One Big Sky: The Derby-based acoustic group crafting songs for everyone

Sunday 13th July 2008

Tony Cummings reports on the female fronted acoustic pop practitioners ONE BIG SKY

One Big Sky
One Big Sky

When The Harbour Lights broke up in 2007 leaving behind two delightfully crafted acoustic albums 'Leaving Safe Anchorage' (Ebb&Flow, 2006) and 'Closed For The Winter' (Soul Café, 2007) so that lead singer Bethan Court could go on to university, many fans were disappointed. For as well as Bethan's angelically pure voice it was the wistfully haunting compositions of Phil Baggaley and Ian Blythe which made The Harbour Lights so special. Now those same fans will be delighted to embrace a new group, One Big Sky, who again are based in Derby and again features one-time Phil & John CCM stalwart Baggaley and his keyboard playing compatriot Blythe who together with another ex-Harbour Light, percussionist Stuart Wood are the backbone of the group. Together, with acoustic guitarist Rob Bullock and another exceptional singer Joanne Carlier, One Big Sky are described on the sleeve of their self-titled debut EP as "a group of friends who began writing and performing together during the autumn of 2007."

On the Cross Rhythms Rimmerama programme Mike Rimmer asked Phil Baggaley for a few more details about One Big Sky's formation. He responded, "We run an event called Soul Café in Derby which we've been doing for about four years now. I suppose that was the introduction point because we share not just ourselves but quite a few musicians from around the area. We do it every month. So it was kind of from there One Big Sky developed. There was no kind of master plan..."

Stuart Wood took up the story. "After some performances at Soul Café events people started saying, 'Oh, you ought to perhaps do a bit more of this, perhaps record something.' That's how the whole Harbour Lights thing got going. Very similar sort of thing with this really. We all knew each other and enjoyed playing music together and eventually we reached a point where we thought well, we might as well get on and record some of these songs."

The critically acclaimed 'One Big Sky' EP is released on Gold Records, the renowned independent label formed by Baggaley. Gold is best known for its international hit 'City Of Gold' (1997) various artists project with Gold subsequently releasing other multi-artist projects like 'Shipwrecks & Islands' (1999) and 'Road To The City: A Pilgrim's Journey' (2001).

It was Joanne Carlier who finally came up with the One Big Sky band name after an unsuccessful dip into the overrated internet programme Random Band Name Generator. Said Rob Bullock, "They suggested names like Fly's Backside Of Venus." Joanne explained One Big Sky's moniker. "We did a carol service and we felt we really should have a name. I was just thinking about lots of things like horizons and blue skies and that kind of thing and then you have to go through what's already been taken, obviously, and what's available. Then I thought 'One Big Sky. I like it. I like the fact that there are three words and they all have three letters. It could be a weird thing, it could just be me but I'm quite liking that whole kind of sequence thing.'" After a brief pause Joanne remarked to her assembled band members, "You're looking at me like I am actually mad!"

One of the outstanding songs on the EP is the haunting "What Love Can Do". Phil Baggaley explained its origins, "As well as running the Soul Café, we've also in the last couple of years being playing lots of folk clubs round the area. To be honest that's where quite a lot of the audience come from. What we tried to do this autumn was start a songwriters and poets get together. People who are Christians and people who are not Christians. The thing we've got in common is we all write poetry and music. So from totally different ends of the spectrum, totally different styles, all sorts of things really. We did the first one - everyone turns up and does their best couple of songs like you always do and then we started setting this - it sounds really bad - homework: they had to go away, we'd set a theme and say come back in a month and half's time and could you all try and write a song about such and such. 'What Love Can Do' was the song that I wrote."

Obviously close friends, One Big Sky have a very relaxed attitude to their gigging and recording. Not for them the unbridled ambition that seems to drive many younger bands. Said the constantly phlegmatic Phil, "I think at the end of the day we've tried it every which way over the years - kind of really pushing ourselves and all that sort of stuff. When you get to my age you think, well, this is what it's all about really - being with your mates, making some good music." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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