Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you were led to the Sleepthief project.
Nicola Hitchcock: After years of singing backing vocals and playing instruments in other peoples' bands i got my first solo record deal in 1992 off the back of a three-song demo of self-penned songs recorded at home on a four-track portastudio.
I signed to F.Beat/Demon Records and released my first solo album in 1993 featuring Neil Conti (Prefab Sprout) on drums and the legendary Danny Thompson (Richard Thompson, Everything but the Girl) on bass.
In 1995 I signed to Chrysalis Music and began writing and recording with Saul Freeman and we went on to form Mandalay. We were signed to V2 records and released three albums before we split in 2002.
Last year I released an album of collaborative tracks written and recorded during the past three years and am currently working on a new solo record. Justin approached me via my website asking if I would work on a track of his as part of the Sleepthief album project.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musical artist?
Not really, no. Singing and playing music was always a big part of my life. I learned to play the piano and guitar by ear and wrote songs for my family and friends from a very young age. But the decision to make it a career was a long time coming. I spent years playing in pubs and clubs in other peoples' bands just for fun.
And what can you tell us about your musical and vocal training?
I hade none to speak of. I taught myself guitar and had a few piano lessons whenIi was little and learned to play the recorder and to read music at school, like most kids back then. I've had singing lessons with various teachers over the years and learned it's as much about what they didn't teach me as what they did.
The most important thing for me has been finding my own voice, a way of singing and expressing myself that frees me up enough to allow my deepest emotions to come through. If I'm not doing that then it's pointless. For me, making and listening to music is all about conveying emotion and being moved.
Did you share any of the writing duties?
I wrote the vocal melody and the lyrics.
And how was the project put together?
I was sent a backing track of the music which I then recorded into a session within my music software programme--ProTools--then I sang to it over several tracks freeform until I got a melody I liked the sound of. The lyrics came later and were inspired by watching the film Snow Falling on Cedars late one night.
What kind of music do you find yourself listening to all the time?
I am very fickle with my listening. I listen to a whole range of music/artist from classical--Paolo Pandolfo, William Byrd--to more leftfield experimental music--Colleen, Biosphere--to deftly crafted three-minute commercial pop songs, depending on my mood. And a good dose of soul and/or Motown--Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone--every now and again Vocally I'm a big fan of Liz Frazer, Phoebe Snow and Kate Bush, to name a few.
What are your future plans as a musical artist?
Just to keep on being creative and to work with people who inspire and challenge me musically.
What has it been like working with the team on the Sleepthief project?
I worked alone to the track so my contact has been limited to short emails--but this is usual for me with collaborations--the musical exchange is all.
How does it feel to share vocal work with the other artists on the album?
I have only heard Caroline Lavelle's song as she is a good friend of mine. I love the arrangement Justin and Israel have given her song and vocal sound. I really look forward to hearing the other collaborators on the album.
Do you think "image" has a role in promoting your music these days?
Not in my case, I don't think so.
Has the internet brought you many new listeners, expanded your audience and improved your connection to the fans?
Absolutely, without question. It's made all the difference to me in terms of feedback and support.
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