Becky Hill is finally ready to step into her own spotlight. After a handful of hugely successful collaborations – with the likes of Wilkinson, Rudimental, Matoma and MK – she now finds herself a bona fide solo artist, front and centre of her own music. But it’s been a “long old slog” to get here.
Since she was a child, Becky’s innate talent for music has gotten her noticed – from wowing the judges at a youth club talent show when she was 11, to singing to punters at the end of pub shifts (“I was a shit barmaid, but my boss used to get me to sing,”). It wasn’t until she was 18, though, that she was noticed outside of her small Worcestershire town of Bewdley – when she took part in BBC talent show The Voice.
Now, she feels like a completely different person to the teenager who won over Jessie J – and the nation – in 2012. “I treated The Voice like six months of university,” she says. The show, which saw her sing in front of millions of people each week, was a crash course in performing, confirming that music was her future – but Becky knew the real work would come when she left the show. As soon as that happened, she gathered up the contacts she’d made and set about organising meetings, travelling between Bewdley and London (a sign of the dogged determination she still has to this day) to secure a manager. “We worked for about two years on my sound,” she says. “He let me have artistic vision with it. At the beginning, I didn’t know what I wanted to be.”
The drum and bass and dance music collaborations helped her with that, allowing her to hone her songwriting skills (she co-wrote every song she featured on) while she figured out the kind of solo artist she wanted to become. One of those songs, her Oliver Heldens collaboration Gecko (Overdrive), reached No.1 in the UK. Another, Wilkinson’s Afterglow was a top 10 hit as well as topping the UK dance chart and attaining Gold certification. “I wanted to make a classic drum and bass record that would still be played years after it came out, and I feel like with Afterglow, I achieved that,” she says. “I’ve been at raves when it’s been played, and I go mental. I usually run up to the DJ booth a little worse for wear and ask if I can sing it.” But Becky always knew “there was a ceiling writing top lines and dance music. Plus, I’ve really always written music for me instead of other people.” Now, at 24, with a new record deal and a debut solo album on the horizon, that’s exactly what she’s doing. “It’s taken about six years,” she says, “but I'm ready as an artist now and want to get my experiences out there.'
The album, which she worked on with the likes of MNEK, MJ Cole and Two Inch Punch, reflects Becky’s emotional journey throughout the past few years – both lyrically and sonically. “I’ve always been very literal in the way I’ve written,” she explains, “so how I see it will be how I sing it.” Inspired both by mid-2000s dance music and the likes of Robyn, Ellie Goulding, and Bon Iver, Becky makes heart-on-sleeve music with a beat you can dance to. “Over the course of this album, I wanted to tell a story of going from heartbreak in Bewdley, in the middle of fucking nowhere, to being in London where I was so lost at first, but found friends and love and became really happy. I wanted it to feel like a time capsule that I could listen back to in 40 years’ time and be like, ‘I know exactly how I felt.’”
Some of the album’s songs ripple with fear and hopelessness, others feel buoyant and optimistic. “I was single for six years,” she says. “I wasn’t really sleeping with anybody, I wasn’t dating anybody... I wanted to, but I couldn’t for some reason. And a lot of my songs were coming out hopeless. So when I met my boyfriend, it was the first time in my life I’d met somebody who I felt safe with. It was the most inspiring thing. All of a sudden, the songs started switching up.”
One such song is her album’s lead single, Sunrise, with its elastic beats and warm, summery electro synths. “We talk until the sunrise in the east, I’m hanging onto every single word that you say,” Becky sings, in her characteristically dusky voice. The song was written, alongside Maverick Sabre and Lost Boy, in the first six months of her relationship. “One night, me and my boyfriend were completely off our head in my flat, and we talked to each other all night until morning. I was getting to know somebody on a completely new level, I was completely taken aback.” I Could Get Used To This, a modern classic pop banger, was written even earlier in the relationship. “It was written before my fourth date, which makes me sound like a psychopath,” she laughs. “I remember sitting there with him, and he had his arm around me – and I hadn’t had anybody’s arm around me for a long ass time – and I thought, ‘Yo, I could actually get used to this.’”
It comes naturally to Becky to share her emotional intimacies in song. What comes less naturally, though, is being the face of her own music. “A few years ago, I said to my manager, ‘I want my voice to be known globally, but I want my face to be known locally.’ I was really worried that I wasn’t made of strong enough stuff to subject myself to that level of scrutiny and vulnerability. Now, I feel like I can handle everything that’s going to be thrown at me. I’m still terrified, but I’ve come too far to let this all go.”
Ultimately, it’s her willingness to admit to feeling vulnerable that makes Becky’s music so relatable. “I want people to see me as normal,” she says, “because the background I’ve come from has been very normal. I want people to relate to me, instead of me being unattainable. I want people to see me out at raves, and be like, ‘Oh, hello!’ instead of there being this disconnect.” Most of all, Becky wants people to listen to her music and feel understood. “When I used to listen to music in my bedroom, my favourite thing was when it described how I was feeling. I used to never feel alone because I had a song that knew how I felt. I want people to connect with my music like that.”
MONDAY 18 MARCH
The Grove, Bristol BS1 4RB
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