Leeds-based singer songwriter Heather Coulton began composing songs at an early age.
“I think I wrote my first song when I was seven,” she recalls, “but the first song I wrote with words and all that stuff was probably when I was about 14 or 15. When I was in high school I was in loads of little bands that never went anywhere –I was in about five at the same time.
“The first solo song I wrote was actually when I was 18, so that was quite late in the day.”
Her debut album, All The Years, was originally made for her MA course at Leeds College of Music.
“Then as time progressed because I’d put so much into it I didn’t want it to be this release that I just handed in in whatever way. I wanted it to be done properly,” she says.
“Fortunately one of the producers at the college offered to remix and master it for me. In that sense it’s been ongoing for maybe a couple of years because he had his own work schedule so I was waiting for that but it’s well worth the wait because the quality is miles apart from what it was. I’m very happy with it.”
The autobiographical nature of Coulton’s songs – in finding and losing happiness, reclaiming independence after personal loss - is akin to some of her favourite songwriters.
“Artists like Joni Mitchell and Carole King just reek of authenticity and you can’t listen to one of their songs, unless you have no heart, without feeling something, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” she notes.
“I used to try to shy away and write happier songs and it actually just wasn’t in me because I don’t want to write when I’m happy, I just want to carry on being happy and having a really nice time, but I do want to write when I’m feeling really down and depressed so that naturally means the majority of my songs come across that was as well.
“It took me quite a long time to accept it but now I just embrace it and as a result the songs are better because I’m not trying to put this positive spin on it all the time. I think this is a snapshot of how I am now and if it’s depressing for you then don’t listen to it.
“I do want people to relate to it but I don’t want to cater to people. I don’t want to be that type of artist that has to fit into a niche. I just want to write what I want when I feel like it because I want it to be completely honest.”
Predominantly a pianist – “I can rattle out a few chords but I don’t consider myself to be a guitarist,” she says – she writes all her songs at the keyboard. “If they don’t sound right at the piano I don’t even bother adding instrumentation,” she says. “I don’t want to be one of those artists that relies on other instruments to butter it up and make it sound better. I want it to sound just as good on its own. I have a great band but I don’t want them to play over the top and try to cover up things that are missing; I want them, to enhance it.
“It’s really important for me where it starts, it all goes back to the piano and the vocals, which is why most of my songs start and finish with just piano and vocal.”
Her band includes a couple of members who she met at LCoM. “That was the great thing about college, you were just surrounded by talented people.” The college also opened her ears to different kinds of music. “I rarely, if ever, would have listened to jazz, now I love it,” she says.
Having done recent sessions for Alan Raw and Johnny I’Anson’s shows on BBC Radio Leeds, Coulton is venturing out on the road. She plays a pre-album launch gig at the 360 Club at The Library on Friday, September 4 at 8pm. For tickets visit www.jumborecords.co.uk or www.crashrecords.co.uk
All The Years will be officially released on September 11. Visit www.heathercoulton.com for further details.