Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I think it was there all along. I always loved singing since I can remember and then I started studying piano when I was 6 and violin when I was 8 and it always kind of made sense. My parents both loved music and played instruments as a hobby, and I went to church with my Dad so singing hymns and hearing voices in harmony was a big part of my childhood as well as my Mum playing Indian violin so my ears were accessing all kind of good stuff! But as I grew older felt my options were limited as I loved songwriting and the main options to study were Classical based music. I loved Classical music but I also loved funk, soul and jazz. It was also hard to feel completely confident in being a musician as the culture I was raised in focussed on secure professions so I followed the path to studying law, always wanting to get back to music. Once I started work as a lawyer I knew I couldn’t just give use music – it wasn’t enough to have it as a hobby, I wanted it to be a clear part of my identity and my life. So, without really telling many people, I auditioned for music college to pursue performance and composition in jazz and that year just turned my life around and made me fully embed myself in singing, playing and composing.
Introduce us to you / all to the members and your musical history?
My band members have changed a little since my songs were recorded – I had worked on jazz material with my old drummer Marco Quarantotto as we both freelance with different musicians on the British jazz scene. Marco is a really free and creative player but an absolute technician too – I had wanted to work with him on more original material for a while and it was after I had been inspired un Nashville that I started really wanting to put together a band to work with my writing projects. Marco then introduced me to his muso friends – bassist Jason Reyes Walsh and guitarist Filippo Ferazzoli whom all played together already and had good musical fit. They all had a love of improvisation and groove so when we sat for the first time in my house for an initial play through my song ideas, a solid groove and mood just happened. They fully took on my ideas and gave it their own spin and it was just a moment of pure magic – truly amazing. The pandemic meant some of the guys did not stay in London, so since then I am lucky to have retained Jason and we now have an incredible new drummer Jimmy Norden who has joined on my Pokkisham journey. He’s very similar to Marco -very creative, sharp on any kind of groove and also just a lovely being.
Name me your 3 favourite Albums?
Can I say 5 or 10???! That’s too hard – so many albums give me goosebumps and have forged inspiration in so many ways. But I don’t think I could be the musician I am today if I hadn’t heard Kind of Blue (Miles Davis), Blue (Joni Mitchell) and Songs in the Key of Life (Stevie W).
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
I think it was watching the film version of “Grease” and all the songs in it when I was a kid – I knew them ALL! And actually, looking back, there was a lot of contrast in that one show in the style of songs covered from quite funky tunes to jazz-tinged ballads and the jive/rockabilly aspects.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
I think the industry is a challenging one and you have to really focus on what’s important to you, not others. I think if my younger self saw me now, they’d be happy, but I also know that I have spent some time second guessing and doubting myself because of what I have felt “success” has been, but only as defined as in the industry. I know now that a lot of what that is perceived as does not really matter in terms of growing one’s artistry and development. The industry fails to separate music and art from entertainment, so as a creative, you have to be able to see that, otherwise you just struggle because talent is not always rewarded ‘outwardly’ so you need to focus on your own values and connections that are meaningful for you.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
I think there just needs to be better education around physical space and boundaries in general. And access to help easily if someone feels like they are in a bad situation without judgment.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
Usually from fellow musicians and friends more than social media, as my friends I connect with know me more and more what I like to listen to. Often my muso friends will recommend someone they are working with, so you get a deeper insight into someone’s music that way and how hey are as a musician in their life rather than what is presented on social media and that interests me more. But I do hear stuff I like sometimes on the radio and social media and I’ll give it a listen.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
I have voluntarily jumped out a plane (twice) as I used to love being an adrenaline junkie.
I met and sang for Quincy Jones and hugged him a lot afterward when he kind of wanted to get to his next event.
I speak 5 different languages.
What’s your thought on Spotifys monopoly on the music industry?
I think having an online platform is useful to artists wanting to increase their fanbase but payment to artists needs to be improved and Spotify’s monopoly means this is severely restricted because they know there will always be people willing to sacrifice what they deserve in pursuit of something ‘bigger’ that may not happen.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
I like the current theory that giant or differently built humans created some of the great monolithic structures in the world.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Uh, maybe – my Amazon history of orders for that time is loooong
What was the worst experience on stage?
I once turned up to a gig where they said there’d be a PA but there wasn’t so I had to sing the entire gig without any amplification – my voice was a bit wrecked after that.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
My bassist Jason is actually an incredible choral singer and arranger and pianist – he’s annoyingly talented.
Jimmy was the originating drummer on Lin Manuel Miranda’s London debut of “In The Heights” and actually won an Olivier Award for his incredible drumming/percussion work on the show.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
Fierce freedom – I love so many styles of writing, that my songwriting is unhampered by strict genre considerations and I aim to really keep my listeners feeling like they are on a journey in how I arrange the songs. I write things that challenge me and my band, and I’m not afraid to take risks. I also feel that there is freedom to work the material in different ways in different contexts – if you hear us live, you’d never get the same ideas twice –all of us in the band are open to throwing ideas out and trusting eachother in taking the music where it wants to go when we play the tunes and arrange them.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
Cages was written back when I was a trained and fully working young lawyer before I gave it all up to pursue music full time. It was such a hard decision and process but one I don’t ever regret as it gave me my life back. It’s so clear that money these days isn’t everything – everyone seems to need more, so we have to enrich ourselves from the inside and find a way to give voice to things we love. That for me is what Cages is about – finding a way to balance work/security etc with also your passions. For some people that means finding a way back to the things they loved doing in their childhood that they still want to have in their lives.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
The song was written lyrically a long time ago and for years I had just set it to a jazzy shuffle kind of groove and every time I played it, something just didn’t sit. It took a while to consider whether some new lyrics might fit better, so I did redraft it with a more poetic edge to bring out the storytelling with more imagery. Somehow that got it close to where I wanted it meaning wise, but because I often had to play it live with pickup bands, it just stayed in that jazzy groove. After a while of writing other material I came back to it and just realised the musical style did not really honour the words and also the doubts and fears reflected in the narrative. I really wanted something to punch through, so I reharmonised the chorus and then started to feel this really strong power coming through. I tried a few different ideas at the piano, finally setting on this kind of quieter verse to tell the story and then a punchier soft rock feel in the choruses to have a more anthemic feel which I then took to my band. I wanted that chorus to really get a listener’s attention. It still has a lot of jazz harmony but the rhythmic ebb and flow really aid the narrative more.
What was the recording process like?
It was great – this one was quite easy as we had mapped out the sections, dynamically and the energy was great We recorded this one at Eastcote Studios alongside 5 others we did in 2 days and it went pretty smoothly because we’d put a lot into rehearsing and getting things clear on our parts whilst leaving room for some magic to happen on the day.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Believing in myself and knowing when it’s finished and you’re over-egging the pudding! Sometimes less is more.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
I’d record the vocals closer to the band sessions. We tracked the rhythm section just before the first lockdown so the vocals were all then done at home. Some have been re-recorded in the final mix, as I just don’t feel as in the zone when I’m engineering myself.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Just consider what is important and meaningful to you rather than others, and set your own values and points of connection. Find time for the small things that nurture you – they are as valuable as the ‘big’ things.
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