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PROFILE ON ...

DECEMBER 2005 -Tony Hillyard

Tony Hillyard

Introducing

A balladeer, with a thirty-year association with folk clubs in London and New Zealand, I perform traditional and contemporary songs from America and the British Isles. My voice has been described as: “Smooth as Boddington’s real ale with a touch of single malt whisky thrown in for good measure!” and “A voice like hot creamy chocolate!” Since I love all of them I take it as a compliment, but hopefully my concerts are non-fattening!

His new cd, Each Step On The Way features a diverse and gifted group of friends and well known musicians from NZ and overseas, including: Bob McNeill; Davy Stuart; Karen Tweed; Tapani Varis; Chris While and Julie Matthews and they bring a fresh, new dimension to Tony’s treatment of contemporary and traditional songs.

Description of music

Live music has been a constant joy in my life and my performances are usually liberally dosed with strong, emotional melodies and lyrics. I research and choose my material carefully, looking for that 'special' quality in the lyrics and melody that will get me hooked; I enjoy interpreting powerful ballads from the British and American traditions as well as singing compositions from great songwriters like Dougie Maclean, Richard Shindell and Richard Thompson.

Who/What have been your main musical influences ?

The Waterson-Carthy families for British trad. Richard Thompson for songs with that classic 'English' flavour and feel. In my early years, American folk songsmiths like Dylan, Joni Mitchell and more recently, a brilliant American songwriter - Richard Shindell.

I was brought up with music. My Dad was a ‘crooner’ and was the lead singer for a 1940’s big band that played in the Concert Parties for the British Army in India during the war. (That’s right, just like ‘It ain’t half hot mum’ on the telly!). Gran was a piano teacher and played piano for the silent movies! At family gatherings it wasn’t long before the radio got turned off, song sheets handed out and the singing round the piano usually lasted ‘til breakfast.

Not surprisingly then, when I got introduced to the folk clubs in and around London in the late sixties it wasn’t long before I plucked up the courage to do the occasional floor spot.
Songs recorded by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and The Clancy Brothers seemed to dominate my repertoire in those days!

I went to a Frankie Armstrong voice workshop and learnt how some of the traditional English folk songs and ballads could be brought to life, (Frankie is still the best at ‘story telling’ with a traditional ballad) and then I was lucky enough to team up with David Benton, one of London’s best acoustic folk guitarists and all-round musician. Dave’s eclectic taste exposed me to a much broader range of material and I started singing compositions by contemporary writers (including Dave) with a leaning towards more lyrical material – tragic love songs a specialty! We played regularly at Catford and Battersea Folk Clubs and over the years built up a very mixed collection of material.

Arriving in NZ, I got involved in the Wellington Folk Club which quickly helped me get established in the folk music scene here. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed performing in many of New Zealand’s folk clubs (Wellington, Upper Hutt, Kapiti, Pukerua Bay, Levin, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Nelson, Christchurch, Devonport and the Auckland Irish Society) as well several of the New Zealand Folk Festivals.

I’m usually performing solo but I worked as a duo for a time with John Sutherland, performing as ‘Both Sides of the Wall’. We recorded my first cd: ‘Hidden from the Eye of Chance’ when we were touring. I also had the pleasure of supporting Margaret Farrelly on three of her radio gigs; her ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ and ‘Bright Blue Rose’ recordings; various concerts and the National Folk Festival in Wellington.

Recently I’ve performed with good friend and award-winning Wellington musician, Bob McNeill and Davy Stuart from Christchurch playing the Invitation Concerts at Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington Folk Festivals as well as several club concerts.

The new studio cd, ‘Each Step On The Way’, produced and recorded by Davy Stuart in Christchurch, was released in October 2005, it features a group of friends and musicians drawn from NZ and overseas, including: Bob McNeill; Davy Stuart; Karen Tweed; Tapani Varis; Chris While and Julie Matthews. The album takes a fresh perspective on a few traditional favourites and has some exciting new arrangements of the best singer/songwriter material from New Zealand, Britain and the USA.

Your greatest musical moment?

Making the new album, Each Step On The Way with a hugely talented bunch of friends, many from overseas. Then getting the chance to perform a few of the songs with some of them at Wellington, Auckland and Canterbury Festivals. The Canterbury gig was a blast, singing in an 8 piece band that included Karen Tweed, Graham Wardrop, Davy Stuart, Marcus Turner, Kenny Rich, Denny Stanaway and Jan Rapley. A once in a lifetime gig!

Your musical dream?
To take that band on tour!!!
Your best recent listen?

Hard to say, but Abigail Washburn's new album is definitely one to hear. A live gig by Richard Shindell that was on an internet broadcast. Kristina Olsen live at the Canterbury Festival and her live dvd.

Your thoughts about the Kapiti Live Music Club?

A great, friendly place to enjoy a wide variety of live music. I enjoyed playing a concert there with Bob McNeill last year.

Contact Details.
04 479 6136; 021 253 8996
email: mikhal@nzmusic.org.nz
website: www.TonyHillyard.com