Acclaimed folk duo head to Halifax

O'Hooley and Tidow
O'Hooley and Tidow

Critically acclaimed duo O’Hooley and Tidow are set to bring their unique brand of folk music to Halifax next Friday.

Huddersfield-based musicians Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow have been writing and performing music together for the past nine years, and in that time have built up a reputation for being a force to be reckoned with.

Over the past five years the pair have received plaudits from some of the biggest names in music criticism and were nominated in 2013 for the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

“We met on the Huddersfield music scene,” says Heidi.

“I went to one of Belinda’s concerts not knowing who she was and was really blown away by her songs, her voice and her piano playing.

“I invited her to one of my gigs and she came to see me and she really liked what I did so we decided to have a go at singing together and found that our voices really worked well together.”

The pair grew up in West Yorkshire - Belinda in Leeds and Heidi in Huddersfield - and both share a common Irish ancestry.

“We’ve both got a real broad love of music - we listen to classical and rock music, and we both have a love of folk music, probably because of our Irish backgrounds,” says Heidi.

“Both our fathers are from the west coast of Ireland, and there’s a real rich history of singing and storytelling.

“Music there is just an integral part of people’s lives and that’s fed through the generations.”

But O’Hooley and Tidow’s brand of folk music is anything but twee - their songs deal with political issues and celebrate people who go against the grain of mainstream society.

On their latest album The Hum the pair wrote the song Coil and Spring about the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot who were imprisoned for their protests against the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The way we see folk music is that it is the music of the people,” says Heidi.

“For us it’s about addressing the subjects and topics that affect the ordinary folk, the working classes, people trying to get by in difficult circumstances.

“We look around at what’s going on around us - there’s government cuts, issues with the environment.”

But not all of their music is protest, the duo have also penned some quirkier songs - for instance, the track Summat’s Brewin’ is an unabshed celebration of the real ale scene in Huddersfield.

“We’re really taken by the Huddersfield real ale scene - there’s loads of microbreweries popping up,” says Heidi.

“We had to do a lot of research for the song, which was obviously quite hard work going around breweries and pubs.

“People setting up their own breweries rather than having to drink the watered-down rubbish - we’re really inspired by people doing great things and getting through despite adversity.”

The pair are in a civil partnership and Heidi says that it is the close relationship that is the key to their success.

“The main thing is that we have such a deep connection,” says Heidi.

“When you spend a lot of time with someone who’s on a similar wavelength, writing together feels really natural.

“Because we spend so much time together, if one of us gets a song idea we have a lot of time to talk it through,” she says.

“It’s our life - our music and our relationship are naturally intertwined.

“And we get along really well, so that’s a plus!”

- O’Hooley and Tidow will be performing at Square Chapel, Halifax, on Friday August 29 as part of a benefit show for Parkinson’s Disease.