Monthly Archives: November 2017

5 Questions in 5 Minutes: Quiet Loner

Quiet Loner (AKA Matt Hill) is a songwriter who has had rave reviews from Uncut, Maverick, Rock n Reel comparing his Americana influenced songs with Elvis Costello. Having seen Matt perform three times, his most powerful performance in my opinion was the ‘Battle for the Ballot‘. As songwriter in residency at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, Matt embarked on a journey to write an album about this subject and took his audience on a chronological journey in story and song about the events that made Britain’s struggle for the right to vote for all.

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Johnny: How did this project first come to light and can you tell us more?

Matt: I love the museum and I’d done a couple of gigs there so I approached them with the idea of residency. I spent a year in and out – reading, researching and writing the songs that tell the story of the fight for the right to vote.

Johnny:  The setting of the People’s History Museum lends itself well to such a show and of course, Manchester’s rich political history runs through the whole building. Was this the obvious choice to set up such a show?

Matt: It’s a national museum but it’s apt that it is in Manchester as many important parts of the story happened in Manchester but the battle for the ballot was fought right across Great Britain and Ireland.

Johnny: One thing that I’ve always felt about your songwriting is delicate wordplay which has been crafted I feel quite naturally over time. The process with Battle for the Ballot is a little more unorthodox than what is perceived as the normal creative process of editing over time. What was your approach to this?

Matt: Yeah it was different to other things I’ve written. My method was to do the research. I read a lot about the subjects and tried to draw from contemporary accounts where possible. Then I used some creative techniques for coming up with hooks and lyrics ideas. Then there was a lot of editing. Most songs started out with about 20 verses and were gradually whittled down to 3-4 minute songs.

matt hill 3

Johnny: Women were only allowed to vote in the UK 99 years ago, which I know you write about such events…therefore it can seem the right for the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ may be over, but new battles are always fought on people’s rights for equality…the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ is not over yet in the UK…is it?

Matt: Absolutely not. I think voting is important but our democracy is about much more than that. I think the vote could be made a lot fairer. If you’re young and poor you’re unlikely to vote so although there is no legal bar to your involvement like there was a 100 years ago, there are barriers. We need to work to get more people enfranchised. I support the campaign for proportional representation because I think the present system is just not delivering a Parliament that represents the public’s views.

Johnny: What can people expect from your show at the Red and Green Club?

Matt: I hope it’ll be fun and enjoyable. I describe it as a entry level history lecture with songs. I know that on paper a gig about the fight for Universal Suffrage might not sound like a top night out! But I try and make the story accessible and I think the songs stand up. It’s a bit unusual too, so I hope folks will come along and see what it’s all about.

Matt will be performing the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield on 15th December. Support will come from myself, Johnny Campbell. 7pm doors, 8pm start with aiming to finish 10:15-10.30pm. The show is unplugged in an intimate setting of the country’s oldest Socialist Club with real ale and more.

This is a Pay What You Feel event between £5-10 to support creative and inspiring projects at the Red and Green Club.


Avalon: Behind the Album and Inspiration…


This album began life properly in June 2015 on a long tour from the north of England to Istanbul.

Five weeks and around thirty shows in almost a straight line to the edge of Europe. I was travelling with James Bar Bowen until his part of the tour finished in Sofia, Bulgaria. A week beforehand Cosmo joined on the trip in Salzburg. The tour had been as lovely as it always is in the middle of June, though I’m not particularly one to like the heat and heading further South-East to the start of Asia is no picnic for a miserable Northerner.

Netherlands, Germany, Austria had been great as they always are but heading into Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and finally Turkey, aren’t the usual tourist routes we were taking let alone major gigging routes. Whilst we hit the capitals in all of these countries, it was the shows off the beaten track that provided the real ‘adventure’. Dilapidated public transport older than myself with tatty seats, creaking mechanics and a driver breaking practically every regulation we have in the UK. I recall one driver with three pictures in his cab of things he cherishes in life. A cheesy torn picture of a half-naked woman from a cheap porno next to a promo shot of a Volkswagen Golf and next to some rosary beads, a pristine Mary Magdalene painting on card. Life is different here, especially in rural Eastern Europe where families sell crops by the side of the road in makeshift stalls and Ladas adorn each driveway.

Places like Niš, Kraljevo, Plovdiv were places I’d never heard of before and crossing in and out of the Serbian border, outside of the EU, the border is daunting for a Brit but by birthplace, residence and family, we are offered the luxury of travel without much hassle. Serbians aren’t offered such with expensive Visas to enter the UK.

The route from Zagreb, Croatia to Plovdiv, Bulgaria passing through Belgrade, Kraljevo, Niš and Sofia for shows became the beginning of the inspiration of the album.

Before the news hit the UK on the mainstream about refugees fleeing the Middle-East, we saw first-hand the desperation of these people. Painted in the media as ‘benefit tourists’ or ‘scroungers’, nothing could be further from the truth. Walking 1000 miles crossing borders with what little possessions you have and your kids in tow is hardly a thing you’d do unless you were desperate.

Throughout this journey, meeting Roma families, seeing Roma camps outside of large cities with little sanitation as the folk who live their life as travellers are pushed away as they have been done for centuries, you start to see the full scale of the problem of borders first hand, for refugees and for travelling peoples. And whilst we were travelling ourselves (with the privilege of a British passport) our existence and movement was made with comparative ease due to an arbitery thing such as a birthplace.

This inspired me to write an album around the topic of migration and all topics encompassing the word. There are many songs out there in the folk genre that lament migration and it felt to me I was doing nothing new so I needed to adapt and play with the original form. There are a number of Traditional songs I chose for the album which took me a while to find suitable. Whilst I’d sometimes look far from home to find something interesting, these two songs are ones from my own doorstep. ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’ and ‘To the Begging I will go’. Yorkshire and Lancastrian songs about economic migration, hard cotton mill life and desperation. Another is Arthur McBride, a staple of Irish anti-war storytelling. I feel these songs are still very relevant and whilst they are both very old, these stories are still echoed today.

I hesitated to write a song from the perspective of someone who has felt the real hard end of migration.

Instead I wrote one song about travelling from a personal perspective. As an economic migrant, I felt it important to relay that image isn’t just the image we see in the papers which has become a tainted word. Another song I felt compelled to write was one about Brexit. Possibly the thing that will affect ALL Europeans wanting to live, work and study in the UK. Something that is affecting UK citizens economically at the moment.

Avalon:  /ˈævəˌlɒn/ noun

  1. (Celtic mythan island paradise in the western seas: in Arthurian legend it is where King Arthur was taken after he was mortally wounded.From Medieval Latin  insula avallonis island of Avalon, from Old Welsh aballon apple.


The ten tracks on the album are a collection of originals and Traditional numbers, influenced and written across the Balkans to both sides of the States, influenced by the spectrum of ‘migration’.

I will be releasing my album in Norway 24-26th November in Halden and Trondheim. Norway to me, is a place I feel very comfortable doing shows and signifies the end of overseas touring for 2017 starting up again late January. More info on that at the end of 2017! In the meantime, you can pre-order Avalon here:

And more information here:

Here is how you can help; donation points for refugees across the UK. There is usually one in every major town.

Johnny x