"I went down to Brighton in August with the aim to write and neither of us felt very Christmas-y!" A Christmas chat with Gabrielle Aplin and Hannah Grace
You could argue there isn't enough effort put into Christmas music these days, but trying to change that are Gabrielle Aplin and Hannah Grace. The two friends have just released a Christmas EP, December, and took some time out from shopping for presents and eating mince pies [Ed - have you just made that up?] to answer a few questions for us on their new EP and what else they're up to. And, most importantly, what's their favourite Christmas tipple.
Hi guys, an easy one to start, how do you two know each other?
Hannah: We know each other through music! We’ve always had lots of mutual musical friends. We did a gig years ago in Dublin with the band Hudson Taylor and Gabrielle asked if I’d like to join her on tour that year. We’ve been friends ever since.
When did you first talk about doing something for Christmas?
Hannah: Last year we did the Christmas Party in Union Chapel for Never Fade and we decided last minute that it may be nice to introduce the night with a song. So we quickly learnt half of ‘River’ by Joni Mitchell for it. It sounded so lush we just thought why not record it? So we decided to record an EP in time for this year's show.
Gabrielle: Basically what Hannah said! We wanted to introduce and start the Never Fade Christmas party last year with a song and River is one of our favourites! We thought then that it would be lovely to do something musical together for fun and we decided this year to make it happen!
How did you choose the three covers?
Hannah: 'River' was a must! Joni Mitchell has been a huge influence on both of us. We tried a few others and 'Blue Christmas' and 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' are just lush to sing together!
Gabrielle: 'River' was definitely a must! 'Blue Christmas' is one of my favourite songs. With 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' we wanted to do something really sweet and real, and recorded it at the piano together in one take!
Tell us about how ‘December’ came about.
Hannah: We knew we wanted to write a song for the EP. It was weird though because I went down to Brighton in August with the aim to write it and neither of us felt very Christmassy. Christmas is lush but can sometimes be tinged with sadness. So we were just talking about how lucky we are to have such great people in our lives and that it’s the people around us that make Christmas and not all of the other stuff. And then 'December' just happened.
Gabrielle: We definitely wanted to write something but life happened a little bit and we almost didn’t write. It was one of those days! But 'December' came out by the end of it when we stopped trying. Hannah had a beautiful verse idea that we worked from.
You just had your Never Fade annual Christmas party, how was it?
Hannah: It was magical and amazing. I loved every moment. I feel so lucky to be part of such a strong and supportive musical community. It’s shows like that that really remind me of why I do what I do.
Gabrielle: It was amazing. It’s mad to think that the Never Fade label and night has become a community of people who want to support new music and turn out to these gigs every month so for us to do the end of year show in a full Union Chapel is really special. The support from the artists and musicians who played the night and enjoy being a part of it make it all the more wonderful.
Gabrielle, you’ve had experience of releasing music for Christmas before, how was that, a blessing or a curse?
Gabrielle: Never a curse! No regrets! I’m really grateful for The Power Of Love and how covering it gave me a huge opportunity.
Gabrielle, you just released ’My Mistake’, a really wonderful song, you’ve called it your most honest and personal song; how easy (or difficult) was it to write?
Gabrielle: Thank you!!! It weirdly was very easy. I turned up to write with people at the time I didn’t know at all, and I just couldn’t get myself in the headspace that day. But I was honest about how my writing brain wasn’t really working that day and we decided to write a song that involved being honest and not trying and 'My Mistake' was the result of that.
Hannah, you released a couple of songs this year, what’s next for you?
Hannah: I’m releasing a new song in January called 'With You' and I can’t wait. I am so excited about my new songs. I can’t wait to release them and play some headline shows too.
What have you got planned for 2019 Gabrielle?
Gabrielle: I’m working on my third album. It’ll be my first independently released album and it’s been amazing to have the control and to take time to write the best songs I can with no pressure. I hope to also get back to countries such as Australia, Brazil and Japan where my music has been well received as well as travelling to new countries too!
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
Gabrielle: I spent a lot of time not really noticing and never really felt like I’ve ever been treated differently for being female. With hindsight I can see that maybe I have in ways. I do however think there’s an awareness now that there maybe wasn’t even a few years ago and gender equality in the music industry is getting better but there are areas where it definitely still needs work.
Hannah: I agree with this, it’s encouraging to see that people are becoming more aware that it has been a problem. There are lots of positive changes that are happening.
Tell us about Never Fade Records?
Gabrielle: I set up Never Fade with my manager nearly 10 years ago. It started as a platform where I could release my first EPs. With work, great people and a monthly acoustic night that we run in London it has evolved into a label and space for new artists to build an audience and share their music with the world!
What’s been your favourite album of 2018 and why?
Hannah: Mine would be Tom Misch - Geography. I love the lyrics and the songs and the whole vibe. I’m a big lover of jazz music and so I love hearing the jazz influences in this album. l feel like its very unique.
Gabrielle: Staying At Tamara - George Ezra. There are so many reasons why but for me it was the most inspiring. It’s just so well crafted, really great straight up actual songs played on an actual instrument and done well. To see an album like that do as well as it did and continues to do really inspires me as a singer-songwriter.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
Greta Isaac. I think she’s amazing. She has such a distinctive sound.
Gabrielle: Halli. She inspires me massively and writes about all those little things we brush off and tend not to think about but exist alongside us. Her latest release 'Fukc Fear' is one of my favourite songs of the year.
“Fuck fear, I just wanna give myself to this moment”
I love it!
Now's your chance to promote a charity, which one do you choose?
Hannah: Coppafeel - I think what they do is amazing.
Gabrielle: Coppafeel is a wonderful charity. Kris is an immensely inspiring woman.
I also think a lot about homelessness and it’s something I care deeply about, especially at Christmas. I have to say that Crisis are doing some incredible work and I’d recommend reserving a place for someone for Christmas.
Great shout on both of those. What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Gabrielle: What are my dogs names?! Zippo Rhonda and Morph!
Back to Christmas, what is each of your favourite Christmas traditions?
Hannah: I just love going home to Wales! And the food of course.
Gabrielle: The Vicar Of Dibley Christmas nativity episode. Every single year without fail.
Finally, what’s your favourite Christmas-related beverage?
Hannah: Mulled wine.
Gabrielle: I love a mulled cider or a hot toddy!
You can find out more about Hannah and Gabrielle by visiting their websites (Hannah / Gabrielle). You can also check out Hannah on Instagram, follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.
Gabrielle is also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Their music is available to buy or stream from wherever you get your tunes from. Our usual Tidal stream is below.