Music interview: Leeds’ own Hannah Trigwell

Hannah Trigwell.
Hannah Trigwell.
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Seven years ago Leeds-born Hannah Trigwell was a shy teenager. Last weekend she played at the Isle of Wight Festival. Julie Marshall met her.

Youtube singing sensation Hannah Trigwell was on the bill at last weekend’s Isle of Wight Festival sharing the limelight with, among others, Fleetwood Mac, Blur, Billy Idol and The Prodigy.

The 24-year-old from Leeds sang six of her own songs and a cover version of Neyo’s Because of You, and found the whole experience ‘amazing’, despite the disappointment of missing headliners Fleetwood Mac; she had leave early to go back to work in the recording studio before they took to the stage on Sunday night.

Standing, as she did, in front of thousands at the prestigious Isle of Wight Festival is a remarkable achievement, particularly when you consider that, just a few years ago she was so shy that in the first video she posted on the internet she had the camera pointing to the wall so no one could recognise her. And it was only a couple of weeks before her YouTube debut that she’d eventually plucked up the courage to busk in the city’s streets. “I walked past a busker and I asked him if I could have a go. He was really nice and lent me his guitar,” she says.

Hannah, then still at school studying for her A-levels, sang a cover version of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car; after that there was no stopping her.

She deferred her place at Leeds University for a year to concentrate on her music and soon developed a following.

She was so popular that, on one occasion, police and council officials were summoned to disperse the hundred-strong crowd that had gathered to that had gathered to listen to her play.

“Busking really helped me grow in confidence and you develop a thick skin,” she says.

A lot has happened in the intervening years since the shy young woman took to the streets of Leeds.

She carried on busking, took up her place at Leeds University and graduated with a degree in biology, while at the same time touring the UK and releasing two EPs of original music.

“I did it to pay my way through university and used the money to live on and to come out of university without debt,” she says.

Hannah now has more than 35 million views and 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and has had international success with numerous top ten singles and a devoted following in south-east Asia; her original song Headrush reached number one in Vietnam in 2011.

Her most recent EP Rectify was released in May 2014 reaching number six in the iTunes singer-songwriter charts.

“I have a large following in the Phillipines, in fact the majority of my fan base is in South East Asia, followed by the USA, Germany and then the UK.

“I’d love to tour America and meet my fans but I need to sort my visa out first,” she says.

In recent years Hannah has performed in several sold-out UK tours, playing alongside Josh Kumra, Boyce Avenue, Jake Bugg, Alex Goot, Wretch 32 and Lawson

Her music has gained praise from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Johnny Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls, The Script and many more.

A review in the Yorkshire Evening Post of her January 2014 gig at the Cockpit, Leeds stated: “Each number delivered by Trigwell was pitch-perfect and showcased her incredible ability as a singer.”

The YouTube phenomenon has been the undoubted key to Hannah’s success. One of the first YouTube videos she saw was by American rockers Boyce Avenue and they were her inspiration.

“YouTube wasn’t an established platform at that point. I didn’t know how big it was going to be but I thought it was a cool way of sharing the visual as well as the audio.

“Seeing their video and seeing them do well really inspired me.

“YouTube was growing and developing at the same time as my career was so I had to play it all by ear.

“I’m one of the few YouTube musicians who have reached a certain level that haven’t moved to London.

“It’s been great for me, putting videos on YouTube has meant that I can tour, song-write and do all the things I want and live where I want to.”

Hannah’s first videos were filmed using the camera on her laptop, the backdrop, a typical teenagers’ bedroom, but she now has her own recording and filming kit and her 
videos now are of a much higher, more professional standard.

She’s not released an EP for a year but is currently in the studio, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it’s completed.

She says:“I’ve been getting all my music together and redefining my sound. I will continue doing tours in the UK and Europe. It’s just a case of growing from this point in an organic way, developing my sound and hoping that my fans come along with me.

“I’m not always going to be acoustic; I’m going to include other sounds along with it and it’s going to be drums and electronic stuff – it’s a case of whether people will like that or not.”

Despite her success Hannah is very grounded and certainly does not bask in glory. “Although music is my full-time job I don’t think I’ll ever think I’ve made it,” she says.

“The euphoric feeling I get from playing somewhere like the Isle of Wight Festival or from singing in front of 14,000 during a recent tour of Europe only lasts a few seconds and then I’m looking for the next challenge. I’m always wanting to create and improve my music.”

Hopefully her home grown fans won’t have too long to wait before she plays a gig in Leeds, because as she says, “I do still live here, after all.”

But she’s not likely to take up busking again any time soon – as well as the fact that she’s incredibly busy, her portable amp broke down a couple of years ago and she still hasn’t got round to replacing it.

Hannah has some advice for anyone else in the same position as she was when she was a young hopeful seven or so years ago.

“Just try and get over your initial hesitation. Lack of confidence held me back. I wish I’d just thought, who cares what anyone else thinks. Life’s too short.”

We interviewed Hannah at the Google Digital Garage, a pop-up space in Leeds Dock which is running for a six-month pilot initiative.

Businesses are invited to get a digital ‘tune-up’ and participate in masterclasses They can learn crucial skills for the digital age, and use the power of the Internet to reach more customers and grow faster.

Find out more and sign up for workshops and events via the website: digitalgarage.withgoogle.com