Rising star of music Hannah Grace tells David Hennessy about her Irish family background and being part of a group of musicians that includes Hudson Taylor, Gabrielle Aplin and Orla Gartland and how they all support each other.
2019 has been a big year for singer Hannah Grace, including releasing her EP The Bed You Made and supporting Barbara Streisand and Jess Glynne. 2020 is set to be bigger with the release of her debut album.
Hannah told The Irish World: “I’m really excited. It’s amazing to release so much music and play some headline shows. I finished recording my record this year so I’m releasing that next year so that’s really exciting to look forward to.
“I just want it to be out, I want other people to be able to hear it. It will be very exciting when it’s all out for sure.”
Although she grew up near Cardiff, Hannah comes from an Irish family and credits this with a lot of her musical inclination: “My dad’s Irish and all my dad’s family still live there so I spent a lot of time in Ireland growing up. I actually lived there for four months when I was 17. I was in Valentia in Kerry. Worked there the whole summer, had a lot of fun. It was beautiful.
“My dad is from Newbridge. I have lots of Irish connections all over Ireland really. I’ve got a massive Irish family, literally babies everywhere. It actually feels like a second home. I probably have more family to come and watch me in Ireland than I do in Wales which is kinda funny.”
Hannah’s style has been compared to that of world-conquering Adele and they share many influences like Aretha Franklin. However, Hannah also has strong Irish influences: “Mary Black and all that Irish traditional music was always playing in the house when I was growing up. More recently, we h ad The Gloaming and Glen Hansard. The film Once was a film we always watched at home and then also the Coronas, Orla Gartland, who is a dear friend of mine, we lived together for two years in London. The Hudson Taylor guys, played loads of shows with them.
“I’m influenced by all the old stuff but also all the stuff that’s coming out now. What I do is very much influenced by the Irish music scene.”
Childhood holidays included getting the ferry over to Ireland from Wales and that was where Hannah was introduced to the Irish party: “Any social gathering, everyone has a song and it wouldn’t just be the people who like to sing, it would just be everyone. Everyone has a party piece. You go around the room and my dad was very much from that kind of family so growing up, he would always have a guitar. Any chance we got, we would have a singsong. That was what I got brought up on. My dad definitely influenced my music and my outlook on it.
“I love Ireland. I literally can’t wait to go back with some new music. That will be great.”
Hannah recently recorded a Christmas number called December with her friend and long time collaborator Gabrielle Aplin.
Hannah and Gabrielle will be joined by Danny O’Reilly and Orla Gartland among other acts for their Christmas show at Union Chapel on Thursday 19 December.
Hannah goes back a long way with Gabrielle as well as Hudson Taylor and Orla Gartland who she all met before any of them were well known: “I met Gabs through Hudson Taylor and Orla Gartland and everybody. Believe it or not, I met Gabrielle for the first time when everyone was busking in Temple Bar. That’s how I met Gabrielle and that’s probably ten years ago now. Then whenever she was on tour, she would say, ‘Come support me, come and be my backing vocalist and let’s write some songs together’.
“That was always happening over the years and we just got really close. Every year we have this show at Union Chapel, it’s obviously very Christmassy and we just one year said, ‘Why don’t we write a Christmas song for it?’ And it turned into an EP last year. We’ve added more songs to it this year. It just happened naturally over the years. It felt right to collaborate on something. Why not make it Christmassy? Everyone loves Christmas.
“We’re all friends, we all collaborate and write together. It’s this community, a wholesome, happy uplifting experience and I feel like that really goes well with Christmas. When we were sitting down to write a Christmas song, we were also writing a song that was positive and reflecting on these gigs we have every year so it was getting into the Christmassy mindset but also into the mindset of how we all feel as a group, how we work together and how it’s always a positive experience we have at the end of the year.
“We were growing up together through that industry. Not long after that, we were all trying to figure it out as young 18, 19 year olds. It’s been amazing to be part of that community helping each other rather than in competition.”
Hannah Grace plays Union Chapel on 19 December. Her album will be out next year.