Day 1: The Story So Far – By Belinda & HeidiWell hello there Spiralearthlings,
I think Day 1 would be a good time to introduce ourselves and say a little bit about our musical backgrounds, how we met and about our album “Silent June”. I know you probably think me and Heidi met on the catwalks of Milan, but here is the real truth behind the rumours...
I’m Belinda O’Hooley and I sing, play the piano and co-songwrite in O’Hooley & Tidow. Prior to our duo, I was the pianist and songwriter in Rachel Unthank & The Winterset (now the Unthanks) and featured on two albums “Cruel Sister” and the Mercury nominated “The Bairns”. My background in folk music comes from the west of Ireland, where I spent a lot of my childhood listening to the traditional music played by my uncles and cousins in music sessions at the farmhouse in Monalea, County Sligo. Traditional music is part of the life-blood that runs through the rural communities there and everyone is encouraged to join in. One of my earliest memories is my granny Kathleen taking her turn to sing unaccompanied in the kitchen, surrounded by our families. I started knocking tunes out of the piano aged 7, and formal piano lessons followed. I remember composing oddments of tunes and soundscapes with my piano teacher’s encouragement resulting in accompanying my cousin Tommy Fleming for many years at the start of his career.
Actual songwriting didn’t come easy to me and I didn’t flourish until a major life change in my late twenties, when my mum died of cancer. During this horrible time, I found solace and comfort in playing the piano and songs started to come. I recorded an album around this time called “Music is my Silence” (RabbleRouser Records) produced by Adrian McNally. This led me to meeting Rachel Unthank and being asked to play piano for her debut album “Cruel Sister”. The slow burning success of that album and the positive reaction to our live shows was lovely and soon we were recording our next album “The Bairns”. This album focused in the main on the vocals of Rachel & Becky Unthank, the violin of Jackie Oates - followed by Niopha Keegan and me on piano. The album also contained 2 of my songs; “Blackbird” and “Whitethorn”. I think we were all incredibly proud of that album and I still listen to it with a mixture of pride and sadness. Unfortunately, due to conflicts, I was not to remain in the band to see the album through to its Mercury nomination and the success this has brought them.
Initially, after leaving the band, I did not want to perform again and was going to stay a songwriter instead. However, it was not long before the folk world caught up with me and things were about to change.
I’m Heidi Tidow; I sing and co-songwrite in O’Hooley & Tidow. Some of my family also come from the west of Ireland, and I have a German mother. My grandfather and his brothers sang and played melodian in the poor, rural community of Lackerbeg in Co. Galway. I spent a significant part of my childhood near Hamburg in Germany, and would while away much of my time listening to the German sea-shanties and accordian playing of my Oma. I started writing songs at the age of 5 and later played guitar and sang alongside my sister Katie on flute. Before meeting the ginger giant (Belinda), I was a regular on the Huddersfield music scene. I had just started performing my own songs on the circuit when Belinda came to one of my gigs and offered me a fruit pastille to start singing with her. Apparently she fell for my unique, velvety voice and original songwriting, but I think it was my high waisted jeans that caught her eye.
After Belinda left the Unthanks, we started doing some songwriting and singing together, and it wasn’t long before we were offered support for Jim Moray in Whitby. Jim McLaughlin was the organiser of that concert and after hearing just one of our songs in the soundcheck, he offered us a slot at MusicPort! From that amazing festival came more gig and festival offers plus representation by a folk agency. Things were starting to happen for us including meeting Jo Freya and the fabulous Chumbawamba whom we supported on their UK tour. Jo had suggested to us that we should record our album on the No Masters label - a Northern based co-operative which featured her, the late Lal Waterson, John Tams & Barry Coope, Chumbawamba and Coope, Boyes & Simpson. Although a bit miffed that Stock, Aitken & Waterman hadn’t signed us up as the new Reynolds Girls, we were and still are delighted to be a part of such a strong, supportive and sound record label as No Masters.
Our debut album “Silent June” was recorded at home in Golcar (in between people mowing their lawns) on the now infamous Yamaha U3 piano with some fancy mics. It was mixed and mastered by Neil Ferguson in Leeds. The album features the piano as the main instrument with Belinda and I sharing the vocals. With additional performances from Jackie Oates, Anna Esslemont, Cormac Byrne and the Solo Players string quartet, it has received some fabulous national reviews which we still can’t quite get our heads round. It was released in February this year and we toured the country with Chumbawamba in March. We’ve had a fantastic run of festivals over the summer including Larmer Tree, Sidmouth, Broadstairs and Solfest and are really looking forward to our November tour. More of that to come later this week.
Watch our promotional film...