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Biography

Gwyneth Herbert is a strikingly original performer, award-winning composer and lyricist and versatile musical adventurer who continues to redefine and challenge expectations. With one foot in the jazz world and the other somewhere in the future, she has worked in collaboration with writers, musicians, directors, choreographers, visual artists, academics, clowns, pirates and young people to make a huge cannon of genre-defying interdisciplinary work, as well as touring nationally and internationally with her band and releasing 6 albums to date on major, independent and self-owned labels.

Growing up in the armpit of nowhere in rural Hampshire, Herbert wrote, sang and performed from an early age. While studying English Literature at Durham University she formed a jazz duo with guitarist Will Rutter, with whom she’d roam Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam and eventually London, busking and hustling for gigs at every wine bar, pub and restaurant they came across. On this journey she met Peter Wallis – then visionary manager of Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club - who immediately signed Herbert and Rutter to release First Songs, a combination of standards, pop covers and originals, under the productional ear of acclaimed jazz vocalist Ian Shaw. Shortly after, Herbert was signed to Universal to cut the critically-acclaimed 'Bittersweet and Blue', but soon after growing weary with the marketing-led constraints of a major deal and keen to explore her own voice, Herbert left to produce self-financed record 'Between Me and the Wardrobe', an all original work recorded in three days with Seb Rochford (Acoustic Ladyland/Polar Bear). This was soon picked up by legendary jazz label Blue Note as their first UK signing in 30 years.

Her fourth album “All The Ghosts’, recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios continued further along her own idiosyncratic path. With their melodic immediacy and observational characterization, the songs had critics in a fizz, scrambling for comparisons with Lennon and McCartney, Nina Simone, and The Kinks. This was swiftly followed by quirky mini-album - 'Clangers and Mash' – drawing on the many sides of Herbert's musical world, from stripped-back ukulele strums through recent classics to dark-hearted remixes.

Gwyneth’s latest highly critically acclaimed album "The Sea Cabinet" - an intricate exploration of the sea in all its magic, majesty and mystery - was developed during an artist residency for Aldeburgh Music, and last year enjoyed a large-scale multi-artform tour involving prose, live water sculpture projections and pirate flashmob choruses recruited from local communities. Since then, she has seen her musical co-written with celebrated playwright Diane Samuels open at the Southwark Playhouse, starring Peep Show's Isy Suttie, recorded a new run of Radio 4’s Playlist Series singing the favourite tunes of Nell Gwyn and the Duke of Wellington, built a choir on wheels in Sheffield as part of "Henry and Barbara - the Musical" – a multi-phase musical / film / art installation project exploring the real and imagined relationship between sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth - and spent a month in Kenya collecting lullabies, sharing songs in slum schools and staging multi-tribe storytelling happenings under the Mombasa stars. This year sees, amongst many other new projects, the release of musical theatre star Frances Ruffelle's bilingual album that Gwyneth has produced and the development of another interdisciplinary project in collaboration with artist Mel Brimfield – "The Palace that Joan Built", an Art on the Underground / Theatre Royal Stratford East commission celebrating the work of theatrical revolutionary Joan Littlewood.

***** “If Hanns Eisler had been a woman and written with Ray Davies, he might have come up with something like this” -Independent on Sunday

***** “Brilliantly original - full of space and isolated detail” MOJO

***** “A remarkably gifted talent” The Guardian

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