Interview with Philippa Hanna

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Philippa Hanna - Even Now

It's a sunny autumn evening and the golden light is streaming through the windows as I sit to interview the UK's foremost female Christian singer/songwriter Philippa Hanna.

Currently Philippa is on tour with her husband / percussionist Joel as well as her Dad, Pat Hanna. She's a busy lady and is currently writing two books, preparing her new album and getting ready to tour with Saviour's Day writer, Chris Eaton. It's this packed schedule that kick-starts our conversation. 

 

You've had a pretty big couple of years...

I've been busy.

 

You've been very busy, you never seem to stop do you?

 I don't, I don't seem to stop but it's good because we're doing what we love so it doesn't feel like, relentless.

 


You've kind of toured for a while, what was the first big tour, was it Wet,Wet,Wet?

Lionel (Ritchie) was the first one and then the following year we did the Wet, Wet, Wet tour, that was with the boy band Blue, and then we kicked off the year after with Rebecca Ferguson and this year we did the Collabro tour which was probably the largest, longest tour we've done.

 

What's it like for a young lady from Sheffield walking out on stage at the O2 Arena with thousands of people there, what's that feeling like?

It was really scary at the time, but it got easier, I think it's a bit like going on the biggest rollercoaster first in the theme park, after that everything just feels like a walk in the park. It's got to the point where I really enjoy it, it's a real blessing to have a full room and a big audience and you think 'Wow! what an opportunity, all these people are ready to hear me and hear what I've got to say.' So it's actually just brilliant really.

 

And these tours are they something that you had a kind of an idea that you wanted to tour with somebody that was a secular artist, removed from the Christian scene. Was this something that you specifically set out to do or was it something where the opportunities just came up?

I never really set out to do it, it was an opportunity that arose, but when it come up I did think 'Wow!' Maybe I never dared dream about this, but it is something that I had dreamed of, if you like. I didn't dare ask God to open that door because I didn't know if it would be right to do that, but when He did, it felt right. So we walked through the door.

 

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I was watching a brief interview with you on TBN and you said that there were people who have come to Christ through that and come to your concerts. How has the reaction been and how have you seen that reaction?

It's kind of like not a massively well-trodden path what we've been doing which is stepping in and out of the mainstream. It's incredible because you collect people as you go. You do it in a friendship way, you sort do it ca

sual...just trying to just be a person in a place where they can see you, so that they sort of get to see your life. Then when they have the opportunity they can come and see you in a church and then they can see the whole story. It's been amazing, people have been so open minded and some of Collabro's family were at the gig on Hayling Island the other night, so it was fab. I think they were really touched because people are not used to seeing something with such emotional content a lot of the time, and spiritual content, and they don't realise that that's what we have as Christians because they think about the religion side of it, but they don't necessarily know how blessed it is. So it's been amazing really.

 

How did you find working with people like Collabro, for example, who are fairly new to the scene? You've obviously been touring for quite a while now, but also they have got all those temptations and opportunities there for them. How did you get on with them as people , how was that dynamic?

I did kind of feel like, on the Lionel tour, I felt like a tiny baby pumpkin just appearing, you know, just suddenly being on this world stage, but on the Collabro tour, by that point, you do feel a bit like an old hand and they are so new to it all. So in many ways it became a bit of a sisterly dynamic because they obviously have not toured to that extent so they are worried about their voices, they are worried about illness. And you just think 'it'll be alright' and 'have a bit of honey and lemon' and yeah I think it's interesting for both sides really.

 

Did you find yourself ending up taking a more of a mentor role, you said like a big sister, but I know you have done mentoring for a project in Hong Kong. Was it a similar experience that you ended up mentoring them and so on?

Yeah it just kind of happens naturally, you realise that it's never easy. Touring is never easy but you do become confident in the mechanics of it. It's not like there's no anxiety or no nerves but you just get used to it. You get used to the nerves and you get used to having to have that stamina. So without realising it really you're demonstrating experience to the people around you. I actually think that in many ways they had a lot of questions actually about being an artist independently. "How do I make money?", "How do I survive?", you know, because for them it is all brand new.

 

So you said "When I find out I will let you know?"

Exactly! Actually what I said to them was that we rely massively on God to sustain us and we basically live by faith. That was my answer to them because Joel and I treat our ministry as a business and any spare cash there is goes back into it to try and do more stuff and reach more people. So that's how we do what we do, so they were very interested to see someone like me without a record label, because obviously they are signed to SyCo which is one of the biggest labels in the country and they've got the Simon Cowell powerhouse behind them, but when it comes down to it they are all individuals and they are just artists that need to keep their own eye on their own goals really.

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So you've gone from doing some very large venues to tonight where it looks like there will be 60 to 70 people probably. And performing with your Dad and your husband. How does that dynamic change your performance and who you are on the stage?

