Phil Hooley is the founder member and frontman for the alt country band The Woolgatherers. On 14th May 2021 he released his first solo album “Songs From The Back Room”.
Recorded mostly during lockdown, the album is the result of a chance meeting between Phil and former Nashville drummer and producer Justin Johnson in Phil’s hometown Scarborough. “Justin put a post on Facebook, asking if anyone in the Scarborough area was writing Country/Americana songs, so I got in touch. We met up for a coffee and a chat in January 2020 and soon realised we had shared opinions on music. I told him about past recordings with The Woolgatherers and my ideas for recording the next selection of songs.”
Justin had more or less been brought up in a recording studio. He originates from Washington State but then moved to Nashville, working as a session drummer and in recording studios. He moved to England and had been working in Liverpool for a few years, where he had built up connections with some top musicians. Justin’s influence helped ensure a stellar line-up of musicians grace “Songs From The Backroom”, including Ben Smith, Robert Vincent, Andrea Zonn (long time fiddle player for James Taylor), Simon Goulding, (an in demand bass player, who has played with the likes of Snake Davis), Scott Poley who played most of the pedal steel and Justin himself, who plays drums and assorted percussion.
The songs reflect the emphasis Phil places on lyrics, telling stories of everyday people and their emotions, “I enjoy people-watching, and often make up back stories about some poor passer-by, which are probably wildly inaccurate, but I find it a great source of inspiration for songwriting. I suppose I am telling my own story through these made-up characters, with a dollop of poetic license!
Phil cites songwriters such as Guy Clark, John Prine and Nick Lowe among his many influences, and he has certainly served his time on the circuit, performing on the Yard stage at Black Deer Festival and The Cambridge Folk Festival Club Stage, as well as countless intimate back room bars. Phil says, “I suppose you could say I am a late bloomer, having played for many years on the circuit, but never putting myself out there as a writer of songs. I’m not one for explaining the stories behind my songs. I would like to think that they are fairly self-explanatory, although I accept they may mean different things to different people. That is the wonderful thing about sharing music.”