10 Apr '20

Nick Edwards

Feed Presents: Asthmatic Harp

'Asthmatic Harp' is the musical moniker of Glasgow based songwriter and composer Hannah Fredsgaard-Jones. Through the "ethereal autoharp, gentle guitar strumming, hushed and tumbling melodies, Asthmatic Harp is synonymous with a sound that manages to be comforting, folksy, eerie and personal, all at once".

I love the combination of Hannah's incredibly mellow voice, her quirky and effective use of instrumentation and the folk influence that underpins everything. For me, her music sort of sits at the intersection of Laura Marling, Regina Spector and Julia Holter.

Hannah has been using Feed to reach new people and re-connect with her existing audience ahead of releasing her upcoming EP, Things we learned to live with. The first single from that EP, Bird of Paradise, is now out: if you're feeling the effects of lockdown, it's exactly the calming, ethereal and transportative tonic you need right now. I've had a sneak preview of the other tracks and it's a beautiful collection of songs, so keep an eye out for more music in the coming months!

I had a chat with Hannah over Zoom earlier this week - we spoke about about her music, the upcoming EP, the support she's had from various artist programmes, how she speaks with her audience and her use of Feed so far.

Aside from the fact I really enjoy her music and think she's great at engaging her audience... she's also just the loveliest person! So I'm super happy she's the first person we're featuring in our 'Feed Presents' series.

Hello Hannah (Asthmatic Harp)! Could you give us a little intro to you and your music?

Hello! I am a Danish Singer-Songwriter and Music Producer living and breathing indie-folk music in Glasgow. ⁠You will find me singing and writing songs about hope, love, mermaids and perhaps the odd murder ballad.

I love your latest release 'Bird of Paradise'- please tell us more about the song.

Aw thank you! It is a song that I had been so looking forward to share. I wrote it after a walk in the Botanical Gardens in the city of Aarhus in Denmark. It is about newfound love and Springtime. If you are into Jazz tunes you might also be able to spot the Cole Porter reference in the song. I will give you a hint: “What is this thing called love?”.

You have a pretty unique use of instrumentation - autoharp, clarinet, violin and more - what draws you to using such a varied set of instruments? Do you play these all yourself, and if so how/where did you learn?!

Oh I just love exploring the timbres, tones and textures that different instruments offer! For years I would always carry a sound recorder with me everywhere so that I could collect field recordings and interesting sounds that I came across. Perhaps that curious and intuitive approach has shaped the way I think about instrumentation?

I play the autoharp and the guitar on my recordings. I do play the clarinet as well, which is handy for when I am composing my melodies and arrangements, but on my recent recordings the clarinet is in the talented hands of Heather Ryall who was part of my live band when I lived in London.

It's been a while since you last released music... I'd be interested in your take on keeping your audience engaged during the break. Has it affected how you are releasing your upcoming EP?

In the break I was really diving into my live sound and soaking up inspiration from an eclectic group of musicians from all over the world that I got to make music with. During this time my audience engagement relied heavily on content from my gigs and rehearsals. Between my first release and now a lot of things have changed when it comes to releasing music and sharing content on social media.

Reflecting on the changes has definitely shaped the way I am releasing my upcoming EP. Earlier I would see the music release as a process of building up to this one big release day. Today I am seeing it as a much more gradual process of communicating with my existing audience and slowly expanding to new listeners along the way. In practice this means that I am for instance breaking my releases up into several single releases over a couple of months rather than just releasing everything in one go.

From your use of Feed so far, we've seen both new and existing fans really engaging with the content you make and post about. What would you say has been working well for you?

In most cases it seems that the content that I personally like the most, also often tends to be the content that most people engage with. It is reassuring to see that I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not in order for people to connect. I can do it in my way and be true to who I am as an artist.

By giving you more feedback on how people respond, do you think Feed has changed the way you post?

It has made me question the purpose of each post I make. Not obsessively but in a more light-hearted and analytical manner. It means that I ask myself what I am trying to achieve with my content. For instance, do I want to engage people’s emotions, do I want to explain something, or do I simply want to entertain? And in my opinion all three are valid aims as long as I am aware which one I am aiming for!

You were on the Roundhouse Resident Artist Program in 2018 and have recently been made a 'Do It Differently' Awardee by Help Musicians UK - how have these schemes helped you, and what advice would you give other artists looking for similar support?

The Roundhouse Resident Artist Program provided me with a creative safe haven in the middle of London where I could go and create, record and experiment. I made good friends with several of the other artists in the cohort of talented up-and-coming musicians, some of whom will be featuring on my upcoming EP.

Being awarded the ‘Do It Differently Award’ was a wonderful thing that came at just the right time. I had been working long and hard preparing for my next release and it was a huge encouragement to be given the chance to follow through with my plans. The Award has also meant that I have been able to access 1-2-1 guidance from experts in various fields of the music industry which is so helpful when you are a completely independent artist trying to find your own way of doing everything.

My advice to artists looking to access similar support is that they should be persistent! Keep going and don’t wait around just because your first attempt wasn’t successful. I was not successful the first year I applied for the Roundhouse Residency. Between my first attempt and my second successful attempt I focused on building my profile as an artist, I worked on my live performances and kept going with what I love the most; playing and writing music.

Do you have any advice for musicians during covid?

Be bold, be brave and try things for the first time! After having my house concert tour cancelled because of the virus outbreak, I decided to do a live stream tour last month to celebrate the release of my single Bird of Paradise. I made a few mistakes along the way and learned from it. It wasn’t perfect but I did it and I was able to connect directly with my audience during a difficult time. Was it the same as a “real” concert? No, completely different but I still got to experience that tingly nervous feeling before going “on stage”, and I was able to play my songs directly into people’s living rooms around the world. What a privilege!

So I would say, whatever it is that you are braving for the first time during this, don’t worry about perfect – celebrate that you did it!

My next online concert will be at the Takeover Festival 10 May! Perhaps see you there?!

And lastly, what feature would you like to see us include in a future version of Feed?

I would like to see a feature that splits up the different social media platforms so that you can tailor each post that get promoted to fit the different platforms.

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