No doubt loads of you reading will have heard of Lady Blackbird by now – wowed at – been seduced by – her wonderful voice. Very likely through some remarkable remixes from producers and musicians such as Ashley Beedle, Bruise, and Greg Foat. Ranging from romantic sunset ambience to out and out dance-floor fillers – the latest care of KDA. These reworks and re-imaginings have served to build a whole heap of anticipation for the forthcoming album, Black Acid Soul. While that album is still under tight wraps – its release date obviously pending a better global grip on the pandemic – I was – very – lucky enough to have the mysterious Lady B answer a few of my questions….
Where are you from?
I was born in a small, little town in the south west called Farmington. It never felt like home there. The people never understood me, and I never understood them. I always knew New York was in my future. I eventually did move to the city and still consider it my real home.
Where are you based?
I’m now based out of Los Angeles.
When did you first discover you could sing?
I feel like I came out the womb singing – that’s the biggest thing and the main thing that I remember of my childhood. Always singing. Always a lover of music.
Do you play any instruments? Have you had any formal musical training?
I don’t play any musical instruments, although I would love to learn the piano and guitar. I haven’t had any formal training, but I like to think I was trained by all the legends I was continuously inspired by and filling my ears with growing up.
Are there any vocalists in particular that have influenced you? Perhaps any particular songs? Me, I can hear a lot of Nina Simone, maybe a little Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday`s reading of Strange Fruit? Casandra Wilson?
My list of artists that have inspired me throughout my life are so vast and been everyone from Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Stevie wonder, Donny Hathaway, Billie Holiday and more. They have all fed my soul at one point or another and I feel have all collectively been ingrained in me and I pull from all of them when I’m interpreting a song myself.
Are there any songwriters, or arrangers, again, who have especially inspired you? One of my favourite songwriters I would have to say is Curtis Mayfield. He wrote and produced 2 of my favourite movie soundtracks, Sparkle and Claudine. I’m also huge fan of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Were you in any bands, or were there any other solo incarnations, before Lady Blackbird? There`s very little information readily available on the net. Is Lady Blackbird deliberately a mysterious figure?
I’ve been performing for the most part of my life. Before Lady Blackbird under my name Marley Munroe. I think Lady Blackbird is the result of years of cultivating and growing and failing and multiple no’s and try agains. She was born out of life and I do believe has a bit of mystery to her.
When was the first time you found yourself in a recording studio? Have you done a lot of recording?
The first time I ever recorded I was about 5 years old and the mic at its lowest was still too high so they had to stack crates so my lil ass could reach.
Does the name Lady Blackbird have any special significance?
Throughout the years of performing music and finding myself on my journey and doing my best to perfect that, all of this has resulted in who Lady Blackbird is. But no, the name itself just happened to come out one day in the studio and it was one of those AHA! moments.
Prior to the pandemic, did you perform live regularly?
Prior to the pandemic I was starting to play the album around Los Angeles. The First Lady Blackbird performance was sold out at the Troubadour with Desi Valentine. What a moment that was.! I had also played at Golddiggers and Hotel café and then here came the shut down and of course no more live music!
Why name the album, Black Acid Soul?
Black Acid Soul was a hashtag me and my producer used to use to give a name to the fusion of sound we would create. I loved it so much back then the first time he said it. So, when we were looking for titles for the album the shit just resurfaced, and everyone was in complete agreement that Black Acid Soul was exactly what it needed to be.
Where and when was the album recorded? How long did it take? What other musicians were involved? Had you worked / played together before?
We recorded the album, with the exception of the Blackbird vocal and the Beware… choir, at Sunset Sound – Studio B. We had been writing and recording the album at Chris’ studio for a about a year prior, slowly but surely bringing together this body of work that was finally coming together like glue. Chris brought these legendary musicians like Deron Johnson, Jonny Flaugher and Jimmy Paxton – who would cement the project in a way I had never heard before. This was my first time meeting them. I would be in the studio recording sometimes and forget to come in on my part I’d be so overwhelmed with their sound.
How did you hook up with producer Chris Seefried? What was / is he like to work with? The album sounds beautiful by the way, the production perhaps harking after the warmth and intimacy of the recordings of the 50s and 60s, and consequently ending up timeless.
I met my G man – Chris Seefried – a few years ago. We’ve written all sorts of styles of music. This album happened because of him. If we were living in Oz, he would be The Wizard. We’re like kindred spirits so our writing sessions end up so magical. This album is one that stripped all the noise and extras away leaving a very bare and vulnerable vocal.
Were the songs already written before you hit the studio, or did they come out of the collective recording process?
We already knew what songs were going to end up on the album prior to the recording sessions. 5 Feet Tall was the last song that was written for the album. I remember we were at the end of a session; I was literally about to leave the studio and Chris grabbed his guitar and started playing some beautiful chords and I started singing “Torch my heart, burn my soul, box of cinders, 5 feet tall” … the song just came out and in no time at all was written and one of my favourites, I might add.
Whose idea was it to cover Reuben Bells & The Casanova`s deep soul treasure, It`s Not That Easy? I know the song is a big favourite of Ross Allen’s.
It’s Not That Easy was brought to me by Ross. It was the first time I`d heard the song. We were out at lunch and he gave me his headphones to listen. I was struck by it right away and told him the next time he was down from London I’d sing it live for him. Turns out it made the cut for the album (laughs).
There have been some amazing remixes released as singles. Did you have a hand in picking the remixers? Are there more to come?
All the remixers were brought together by my team. This was the first hearing of anything I had ever recorded remixed. Hearing everybody’s re-interpretation of these songs has been absolutely brilliant! They elevate them in such a way with this whole other energy that’s so alive! I’m so grateful to all of them.
Do you know when the album is due to be released? To my ears it should crossover over from jazz heads to a mainstream “pop” audience, to “chill-out” DJs looking to soundtrack a seaside sunset.
The album is set to be released in March. It’ll be released on vinyl first which I’m extremely excited about.
Are there any plans for a launch event? If things get better quickly, a tour, gigs, failing that any streamed performances?
There’s talk of starting shows in London in September but very much still all up in the air. I’m sure we’ll be doing live streamed performances after it drops.
Has the pandemic and lockdowns been a creative time for you? Have you been able to work on new songs and ideas?
I’ve been doing a lot of work in the studio during the pandemic for me and also other artists. I did a feature on the new Vintage Trouble album that will be out this year. Also, on the upcoming Trombone Shorty album. I’m not only singing a lot on it but very happy to say that I wrote a song as well. And we’ve been doing a lot of writing for my second album already. Just continuing to try and stay in that creative mode.
What have you been listening to during the lockdowns? What`s helped you make it through?
During this lock down a big album of mine that I’ve loved and has gotten me through is Brittany Howard`s Jaime. What a phenomenal album that is! She is such a stellar artist. I honestly believe she will be one of the legends.
All being well what are your plans for 2021?
If the universe allows for live shows this year in 2021 it will be amazing to be able to play this debut album of mine live again. But until then keep the creativity flowing and ultimately, we all need to stay safe and aware.
You can purchase the singles and remixes released to date from Lady Blackbird`s Black Acid Soul – plus keep up to date on the album and promotional events over at Bandcamp.