with support MAX POPE
Bess Hildick-Smith, known by her stage name as Bess Atwell, grew up in the English countryside, one of four children to an eclectic family of artists, songwriters and doctors. Growing up Atwell dabbled in acting, musical theatre, and fine art. She says “the love of singing is something I think most people realise at a very young age. I grew up in a creative household; many of my extended family are musicians, my dad a songwriter himself, and mother an artist”. She explains how her earliest years were spent assuming she’d follow in her mother’s footsteps, and still considers fine art her first love. She discovered song-writing a little later; “when I was ten my dad bought me a Spanish guitar and we both took lessons with the same teacher. I didn’t like being given homework and didn’t see much fun in the instrument on its own, so it was a few years later that I picked it up again and decided to sing, and eventually write my own songs”.
At the age of thirteen, just as she was finding her footing as a songwriter, Atwell was offered a drama scholarship to a competitive private school. While acknowledging the privilege she’s had, she cites her experience at school as the cause of a substantial loss of confidence; “It was a difficult few years for various reasons, and at schoolI was either invisible or in a lot of trouble which didn’t help. I didn’t fit their cookie cutter ideal, so I was constantly getting the message that there was something wrong with me”. After graduating from school, she enrolled on a music degree at Falmouth University but soon withdrew to pursue music nearer London.
In 2015, not long after dropping out of university, Atwell garnered the attention of major news outlets after a slew of showcases for The Great Escape Festival. The Independent and The Guardian were amongst those who were impressed by the artist’s performances, describing her as “a promising folk poet of suppression and inner anxiety” and “a gifted singer-songwriter with a voice like slow, cool water”.
The new music is the first since her 2016 debut album. The record included the single ‘Cobbled Streets’ and saw Atwell attract the attention of critics and public alike while picking up radio plays on BBC Radio One, Two and Six Music together with live sessions for Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley’s shows. Atwell spent the following year gigging, including several sold out headline shows, and returning to festival favourites such as The Great Escape and Green Man.