Helen Hurd may not be a household name. I came across her by accident. She is best known as a Rock singer with her band Helen Hurd And The Mavericks as well as guesting with Swiss AC/DC tribute band BACK:N:BLACK. She has a strong powerful voice and can flit between Heavy Rock and ballads. Here she expands on her singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs. Check out her promo on Youtube, you won’t be disappointed.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer?
I trained as an actor specialising in musical theatre and when I left drama school I went onto the stage (fringe mainly). I learned to use my voice properly and safely during that training, doing super stagey stuff! We always had music in the house when I was growing up. My parents had cassettes of “Now That’s What I Call Music” 4 & 6, they were so good back then, Whitesnake, Heart etc. My dad used to listen to a lot of female singer-songwriters, Kate Bush, Carly Simon, Suzanne Vega etc. I used to sing along on car journeys. I don’t think I knew that I was any good at it until a friend of my parent’s (who was also a singer) mentioned it! At school I had that “big fish, little pond” syndrome as a singer and that helped me grow my confidence. But I didn’t start to step into my power until I began my 80s rock tribute band, Permageddon, which only started as a hobby once I’d decided to step away from acting. I dropped the show music, and the 90s grunge bands I was listening to, and revisited the bands from those old “Now That’s What I Call Music” albums. That was a fit for me and that’s where I’ve stayed – always influenced by those feel-good, iconic and singable guitar riffs and athletic vocals (which I was definitely no good at in the beginning!).
You have a very powerful voice. Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any notable bands?
Not yet! Most of my jobs have been found through headhunting and people approaching me having seen me on Instagram or YouTube, which shows how powerful those platforms are. I would absolutely go for it if I knew a band was looking and I felt I was right for it! The opportunity just hasn’t come up for me…yet!
You have sung a number of cover songs over the years. Do you have a favourite and why?
So many favourites!! I generally don’t take on the work if I don’t like the songs. It makes sense to enjoy what you are performing because then you will give a much better performance. That’s why I have mainly stuck to 80s rock because I love the songs so much. That said, you can get bored of a song if you are performing it over and over again and that has definitely happened to a few of them. However, there are some songs that I never get bored of singing and that always take me to another level. Notably “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley, “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar and “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks. I get lost in them, reaching another level of consciousness.
Any plans to release your debut album “Holding The Gun” on CD?
At the moment “Holding the Gun” isn’t even a full album, although I wish it was and I have plenty of material. As a single, I would have loved to have released it on CD. I still buy CDs because I love the look and sound of them. However, realistically, most people stream music now. Grassroots musicians are generally supporting themselves when it comes to getting CDs and merchandise printed, you must consider the return against the cost of printing and unfortunately, it didn’t make economic sense to me to get them printed. But… I know some people would appreciate a physical copy and if it seems there is enough demand, then absolutely, I will consider it
Any plans to release more material with Bhase?
The short answer is no, which is a shame because “The Ones That Got Away” is one of my favourites! Bhase was an off-shoot of Helen Hurd and the Mavericks. It’s a long story, but essentially there was distinct unhappiness with some collaborators that Helen Hurd and the Mavericks felt more like a solo project than a band. It was an attempt to create a more inclusive and collective band. However, that decision came out of the start of the demise so it wasn’t long before we all parted ways. Amicably, I must add, just differing creative views. But unfortunately, it now means that all my written and co-written material is spread out over differing projects and not all in one cohesive place. It’s all a learning curve.
You guested on the recently released Collateral album. Are there any other collaborations that may be of interest?
How ambitious are we going here? I was so humbled to be asked by Collateral to contribute to their excellent Rewired album. Those guys are top of their game, and deservedly enjoying increasing success. I very much hope they continue in the direction they are going. In terms of grassroots, it doesn’t get much better than that collaboration at the moment. But I was also incredibly fortunate to tour with Eden’s Curse. It’s so rewarding to work with enthusiastic, passionate and talented musicians. It makes me strive to be better with my writing and performing. I think it’s good to dream big, so I would LOVE to do a duet with Erik Grönwall! That’s been a pipe dream for many years and now he’s going stratospheric, so the dream increases!! He’s probably the best frontman of our generation and his voice is exceptional. I have nothing but awe and respect for him. In that vein, I also chatted to Jona Tee from H.E.A.T. about having him produce a full solo album for me, but unfortunately, the funds I had put aside for that project had to be diverted elsewhere. Maybe one day!
Closing the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final must have been a blast! How was it for you?
