• Words Chris Farlie PIctures Andy Webb

Minwinterfest 2018 Songwriters Round - Joe Martin, Hattie Briggs, Steve Black

The songwriters round is always one of the highly anticipated slots of the Midwinterfest weekend as we get to see song writing in its most intimate purest form. This years selection already had the look of being a classic before a note was even strummed as joining Steve Black would be two of the hottest talents around, Joe Martin who’s recent appearances in London and recent releases have caused quite a stir, and Hattie Briggs hot of the back or releasing an EP or full length cd every month throughout 2017 as part of her “12 Months of Madness” campaign, as well as winning the “Fender Undiscovered Artist Of 2017” which led to a support slot playing at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The format as ever remains the same, a little background or story related to the song followed by a performance - simple yet so effective.

Round 1 - Joe Martin looking dapper in suit and tie pretty much exactly like the cover for the single “Better Than Today”, started the round with a song inspired by a documentary about Eugene Cernan the last man on the moon. "Daddy Gene”, It’s easy to see why this has been generating so much interest even before it has been recorded, and let’s face it space songs never did David Bowie any harm!. Hattie Briggs accompanied by cellist Jasmine Scott Neale opened with “Never Been In Love Before”, her voice wonderfully crisp and pure, with Jasmine’s playing, perfectly complimentary to make a divine pairing. The holding of the note on the word "before" of the final chorus exquisite and beautiful. Steve not making life easier for himself decided. Inspired by 9/11 “In The Blink Of An Eye” details how things can change in a second and to cherish the moments while they happen

Round 2 – Joe opened the next round with a song about staying strong when times are tough “Strong”, complete with a catchy chorus and giving Joe a chance to really project out to the room. Hattie sometimes takes songwriting commissions,one of these was for a father whose daughter had been born prematurely. He supplied a poem and although none of the poem ended up in the final song it proved enough to be the inspiration for “Early Girl”. The song captures the fragility of a premature baby and the fears and worries that the parents face. Steve closed out the round with “Deep Dark Night” with the lyrics delicately balanced on his knee – it is from Steve’s musical he is planning to be sung by a woman in the final version.

Round 3 – Inspired by the TV series “Nashville” and the “Bluebird Café”, “Who You Really Are” is from Joe Martin's excellent debut EP. He joked he had plenty of copies left but that should be solved once more people can get to hear it – outstanding singing. Hattie then followed with a song about Panda her dog, “Old Eyes” from the first album. Many will have heard the song and not realised what the song was about. It’s a delightfully delicate song where occasionally the words just tumble out, lines like “I lost you and found you again in the ice cream queue” another beautiful moment in an inspired afternoons entertainment. Steve played another song from his new musical, the big ballad ( as every musical needs one apparently) “I’ve Been In Love You All My Life” .

Round 4 – Joe closed with his fictional song about a young boy who has a childhood sweetheart who he writes letters to but never posts instead putting them away in a drawer. The song eventually widens to cover the whole of his life. It is a song that literally makes the hairs on your arms stand up, and is as good a song as you’ll hear throughout 2018. Hattie ending on an upbeat song, her first completed commission “Time”, a country blues song playing with the theme of time inall of its incarnations. The guitar cello combo once again working extremely well together and with Hattie’s vocals layered over the top it was another special moment. Steve closed as he traditionally does with “Jack London” complete with its “Daisy Daisy” finale, It is a wonderful story that never fails to beguile and you can sense the anticipation in the audience waiting to play their part in the sing along.

This lived up to the expectation – quite possibly the best Midwinterfest Songwriters round yet!

#SteveBlack #JoeMartin #HattieBriggs