Acclaimed Sheffield-born singer-songwriter Helen Boulding releases her second album ‘Calling All Angels’ on 16th July 2012. Co-written with and produced by Pete Glenister (Alison Moyet, Kirsty MacColl) the ten tracks take her trademark Joni Mitchell-influence vocal and throw in influences like Bat For Lashes, Sneaker Pimps, Dubstar and the Cardigans to create a more synth-tinged sound.
‘Every song would stand up on piano and guitar,’ says Helen. ‘The difference between this and [the Youth-produced] first album is that here the production in some ways juxtaposes the classic songs, & somehow makes them particularly emotional & exciting.’
And lead single ‘The Innocents’ (Out June 25th) is testament to this: a shimmering slice of grown-up pop, with soaring backing vocals, it’s as brilliant as Sharleen Spiteri guest-vocalling on a Motiv8 classic (remixed, perhaps, by Saint Etienne). ‘There’s nothing between any of us,’ says Helen. ‘We were all born innocent and that’s who we really are. The song is just about seeing the innocence and child in everyone.’
Other highlights, include the dreamy ‘Blown Away,’ about ‘letting go, making choices & buzzing in the moment,’ and the beautifully achey ‘Be With Me.’ Many of the tracks are about finding love: the Crowded House-influenced ‘It Might Just Be You’ sees Helen stumbling across ‘the one’; ‘Great Expectations’ is about acceptance of another person’s character traits, even if you realize that they’re not on your wavelength. And sometimes, ‘a track’s meaning can mutate,’ says Helen. ‘Long Time Coming’ was originally about ‘my relationship with Ryan, but now it feels like it celebrates the birth of my son Jack.’
Even more impressive is ‘Jerusalem’, a fast-paced ditty which references the album title, and whose majestic tempo belies its subject matter. ‘Some people can be so grumpy, for no real reason. Open your eyes and look at what we have,’ says Helen. ‘Jerusalem’ also features in forthcoming indie flick ‘Comes a Bright Day,’ the debut feature from director Simon Aboud, featuring Craig Roberts (Submarine) and Timothy Spall (Secrets & Lies) and already being tipped as one of most anticipated indie films of the year.
And tucked away in the middle is the album’s masterpiece, ‘Crooked Tooth’, which Helen wrote with Gavin Clark (Clayhill, UNKLE). Its opening little-girl-lost vocal and ponderous plinkety plonk synths blossom into a truly addictive pop gem. ‘Perfect is not always the most attractive,’ laughs Helen, about its subject matter. ‘But the perfect imperfections are, that’s where the substance lies and what makes us fall in love with someone. ‘This one was inspired by my husband Ryan, he has a slightly crooked tooth, but I love it!’
Helen is from a musical family with Irish roots on both sides. ‘I grew up surrounded by live music all the time: my mum and dad loved music and so I would work my way through the vast record collection they stored in my attic bedroom.’ Helen also sung frequently at Fagans in Sheffield, a pub well known to local bands and artists which her Uncle Tom, a former English teacher, owns (formerly called The Barrel, he renamed it after its previous manager). Fagan’s is a regular haunt for the likes of Richard Hawley: a picture hanging there features on the back sleeve of his album, Lady’s Bridge.
Helen’s siblings were high achievers in the world of sport: her brother Michael was an ATP-ranking tennis player before switching to football, playing in the Premier League for Aston Villa in 2002, whilst both Michael and brother Rory also played in the same team at Mansfield Town and Bradford City. Meanwhile one sister Sally was a world-ranked tennis player, and Helen’s other sister, Laura, played rounders for England.
The most artistic one of the family, Helen chose music over sport. After being signed by Mike Sault to Warner Chappell at the age of 17, she co-wrote the 911 song ‘The Day We Find Love’ – a UK top 5 hit, provided backing vocals on Holly Valance’s album Footprints, and wrote ‘Maybe That’s What It Takes,’ the debut single of Alex Parks (and another UK top 5). Helen also wrote & performed on number 1 album ‘Sehnsucht’ by DJ Schiller, with the track ‘Everything,’ written with DJ Schiller and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid.
Alongside this she’s written and performed for countless film soundtracks, including ‘One Last Look Down’ for the award-winning ‘Some Things That Stay’ and the title song for ‘Ashes & Sand’ written with composer Michael Price. She also performed live to picture with Sting’s guitarist Dominic Miller, with the track ‘Over the Rainbow’ for Jerry Springer film ‘Citizen Verdict.’
Helen has also written with Simon Tong (The Good, the Bad and the Queen, The Verve) and Squeeze’s Chris Difford – she even managed to persuade Pink Floyd’s Rick Wright out of retirement to write some songs with her. She has collaborated with the renowned songwriter, Billy Steinberg (Eternal Flame, True Colors, Like a Virgin) and most recently worked with Italian contemporary music composer and pianist, Ludovico Einaudi.
In 2007 she toured Europe with Bryan Ferry before returning to London to do dates in the run up to Christmas. She guested on the title track from The Orb’s 2008 album The Dream, which she also co-wrote. She also performed on BBC One’s evening primetime magazine show The One Show as a last-minute replacement for Rolan Bolan, who was due to perform on the anniversary of his father’s death. Bolan was held up in the United States, and at the suggestion of presenter Adrian Chiles, who had heard some of Helen’s songs, she was invited to step in, performing Marc Bolan’s “Life’s A Gas” in front of Bolan’s mum Gloria Jones.
Helen’s debut album New Red Dress was released on her own Maid in Sheffield label on 11 February 2008. She co-wrote all songs on the album with, amongst others, Phil Thornalley (of The Cure) and Youth (Martin Glover from Killing Joke). The album was produced by Glover (producer of the Verve’s classic ‘Urban Hymns’, Primal Scream, Dido & many more), with the album cover photo taken by Bryan Adams (they are mutual fans). It was BBC Radio 2′s Album of the Week prior to its release, and received positive reviews across the press, whilst the single ‘Copenhagen’ was playlisted on BBC Radio 2.
And even better, its success allowed Helen to return to the studio and record ‘Calling All Angels’, which is sure to see her critical acclaim translate into broad commercial success.