I've been singing for a long time now… It started at primary school when I used to organise my little friends into harmony groups and we'd sing acapella in the playground and in assemblies… If we got half a chance! My parents played an eclectic mix of music to us growing up and I still love the albums and artists they introduced to me - people like Carole King, Karen Carpenter, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Elvis, The Beatles and Motown music… To name but a few.
In the early teenage years you tend to hang out in groups defined by the music you like - in our case it was soul, dance and rap. I started singing in a band called The King Cut Groovers (!) at the age of 15 and we played a variety of pop covers which again introduced me to more bands I hadn't previously taken an interest in. Then in my late teens, university led me down another musical path and I began taking a big interest in rock pop, guitar based music -the likes of Pink Floyd, U2, Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix…And the list goes on.
So I guess when picked up the guitar and started writing my own songs I had a very varied background of musical taste to draw from… The one thing I knew, was every song should stand alone with just the guitar and voice… If it was good enough! My songs definitely had a folk/singer songwriter feel to them in the beginning.
Whilst I was working for MTV in my twenties I formed a band with some colleagues and it was through them that I met Martyn Shone, whom I was later to start Honey Ryder with. Martyn was mad into heavy rock music, and although I liked it, I wasn't comfortable performing it and so when we started writing together we kind of met in the middle - it developed into rock pop with a softer side.
As Martyn and I were a duo, the tracks on our album started life with just guitar and voice and were built up in the studio, in other words, our producer didn't get to hear our music being played with a full band at the start of the recording process. This was something that strongly influenced our sound - if we'd been jamming all the songs in a studio with a band beforehand they could have potentially evolved in a different way.
It was whilst touring with Hue and Cry that we wrote a song with a friend of ours called Marli Harwood, an extremely talented singer/songwriter. It was backstage at the Empire in Belfast and the song 'You Can't Say That' went on to feature on our second album Marley's Chains. Martyn came up with this cool riff and Marli and I started getting melody and lyric ideas straight away. From a production point of view, the track took forever to record as we kept changing things - and it was also at this point that Martyn left the group and Jason joined, having been our session guitarist previously. This also influenced our sound greatly because of Jason's style of playing (he's a big fan of Mark Knopfler and Simon and Garfunkel) and his ability to play instruments such as the bazouki and mandolin.
When we were finally happy with it, our producer Jon O'Mahony sent it to Paul Worley, the legendary producer of Lady Antebellum and The Dixie Chicks. Amazingly, he got back to us saying he loved our sound and would we like to go out to Nashville to write and record……he promised to set up collaborations with some A-list Nashville writers such as Tom Douglas, Rivers Rutherford and Tommy Lee James. We naturally said hell yes and this decision definitely had a strong influence on the musical path that our band has since taken. We felt very at home working over there, we felt like we'd found a sound that suited my vocals and complimented Jason and Matt's style of playing - and we were also able to learn a huge amount from the way they craft their songs - placing a strong emphasis on lyrics and storytelling. After a second trip to Nashville, where we again wrote, recorded and performed, our third album 'Born in a Bottle' was born.
I would describe our music as pop music with leanings towards country, folk and rock. In the past couple of years we have been welcomed into the UK country community which has been a blast and led to lots of fun opportunities and experiences including performing at The British Country Music Awards, receiving three nominations, performing at the Country to Country Festival at the O2 in London and also performing live for Bob Harris on Radio 2. But when we sit down to write, we don't think about where the song will end up, we write freely without constraint and our aim is to write a track with heart and honesty that we love performing, and that hopefully others with enjoy. During the recording process we know it's important to maintain in some way the sound that makes us recognisable as Honey Ryder (so that our albums have some sort of cohesive quality), but we also believe you have to give the song the instrumentation that it needs. I guess if a vocal has a unique quality and tone it will be identified whatever the genre - maybe its the lead vocalist's job to provide the link. (No pressure there then…)
We're currently writing new material and some of the tracks definitely have a country flavour whereas others have gone down a slightly different route….the media like to pigeonhole you and keep you in categories and I understand that to an extent but it's also important to explore and develop as an artist and remain uninfluenced by what the market is doing - but instead write songs that make you happy and comfortable in your own skin. Music is therapy for the soul after all.