Who They Are:
Hil St. Soul is a British Soul/R&B music duo made up of singer-songwriter Hilary Mwelwa and producer Victor Redwood-Sawyerr. The group's name is pronounced Hill Street Soul. Due to Hilary's prominent role in the duo and Victor's preference to stay in the background, fans sometimes think Hilary by herself is Hil St. Soul, but that's actually the group's name.
In The Beginning:
Singer Hilary Mwelwa was born in Lusaka, Zambia, but when she was five, she and her family relocated to London. She says that as a child she adopted her father’s love of music, and the family's home was filled with traditional Zambian music along with American R&B/soul icons Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. While attending London's Westminster University, Hilary decided to seriously pursue music, despite the fact that she had no formal training. She took a year off from school and recorded her first demo, which is how she met producer Victor Redwood-Sawyerr.
The Duo Forms:
In the late 1990s, Hilary graduated from Westminster U. with a degree in biological sciences. But having set her sights on a music career, she linked up with producer-songwriter Victor Redwood-Sawyerr, who had been a co-founder of the former UK hip-hop group Blak Twang. The two formed Hil St. Soul, and their debut album, Soul Organic, was released throughout the United Kingdom in October 2000 on British Soul/R&B label Dome Records.
It wasn't until their debut release on Shanachie Entertainment, 2004's Copasetik & Cool, that the group started receiving attention in the United States. The album was critically lauded, but not a major hit in America, a trend that has continued with each of their subsequent albums. In a June 2008 interview with soulbounce.com, Hilary stirred controversy by saying that in the UK black Soul artists aren't getting the same opportunities that are given to white artists like Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Duffy.
2000: Soul Organic, Dome Records.
2004: Copasetik & Cool, Shanachie Entertainment.
2006: SOULidified, Shanachie Entertainment.
2008: Black Rose, Shanachie Entertainment.
The Last Word:
"I'm definitely an old-school soul chick, really. Kind of grew up listening to, you know, the old soul singers. Those are my influences vocally. Musically I would say it's a variety - I've been exposed to quite an eclectic mix of music, really. I'll always say the foundation of what I do is Soul, because I guess that's what I feel the most and that's kind of what I try to get across in my singing and vocal performance." -- Hilary Mwelwa to Tom Paul of soultracks.com, May 2008.