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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, singer songwriter Cliff Hillis talks about his latest EP release, Be The Now, and the single released, Good Morning And Goodnight.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Cliff Hillis about his life and career, what inspires his music, and the creative work that went into his new EP, Be The Now.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m Cliff Hillis, a singer songwriter based in the Philadelphia area and have released numerous solo albums over the years. I also have a studio where I record most of my own songs, plus I mix and master other people’s music. On top of that I play in various bands, some of which tour the country pretty regularly, so I stay busy!
When did you first WANT to write songs?
I was about 9 years old when I wrote my first song. It was called “I Can’t Go Home” and it was just my plucking the strings on my guitar and singing the same notes. I’ve come a long way over the years! 😉
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
As I learned how to play guitar, I would come up with little riffs and chord progressions, and put them down on a tape recorder. It took me a while before I started finding melodies to go with them.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
The very first song I released was with my band “The Name” and a friend recorded it in his home studio. The song was called “Give Me Time” and it wasn’t very complex, basically about someone in a relationship that needed to sort things out. I was more focused on the little U2-like guitar bits throughout the song I must admit.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
I have a new 8 song release called “Be The Now” that came out mid-February, and there was a single that I put out in advance called “Good Morning and Goodnight”. It was co-written with my talented songwriter friend Kelley Ryan who helped me realize the lyrics properly, it’s basically a song about avoiding the everyday struggles of life by sleeping through them. There’s more to the song, but that’s the basic gist of it.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Good Morning and Goodnight?
I wrote the basics of “Good Morning and Goodnight” very quickly, and at first the lyrics were very stream of consciousness. It took a while, and the help of my co-writer friend to turn it into a full fledged story.
How many songs are you working on right now?
I’m always working on new songs, not that they are all keepers, but I’m part of a songwriting group that has a weekly timeline to deliver a new song (at least in basic demo form).
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
I go where the mood strikes, and often write songs from lyrical cues that inspire ideas that I’d never have thought of without them.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
I’m really proud of the song I wrote with Rhett Miller of the band Old 97’s called “Let’s Pretend”. I think it tells a great story and I tried to write a very dynamic bridge for it, which I believe is one of the strongest bridges to a song I’ve written.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
I’m very inspired by other peoples’ music, I’ve always been a fan of 60’s music such as The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys and band like that. More contemporary artists I get inspired by would be bands like Wilco, Fountains of Wayne and The Beths.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I write a lot of my own music, but I love co-writing with other musicians.
Do you play any instruments?
I sing, play guitar and bass, and a little bit of keyboards. I love to play drums even though I’m not a very good drummer.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
I very much enjoy performing live and a travel with a number of different bands.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
My music is available at most streaming sites, and the best place to listen is probably Bandcamp. https://cliffhillis.bandcamp.com
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have day job?
I am lucky to be able to make music full time.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
My friends and family, specifically my wife, are all very supportive of my music career. My parents were very supportive growing up, which I think helped me to achieve being a full time musician.
What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?
I don’t think I expected when I started that I’d end up writing songs in as many different styles as I have. My songs are all mostly rooted in melody and harmony, but I’ve ended up writing songs in a number of different genres.
Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?
I’ve met some amazing musicians and artists that I’d probably never have been able to meet face to face.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
I’ve been busy promoting my new album, I have a show coming up Friday April 14th in Phoenixville PA with my band at Steel City Coffeehouse that I’m very excited about.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
Try to keep an open mind, and try to keep writing even if you feel stuck and get frustrated. If that happens go for a walk and let the song ideas bounce around in your head.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m very proud of all my songs, but this newest release called “Be The Now” is something I’m the most proud of, it was well worth the effort.
Pop all your music, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Most all my links can be found right here- https://linktr.ee/cliffhillis
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