By Arthur Wilson
Philippa Hanna has benefited from an almost supernatural rise to fame in recent years.
Fresh from touring with Lionel Richie, the 28-year-old folk singer found her inspiration from an early age, with a musical father and bassist brother Stuart Zender, who has played with the likes of Jamiroquai and Mark Ronson.
“He (Zender) was one of many inspirations,” she said, “but it stems back to my Dads heritage. He was born into a travelling show in Ireland called the Dusty Road Show. When ever we were around we were always playing music.”
Hanna struggled through the early years, with family issues and debts hindering her music career. However, she found inspiration in 2004 when she discovered faith and Christianity.
“It was what i called a ‘dark night of the soul’. I was struggling to break into music, there were issues with my parents and i was in debt. I was in a bad relationship as well.”
It was during a religious concert in November 2004 that Hanna met a group of Christians that has helped inspire her ever since.
“They had a glow about them, and they started to share their faith with me. I found myself being lifted out of the darkness, and even though it took a while everything has been better since that moment.”
A number of albums and concerts followed, with the release of her debut record ‘Watching Me’ in 2007, ‘Taste’ and live studio album ‘Out of the Blue’ two years ago culminating in the release of a single with Empire Nation last year.
Her new record, ‘Through the Woods’ was funded by the Kickstarter project in which Hanna and her team campaigned for fans to donate to help fund the album.
“We originally asked for £10,000 but after only getting £500 in the first week we thought we were never going to do this.
“People just weren’t interested and i thought i should take the hint. But we raised our game, and it started to snowball. Were just going to keep telling people!”
The project was so successful that to date over £14,000 has been raised from fans pledges, and Through the Woods is set to be released in early April of this year.
“The sky is the limit for the new album. I want it to connect with a broad audience.
“It will have a thread of faith in it, but it will be diverse. I just want it to do well!”
One possible factor in Hanna’s rise to fame is the tour she did with the legendary Lionel Richie.
“I did a gig with Eliot Kennedy (Bryan Adams, Spice Girls), a sort of greatest hits concert. There was a tour manager there who said he would love to book me. And that was it!
“I remember the first gig opening for Lionel i felt out of my depth. I had experienced nothing like stepping out onto that huge empty stage with just my acoustic guitar in front of 20,000 people.
“But the second show i just thought to myself, ‘ive worked for this’. ‘I deserve to be here’.
“It was amazing. People don’t often stay for the support acts but they stayed for me. I think Lionel fans like a good song with good lyrics, and i think that’s why they liked me.”
The charitable singer has somewhat repaid the contribution religion has had in her life by visiting Haiti in 2009 with international children’s charity Compassion, and has helped to recruit hundreds of sponsors for the charity’s work at her concerts since the launch of her 2nd album Taste.
This year Hanna has also started to develop her own charity, ‘The Raggedy Doll Project’, named after one of her own singles.
“It’s in its early stages, but the long-term aim is to build a oragnisation that will help young people with their self-esteem, who have had a hard time socially or with their health.
“Its called the Raggedy Doll project because kids love the song. The rag doll doesn’t like itself, but its hand stitched and precious. Kids like the imagery and it helps them.
“I want to go to hospitals and hospices, give them a rag doll and hope it carries that message.”
For the future, this rising star has literally set the heavens as the limit to what she can achieve. When asked what her dream would be for this year, she said to play at the Brit Awards or on the Jools Holland show.
“That’s always been a dream of mine.”
Philippa Hanna’s album ‘Through the Woods’ will be out on the 8th April, and for more information visit her website here at PhilippaHanna.com.