band playing live

After having children, Angharad was inspired to start writing and singing pop music

Inspired by her mother’s passion for music 

Coming from a musical family, Angharad Jenkins is aware of the influence her mother’s passion for music has had on her own career. As she explains, My mum played the piano and the harp as a child and then became a professional folk musician. She had to take a back seat when she had children but of course was very encouraging for her children to learn a musical instrument.”

When Angharad was a child, she learned piano, violin and harp, and growing up in Swansea, singing was also very important at school. She went on to study music at university and admits she struggled after gaining her degree. 

I was trying to work out how to make a living from being a musician. I worked as a youth worker for a few years and was playing in a Welsh folk band called Calan all that time. There came a point where we decided to go freelance. It was a tricky decision to leave a full-time job but I have been freelance ever since, always doing bits of teaching on the side.”

Until 2020, Calan were Angharad’s main musical project and the group have enjoyed great success. In April 2019, they were voted Best Band at the inaugural Wales Folk Awards and have also given a televised performance from a packed Royal Albert Hall alongside Sir Bryn Terfel and Sting. 

Someone holding a disco ball

Motherhood and a new musical direction 

Angharad continued forging her career in the folk scene as part of Calan until her mid-thirties and an event that turned her professional and personal worlds upside down – she became a mother for the first time. 

Over lockdown, Angharad wrote a host of new songs inspired by motherhood. She felt passionately about the tracks and knew she wanted to release them but equally was quite lost at where to begin — this was a radical shift in terms of the kind of music she had previously been writing. 

Once I had children, I suddenly started writing pop songs. I didn’t know what was going on. I started singing for the first time and it was a complete change of identity.”

I was on maternity leave, so couldn’t gig or get out of the house. But one thing I could do was look at organisations that might support my project. I had been to many industry events where Help Musicians had a presence, so thought I would apply for their support.

Angharad was successful in her application to Help Musicians and our support allowed her to have her debut solo LP Motherland mastered, as well as having some great visual content captured. Applying for grants is part of the job but you never expect to be successful. Help Musicians were so flexible and the communication was great.”

She also gained some business advice as part of her creative support and counts these sessions as the most useful she has ever attended. She chose to focus her sessions on social media and marketing and as a result of the advice, has been better able to attract the kind of social media audience she is looking for with her new pop project.

Album cover
I’ve been a professional musician for 15 years and been to loads of showcase events and industry talks. By this point some of it feels a bit like talking heads but Help Musicians’ business advice sessions were amazing.

Balancing a career with being a mum 

Since she became a mother, life has been a complete rollercoaster for Angharad but it has also fed her creativity more than she could possibly have imagined. In Wales especially, everyone knows her as a folk musician and a champion for traditional Welsh music, so the shift to writing and singing pop songs has been dramatic. Although Angharad was initially scared about releasing the songs, she has found it to be incredibly liberating.

I quickly realised that the only way to communicate with a newborn baby is by singing. It was the only thing that could soothe my child. Previously I only ever played instrumental music on my violin but when I became a mother, I started singing and writing my own songs as a form of self-expression. 

It was the only way I could continue to make music because I couldn’t hold my violin. Songwriting became a way not only to soothe my baby, but to soothe and entertain myself too.”

It was not Angharad’s plan to make an album but within six months she had a body of songs about motherhood that she did not feel was being spoken about. She wanted to record and release the music so that other women could hear about her experience and hopefully relate themselves. 

My mum took a backseat from her career in order to raise us and it’s always played on my mind. How is it possible to do be a mum and a musician? I always thought I might have to give up when I became a mum. That’s the narrative that was fed to me by my own mother’s story but also by society and colleagues in the music industry.
Person wearing fur coat

Alongside her music career, Angharad also works with an organisation called Live Music Now, as part of a team of musicians delivering The Lullaby Project, helping new parents write lullaby songs for their babies to help them through the initial shock of having children. 

I work mainly with mothers but fathers as well. This could be either a mother is pregnant or shortly after the baby is born. People are slowly waking up to the power of music as a way to help postnatal mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. It’s a very powerful project.”

Angharad is also really interested in the work of organisations like Pregnant Then Screwed, Mama and Mothers in Music. The groups support new mothers with advice around topics like how to build a career as a new mother or lobbying for flexible working. 

Every time there is a mention of mothers in music, I’m interested. A stereotype exists of women dropping off once they have kids and it’s just not on. There is a whole narrative that is changing.

Playing live in the future 

Angharad has started to play Motherland live, but one issue she faces is the feeling of starting again from scratch. Having built up a reputable name as a folk musician where she was earning solid fees for live work, she is now beginning all over. This is in addition to the complication of having young children which makes going on tours very challenging. 

I’m trying to think outside of the box because gigging in the traditional sense is financially tricky. But I have an amazing band of musicians who I want to pay properly to perform live. I am also really keen to do matinee performances for parents who want to see live music but can’t go out in the evenings.”

The Help Musicians application process is so simple and it could potentially change your life. I am at a big transition point in my life with this new record. It is something I’m passionate about and I’ve been able to do it but without the charity’s support, I wouldn’t even be close to getting it out.

Overall, Angharad is keen to encourage musicians to get in touch with the charity. Help Musicians are so friendly and accessible. Anything is possible. You just need to make that first step.”

band playing a gig