The Rise of Lady Blackbird: A West Coast diva bringing atmospheric jazzy vocals to D&B
Introducing Lady Blackbird, a newly discovered but highly experienced vocalist named “The Grace Jones of jazz” by Giles Peterson. She’s by far, an extraordinary revelatory talent that currently transcends both the jazz and electronic music scene.
Starting off, her powerful single ‘Collage’ was remixed by the biggest names across multiple dance genres: KDA, Bruise, Greg Foat, Foremost Poets, Matthew Herberts and Calibre to name a few. Indeed, from romantic velvet atmosphere to electric dance beats, many of these reworks have been spun on Radio 1 and 2, with support from Annie Mac and Pete Tong, amongst other broadcasters. Plus, she released her debut album ‘Black Acid Soul’ two months ago and signed her presence on the show Later With Jools Holland, a couple of weeks ago. What a success! She’s now getting prepared to show, to the world, her new collaboration with one of the highest names in Drum & Bass : Goldie
Indeed, Lady Blackbird’s journey into Drum & Bass has just started but seems to blow the house down. First, Calibre did a remix of her track ‘Collage’ earlier this year: the synergy between her breathtaking jazzy, and emotional voice mixed with the striking kicks and snares of the Irish producer is just a satisfying masterpiece.
Yet, as mentioned before, this is only the beginning. This American lady is announced to be on Subjective’s (Goldie & James Davidson) upcoming album ‘The Start Of No Regret’. Out March 25th 2022, the first single ‘Sunlight’ just dropped last week, and it’s a frenetic soundscape journey.
“ I feel the collaborations with him particularly did bring out a new feeling and sound within me that I had never tapped into before.”
We sat down with Marley, aka Lady Blackbird to discuss her promising career, her long creative journey, and as well as how she manages to work with such electronic music legends.
Hello Marley, it’s an immense pleasure talking to you today. Your album was released two months ago now, and I noticed you’re back on the road performing after these weird times of restrictions. So, how are you feeling today?
It’s been a bit challenging. There are still so many restrictions on travelling abroad. We’re all still operating very carefully and cautiously. But besides all of that, it’s been a breath of fresh air to be back on that stage, finally being able to share what we’ve created.
Perhaps we could begin by introducing Lady Blackbird? I heard you’re from Farmington, a west American city, but from what I understood, you never got attached or felt you were from this city. So, where did you move to fully express yourself?
Correct. There wasn’t any part of that town that called or fed my soul. Unfortunately, you can’t help where you are from, but you can relocate. In fact, my relocation eventually was to New York. I was always so drawn to NY. I knew that’s where I wanted to be, and once living there finally felt like I was where I belong.
Where did you get this passion for singing? A family affair? Huge inspiration from a musician back in the days? By the way, who is your highest musical inspiration?
Music was always in my DNA. I was born to sing. Nothing makes me happier. I would listen to all the legends that inspired me, dreaming to be just like them. I like to say I was trained by Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Billie Holiday and so many more all in my bedroom listening to them in my headphones for hours at a time
You said, “I’ve gone through different phases and styles… I don’t ever think I’ll move away from anything because it’s all in me. It’s all music. I’m a true lover of music. All these different genres shape who I am as an artist”. The Lady Blackbird project is the result of a long journey, I’d love to learn about how your creative journey began.
I’ve never wanted to do anything else except be a singer/entertainer. It’s been a long journey of many ups and downs and almosts and no’s. Nonetheless, no matter how challenging it’s been, it’s something I’ve never been able to walk away from.
I would have to say the release of ‘Black Acid Soul’. Being my first debut project to actually be released was a monumental moment for me, and to hear it being received the way it has been surreal and humbling.
Now, we obviously need to speak about Nina Simone’s reference in your album ‘Black Acid Soul’. Blackbird is originally a track written and sung by her, which sketches the struggles of being a black woman. The pain in her voice is striking and the way you covered it, is powerful, sublime, timeless, and also a demonstration! On these words, what inspired you to compose/ sing? Are there some particular topics you love to raise your voice for?
