Her new EP is called The Next Chapter, and Portsmouth-based country singer Lily Garland is hoping that it will help take her career to the next stage.
Crashing into the top five of the iTunes UK country chart on its release last month, the five tracks range from rocky numbers to a soulful ballad, showcasing the raw emotion of Lily’s voice and songwriting.
But it was when her mum asked her to sing at her grandfather’s funeral two years ago that sent her on this path.
‘She wanted me to sing Over the Rainbow because that was one of his favourite songs,’ says Lily. ‘It was only when she found a version by US country star Faith Hill, that she felt she had a version she was comfortable singing.
‘I went into the studio to record it so I could send it off to our family in America. I played around it and put my own spin on it, and then the producer said it sounded quite country and that I had something different in my voice that was away from the pop side of things. I’d always been a massive fan of the Dixie Chicks and I’ve always enjoyed country music but never really sung it myself. Then I found some Carrie Underwood songs, sang those and found that they fitted.
I’d always been told that my voice didn’t fit in because it was a little bit different whereas then it seemed to fit in with modern contemporary country – it sat so well in my voice and I felt comfortable singing it.
I was absolutely blown away to be nominated for the UK Country AwardsLily Garland
‘I thought I’d give it a go and try to write some songs. I am a trained musician, not that you’d know now because I only stand behind a microphone, but I did a degree in music at Chichester University. I did composition as part of that. Now when I look back, I realise how much I’ve developed since then.’
She has recently been nominated for the female singer of the year and artist of the year awards at the 2017 UK Country Radio Awards. The winners will be announced next month.
‘I was absolutely blown away by that because those are voted for by the fans, which is brilliant because it means there are people out there listening to my music and they’ve taken the time to actually put a vote in.’
With the two EPs under her belt Lily is looking ahead – and would love to record out in the country mecca of Nashville.
‘There’s always this age-old debate about American country versus British country music and whether they’re on a par with each other, and I think it’s so important that as a British country artist I stay true to that side of things, but it originates in America, so there’s always that connection.
‘It would be a great experience to say I’ve been out there and to write and record there.
‘You’re just surrounded by music in Nashville – it sounds incredible, and you’ve got all these incredible musicians.’
And she’s also been able to look a little closer to home for inspiration – to Ward Thomas, the twin sisters from Liss who became the first ever UK country act to hit number one in the album charts.
‘Ward Thomas have done amazingly, and they’ve been really inspiring to me, knowing that they’re from literally down the road to us. And also The Shires, who I’ve seen live numerous times, because they’re creating that British country sound and now it’s becoming almost its own genre.
‘Ward Thomas and The Shires have broken down a lot of those old stereotypes about what is and what isn’t country music. It’s about seeing past that - it’s real music with real instruments and it’s from the heart.’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Friday, August 18