HIL ST. SOUL DELIVERS
“A FEELING SO BEAUTIFUL” ON FIRST NEW ALBUM IN A DECADE
The Highly Anticipated Back In Love Is A Love Letter To Fans Due Out On Shanachie Entertainment November 18th Featuring Two Duets With Noel Gourdin
When a singer covers a song already definitively recorded by the likes of The Isley Brothers and Whitney Houston, there is skepticism; surely it could only fail to match the heights of hit renditions by two legendary artists. But UK-based singer Hil St. Soul’s rendition of “For The Love of You” became a Top 20 urban ac radio hit on the strength of tonal beauty and evocative phrasing—the mark of a great singer. That hit and follow-up original singles won Hil St. Soul a devoted cult following with her deft melding of classic soul and contemporary production. With a luminous single, “A Feeling So Beautiful,” leading the way, Hil St. Soul now returns with “Back In Love,” her first album in a decade, due out Nov. 18, 2022 on Shanachie Entertainment. The new album may be Hil St. Soul’s best yet and resonates at a time when neo-soul is resurgent with a new generation of artists ranging from H.E.R. and SZA to Lucky Daye, Anderson .Paak and SIR.
Considering the rapturous response to her first four albums, the natural question is what took Hil St. Soul so long to deliver the fifth? Hilary Mwelwa (pronounced Mwel-wah), the woman who is Hil St. Soul, says it was all about the right inspiration. “I took a break from recording as I was searching for some greater musical inspiration,,” she confides. “I spent a year in my homeland (Zambia) collaborating with talented local musicians and curating some live shows. When I returned to the UK I got a call from Steve Ripley of Soulfood Music UK and he said the manager for Noel Gourdin was re-mixing a song for the UK market and they were looking for a UK songstress to feature. The end result was a duet called “No Worries.” That was the catalyst that got me back to recording again. Over a period of time I delved into a different creative side of music by doing some soulful house projects. That opened up my creative juices and resulted in several featured collaborations that allowed me to express myself in a different way.”
Over a period of nearly three years Hilary collaborated with producers Regi Myrix (Noel Gourdin, Lina) and Lorenzo Johnson (Ledisi, Calvin Richardson) as well as Prince Damon (Dwele) and released several singles, including the instant classic “One Life.” “The evolution of Back In Love was a very organic process,” Hilary relates, “I recorded new songs over a period of time and before I knew it I had a collection of songs. My collaboration with Regi Myrix on ‘One Life’ was a defining moment when it hit the airwaves as it reconnected me with my audience. The love I got for that track kick started everything.”
Back In Love is one of those increasingly rare creations these days, a true album with every track a strong contribution. All of the tracks are originals except “Heaven Must Be Like This,” a vibey reinvention of an Ohio Players ballad produced by Damons. With the rest of the tracks produced by Myrix or Johnson, the album has a unified sound that delivers Hil St. Soul’s trademark combination of classic soul singing with production that blends contemporary and retro elements.
“I was brought up on old school soul music,” Hilary notes, “so I tend to gravitate towards productions that have a sprinkle of the old school flavor and my subject matter adds the contemporary aspect to the record, all based on what I observe in my surroundings and experiences I’m living through myself or through others around me.” Back In Love ranges from atmospheric mid-tempos such as the current single “A Feeling So Beautiful” to the uptempo dance groove of “Party On” and the heartfelt balladry of “King” and “In My Groove.” Noel Gourdin duets with Hilary on two cuts, “Blessed” and “Amazing.” One track, “Sweet Heaven” is acoustic with Hilary singing backed just by acoustic guitar and backing vocals.
Hilary Mwelwa was born in Lusaka, Zambia but moved to London at the age of five with her family. As a child she was inspired musically by her father’s musical taste, which ranged form Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to traditional African music. But as she grew older she was inspired by everything from the Eurythmics and Blondie to Jill Scott, Eric Benet and D’Angelo. Intending to go into a scientific career, she graduated from London’s Westminster University with a degree in biological sciences. But during her college years she wanted to explore her musical interests and took a year off to pursue music more seriously, recording her first demos. She began a collaboration with Victor Redwood-Sawyer under the name Hil St. Soul and her first album Soul Organic was released by Dome Records in the UK in 1999, with her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back To Me” picking up airplay on U.S. smooth jazz stations. Hil St. Soul’s second album, Copasetik and Cool was released in the UK on Gut Records but was released in the States by Shanachie Entertainment in 2002, yielding a Top 20 urban ac hit and Top 10 smooth jazz radio hit with a sparkling version of “For The Love of You.” Signed directly to Shanachie, Hil St. Soul’s next album Souldified featured a duet with Dwele on “Baby Come Over” and a Top 20 urban ac hit with “Goodbye.” The opening track “Hey Boy” was so loved by syndicated radio personality Michael Baisden that Hilary recorded a short “drop” version especially for him. A fourth album Black Rose followed with Hilary branching out with various producers.
All in all, with Back In Love, the high expectations of Hil St. Soul’s fans who have been spoiled by the consistent high quality of her work will not be disappointed. “This album represents a turning point in my life, “Hillary confesses. “It represents LOVE. My love of life and music. It’s a love letter to my listeners that have been with me on my musical journey. I’ve been making music for 20-odd years and to have taken time out, come back and pick up where I left off is just amazing…to still have an audience and the support of radio is incredible. I’m just thankful that I’m still in a position where I can share my artistry.”