‘Young Runaway’ – Hattie Briggs

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Young Runaway is Hattie Briggs’ second album due out on July 8th. The album was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales by Peter Waterman (Uriah Heap), the producer behind Hattie’s debut album, Red & Gold, which was met with critical acclaim both in the UK and abroad.

Hattie Briggs was in her second year studying Russian at Oxford University, when she announced to her family that she was going to quit and pursue music full time. Around this time Waterman got in touch asking if she was looking for a producer – she was. The results of this serendipitous collaboration can be heard on Hattie’s debut record, and now ‘Young Runaway’.

Young Runaway is a musical journey of leaving the past behind and moving forward with hopefulness and purpose. With the words from the third track ‘Here’s to Hoping’, the mood is set and Hattie’s intent is clear.

“Here’s to hoping I find what I’m looking for, make memories/ Make someone happy as someone makes me/ Keep up the struggle until I have won/ Until that day comes, here’s to hoping”

The record intertwines the threads of English Folk, Pop, Country and Americana, pulling them into a musically eclectic and an emotionally honest piece of art; one that is a pleasure to listen to and one that gives you comfort in that uncomfortable place of inevitable transition and change.  In particular, the opening track, ‘The Lake’ is the very definition of beauty, with the powerful string arrangement by Asha McCarthy, the ukulele repetition that runs throughout, holding, what seems a very fragile story together, and Hattie’s pure and clear voice that is reminiscent of Eva Cassidy in places but also very much unique to her.

“Heading for the shoreline/ Swallowed by a light that blinds/ The woman on the water now/ You glide, you fly, a shadow of a long forgotten tide/ A shadow of a long forgotten tide/ And the sun/ Falls where you lie/ The woman on the water now/ You rise, you dive, a shadow of a long forgotten sky/ A shadow of a long forgotten sky.”

Hattie wrote ‘The Lake’ on her Ukulele whilst she was on holiday at Lake Garda, Italy. The song is very different from other tracks on the album, not just the other worldly sound but also the lyrical structure, which is explained by Hattie’s decision to write it as more of a poem rather than a song; without a verse or chorus, on the top of the incredibly moving chords. Producer Pete Waterman says of the track,

“’The Lake’ was maybe the best thing that’s happened to me in the last two years of freelance recording. I must have cried for about 24 hours in total for this track. I’m not supposed to have favourites, but Asha McCarthy, a beautiful and majorly talented musician, arranged both string and backing vocal parts for the song, and there are no words to explain what she’s contributed to this track.”

(courtesy of Pennyblack Music)

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Music should stretch your heart and mind; it should be vague and fluid enough for you to challenge your preconceived notions about life; it should be a safe place for you to look at your life and the life around you, and learn more about both. Young Runaway does this in the only way good music can; with subtlety and without you knowing it until hours, days or weeks after you’ve listened to it.

I found myself getting lost in the melancholy, piano and cello (Barney Morse-Brown) backed track, ‘Castle On the Sand’, which had me picking through the ruins of my past but also seeing how the past, no matter how much you try to prevent it, always bleeds into the present, and at times, returns like the tide. The song tells the story of that hope we have all carried round with us at some point; a hope that we can return once again to a long, lost lover.  But as the title suggests, it is a fragile hope; very much like a castle built on the sand, but because of this, it can always be rebuilt and remade.

“Been a long, long time since you crossed my mind/ I was holding out, hoping he might come around/ And bring me back to love/ And I know I’ll find though it seems unkind/ I have no doubt that if I call you’ll come around and bring me back to love.”

‘Have We Met Before?’, a duet with singer-songwriter Jack Cookson (he was also nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award), is a beautifully intimate and sparse song which showcases Hattie’s ability to harmonize in such a way that her and Cookson’s vocals seem to be dancing with one another, bleeding into each other and creating a warmth that could so easily not exist in a song of this kind. Think the active listening and intuition that made The Civil Wars so captivating. Each word is needed, there is nothing unnecessary about any of the lyrics that Hattie and Cookson sing to one another; lyrically it’s one of the smartest songs on the record.

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Credit Ian Wallman (IWPhotographic)

‘Talk to Me’ is musically a very different song to the rest of the album; it has a more electronic edge with synths, vocal layering and beats. It is a powerful and uplifting track but not pretentious or filled with that fake empowerment message that seems to be making the rounds. ‘Talk to Me’ is from an honest and vulnerable place; it is a satellite call into the darkness to other lost and unknown souls; a lighthouse beam in those blackest and longest nights when all you want is a hand to hold or a reassuring voice to tell you that there’s no shame in being lost and going to the road less travelled.

“You know yourself, though breakable/ You’ll face your fears until you die/ You told me once, to give it all/ You’ll never know unless you try/ Oh, I’ll find I’m sure, days when my feet can’t touch the floor/ Well you’ll know how I feel cos you’ve been that weak before / If you ever feel lost again, call out to me/ Don’t you ever forget, the force you’ve been/ If it’s ever too much to bear/ Start your healing here/ Talk to me, talk to me.”

The album is bookended, in the words of Waterman, by two “pieces of art”; ‘The Lake’ which opens the album and ‘The River’, which brings Young Runaway to a close. The latter was written by Hattie and Waterman with Asha McCarthy having a writing credit for her beautifully delicate string arrangement. ‘The River’ is about coming into your own, finally comfortable to be yourself, and the freedom that comes with letting go and becoming who you are meant to and want to be.

“It’s easier hoping/ It’s easier floating, down at my own speed/ It’s easier taking/ It’s easier waking up for me/ Summoned by the soul of the sea.”

Of the experience of making Young Runaway, Waterman says both Hattie and himself felt like “the album was creating itself and we were just passengers.” Music should transcend borders, people, ideas, and experiences; it does not belong to one person.

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