All systems Jo

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BUDDING musicians weighing up the pitfalls of a career in the music business could do worse than have a chat with Jo Birchall.

BUDDING musicians weighing up the pitfalls of a career in the music business could do worse than have a chat with Jo Birchall.

Throw in a family tragedy and a wedding and the journey towards her debut album – Something To Say – has been little short of a film script.

It’s not surprising the Liverpool lass who honed her first set of songs in Sheffield is feeling a sense of relief.

“I’m enjoying the whole process at the minute,” says Jo, who has been trying to put her record out for five years. “The difference this time is the album is out. Last time we knew pretty early on in the recording stage it wasn’t gonna be released.

“Then I started from scratch. That was the hardest thing after experiencing all the highs and working with the people that I was and then all of a sudden it was…”

Turn back the clock and Jo had made an album for the Decca label, was being mentored by Sheffield songwriter and producer Eliot Kennedy, alongside Take That’s Gary Barlow, and she was touring with Westlife and appearing on some high-profile telly.

Then Decca vanished in a label reorganisation and Jo’s parents were both diagnosed with cancer. Although her mother recovered she lost her dad.

“It completely takes over everything because the most important thing for me is my family and their wellbeing.

“When we knew things weren’t looking so great for my dad I just wanted to spend time at home. My mum was suffering at the same time but thankfully she’s overcome that and got the all-clear last year.”

Where some folk might have given up the music, Jo found fresh hope and inspiration. Circumstances meant she left most of her earlier songs behind, but she found fresh opportunity.

“Each day’s another hurdle and people think once they’ve got a deal that’s it, you’ve made it. I’m living proof it’s not always the case.

“There are a lot of setbacks along the way hopefully you can overcome and this time the fact the album’s being released is a bonus.

“But I’ve always wanted to do this and when I’ve got something in my mind I can’t really let it go. Because people were interested and I’d had a bit of slight success before that probably kept me going as well because these people weren’t going to work with me if it wasn’t right.

“When I moved to London was probably the lowest point for me in every way – personally, financially, professionally. But I think that made me think ‘for me to move here and go through all this there’s got to be a reason’. There’s got to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s taken a long time to get back and get people to believe in me again, but this time I’m a lot more confident and hope people enjoy it and buy it if they know about it.”

Some may have caught Jo performing at the One Song charity shows Eliot hosted at Sheffield City Hall and The Boardwalk, as a result of her working at his Steelworks studio. “It was a really enjoyable time and I became friends with the two of them,” she says of her time working with Eliot and Barlow. “I see a lot more of Eliot these days, but it was an amazing time and I learnt so much from that process which has taken me forward to this point.”

The only song to make the album from those earliest sessions is Don’t Wanna Fall In Love, initially recorded in Nashville but now redone for Something To Say.

“I felt like this was a whole new opportunity for me. I wanted to start afresh and put some new life into my material.

“Losing my dad and his spirit at the end has probably kept me going, pushing for my dreams, because it is something he loved to see me do. So I’ve done it for me a little bit and them as well.

He would always be out there telling his friends how proud he was and you realise when something like that happens just how delicate life is and you’ve got to do what you want to do as well because so quickly it can all be taken away from you.

“You take a lot of positives out of the heartbreak, or try to anyway. It does shape you as a person and I’ve probably been able to reflect on that. Hopefully you can say, if he is up there he’ll be looking down and glad that we’ve continued and haven’t all fallen apart.

“As a person I’m quite a happy person, very positive, and I didn’t want the music to reflect all the negativity that had gone on, so I started writing really positive songs about where I am now.”

Something To Say and single Wonderful are out now.