Rachel Hillary
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Rachel Hillary


Band Alternative Folk


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"The Girl With The Golden Voice"

One of the aspects of folk music that adds to the appeal, is its rich variety of instrumentation. Panpipes send a shiver down the spine and a lively fiddle or mandolin can raise the most mundane of tunes into the stratosphere. Why not add an accordion, autoharp or bodhran into the mix?

Other genres, particularly rock, a star guitarist can quickly acquire a legion of adoring fans. Yet for all that, the emergence of a new vocalist with something different to offer is still what arouses most excitement.

What makes a compelling singer? It's not just about the ability to hit the right notes. Sadly, the mainstream record companies and media take the view that bland is best, which why Katie Melua has a personal worth of £13 million. Do we care how many bicycles are in Beijing? No we don't, and if that really is the closest thing to crazy she's ever been, then Ms Melua needs to get pissed and shagged a lot more.

Gifted artists move you. They make the hair on the back your neck stand on end and convey the impression of being in the same room, although their only presence is that silver disc spinning in the CD player. It is to that select group of performers that Rachel Hillary belongs.

The Withington based songwriter has recently released Hope for the Heart, an EP of self penned numbers available at the link below, which is worth more than a cursory listen. This is not instantly accessible girly pop, but a selection of personal statements with winding melodies that pop into you head when least expected, and lyrics where a deliberate attempt has been made to avoid the obvious.

But it's the voice that draws you in. It's assertive, delicate and haunting at the same time with a sense of the wounded. It's not hard to imagine her sat on a corner in nineteen sixties Greenwich Village belting out protest songs. The thought would probably appeal.

"I'm more of a Joni Mitchell type folkie," she explains. Melanie Safka, another gal with a guitar is also mentioned, as is Led Zepplin, Stevie Nicks, Lyndsey Buckingham and perhaps surprisingly, seventies glam rock. Those TOTP2 repeats on BBC Four have a lot to answer for.

Hope for the Heart isn't the finished product and isn't intended to be. It's more of an advertisement. The plan is to establish a collective, a pool of musicians who see something in her writing, and can be called upon for specific projects. That might sound rather grand, but the idea comes from childhood.

"My dad's from Belfast so the family home was always alive with Irish music and traditional folk songs," she told City Life a few months ago.

"We'd have these family get-togethers where we'd sit around the living room playing instruments and singing songs. That's been a huge influence on me – even though I write this heartfelt acoustic music, I'll always want it to have that sense of fun and togetherness."

We meet at Manchester's Lass O'Gowrie pub, at an open mic night, where she's mildly traumatised, after inadvertently slaughtering a friend's goldfish. The unfortunate creature was housed in an unheated room and succumbed to the cold as its tank was engulfed by a miniature iceberg. Resuscitation attempts proved unfruitful.

Bar that, she's in a cheerful frame of mind. The project is going well. Living in a house full of musicians helps.

And the end game? A record deal maybe? "That'd be good," comes the reply, although you get the impression that the desire to express herself is the most important thing, to a point where it can get almost overwhelming.

"There are times on stage when I feel as if I'm going to cry," she confesses.

There are a few jitters pre-peformance. "Do you realise," she declares to her friends, "that I've been drinking whisky for five hours." Very rock 'n' roll you might think, but there's a plausible explanation. She was double booked and had another spot around tea time. Well, you can't sit around sipping tea can you?

Not that there's any hint of wear, in her demeanour or the short set that follows, where she's accompanied by Amy Clarkson, a mandolin player who packs a mean rhythm, and who is also a talented photographer.

Four songs later and it's over, quite low key, but received with solid applause and a few whoops and whistles. So we can all go home happy. Apart from the fish, who is beyond salvation. At least there's a coming to terms with events.

