Claire Hamill was born in PortClarence, Teesside near Middlesbrough in 1954. She is the eldest of seven children. She grew up in a fishing village near Whitby called Staithes where the beautiful countryside provided a fitting backdrop to her poetic leanings.
She became stage struck after seeing her father in a local Am-Dram play and originally wanted to pursue a career as an actress but music always played a huge part in her childhood and after learning to play the guitar at the age of twelve she found that she could write songs.
After the break-up of her parent’s marriage she and her family went back to PortClarence to be near her maternal grandparents.
When she was 16 she asked John McCoy, the owner of local rock club “The Kirklevington,” if she could play there. When she assured him that she wrote her own songs he agreed and became her first manager.
John, along with music business lawyer Tony Dimitriades,brought Claire to the attention of Chris Blackwell the Island records supremo who liked her northern spirit and the songs she’d written with her boyfriend, Mike Coles. Chris signed her and with John, produced her first album “One house left standing”. They brought in a few of her Island stable mates to help her, John Martyn, arranger of the year Paul Buckmaster and Simon Kirke, Rabbit and Tetsu from “Free”.
European and North American tours followed along with performances on “The Old Grey Whistle Test”.
In 1973 Claire released one more album for island,”October” produced by Paul Samwell Smith fresh from his recordings with Cat Stevens and Carly Simon.
The following year Claire signed with the Kink’s label “Konk” to record an album with Ray Davies as producer.
At this point Claire was moving into a more rock influenced sound and “Stage door Johnnies” is her first album of covers with “Go now’ and “We gotta get out of this place”.
She promoted the album with another British and American tour.
Following the tour at the age of 21 she decided to produce her own album with some of the musicians she’d used in the USA. That album was her most “rocky” to date and is called “Abracadabra”.
By this time Claire had only one manager, Tony Dimitriades and Tony decided to base himself in the USA. Claire didn’t feel right leaving her family in the UK so Tony recommended that she contact the John Sherry Agency for representation.
John Sherry was managing Wishbone Ash and invited Claire to the studio where they were recording their new album “Just Testing”. She sang backing vocals for them and with Laurie Wisefield co-wrote one of their most successful songs, “Living Proof”.
In 1980 Claire married Nick Austin, the managing Director of Beggars Banquet Records and they settled first in London and then later in East Sussex where they brought up their three daughters.
Claire recorded three albums for Nick. The first “Touchpaper”, was released by Beggars Banquet and shows a development musically into a more dance oriented music perhaps influenced by fellow producer Andy Stennet who was The keyboard player with funk outfit “Freeze”.
Claire worked with some of Nick’s signings for his CODA label, Jazz group Morrissey Mullen and guitarist John Themis before branching out into New Age music with her album “Voices”.
“Voices” was a huge musical departure for Claire. It is composed entirely of sounds made by the human voice, mostly Claire’s. It takes “The Seasons” as it’s theme and won much critical acclaim and remains one of her most successful albums.
She followed that with an album that defines her as an artist,”Love in the Afternoon”. It blends poetic images with vocal themes, embedding her in the landscape of England from which she takes so much inspiration.
She had finally found her “niche.”
True to form, Claire changed her life and her music yet again.
In 1992 she split from Nick and went to live in nearby Hastings. She continued to and still does, have a good relationship with Nick, the children forming the centre to their world.
In 1993 she met Andrew Warren who introduced Claire to the world of Dance Music and they embarked on an album together “Summer” which was released in 1997.
In 2002 Claire discovered that Eva Cassidy had recorded one of her earlier songs from Stage Door Johnnies,”You take my breath Away”. This provided the impetus to begin work on another album of songs ,”The Lost and the Lovers” which she released herself on Archway Music in 2004.
Mark Powell from Esoteric records approached Claire to ask if she would like to release a compilation of her best songs and so “The Minor Fall The Major Lift” hit the shops in December 2007 and garnered good reviews. Esoteric also re -released some of her earlier albums.
Claire released her eleventh album in October 2012. It’s entitled “The Meeting of the Waters”. It has many references to her musical journey but also harks back to some of her irish roots.
Her track “You Take My Breath Away” to be the lead track on the new “Best of Eva” album by Eva Cassidy to be released in November 2012.
She is currently working with two backing bands in both the North and the South of the UK and hopes to promote the album with live gigs somewhere near you!
A book of her life and work is planned for next year.