Hil St. Soul is a London import that brings together the streets and soul music. If Hil St. Soul were from the U.S. they most likely would have been from Philly. The group made up of vocalist, Hilary Mwelwa and music producer, Victor Sawyer have released there new album ?SOULidified? in the states. Hil St. Soul use there music not only to create a vibe in the atmosphere when people are listening but as a vessel to touch emotions and feelings that every individuals go through.
Coming from an African household, when did you start getting into R&B and Soul music?
Hil St. Soul: Pretty much from a really young age because even though I?m in my early years I was brought up in Zambia. They kind of listen to the same sort music everybody else listens to around the world. My dad?s record collection just had the biggest soul collection from Marvin (Gaye) to Stevie (Wonder), so that is the sort of music I was brought up on as well as obviously the local African music. So it?s not foreign to me at all.
Where did you get the name Hil St. Soul from?
Hil St. Soul: Well it is actually Hil Street Soul but the Hil is from my first name because my first name is Hillary and everyone just calls me Hil for short; anyway so that?s where that came from. The Street Soul thing was initially what we were going to name the first album I worked on but then it kind of sounded great as a name for the group, which is made up of myself and my producer. That is really where that came from but the Street Soul thing was really just a play on the style of music we were doing. I suppose its soulful R&B for the street. I know it sounds a bit clichÃ© but that is kind of where it all came from.
How did you hook up with your partner whom is the producer? Do you have another person that is part of the group that helps you write
Hil St. Soul: Initially it was just myself and Victor (Redwood Sawyer). I met him a few years back when I was at University. I took a year out to do my first demo and at that time I didn?t have that much experience in the music thing. So I just did an acappella of ?Until You Come Back To Me? in the hope of sending it out to labels and getting signed and making loads of money so I thought.(laughter) You do when your that age. The studio boss was really impressed at what he heard and he said it would be good if I do my own original material. He hooked me up with Victor and at that time his writing partner Tony (Olabode) because they were a production unit. That is kind of how I met Victor but we sort of maintained a friendship throughout and kind of started working together on trying out different ideas and it just kind of grew from there.
You have to have a good team behind you.
Hil St. Soul: Yea, you definitely do. I think who ever you work with you do have to have chemistry and that is the beauty of myself and Victor. The way it works is I do the singing and the majority of the songwriting and Victor takes care of the production. More recently I have allow certain writers if I really like a song that somebody else has written then I?m happy to cover it and put it on my album and like wise in terms of producers. We have a group of kids we been working with, we have this young guy Eric Lau and he has some really great ideas and we just collaborate. We are trying to bring other people in through that way as well. Otherwise it is really myself and Victor.
Was it scary taking time out from school to pursue singing as a profession, especial since you didn?t have training in singing
Hil St. Soul: No not really for me because for me it really was like a natural progression. When I was studying I always did the singing thing but I did it more like a hobby. Something I did in the evening after studying or during my holiday break. So it was something I was always doing in the hopes of trying to get my foot through the door because I didn?t have any idea to how I was going to be a singer. It was a new world to me. I think it was meant to be but I do sometimes feel like it happen accidentally in sense I fell into it. I think it is because I treated it like a hobby, something I really enjoyed doing and I still look at it in that way because the industry is so fickle. It is something that I know even if tomorrow I?m without a deal music is always going to be a part of my life because I treat it as something I enjoy doing. I will always be in the studio creating music if not for myself then for somebody else. There was no pressure in terms of me deciding to do biology or music. Music was something I loved doing and the science side of things was I really wanted to get an education behind me and I excelled in that area, so it was natural for me to do that when I went to University. I knew that I wasn?t? going to have a career in science because I could not stand doing experiments and being in the lab. I found it so tedious. I really enjoyed the theory side of it. I knew once I got my degree if I wasn?t doing music I would probably be working in the bank temping, so that is just kind of how my career panned out. I was very fortunate that the music thing happen for me at the right time.
When I was listening to your album, you have to definitely listen to the song?s lyrics; most albums current don?t seem like the lyric matter as much as the production but you make sure your lyric have a story or meaning. Where do you draw you?re your personal experiences to create songs
Hil St. Soul: Yea I do. When I?m writing songs it has to be something I have experience myself or I have seen a close member of my family or friend go through. Whatever emotions or thoughts or feelings I put it into songs. It is definitely something I can relate to or I have experienced or I?m living because I feel that is the best way to get emotions across. I think it is more authentic and people get to feel you as a person as well because at the end of the day I?m just like anyone else. I go through things like everybody else does so a lot of the stuff I do write I think anyone can relate to. I always say life is definitely what inspires me to write songs. It can be anything I can be sitting down watching TV see something and write a song or I can personally be going through stuff myself which I have been through and I just put it into songs.
By listening to your album it shows that the pen and lyrics are stronger than the beat because the lyrics can bring different emotions to people.
Hil St. Soul: Yea, I really treat every song differently and I try to bring whether it is a happy or sad song I always try and get the emotion across. I don?t necessarily consider myself a phenomenal vocalist in that I do all the vocal gymnastics and stuff. To me is really about getting the song across and you got some great singers, especially some of the new vocalist that can really blow. But sometimes it is not about singing out it is about getting the songs across and the words across and the lyrics across and that is what I am about really because I think it is more important.
I really like ?It?s Ok? it just lets you know simply that you can make it and it has a great uplifting message. What were you going through when you did this record?
Hil St. Soul: I think it just speaks for itself really it says what it does really. I actually remember writing that song, I co-wrote that song with a songwriter and producers in Philly. Actually at the time I had been going through a lot of stuff in my life and I went to Philly and Nashville to do some writing. That is when I started to feel good about myself and getting into music again. That is what that song was about. I went through a bad patch but I got through all that and it was all good so I just put it into a song.
Is this album release in the US only or also abroad?
Hil St. Soul: It is just being released out in the states. It will be released over here so we are just working out that. A lot of people who are familiar with my work over here tend to get it on import or online or whatever. I have had a lot of people getting in touch with me or the label on Myspace saying they got the album. At the moment it is just in the US.
What vibe do you feel people walk away with after they listen to your album?
Hil St. Soul: When I?m reading and some of the messages I get, I tend to get people saying they had a really bad day or week or whatever and they came across my song it made them feel really good. Those are the kind messages I get, so I am assuming that hopefully when people hear my stuff it gives you that kind of feeling of euphoria to feel good about life and yourself. As we all know there is so much stuff going on out in the world that can really be depressing and I think sometimes it?s nice to get away from that and music is one kind of medium to do that. I am happy that people see my music in that way.
** Click here to Purchase Hil St. Soul – Soulidified **
—— By: Interview by: Adeniyi Omisore