Blue.
As the crowds flocked into the bustling Nottingham night, you can’t help but wonder why Hill hasn’t had more luck as a solo artist. She creates music loved by millions and can play the part of the ring-leader for live shows. Visually, the show wasn’t the greatest live experience you would have had. What it was however, was an excuse to simply have fun and enjoy pop music how it should be enjoyed, dancing in a crowd to a singer whose vocals ignite a previously-unseen energy within.
Throughout the show, I found myself drawn back towards her words regarding what inspires her as an artist. Busily preparing herself ahead of the show, Hill softly joked ‘Getting involved with blokes I shouldn’t get involved with! No, just life really. I try and put myself through a lot of shit to then write about it. Good stuff as well. I’ve written about falling in and out of love, and being happy and not. Just writing about your experiences really.’ These words highlight exactly who she is as an artist. Pop musicians can either take the easy route or the hard route. The easy route consists of simply being a yes person, nodding your head at every opportunity in the vain hope that it might lead you to fame and fortune. The harder route is different. It requires a grit and determination rarely seen in most singers. You need to stick to your guns and hope it pays off, and honestly, most of the time it doesn’t. Becky Hill has taken the hard route, however, this time around it might just have paid off at last.