Genre: Folk, Pop
Location: Glasgow. UK
Discography: Night Visiting (Noe Records, 2007), In The Shadow of Mountains (Noe Records, 2009), Songs Lost & Stolen (Navigator Records, 2011), The Dark Peak and The White (Noe Records, 2012), Battleplan (Noe Records, 2013), With the Dawn (Noe Records, 2015)
Record Company: Noe Records (Independent)
Bella released her debut solo album Night Visiting in 2007, to critical acclaim. Mojo gave her a 4* 'Brilliant' rating, fRoots wrote "Bella Hardy is more than a new generation folk revivalist... Her potential is massive", and Taplas Magazine noted "...her debut CD solo album is a piece of wondrous beauty and inventive incisiveness". The following year she was nominated for the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. She was also nominated for Best Original Song the same year with Three Black Feathers, which Jim Moray went on to record on his 2008 album Low Culture.Bella Hardy is from Edale in Derbyshires Dark Peak where there is an abundance of communal song. Born into a family of singers, Bella began singing locally at an early age. Having played the fiddle a small amount at school, she attended a Folkworks Youth Summer School in Durham aged 13. Motivated by the number of young people playing folk music, she began working on folk fiddle. She also met the 11 musicians who formed The Pack. This 12 piece band toured across the summer folk scene, and they played on the Cambridge Folk Festival main stage in 2003. In 2002, The Pack's only album 12 Little Devils was released, with fRoots calling it "... a genuine feel good album. Get yours now!". The Pack performed for ten years before disbanding in 2007. In 2004 she was a finalist in BBC Radio 2's Young Folk as a solo artist.
In July 2008 she performed in two concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall as part of the first Folk Prom. She opened the event with a set of unaccompanied traditional songs and played an evening concert with long-time touring companion Chris Sherburn (concertina) and Corrina Hewat (harp). The programme was broadcast simultaneously by BBC Four and Radio 3. Other TV appearances include The Truth about Carols (2008), a Christmas Day BBC Two show on which she sang 'The Coventry Carol', and BBC One's Songs of Praise in February 2010 singing her own version of 'The Lord's my Shepherd'.
Bella released her second solo album In The Shadow of Mountains in 2009 at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Again it gained critical acclaim. English Dance and Song Magazine wrote "It's astounding and somewhat daunting to realise this is only Bella's second album... Surely no-one has any right to be writing songs with the sophistication of 'Sylvie Sovay', so early in their career...lyrical portraiture that brings to mind no less than Lennon and McCartney" and R2 Magazine noted "Bella's debut album Night Visiting was excellent, but In The Shadow of Mountains is stunning".
Bella's seventh solo album With The Dawn – her first since being named BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer Of The Year in 2014– isn’t just the latest collection of songs from this prolific and ingenious artist. The album is an account of one year of her life. Where previously Bella has adapted and explored traditional ballads and fables to tell her contemporary folk tales, the stories that inspired these songs are her own experiences: good and bad, happy or sad.
With The Dawn is a more intimate and reflective album than before. Working with producer Ben Seal, the arrangements are more instinctive, more reactive, as befits the mind-set that informed the lyrics. Vivid brass gives way to lonesome piano; choral voices peal; banjos emerge out of beats and blips. Elements of the initial demos, sometimes recorded into a phone as the thoughts occurred, have been kept. Whatever instrument was nearest to hand was grabbed and deployed whenever and wherever (even on one occasion in the bath) giving With The Dawn its striking immediacy.
These are songs written on the road, full of that sense of displacement, longing and contemplation that all itinerant musicians know. This was a time for a turning-30 Bella where nothing was stable. Documenting that flux as an album was a way to make sense of it all. On With The Dawn, Bella Hardy’s soaring kite-like voice is married to lyrics that poetically question everything she’s seen and done up till now; letting go of expectations, both other people’s and her own. But with closing lullaby And We Beginthere’s a light at the end... or rather the beginning.
Only one song didn’t spring directly from Bella’s year of touring and tumult. Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves A Soldier was commissioned by Songs For The Voiceless, a project which gathered the country’s best folk artists to sing some of the lesser known stories of World War I. The resulting album was one of many bold paths Bella Hardy’s career has taken in recent years. From collaborating with Martin Simpson, John Smith and others on the hugely acclaimed Elizabethan Sessions, to a joint tour with Edinburgh miserablist Blue Rose Code, and an international songwriter exchange with Canada’s Cara Luft who also guests on this album.
Bella grew up in Edale in the Peak District but now lives in Edinburgh. Although the Hardy family sang in the local choir, it was a combination of her childhood love for ballad books and visits to local folk festivals that decided her future. At 13 she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals and in 2004 reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award, having taught herself to fiddle sing. Following a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Music, Bella released her debut album Night Visiting in 2007. One of its songs, Three Black Feathers was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. It was her first original composition.
“She has created nothing short of a masterpiece” - The Sunday Times
“Ultimately, what Hardy has done here is make a folk album for people who don't normally like folk music. In doing so, it's both a credit to her and the genre.” - Q Magazine, 4*
“...the 6Music market surely beckons for Bella. As well as reaffirming her status as a shining star in the folk scene’s firmament, With The Dawn feels like a game-changer” - fRoots, 5*