"I feel Mr Fish was there in spirit," she tweets later. - North West Folk

"12 Picks of Christmas"

Our 10th pick of Christmas is Rachel Hillary. Hollie Jones explains why…

One of the biggest themes that I can draw from the music of 2012, is that every new ‘must listen to’ band or artist can slot neatly into a synonymous indie-folk mainstream popularised by Mumford and Sons and those who have followed in their footsteps. I listen to this music, and sometimes I even like it, but I can’t help feeling ever so sad that the influence of 1960s folk is growing ever too subtle to heed. This is why the nu-folk scene emerging in Manchester, England makes me very, very excited.

Rachel Hillary, a nu-folk artist who hails from the aforementioned city in England in this vein, makes me very very excited. Exposed to folk music by her Irish Father at an early age, Hillary draws influence from Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Her EP Hope for the Heart contains four tracks that are melodically rich and lyrically profound.

Rachel Hillary donated her track ‘Kings and Sins’ to our Christmas EP. Download it over on our Soundcloud page (full EP available to download December 24). - Secret Sound Shop

"Interview: Northern Sessions introduces rising Manchester folk talent Rachel Hillary"

Ahead of Northern Sessions’ return to Manchester235 Casino – in collaboration with MM – Rachel Hillary revealed she will be a more traditional contrast from headline slot David Julien.

David Julien, from BBC’s The Voice, may be the most famous star for this acoustic set list, but Rachel Hillary’s music is ‘early folksy stuff’, and the emphasis is on ‘early’.

For 60s fans and for those curious about Manchester’s new female folk invasion alike, Rachel is set to be a highlight.

Northern Sessions on Thursday July 12 will be the second night in collaboration with MM and Manchester235 following its tremendously successful launch event in May, and the Stockport singer-songwriter will join another supporting act (who will be revealed shortly) on-stage for a very folky night.

Speaking before the gig, she said: “I’m influenced by Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez…oh and Bob Dylan obviously, but he’s the only male allowed on that list.”

The songstress and guitar-player made her first online appearance in 2010, when she uploaded footage of herself performing numbers in the hope of finding other musicians to work with her. She received plenty of acclaim and it wasn’t long until Rachel and mandolin player Daisy Preece joined the Eurocultured Festival in 2011 and 2012 as the folk duo Rachel & Daisy.

She said: “My dad was a very musical man from Belfast, so I grew up hearing traditional folk songs and being in lots of bands. I’ve been playing since I was five, but doing it ‘properly’ since I was 18. I performed in places like Trof Fallowfield and the pubs in Stockport. Well, the non-scary ones.

“Eurocultured was the biggest gig I’ve done so far, so I’m really looking forward to Northern Sessions. It should be a great experience!”

Describing her music as ‘poetry set to song’, Rachel has much in common with other nu-folk artists from Manchester, including Literature Thieves and Raven and the Lyon.

She also relies on spontaneity as a source of inspiration, much like the Beat poets – “all kinds of great things can happen by accident,” she added.

To spice the night up with variety, one of the city’s finest DJs will spin the best of indie, alternative and Madchester. Attendees can also expect a swanky cocktail bar and lots of gaming facilities, making the now open 24/7 casino one of Manchester’s most unique party destinations.

Be sure to buy your tickets before they sell out on the Manchester 235 website.

Download Rachel Hillary’s free EP here: rachelhillary.bandcamp.com - Mancunian Matters


I have self released 6 EPS over the course of the last year. These are:

Hope For The Heart
Troubled Heart
Sweet Flag
Our Bed Is Green
Cover Me With Roses (A Cover EP)
Get Thee To A Nunnery

All available to download via bandcamp and ITunes and to stream via spotify.



I love Avocados, Whiskey and 1960’s dresses.
I love writing songs and doing cartwheels.

I'm making an impact on the Manchester alt-folk scene and have much in common with artists of the same genre, including Literature Thieves and Raven and the Lyon. My live performance sees me surrounded by any combination of of ukeleles, mandolins, djembe drums and banjos. Fans of Feist, Birdy, Melanie Safka and Bob Dylan will find me a complimentary addition to their (already impeccable) music catalogue.