The great Miss Simone. The beauty and pain in her voice and her life are undeniable. That’s always been a favourite of mine that she sings. I had always wanted to cover it and had tried once, but it just wasn’t quite right. It surfaced again at the start of this project and became the first song I brought to the table. As for me, I’m trying to create timeless and memorable music in this lifetime. I stand for equal rights, human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, and more, and I’m sure you’ll hear me sing about all of them at some point along the way
Let’s talk about the ‘Collage’ remixes. The first dive into electronic music with the Lady Blackbird project. What’s your relation to electronic music?
The electronic world is very new to me. I’m learning more about it as I go. Chris has been key in schooling me and giving me a better understanding.
Talking about your producer, Chris Seefried, who is Grammy-nominated, could you tell us how was the process with him, behind the curation of producers who remixed ‘Collage’?
‘Collage’ had 4 different remixes, all curated by Ross Allen. The first was by a new guy called Bruise that has reacted well. Then Greg Foat who Chris and Ross both know did a beautiful folk-jazz remix. KDA did something very up which I like a lot too but when we were over in the UK doing the We Out Here Festival, after our show we all (Chris, Ross, Christine and I) walked in the rain over to the Giles Peterson tent to dance and listen to music. As we were being dumped on, someone in the distance was playing the Calibre remix. That was the first time I heard it and I thought, yeah, I like that. A special moment for me.
I heard Calibre isn’t the only Drum & Bass producer that worked in collaboration with you, you’re going to be featured on Goldie’s upcoming album with two tracks, what a huge thing! How was the process of collaborating with him?
I always tell him he truly is golden. In music and just a genuinely great human. It was amazing working with him. I’m very grateful to be on his project. Chris and I collaborated together with him on both songs.
Did you meet physically and spend hours in the studio, finding the perfect symbiosis, or did you work together remotely?
Both tracks I recorded while in Los Angeles are separate from him. I feel the collaborations with him particularly did bring out a new feeling and sound within me that I had never tapped into before. We met in person only once so far in London, and it was truly a wonderful time. His energy is mood-changing in the best way. By the way, he tagged a napkin for me, so I tagged him one back. Of course, mine looked a bit challenged lol
What expresses the songs? What was the creative process behind the tracks? Did you already have the vocals and melody in mind, or did the inspiration come while working with Goldie?
First, the tracks were sent to us from Goldie. The first one we got was instrumental for what became “Yoshis High Way”. Chris and I just sat on my bed in West Hollywood and listened to it and then started singing the hook…
“High Way, I just want it my way….”
Then we thought… “Freeway… I just want it my way… to be free and be high, while riding’ all night… on the Highway”.
That really painted a lovely late-night (because of the sound of the track) picture of being free, and driving symbolizing that freedom. It felt good, it felt right for the track. Then we sent it to Goldie, and he loved it!
That started the conversation about also doing the track ‘Sunlight’. Indeed, he sent us a ruff with him doing the melody and was sending us screenshots of handwritten lyrics he was writing on the fly in a burst of inspiration. We would talk on the phone and discuss vibes. Me and Chris in LA and Goldie in Thailand. We came up with that cascading vocal part, and then he wanted more vamping. It was a lot of fun because the tracks were great, and he is just a lot of fun! Full of life and colour and day and night energy!
Would you be up to perform on stage, at a festival or Drum & Bass event, on a mix with a DJ?
Absolutely! That would be an entirely new experience for me! I think it would be thrilling and a hell of a good time!
More intimately, what are you doing when you’re not singing? What do you love to do?
I’m a songwriter as well, so you might catch me writing. Fashion of course, so there’s always time for shopping. And one of my favourites would be drinking wine and watching The Golden Girls at home.
Any dream collaborations in mind?
So many! I’m thinking of Jay-Z, Coldplay, Sade, Terrace Martin, Elton John, Brittany Howard, Tom Yorke, Gregory Porter, Steven Tyler to name a few.
What’s on the horizon for you? Could we expect to hear more intense jazzy vocals into electronic beats?
Well, I will say album 2 is shaping up nicely. There’s going to be a common thread of course but amped up with more intensity. Shall we say a bit more acid?
PRE-ORDER SUBJECTIVE ‘THE START OF NO REGRET’ LP HERE