With a warm, pure vocal tone and articulate delivery that evokes the folk movement of the early '60s as well as contemporaries like Lucy Dacus (whom she cites as an influence), singer/songwriter Bess Atwell first won over members of the U.K. music press with performances at festival showcases in 2015. Featuring earnest lyrics, lilting melodies, and a mix of spare acoustic and plugged-in, full-band arrangements, her debut album, Hold Your Mind, arrived in 2016.
Before adopting the stage name Bess Atwell, Brighton-based musician Bess Hildick-Smith grew up in the English countryside in a creative family that included artists and songwriters. Taking after her mother, she preferred fine art to music in her youth, even after her songwriter father set her up with guitar lessons. By the age of 13, she had a renewed interest in the instrument, and started singing and working at writing her own songs. After attending a private prep school on a drama scholarship, she briefly studied music at the university level, but dropped to pursue music outside of the classroom. In 2015, a series of showcases at The Great Escape Festival won her praise from major U.K. publications, including The Guardian.
In 2016, Bull Nose Hoop Records released Atwell's debut album, Hold Your Mind. She made it onto the playlists of BBC Radio One and Two as well as 6 Music, leading to touring opportunities, including appearances at Green Man Festival and back at The Great Escape Festival. Before beginning work on her second album, she shopped a demo of her song "Grace" to record labels, eventually deciding to go the independent route. She headed to the studio with her backing band and producer Giles Barrett (Johnny Flynn, the Spook School). The single "Swimming Pool" and an official version of "Grace" saw release in the second half of 2018. ~ Marcy Donelson