As a rugby fan, that was insane. I had entered the ballot for tickets, I didn’t even care what game I went to, I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of the tournament, but I was unsuccessful! When the call came through to play one of the bars after a Wales / Australia game I was so excited. They were very strict on times and we had played slightly over so they weren’t going to let us play an encore, but the crowd were going nuts and yelling for “one more song”, so eventually, security allowed us to play one more. It was from that gig that they said they would try and get us back for the final. By the time the final was a week away I had heard nothing and assumed it was not going to happen. They booked us with days to spare. We already had a gig in the diary and had to move the schedule around to make it work. I also enjoyed the email which said “There’s a chance that one song from your first set will also go live to the 40,000 people at the big screen in Trafalgar Square. Is this Okay?” I was like…hmmm… let me think about this!! And the crowd at Twickenham! Such a buzz. It’s probably one of my greatest achievements, for the little me, who always wanted to perform. I said after that everything could end then and there and I would be happy! (Of course what actually happened is that I became more ambitious!!) We then had to leave the stadium and drive to the original gig we’d been booked for and perform there at around midnight. Having spent all day at Twickenham then to play a little bar, it was a bit of a come down!
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?
Whisky! [laughs] (I’m not even joking!) It’s a good question and I’m going to speak out for all the singers, particularly the ones that are branded divas! I think the “diva” label often happens because singers are trying to protect their voices. If we damage our voice we can’t go to the shop and buy a new one. So singers can be very protective over things that can be detrimental to a performance, E.g. air conditioning, illness, lack of sleep, yelling over music, dairy, ice cubes, etc. Even a technical issue such as not being able to hear yourself properly on a live gig can be detrimental to the voice. I admit I am not as protective as I maybe should be but I think it would be different if my level of touring was higher and I was making a significantly bigger career out of it. I do try and ensure I have enough sleep before a gig. I inhale steam before gigs, chew gum (chewing is good, but menthol can dehydrate, so go for more disgusting flavours like bubble gum), drink hot water and do a good warm-up and cool down. I do also drink whisky after a gig!! I know alcohol is dehydrating, but there is evidence to suggest it was invented for medicinal purposes and it tastes nice and relaxes me!! Even tension, particularly around the neck and shoulders area, can affect the voice. Essentially the voice is a muscle and the more you work it out (safely) the stronger it gets, so I find that the more I sing the stronger my voice becomes. I just must make sure my technique is good and generally the body will tell you that. You just need to know how to read the signs.
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
Covid definitely changed things. In some respects, having down-time was valuable, in other ways it was destructive. Coming out of lockdown was hard, the stamina of gigging was a shock, it was like running a marathon with no training! Then there were a lot of changes in attitude amongst some musicians. Some decided to step down completely, others had re-evaluated their priorities, and that affected the balance of some bands, the creativity etc. I had a significant birthday during lockdown and I’ve definitely struggled with the psychology behind that. So although when it comes to singing and performing, the buzz is still very much there. It’s the bits around it that have become harder, the lack of sleep, the load-ins etc. All musicians were forced to find other things to do during the pandemic and priorities have changed. The crazy schedules I have worked to and the experiences I have had have been amazing. I am so grateful for them, and I really feel like I’ve made the most of it all. I think that means that I can afford to be pickier with things now. I still love performing songs that I love, but I can reduce all the logistical noise around it. I also feel that the craving for attention that I had as a younger person (that is inherent in any performer) has reduced slightly, which I guess takes away some of the buzz. It sounds rather depressing, doesn’t it? But it feels more balanced, like I have more control.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
How long have you got? I love working with people who have the same passion, drive and musical vision that I have. I’ve always wanted to go to Sweden and collaborate with bands out there. As mentioned, H.E.A.T is a huge influence for me, I toured with the Degreed boys, I love their music and they are great guys. What’s coming back from Chez Kane and Danny Rexon is right up my street, so I feel Sweden is the place to be! If Danny wants another female 80s-style rocker to work with I would be very much up for that! I’m also massively into country music and would like to explore a gentler style of singing, so would be keen to hook up with a good country producer (I don’t have one in mind right now).
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK?
When it comes to covers, I am all over the UK at the moment, that’s the bread and butter! But for originals, not right now. I have SO many songs, I WISH you could hear them! But I currently don’t have a band and really feel like I haven’t found my tribe yet, (or the ones who would be a good fit are all super busy with other projects) so I am still searching. I just moved slightly further out of London and I’m trying to network in a new area. I desperately want to, but I’m not going to do it until it’s the best it can be.
Do you have anything else in the pipeline at the moment that you can share?
Next year I am going to be much busier with Women in Rock and I have also just trained as a sound therapist, which is a very exciting new venture. I always knew music and sound were powerful healers but it’s really opened my eyes just how powerful it is. It’s exciting to see the positive effects it has on clients. I hope there will be something new and exciting to come. I guess I feel like I am currently in a transitional period. I’ve had them before and some of the most wonderful things have come from the trial and error of those periods! So, bear with me while I make enormous mistakes and do weird things! If they don’t resonate with you then hopefully they will lead to something amazing that will resonate… and hopefully soon!
Interview by Stuart Dryden