Phillip hitting right notes in his bid to win top folk award

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin
Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin
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The nerves will be building for Phillip Henry as he waits to find out if he has won a prestigious award.

The Euxton-born folk musician, along with his girlfriend Hannah Martin, has been nominated for best duo in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

Phillip Henry

Phillip Henry

The winner will be announced tomorrow in a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.

Phillip, 32, said: “We are a little bit nervous but it’s really good that we have been nominated. It’s really helped to raise our profile.

“We are looking forward to it. It’s hard to say if we will win, I think we are in with a chance.

“It’s a bit of a shock to be nominated.”

If the pair scoop the award, it could be the pinnacle of their career so far.

Phillip grew up in Euxton and attended Euxton St Mary’s Primary School and Leyland St Mary’s High School.

His parents, Barbara and Steve, enjoyed listening to music, mainly northern soul, but it wasn’t until his teenage years that Phillip found his own love for music.

“I got into music fairly late, at the age of 15. I got my first guitar and spent the rest of my time practising then. I really got into it,” he said.

“I think it was just a whim to get a guitar.”

Phillip taught himself to play guitar and picked up the harmonica a few years later.

He said: “I first got into Oasis really and the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, that kind of thing. From there, I got into blues, country blues and folk music.”

After leaving school, Phillip spent a few years working for Amec in Adlington, before deciding to do a music degree in Exmouth, Devon.

He said: “During the degree, I was busking to make a living and also running a jam night.

“After the degree, I started gigging around Devon.”

Phillip travelled to Calcutta, in India, in 2008 to study under renowned slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya.

Phillip was in a band called The Roots Union, which played on the festival circuit, including at Glastonbury Festival.

The band was going well and they even went to Nashville, in the USA, to record some of their songs.

But the band split up and Phillip decided to form a duo with fiddle player Hannah.

Phillip said: “Our musical tastes were a bit more folk and we started playing on the folk scene.

“We were spotted by a guy called Steve Knightley, from folk band Show Of Hands.

“We ended up going on tour with them as their support act for a couple of years.

“In 2012, we played with them at the Royal Albert Hall. That was amazing. It was sold out, so there were 5,000 people there. It was a great gig.”

The duo released their debut album, Singing The Bones, in 2011, which was played nationally on BBC Radio 2 and 3.

Their latest album, Mynd, was released in September last year and received positive reviews, including four stars in The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times, and five stars from Songlines magazine.

The album was also named one of The Guardian’s top five world music releases of 2013 and one of the Telegraph’s top 10 folk music albums of the year.

As well as recording, Phillip and Hannah, who live together in Devon, spend much of their time playing music live.

Phillip said: “We tour most of the year.

“We are just starting to get into other countries.

“We have done a bit of stuff in France and Belgium, and a fair bit in Holland and Germany, and we are perhaps going to South Africa in the autumn.”

The pair have recently returned from Europe, where they played one gig in Germany and seven in the Netherlands.

Phillip said: “We did a couple of biggish shows and some smaller house concert-type gigs. It was a great experience.

“We did the same last year and we are starting to get a following over there.”

Although Phillip loves playing live, he does appreciate going home.

“It’s exciting to see new places but we do get to the point when we want to be home and in our own bed,” he said.

“I enjoy it mostly. I get a bit weary towards the end of a tour, but once I have been home for a while, I get itchy feet and want to do it again.”

Phillip and Hannah will start a 30-date tour this week, which will see them performing across the UK until the end of June.

They will not be playing in Chorley, but are looking forward to seeing familiar faces at their gig at Wigan Parish Church on Friday, March 7.

Phillip said: “I have not played in Chorley yet. I might have done an open mic somewhere, but not since I have become professional.

“I would like to. We were thinking of maybe doing something in Astley Hall. The coach house would be a nice place to do a gig.

“Wigan is probably the closest I have done. All my family and friends will be there. It will be nice.”

And he will be looking forward to a comfortable bed for the night, as he will stay at his parents’ house in Euxton.

He said: “I get back when I can to visit, maybe once every month or two.

“I’m coming up for these gigs soon, so I will be staying at my mum and dad’s. I think they like having us back.”

As well as performing with Hannah, Phillip has composed and performed music for television.

His music was used on Operation Grand Canyon, a two-part documentary presented by Dan Snow, broadcast on BBC2 last month.

He got involved after being approached by maritime historian Dr Sam Willis, who was involved in the programme.

Phillip said: “I wrote quite a few new pieces for the show and did a re-recording of one of my older tracks, which was used on the end credits.

“I went to Broadcasting House to watch the premier and then watched it with my mum and dad in Euxton when it was on TV. They were really happy with it.”

Phillip certainly has his hands full at the moment, but he has no plans to rest on his laurels.

He said: “I just want to keep this duo going, keep raising the profile.

“I would like to do more work on TV and film music as well – that would be good. We want to keep on moving.

“We have got a fairly good profile now on the folk scene. We have been on Radio 2 a few times and Mark Radcliffe’s show.

“This folk award nomination is the next step. That has raised our profile again.

“We are doing all right and have a good following, but there is room to grow as well.”

And Phillip had some words of advice for young musicians from Chorley and Leyland hoping to follow in his footsteps.

“He said: I would say practice your instrument.

“You have got to be really dedicated.

“You have to have a positive attitude as well to make it happen.

“Do as many gigs as you can. That’s how you learn to perform, by doing it. You have to get out there and do it.”

n To find out more about Phillip and Hannah, and for a full list of tour dates, go to www.philliphenryandhannah