The OUS Team for the UK

As the OUS project is constantly expanding, its obvious to me that we need more skilled people to help run and promote the platform. I am therefore very pleased to confirm Matt Hicks, Jennifer Birch (aka Astraluna) and Richard Sabey (owner of The Woolpack Studios) to the main team. Each of these folks has unique skills and crucially a passion and shared vision for ORIGINAL UKULELE based songs

Nick Cody

(OUS founder)







Matt Hicks

Matt Hicks was born and raised in Cambridge, UK until he joined the Royal Navy in 1998. He has been writing and performing songs for far longer than he’s prepared to admit predominantly on guitar with which he built a strong reputation as a strong songwriter. During his time in the folk world Matt played at the Edinburgh Fringe and supported established artists such as Mike Silver and Martyn Joseph. 10 years ago he took up the ukulele for something different and to have something with strings he could fit in his bunk onboard his ship. Since then the  Uke has become as important an instrument as his guitar. Matt writes most of his songs on the Uke knowing that if it works on this machine it’ll work full stop.

On the ukulele Matt is known for his adapted clawhammer technique and his Americana , folk, blues style which to date has set him apart from many other performers. Matt is a great believer in music thriving in community and was musical director of the Plymouth Ukulele players in its early days and has developed songwriter showcase evenings. Having fully found his voice on the Uke, Matt is now frequenting the Ukulele festivals and can be seen gigging in Plymouth and Brighton. He is immensely proud to be part of the OUS project.

Jennifer Birch (Astraluna)

Astraluna is the stage name of Jennifer Birch. Playing and making music has always been an important part of Jennifer’s life. Before discovering the ukulele in 2012, Jennifer had extensive experience of performance, recording and touring worldwide as part of Corinne Bailey Rae’s band from 2009-2011 on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Having been close friends with Corinne since age 10, the two of them founded indie band Helen in the 1990s, which became well known on the Leeds circuit.
Once the tour had ended, Jennifer found work as a musical mentor for Leeds charity Lifeforce: a job that brought together music and a passion for working with young people. This then led to more community arts work closer to home in Otley where she runs The Woolpack Music Studios in conjunction with colleague with Richard Sabey.
The Woolpack Music Studios is a community arts centre, which has a high quality rehearsal and recording space as well as being the home of community ensembles Otley Ukulele Orchestra, Otley A Cappella Choir and The Woolpack Music Social Club. There are also groups for children and young people in music making, composition and music technology, which are funded via various sources such as Leeds City Council and the Leeds Music Education Partnership. The Woolpack Studios also promotes numerous gigs throughout the year providing sound engineering expertise to help bands and musicians sound their best on stage and off.
Leading community ensembles and teaching the ukulele led to a love of the instrument and Jennifer soon discovered that writing songs on the ukulele gave her a freedom she’d not experienced on other instruments. Jennifer wrote the songs for her debut album The Pass Of Storms in 2015-2016. The album was recorded and produced by Jennifer and Richard at the Woolpack Studios and was released in October 2016. Jennifer played all the ukulele, bass and percussion that features on the album as well as singing all the vocal parts.  Through Astraluna, Jennifer hopes that people might see how versatile the ukulele can be and encourage people to have a go at writing songs for themselves.
“We were completely blown away by her utterly beautiful voice here in the studio”
(Jericho Keys, BBC Introducing York & North Yorkshire)
Featured on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music ‘Best of 2016 Mixtape’
“…Astraluna’s impassioned vocals set the melody on fire…..[‘Play With Fire’] crackles and sparks with energy all the way through…”
(Richard Dowling, Fresh on the Net)
“The layered celestial vocals atop a chiming ukulele sound, both sweetly wrapped in resonant reverb, create a haunting, atmospheric and airy chamber to house Astraluna’s delicate songwriting gift.”
(Uke Magazine, December 2016)

 Richard Sabey

Richard Sabey has run the Woolpack Music Studios, a multi-purpose arts hub in the centre of Otley, since 2011. As well as high quality recording and rehearsal facilities, the Studios also host a variety of community and youth music projects and ensembles run by Richard and his colleague Jennifer Birch(well known in the ukulele world in both her own name and also as Astraluna-whose album The Pass of Storms was recorded and produced at the Studios)- such as ukulele, guitar, song-writing, music production and technology courses.

Since starting his community arts career in 1998 Richard has specialised in delivering music projects for young people  and for community groups of all ages as well as schools, education authorities and charities. Projects are usually designed to be accessible to people who may not have much previous musical experience, as well as developing and nurturing musical talent. Projects often involve enabling people to create their own music and often make use of music technology. Richard has worked extensively with people with a variety of backgrounds and needs – such as with young people and adults with disabilities (learning or physical), mental health support groups,drug/alcohol dependent adults, and prisoners.