London-based singer songwriter Hannah Peel is making waves in the UK, though her time as a child living in Craigavon still has an influence on her music.
The former Drumgor pupil, who left Craigavon when she was seven, said: “My parents have just permanently moved back to Northern Ireland, but I have always visited regularly in the summer and every Christmas for family.
“My main memories when living here were all full of the countryside, seeing my grandfather play the organ in the Shankill Parish Church and the first steps of going to school and unfortunately rather grim tales of the troubles in the eighties.
“I was fascinated by the army checkpoints and seeing my first news reporters after a bomb went off in Belfast on my sixth birthday. I didn’t understand back then why we constantly had to stand outside freezing whilst dressed in a swimming costume because someone had made a phone call to the swimming baths.”
Of her time at Drumgor she said: “I was dressed as a sheep once for the school nativity in my mothers 70’s Afghan coat. I was so upset by this that I refused to go on stage and ended up being moved to an angel to stop the tears.
“Craigavon plays a part in my music. My first record was very much about the travelling to and fro from Yorkshire to Ireland every holiday and I wanted to maintain these elements in there with instrumentation on the production. Brass band style arrangements on my trombone and string scoring too. I also ended the record with two folk songs, which then earned me a title as a folk musician which I’ve really had to fight off like the sheep costume! I could never go to a session and play, but I might sing a song or two.
“I’ve been interested lately in architecture and with playing and making electronic music much more the last few years the utopian ideals for suburban living have really stood out lyrically against the cold beats. I hadn’t realised my obsession was anything to do with Craigavon until I wrote a song about roundabouts and realised Craigavon was full of them.”
She added: “I really don’t think I’ve achieved a big take off yet but I work hard every day and keep meeting the most amazing people. I’m very happy to have a great team of people too to help the momentum keep building upwards and I live by the motto that I make music in order to make more music!
“Last year I won award for a song on a Channel 4 TV show. That was a very special and surprising night and it was incredible to finally feel recognised for something that was a lot of work too. I suppose most people know me by my music box as its so unique. That was the turning point when I stopped playing for others in their bands and had my own.”
Asked about the biggest venue she’s played and where her dream headline gig would be, she said: “After being in LA this summer, I would love to play some of the venues in the states like the Hollywood Bowl or the Carnegie Hall in New York because of their history. Those are dream venues.
“As a musician I’ve played most venues in the UK either solo or a support act or in another artists band.
“I’m playing next week in the National Concert Hall in Dublin with the Belfast artist Duke Special and the RTE Concert Orchestra. I really can’t wait to be on that stage.”
Of her influences she said: “The first record and musical shiver I experienced when younger was just after we moved to England and an elderly neighbour passed me an LP by The Carpenters - ‘Close to You’. I had it on repeat for weeks.
“That strong sense of beautiful melodies from older songs has influenced me greatly when writing and I still list artists like Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell as my favourites.
“When I’m not writing or performing, I love films and the theatre and especially the immersive kind. I’ve gotten into the habit lately of putting on Netflix when wanting a lunch break in the studio too. Working alongside artist and producer Erland (Erland and the Carnival), my newest songs have all been recorded whilst being interspersed by the drama of Breaking Bad.”
Hannah’s music is available digitally on iTunes and Amazon, but if you are a record collector, some of her EPs are available on vinyl via www.hannahpeel.com