Emerging Excellence artist Kelly Oliver on launching her debut album
Kelly Oliver
Emerging Excellence Award 2014
28th October 2014
Emerging Excellence artist Kelly Oliver on launching her debut album

Music has always been my main passion, for as long as I can remember. I've been singing and composing since I was very young and whether in choirs, such as Hertfordshire County Youth Choir, bands or local musical theatre shows, I've been performing all my life. It wasn't until I had graduated from Royal Holloway University of London, spent some time working and travelling, and finally ended up in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, that I made a life changing decision to pursue a career as a professional musician when I returned. At the time, I don't remember imagining what could happen, I just remember thinking that it would make me happy to try, and that if I didn't, I would surely regret it forever. Eighteen months after making that decision, I am completely amazed by what has come about and have been extremely privileged to find myself with surreal opportunities that constantly keep me motivated and fulfilled in my decision.

Kelly OliverThat's not to say that I am living the dream just yet – I am living my own personal dream, but it has come at a price, literally. While creatively I am progressing, financially I struggle and I have chosen to sacrifice the daily pleasure of a steady income. Material possessions and social events that I used to consider routine and compulsory are now luxuries that are unnecessary in terms of my goal to become a professional musician. The funding I received from Help Musicians UK via the Emerging Excellence Award has been fundamental to my progression and achievements, as the money has gone towards the cost of recording my debut album, which is being released on 27th October this year.
There have been a few major steps which have helped me to get to the stage I am at now. Hitchin Folk Club was the first folk club I ever performed in, and since then, the organisers Keiron and Maureen Jones have helped me immensely and given me opportunities that propelled me forward hugely, from support slots for established folk artists to two slots for them at the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival in the Club Tent. After realising the importance of social media, I created an online presence which helped me win a slot at the Folkstock Festival in September 2013. Through this slot, I was offered the opportunity by organiser Helen Meissner to record my first EP at her home studio with her 18 year old daughter, who turned out to be the perfect producer for me as we both explored the recording process as novices. Having the EP was a big step forward, as it meant I had a product to approach festivals and folk clubs with, as well as a product to sell to an audience who supported my music, and with the help of the boutique label Folkstock Records (created as a platform to release my EP on) I was delighted that my EP Far From Home was received favourably with reviewers and radio presenters as well.

Kelly OliverThrough working personally with Helen, the next two major steps in my musical journey were, firstly, securing harmonica sponsorship with the international brand Hohner, which has enabled me to improve immensely and establish myself more convincingly as a harmonica player. The second step was the opportunity to visit Bob Harris at his Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company, to record an Under The Apple Tree session. It was a surreal day and an absolute pleasure to record the session, and I have been very lucky to have had numerous opportunities arise from it. Alongside this, the efforts of some very kind radio producers and presenters enabled me to make my first appearances on local and national radio across the country, including several live BBC Radio sessions and in playing my songs on their broadcasts, they helped my music reach an audience I couldn't have otherwise hoped for.

So began the next step for me – writing and recording my album. While my EP was based on personal experiences of mine, predominantly from when I was away travelling, I found that the album was becoming my exploration of world stories I was encountering . While not necessarily based on my own opinion, the songs I was writing aimed to discuss social and political contexts through stories, accompanied by instrumentation I felt best suited their meanings.

In order to create some anticipation about my album, videographer Rodeo Whiter, whom I met through filming at Whispering Bob's Broadcasting Company, created an EPK for me, including footage of my live performance with legendary fiddler Dave Swarbrick, who features on my album. Later, she used her skills and creativity to film my first ever music video, for the first single of my album called Diamond Girl, which features BBC Folk Award Nominee Luke Jackson on harmonies.

This LandOnce I'd finished writing my album, the funding I received from Help Musicians UK via the Emerging Excellence Award all went towards the recording and mastering of the album, called This Land. I will be forever grateful to Help Musicians UK for their vote of confidence in me and my music, as when I applied for the award, I stated that one of my goals (and a way in which the funding from the Emerging Excellence Award would help) was to have songs from the album played on national radio. Just under a month before the album has been released, the single Diamond Girl has been played on Mark Radcliffe's BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, and Bob Harris Sunday BBC Radio 2 show, plus numerous local and BBC radio stations nationally.

I will always appreciate and acknowledge the part Help Musicians UK played in this major milestone of mine, and really hope this encourages other musicians to research the charity and see how Help Musicians UK could help them.

That just leaves me to thank Help Musicians UK once again for the prominent part they played in helping me launch my debut album, This Land.

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