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Heidi Widdop, former vocalist for Stolen Earth, is back on the scene with a brand new band, Cloud Atlas. And that’s not all, for the band is soon to release its debut album, ‘Beyond The Vale’. Here, in an exclusive interview with ‘Pulse’ author Steve Rudd, Heidi waxes lyrical about her life in music…

Hey Heidi, how are things with you?

Very good thanks, Steve… busy as usual, with never enough hours in the day!

Thank you for taking time out to chat. So what have been the highlights for you and your band Cloud Atlas this year?

The band only formed in August. Previously, I was vocalist with Stolen Earth. It was time to move on and do something where I was more involved in the creative side and how things sounded. Life is short, so after deciding to leave Stolen Earth, and having loads of material written, I didn’t waste any time – and Cloud Atlas was born. I’m really happy with the line-up and the chemistry; musically, they are the business, but also the attitude we have towards each other, along with the friendships, some old, some new, have really restored my faith. I’m really looking forward to gigging with them all.

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As a band, you are based in York. When and how did you all hook up?

Martin Ledger and I have known each other personally for some years. We also worked together with The Secrets, performing Floyd and Hendrix covers amongst others. I think it was a given that we would end up working together again; he gets me and has a talent for taking stuff I’ve written and laying the most amazing guitar work on it. I think people are going to wonder where he has been hiding all these years. He and I have also started writing together… we’re on the same wavelength, and things just seem to fall into place. Stu Carver and I were in the original line-up of Mostly Autumn. I tried to coax him into joining Stolen Earth after Paul Teasdale left, but the time wasn’t right for him. I’m happy to say it now is! Dave Randall is one of those talented young fellas who is untainted by the music scene. I was introduced to him by an old school friend. Dave is really keen and has bags of potential and is also eye-candy for all the ladies to boot! Neil Scott, drummer extraordinaire, hails from further afield, but seems to spend half his life in York in various musical guises. I watched him lay down the drum tracks for the album, and they’re awesome.

Judging by recent content posted online, it looks like you’re presently hard at work with recording your debut album, Beyond The Vale. How many songs is the finished product likely to wield? Also, which are your favourites, and why?

Yes, recording is underway! I’m so restless, just desperate to get it done, but it will take some time, no compromises, everything has to be right. In all, there will be just over an hour of music, and there will be seven full tracks with the odd twiddly bit in between! I find it difficult to say which are my favourites at this stage, as things will evolve, but there is no track that I’m not happy with, and the more I hear of the recording, the more excited I am about the end result. There are a couple of tracks that actually give me goose bumps when I listen to them. We are incredibly lucky to have found a producer who knows his stuff, who’s very experienced, feels the vibe, and who is very old-school. There are no computers, no auto-tune, no copying and pasting and sticking bits together. There’s none of that “Can you drop me in halfway through this really tricky bit, please?” It all has to flow, which means we, as individual performers, have to get our parts spot-on. Zac, the producer, has a great talent for getting the best out of people in the studio. The album means a lot to me in many ways, not only because I need to prove myself as a songwriter and vocalist, but also because it will be dedicated to my friend’s son, Joel, who passed recently. I want to do something for her and for him, and this is the only way I know how.

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The provisional cover art for the album looks stunning. Please tell us more about the image you’ve chosen to feature on the cover…

That was quite funny, actually. Martin, myself, and my son went for a drive up to the Wolds… beautiful countryside where you can look over the Vale of York and beyond. I found a spot where the light shining through the trees looked magical. Martin took the photograph, but he doesn’t have a steady hand, so every time he took it, I had to scramble back down the hill, check it, then scramble back up again so he could have another go! We took all the footage for the promo vid the same day on a camera we borrowed that neither of us had a clue how to turn on. We had to phone someone to find out how! I like the atmosphere of the image: once tweaked, I’m sure it will make a great cover.

As a child, which singers and bands inspired you to first pick up a microphone and guitar?

I grew up in a house where music was always played. No-one played any instruments, but my dad had a large vinyl collection with everything from The Moody Blues, Barclay James Harvest and Wishbone Ash to Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Lindisfarne, Al Stewart and Jethro Tull. All of those bands have stayed with me, and whilst I had a break in my teens, where I rebelled, I came full circle, and they have remained engrained within… hence why I can’t write short songs!

I played the classical guitar for a couple of months when I was about eleven, but nothing else until I met Bryan Josh in 1989. He heard me singing to myself and told me to give it a go – the rest is history. I picked up a guitar again when I was about twenty-three and have just twiddled about with it every so often ever since.

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Given how busy you are with your own music-making, do you ever find much time to head out to see other bands in and around York? If so, who – if anyone – are you digging at the moment?

I very rarely get out. It’s more about family commitments. The time I do have, I spend rehearsing or in the studio. My friend is the lead vocalist with Scream Arena, a great York-based band on the cusp of a deal, so I’m hoping to get out to see them soon. I’m sure York is littered with talent. As a musician, I should know, but I’m very behind with the scene!

Looking ahead, have you made any grand plans for 2014 as yet?

There’ll be our album launch, lots of gigs, and hopefully the chance to really blow people away with our live shows.

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Finally, what’s the best way for folk to learn more about Cloud Atlas?

Our website is up and running. There are still a few things to finish off, but you can pre-order the album from there and check out the promo vid which contains snippets of demos in their original form to give you an idea of what is to come! You can also sign up to the mailing list. We are on Facebook, of course, along with ReverbNation.

I’m always floating around on Facebook


(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Heidi Widdop)

This interview was conducted on 10th December, 2013.

Steve Rudd’s first book entitled Pulse is available here


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