Artist Profile with ... HASHELL - Dec 14, 2009
HitQuarters Artist of the Week signs with Sunshine/Sony ATV and releases debut mini album!
When Hashell first became HitQuarters Artist of the Week in 2007 her sterling vocal prowess and raw passion caught the attention of Miss Dynamite (UK Top 10) manager Tyrone Hinds. Since that crucial point she has gone on to sign with publishers Sunshine/Sony ATV and work with such noted producers/songwriters as Bill Padley (Atomic Kitten, Holly Valance) and Rob Cass (Estelle, Jamelia, Liberty X), and is now heralding the next big phase of her career - the release of her debut mini-album ‘Worthless’, which is out on the Jan 25th but available to sample and pre-order right now.
In this illuminating Interview Profile, the determined young talent talks to HitQuarters about the eventful career she has forged through shrewd networking, hard graft, and rare ability, and how she is now looking for the perfect label to help take her great promise further.
Was there a memorable moment in your life when you decided you wanted to become a singer?
I have always wanted to be a singer. At the age of six I would find myself in front of the TV singing and dancing whenever I saw a music video. I remember my grandpa catching me singing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush and asking me if I could sing ‘All At Once’ by Whitney Houston for him - he was my first spectator. I guess that was probably the beginning of something important.
How did you start trying to follow your dream on a more professional level?
I've pursued a few routes since the hairbrush episode. I've auditioned for different projects and TV shows - even ended up being hired for an important one later on - been in function bands, went to singer jam nights etc, but it never quiet worked for me. That was not the road I was meant to go down.
So what was the eureka moment in terms of finding the right road for you?
When I was seventeen my grandpa past away. For some reason it didn’t really hit me until a couple of years later when I also lost a good friend of mine.
The only thing that seemed to work to ease the pain a little at that point was to play melodies and sing them very loud. That's when I wrote my first song, ‘Never Forget You’. If music helped me going through the pain then I thought I should try and give people some songs to help them go through the tough times, as well as songs to share their happy moments with.
So I started writing melodies and lyrics but I needed to team up with a producer that knew how to make my ideas come out properly. 2006 was when I began to work on my project and called myself ‘Hashell’.
As a native Italian why did you decide to settle in London - was the decision ultimately music-related?
When I reached my teenage years I had started to feel very much out of place in Italy, especially in my hometown Livorno. London was the first place I travelled to outside Italy when I was only 16 and loved everything about it. I always knew that after the travelling around North America I would choose this city to settle down in.
When the whole MySpace thing took off I made a few connections with some London-based producers and promoters and so that was also a deciding factor.
Do you think London is a good place to base an international music career?
London is very much a great place to base your music career at an international level as there are now more and more UK artists that are getting their music heard not only across Europe but all the way to Australia, Japan and even the United States.
Certain countries will always offer a bigger potential for a bigger music market than others and if you want to stand a chance you’re gonna have to move to one of those and in particular to a city where there’s a lot going on.
It takes a lot of courage - being away from your family is not an easy thing. I think I’m very lucky to have a family that loves me so much and supports me in everything I do.
How did you first make the connections with the London-based producers?
Before the era of social networking I used to search for personal emails and contacts on the net, and this proved quite difficult unless these guys had their own website.
Since MySpace took off, it has been a lot easier to get in touch with people in the music industry because most of the people I’m interested in working with have a profile.
Now, for instance, I would check out a particular songwriter’s credits on songs I like and research these songwriters/producers on Google and often I find they have a MySpace page. Then I just contact them through their profile.
Of course MySpace is a bit overrated now with all these other social networks that have followed and become very successful too.
Who were the songwriters and producers that you connected with through MySpace?
Bill Padley (Atomic Kitten, Shane Ward, Holly Valance) and Rob Cass (Estelle, Jamelia, Liberty X).
Were there any that found you instead?
Yes, with Tarmo Keranen. He is a very talented producer with whom I wrote ‘Worthless’. It’s one of my most important songs because it will be my debut single.
Who was the producer that you recorded your first demos with?
That was Rob Cass. That was one of my first great collaborations here in the UK that got me started.
How did the demo recording process work – for instance, did you pay for producer hire and studio time and then get a professional produced demo at the end of it?
With Rob the arrangement was to pay for my demo outright. I hired him, and his team at Cave Productions at Canalot Studios to help me get some songs down and record them. The good thing about having to pay for your recordings is that you then own all the copyrights and don’t have to account for them to anyone - they’re just yours.
As you say your upcoming single was written in collaboration with Tarmo Keranen, so have you found that collaborations alter this situation somewhat?
It does work a bit different. When co-writes started coming in I then didn’t have to pay upfront for anything as it was a collaboration. A co-write is usually split 50/50 for copyrights, if there are only two writers, and that’s how I mainly work nowadays.
Co-writes are a lot of fun. You bounce ideas back and forth and that usually produces a better result than when you do everything on your own.
