Jo Hooper is a Devon (UK) based ‘alternative cellist’. Jo says:
I use the term ‘alternative cellist’ to distinguish myself from a classical cellist. I listen to and am influenced by a wide variety of music – folk (in its many forms… singer-songwriter, progressive, rock/fusion, celtic, world), rock and ambient.
I mainly play with Alt Folk band Mudskippers where influences of favourites Nick Drake, Roy Harper, and indie rock bands like The Smiths come through.
I also accompany Fly Yeti Fly – featuring on their debut album Shine a Light (released March 2017), jazz/folk singer songwriter Greg Hancock (and along with Lukas Drinkwater, feature on Greg’s EP Comfortable Hatred, and his album A303 released in 2017), and Rosa Rebecka, as well as playing soothing cello to yoga classes and retreats at Powderham Castle.
Other works include Ryn – Sure and Winter Bird from her mini album Coincide released November 2015, Leighe J Hall – I Should Know Better (which can be heard via the Reverbnation link), and The Acolytes – Come in out of the Rain & Love Songs (New Model Army cover) which can be heard from my Soundcloud page. In 2017 I performed ‘Rising’ with Laura Loft at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
I do all this in my spare time, by the way – I have a full time job that is quite different! This is my escape :-).
I also play traditional (mainly Scottish) folk tunes and enjoy experimenting with sounds through my Boss RC300 Loop Station, Flashback Delay pedal and Hall of Fame reverb pedal. My love of Brian Eno’s music tends to feature strongly in my more experimental solo work.
These are exciting times for alternative cellists, with the instrument featuring far more in bands as a core instrument and cellists exploring and experimenting beyond the confines of classical playing.
The cello is an incredibly versatile instrument, said to closest resemble the human voice – so it works well as an accompaniment to vocals. I love to weave my sounds through the song adding texture, harmony and emotion – depending upon the ambience and pace of the song, from the long growling low notes and sorrowful or sweet high notes to more percussive ‘chops’ and plucking. I’ve also mastered the use of an egg-shaker while plucking!
I started playing cello when I was about 11, I stopped playing aged about 15 when I reached Grade 5. Not because I didn’t enjoy the cello, I just didn’t enjoy the exclusive focus on classical music. I knew I wanted to be an alternative cellist, but in those days, School music classes did little to influence and encourage a journey into folk, pop or rock and growing up in Gloucestershire didn’t expose me to the kind of folk traditions you would get if you grew up in Scotland or Ireland. I took the cello up again when I was at Exeter College of Art, studying a Fine Art Degree, playing with local rock band Critical Error and pop covers band City Man Panics. I then met singer/songwriter Adrian Bull where we played as Mudskippers for a few years before I took a break from performing to focus on a career with a reliable income and family. Around 2010 I began playing with Mudskippers again and have since been gigging in and around Exeter on a regular basis, collaborating with other musicians and composing my own works.
I have also worked with quirky improvisers Akoya who have had a break from performing recently due to other commitments, but our tunes can still be heard on our Facebook page.
I play a Yinfente Semi Acoustic Cello, usually with a Block Strap.
Favourite bands/musicians include The Leisure Society, Lau, The Unthanks, Penguin Café, Brian Eno, Public Service Broadcasting, Nick Drake, Roy Harper. My favourite cellist is Natalie Haas who plays with the equally inspiring Alasdair Fraser.
I am available for session work, contact me if you would like me to play for you!