I guess you'll see because I think every single concert is different and every atmosphere is different and sometimes you feel an immense warmth from people and sometimes you feel like there's a bit of a brick wall and you just adapt your content based on that. I mean this is kind of like coming to a friend’s house this particular venue because I know so many people here. For me it's such a privilege to tour with my Dad because he's come through cancer this year, he's been through chemotherapy, he's now very well and he is my hero. So this is like for us as a family it feels quite victorious, like a bit of a victory march and its building memories really, together. I mean what could be better than that.

 

P1200414 sepYou've said that this is something that you have wanted to do for quite a long time, and obviously it has taken your Dad a long time to get to a place where he's ready. How does he feel about performing with you because obviously he's not done those kind of big tours and things, but he's been a performer all his life but now being on stage with his daughter being slightly eclipsed, not that you would do that on purpose, but by what has happened with your career? How does he feel do you think?

I don't really know, you'll have to ask him but I think there's something nice about the fact that he's been the one who's been able to make me into that performer. I wouldn't be who I am without him and for him I think any success I have is his success as well. But also because I am now in a position that I can introduce people to him. He's a new creation. He's got new music, but he's got a lot of experience as well and there's still stuff that I learn from Dad and thankfully I am able to just open a few doors for him to go and meet with some new people and perform to some new audiences.

 

You were talking just a minute ago about the fact that you are an unsigned artist. With the exposure that those big tours have given you, is there any interest, is there anybody looking at you? And are you interested in becoming a signed artist and maybe taking that step? You've been signed before with Authentic Media.

Authentic Media signed my first album and I still have a distribution deal with them but my doors are not closed to that, but I am very wary of it. They are just huge businesses, these big labels are like Coca-Cola or McDonalds or Apple, they are enormous and someone like me with my ministry can just become literally just a little number on a page to them and it's a cottage industry and it's like a small business that we are so personally attached to, that anyone we invite into that has to totally get it. We have spoken to some labels and we are speaking to some labels in the US because there are more Christian labels in the US and there is some interest there. It's almost like a dating process because they want to know what you're up to and you want to know what they are going to do for you and it's a big more.What essentially happens is they basically buy your business that's what it is, they swallow you up in exchange for some promotion money. It looks glamorous, it sounds glamorous but actually it's not always the best business move so we are just moving through it prayerfully and if the right door opens then so be it.

 

You talk about the States and you've been over there quite a lot in the last few months, you've been over in Nashville, what were you doing? Can you tell me?

Oooh that would be telling! Well we are actually going back out there in about a week for about 3 weeks to actually record my album. So what I was doing out there was meetings, like the ones I've just been talking about in board rooms with "important" people in inverted comma's - because everyone's important really. Yeah, I will be doing some recording and some more writing and hopefully that will lead to me releasing a new album really soon.

 

Good, because we are looking forward to that!

I am looking forward to it to, I really am.

 

 

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My stepdaughter asked me to ask you how do you the writing process, how does it happen? Do the songs come to you or do they kind of germinate for a long time?

"Germinate" I like that word! They come in different ways, sometimes it's in a melody, sometimes it's a lyric idea but mainly the best thing is to wait for a good picture, I find, a good image in my mind. I think what makes a good song really is good imagery and a good idea. You can write songs until the cows come home with a nice tune and a few nice words in, but I think you need a good premise for a song. So I just take ideas down in my phone from whatever I'm experiencing that day. Like for instance with the Raggedy-Doll song it was a melody to begin with but then I started to picture the story. Then I found it really easy to write the story once I had that picture. So yeah I tend to work with ideas and visuals.

 

So what about books? Are you working on another book?

I am, I'm working on two actually. I'm working on a bit of a follow up to "Following the Breadcrumbs" and it includes my journey into the US territory and just kind of because people tend to look at you and think 'Oh you know they've got it sorted now, they're established and they don't have any issues', but it's a massive battle every day. Even just the conversations you have, the business decisions, personal matters so it's just carrying on from there. It talks a little bit about my Dad's journey with chemotherapy and stuff. But the other book I'm writing is fiction and it's more of a long-term project and it's kind of a bit of an apocalyptic Hunger Games type fiction, but with a very Christian message.

 

Sounds fun!

It's more of a hobby that, but you know, I'm looking forward to the day when that sees the light of day. I'm doing it because I really am enjoying it, and that's it.

 

Do you, since you've done "Following the Breadcrumbs", do you tend to diarise yourself more so you can remember exactly what's happened?

Yeah, I mean, I don't physically always diarise, but I always mentally do it. I do find myself narrating my life in my head sometimes like it's a film. I try and remember the important things and actually things like Facebook are quite good for that because you can look back at pictures and it triggers your memories. I think it's really good for us to share our stories because amazing things happen don't they? Day to day little miracles, little challenges, little attacks and little triumphs. So yeah I'm keeping all this still.

 

Sounds good! Thanks for your time today!

 

For more information about Philippa Hanna visit her website at www.philippahanna.com.

Look out for Pat Hanna's album "Better Late Than Never" coming on 1st November 2015 and our interview with Pat coming soon!

 

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