If you end up not using a song for your album you can always pitch it for another artist. So in a way it works for both parties because the producer gets a free vocal session from the singer and I get a free recording on a song I performed and co-wrote. What’s more it’s great exercise for a top liner, such as in my case.
What did you do once you had your demo?
I uploaded the demo to my website and MySpace, and then started getting in touch with more producers for more collaborations. I also started looking for management as I needed advice.
You discovered your first manager through HitQuarters. How did that come about?
Funnily enough I discovered HitQuarters shortly after I had recorded the demo with Rob Cass. It seemed to be the only website where I could find some industry contacts. I sent them a couple of songs and was featured as Artist of the Week. That was how my now former manager Tyrone Hinds – who has also managed Miss Dynamite - found me.
He got in touch and helped me through the whole phase of what to do next. His advice was very important, helping me understand how the music industry really works and how I needed to put out and promote my project to create the necessary ‘buzz’ to be ‘investable’ for any label.
Were you performing live at that point?
Not really - I had done a couple of acoustic nights in town but performing live wasn’t a priority at that time. Once I had enough songs down I planned to get a band to help promote my project and that’s what happened later.
A significant step forward in your career came when you signed a publishing deal …
Yes, that actually happened through MySpace funnily enough, roughly two years after the demo recording with Rob Cass.
My publisher Michael Hammerlund came across my page and was wondering what my situation was at that point. Long email conversations followed, and then conference calls and after a month or so of negotiation I signed a publishing deal with Sunshine/Sony ATV Scandinavia.
Jumping forward to the present, we’re now at an another career benchmark because it’s the eve of your debut release, the mini album ‘Worthless’ (pre-order here). How did that come about?"
I’ve been in the studio co-writing and recording for a while now, improving my writing and enjoying the sessions at the same time. Once I felt confident I had some potential singles amongst the material I had recorded I've decided to take some of the best songs and make a mini album out of it.
Why did you decide to opt for a ‘mini’ album?
I didn't have the budget to produce and master a full album but I did have the budget for a mini album which still gives the fans a lot more than a single track to listen to. It much better defines me as a new and upcoming artist than having just one single out there. Although a digital release of just the single and its remixes will be going out at the same time.
I also needed a video to promote the single and I needed to find a very good PR that is confident in my music. That has been the next step. I've used some of my publishing deal advance for the video and the rest of it I can thank my beautiful mother for supporting!
To help prepare you for this next phase you’re now with a new manager, Jason Alloway – how did you hook up with him?
I started working with Jason at beginning of the summer when he booked a couple of gigs on my behalf. Once we got to know each other a bit better he expressed his interested in being my manager instead of my booking agent.
We got along really well and he seemed to be very organised and know a fair bit so I said, "Why not?!". I guess he also came at the right time because the mini album was being pressed up and it was time to look for a distributor, PR and obviously continue with the gigs ... I was just about to shoot my debut video for ‘Worthless’ as well which has just been released this week.
He is now starting to get in touch with sponsors, labels and looking to get me on a support tour backed up by my band.
So with you new release due you are now ready to perform live?
I’ve now got my support band together to promote my mini album with both acoustic and full band performances around the UK. I’ve been rehearsing and performing with the guys for about four months now. It feels really good because the band adds a lot of energy on stage and knowing that they truly love my music and want to be in the project as much as I do just feels great.
Has having a manager made a big difference to this stage of your career?
I couldn't have handled all this on my own to be honest – time wise it's impossible. I already have all the social networks and websites to keep up to date and to expand, and that’s on top of co-writing, recording and rehearsing with the band, so I feel relieved that I can count on someone.
I have to say some of my fans are quite precious too. They have offered to help with the social networks and have started some ‘Hashell Street Team’ pages. They've also been coming to every show and have been distributing my flyers around London. They seem very determined to get me into the UK Top 40. That, of course, would be fantastic.
I would just love it for the right label to jump on board now and take my career to the next level.
What kind of label are you looking for?
I would like to find a label that understands me as an artist, who is not only a fan of my music but also of my determination - someone that sees in ‘Hashell’ a long term project that will stick around for years. I'm ready to take on all the advice, experiment with new directions and grow with their team and be ‘complete’ as an artist.
I think we can define my music and me as an artist as mainstream so I would say a label that has the possibilities and that's eager to break a new act into this big market. I am definitely looking forward to that.
Read On ...
* Watch the video to Hashell’s new single ‘Worthless
* Pre-order Hashell’s new mini-album ‘Worthless’
* Interview Profile with Leeann Akers, HitQuarters artist that has teamed up with RedOne, Lady Gaga, Tricky Stewart and Jim Jonsin
Interview by Barry Wheels
Next week: Interview with Hannah Robinson, songwriter for Ladyhawke, Annie, Saint Etienne and collaborator with Richard X
Read On ...