Getting To Know… Jo Hill: “You could still put me anywhere, and I’ll be happy”

Introduce yourself to JO HILL ahead of her set at Dork’s Day Out this weekend.

The countdown has begun. In just a few days – this Saturday, 5th August – we’re delighted to welcome you to the second annual instalment of our mid-summer blowout, Dork’s Day Out. A full day of brilliant music, lovely beer and peerless vibes, it takes place at London’s Signature Brew Blackhorse Road.

Joining headliner Thomas Headon, indie-popsters Courting, and hot new talent like Swim School, Honeyglaze, Pixey, and Talk Show will be rising singer-songwriter Jo Hill. Having just released her second EP, ‘Cinematic Baby’, and with recent sets at Secret Garden Party, Latitude and more – what better time to get to know her a bit better?

Hi Jo! How’s it going, what are you up to today?
Hello! I’m currently sitting in my garden having a coffee. Just done some meditation and listening to the birds. Today I’m hanging with my stylist, she worked in sustainable fashion, so we’re going to look at some vintage and thrift stores to get some festival outfits ready! Then I’m off to see Barbie for my friend’s birthday, and we’re all dressing up!

What first sparked your interest in music? Did you have a musical upbringing?
My grandma – she was an opera singer, but she had a baby at 18, so she sadly couldn’t do this as a career, but between the ages of 3-4, she would have me singing Joseph and the Technicolored Dreamcoat, going to old people’s homes and performing. I was always performing for my parents; my Dad studied music at Uni but never became a musician full-time. So I was brought up in a house of singing and music. My grandparents really kindly paid for singing lessons when I was growing up, and singing Boney M around the kitchen table were some of my earliest memories.

Dork’s Day Out takes place this weekend (5th August) at Signature Brew Blackhorse Road, London

You joined Good Chance, an organisation creating art and theatre for and with refugees, when you were a teenager – how did that come about? What drew you to the project?
Yes, I joined Good Chance when I was 18 when I was in Calais for a couple of months over Christmas. At that time, I had left Cheddar and was living in Bristol, auditioning for music and drama schools. I was getting rejected from everywhere and was working out what I wanted to do and what my next steps were. Growing up in Cheddar, I hadn’t really seen a lot of the world, and this trip was a real turning point for me. I helped run this theatre and music centre in Calais with my friend, and it really taught me the power music has to help other people. We put on open mic nights, and it was incredible seeing the different camps come together and sing each other’s national anthems. It was such a powerful and amazing space, and I still work with other refugee charities, predominately in music. This is what made me want to study Arabic for 4 years and move to the Middle East. It was incredible being able to share my passion for music with different organisations in Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon every summer.

What have you learnt from your time teaching music? Is there anywhere you’ve worked that you’ve found particularly inspiring?
I have learnt that it can be a really bonding thing to do. Getting a group of strangers who don’t know each other and being like “let’s all sing together” can be really good for you. It makes you present and grounded and stops you from thinking about anything else. I’m working with this really inspiring group of young refugees at the moment, running this 9-month course, and they literally learnt how to produce in a day using this app called Bandlab. People can really surprise you with how quickly they pick things up; it’s quite humbling watching them learn and thinking, “Oh wow, these guys are picking it up quicker than I did!”

All this travelling is a big thing to do so young – are you generally a bold person?
When I was younger, I had no fear. I was like, “Put me anywhere, take me anywhere. I just want to get out”. I just desperately wanted to get out of Cheddar and to see the world. I still do now, but I feel like the older I get, potentially the less bold I become. I worry about certain things a bit more. I would say I’m still a bold person, you could still put me anywhere, and I’ll be happy; I’ll probably just think about it more than when I was younger.

Is being a musician living up to the hype so far?
I mean it is the best job in the world. I’m so appreciative that I get to go to festivals and get to write music every day. I find writing music like a form of therapy, so it’s a blessing to be able to do that every day. It also comes with hurdles. I’m the type of person who never fully feels satisfied, and I do feel like I’m running, running, running to try to get to the next stage. It is hard work. Sometimes I feel like I put a lot of myself out and don’t get a lot back, but you have to remind yourself – this is the best job in the world! But I’m still figuring it out – so maybe ask me in 5 years, and I’ll have a better answer!

What do you most enjoy writing about, generally?
I most enjoy writing about real stories, like my hometown or Glastonbury or a girl from my school who’s ended up in a totally different place to me, and making these stories into songs. Looking at real life and blowing it up a little bit, turning it into a story. I guess this stems from an overactive imagination and growing up in a place where nothing happens, so you create all these narratives in your head to make it more interesting. I think that’s what I’ve embodied in my songwriting. I think this stems from my love of Simon and Garfunkel and The Police; I think they wrote about other characters so well.

Which of your songs are you most proud of?
I have to say ‘Off The 45’ because it’s the song I’m most proud of. I wrote it with this amazing female producer called Madde, and it was the turning point in my sound. It feels really badass! And I think it’s really special and should be in a coming-of-age movie or something!
Also, ‘Where Did Ella Go?’, as I feel like the songwriting in that does what I’ve always set out to achieve. It’s really narrative-driven, talking about a real-life story that’s quite tragic but with a euphoric, uplifting side to it that screams, “Don’t give up! Keep going!” which I think is my sentiment on life.

What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am working on a wintry body of music – which feels crazy as we’re in summer! It feels more melancholy, mature and draws influences from The Cranberries…and then my album as well! Basically – always writing and enjoying the ways different songs fall together.

Who do you think is the most exciting band or musician around right now?
Two answers for this – Phoebe Go, she’s an Australian artist who has the lushest sonics and sounds and Anika Bennet from New York. She’s one of the best songwriters I’ve ever met. Her music is so up my street; I do think everyone should listen to her. And also, bby, my boyfriend’s, just started a band, and they’re insanely talented. I think they’re going to be doing some big things.

What do you do for fun?
Drink pints with my friends, yoga, I love binging TV series. I live with my friends from Cheddar in London now, and we’ve just finished Euphoria and Succession. I listen to podcasts about news and the Middle East. And I love partying; I love going out and seeing my mates from Uni and doing weird activities like going to the Moonshine Saloon. We dressed up as cowboys and drank moonshine cocktails all night. And I run; that’s something I need to do.

Is there anything else we should know?
This time next year, I’m going to be a pickle-making connoisseur and be really into some form of martial arts. And also…me and my girl band are going to be performing and spreading our powgirl magic across multiple festivals this summer!

Dork’s Day Out takes place at Signature Brew Blackhorse Road, London, on Saturday, 5th August. Pick up your tickets now from Dice.


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