Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of copying it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on April 22, 2006.
Born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Joanne Hogg is the singer and songwriter of the Christian Celtic-influenced progressive rock band Iona. Coming from a Christian background, her father a Presbyterian minister, religious celebrations were often supplemented by musical activities at home. With three sisters and two brothers, Joanne and her siblings cherished the experience of singing Christmas carols while being accompanied by their mum on the family piano. Joanne also received piano lessons from the age of 10 for four years, though was forced to stop as a result of living in a rural area where teachers were few. Her mother a nurse and three other family members doctors, Joanne looked towards a career in medicine, leaving school with four A-levels in the main science subjects and later entering the Queens University in Belfast to read Medicine. Unfortunately, despite graduating and starting training as a junior Doctor in Belfast Hospital, serious illness six months into her placement meant she was advised to not work in the medicine field full-time for health reasons.
Despite this tragic turn of events, Joanne had an alternative career route in music available to her. During her third year of university education, she was attracted to a Christian Artists event in Holland and was, unbeknown to her, entered into a talent evaluation event where she impressed so much that she worked for a year with 'Christ in Denmark' to do school ministry and was eventually recruited by Adrian Snell to sing on his Alpha and Omega recording. These experiences resulted in Joanne being contacted by multi-instrumentalists Dave Fitzgerald and Dave Bainbridge in 1988 and subsequently leaving training to form the band Iona with them in 1989. Iona enjoyed early success with their self-titled first album based on the Scottish island Iona, released in 1990, by which time five new members had joined. After subsequent concept-based albums The Book Of Kells and Beyond These Shores, Iona's recordings soon became successful worldwide and they became Europe's best selling contemporary Christian band. These albums were instrumentally dense and, while Joanne's versatile voice was often prominent, her role became reputable because of the way it subtly radiated through the instrumental sections and was almost treated in an instrumental fashion.
After releasing Journey into the Morn, two live albums, and a 'best of' collection with Iona, Joanne won the hearts of many gamers when she sung four major themes for Xenogears and the first episode to the Xenosaga series. Chosen by the games' composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who regularly listened to Iona's works and aimed to integrate a Celtic essence into these games, Joanne's passionate and soothing vocal delivery of each theme's memorable melodies worked beautifully in conjunction with the subtly crafted Celtic instrumental performances. The highly regarded "Small Two of Pieces" for 1998's Xenogears was remarkable for its time in that no Square game had featured a vocal ballad prior to it, though was sadly overshadowed by Nobuo Uematsu's "Eyes on Me" released the subsequent year. Though its counterpart, "Stars of Tears," did not feature in the game, it was a popular out-take for the Xenogears Original Soundtrack, also featuring on the Square Vocal Collection. By popular demand from fans, Joanne returned on 2002's Xenosaga Original Soundtrack to sing the love ballads "Kokoro" and "Pain," which were also released in a single prior to the official soundtrack release.
In November 1999, Joanne produced her first solo album, Looking Into Light. As a result of the precedent set by certain other band members previously, the prospect of releasing a solo album was considered by Joanne for a long time, and, after the unexpected death of her mother in February 1997, she decided this should be a collection of hymns and dedicated her heritage and her dad. Including many of favourites of Joanne's and her family's, the solo album was well-supported by performances from a number of talented musicians that Joanne had worked with before and pre-recorded sounds of the sea. Following the release of 2000's well-received Open Sky, Iona released a DVD recording of an early live concert in 2004 and produced The River Flows: Anthology Vol. 1 in 2002, a four disc box set that features their first three studio albums with some re-recording as well as some unreleased additional material on a fourth disc, including a remixed and extended version of their soundtrack to the BBC's nature programme, Snowdonia Realm of the Ravens. With Iona reportedly releasing their sixth studio recorded album in 2006, The Circling Hour, it seems Joanne's voice will emanate from their high-quality recordings once again in the near future.
List of Songs for Related Projects
List of Covered Albums