|Beady Belle (Beate S. Lech) – Photo credit : Anders Nilsen|
Beady Belle is the name of Norwegian jazz singer, composer and lyricist BEATE S. (Slettevoll) LECH, and also of the band she co-founded back in 1999. In this interview she talks about the band, about herself and her Polish origins, about Oslo, and also looks forward to her 2016 LJF gig at Kings Place with Bugge Wesseltoft and Gregory Hutchinson, this Friday November 18th. Interview by Tomasz Furmanek:
LondonJazz News: …so what happened to Beady Belle the band?
Beate S.Lech: The name Beady Belle has from the very beginning referred both to the artist Beady Belle (me), who writes and sings the songs, and to my band.
I started alone, and then the Beady Belle band became a duo – bass player Marius Reksjø and me. Then in 2007 it became a trio – a drummer Erik Holm joined us. I still wrote all the songs, but we produced them together, and all the time we played and recorded with many different guest musicians.
In 2015 we split up after having collaborated for over 15 years. No drama. We just felt that we wanted to do other stuff and go our separate ways. And then I decided that I would continue the Beady Belle journey as I started it from the beginning: on my own.
LJN: Your previous album “Cricklewood Broadway” was inspired by a book. What was the inspiration for the newest one – “On My Own” ? Was it just the situation you were in at the time of creating the album?
BSL: The whole On my own album is based on one theme. This theme is “differentness”. Being different. Not following the flow. Standing alone. Standing on the outside not knowing quite how to get in. You never really fit where you’re supposed to belong. You’re incompatible… I try to describe different aspects of such a state of affairs: the painful, the mysterious and the joyful.
Right after my previous album was released, the health situation of a person in my close family was dramatically changed, with lifelong consequences. The world was turned upside down – both for this person and for the whole family around. Suddenly my life became something else, and I realized it was going to be totally different – always different. At first it all felt like chaos and I felt like swimming for life, trying to keep my head above water. But in this situation I never really knew whether I swam up or down. In the middle of this chaotic situation I started to write. I wrote and wrote, and this was a good way of managing the impressions and the process I was in.
LJN: A kind of self-help?
BSL: It was therapeutic. Gradually I started to realize that to find the way out, up and forward, I had to get off the highway and follow the narrow, winding back roads. I had to move more slowly and I had to concentrate not to drive into a ditch. And then I learned to accept this journey – and to embrace it. I now know life will be challenging, but also filled with experiences and adventures I hadn’t even dreamt of. And I would never be without it.
There are many people struggling in life. I hope that my songs could be inspiring and give strength to others as they did to me. That would make my process even more meaningful.
This new perspective on life influenced me as a musician and artist as well. I felt a need for change and new musical inspiration. So in fact, partly because of this, I chose to break up from the Beady Belle band. I needed to get out! Make new choices. See new opportunities. I wanted to take chances. And then I went to New York…
LJN: And that’s where you recorded your new album “On My Own” that was out in September. How did it happen?
BSL: Going to New York to record an album with world class jazz musicians has always been a dream. Since the Beady Belle situation had changed I found that NOW was the time to follow that dream! For the first time I did not produce my own album. I gave the steering wheel to Bugge Wesseltoft who also plays the grand piano and Fender Rhodes on this new album. He actually suggested we should go to New York and record the album with the best jazz musicians in the world… I thought it was a brilliant idea! So last autumn I put my songs in my suitcase and spent some days at East Side Sound Studio on Manhattan recording my new album live.
LJN: Is the music on “On My Own” different from your previous work?
BSL: This album is the most live recorded album I’ve ever done. Bugge Wesseltoft had a very clear idea for the sound of these recordings – he wanted my voice and my songs to have space and he wanted the songs to be performed in a jazzy way with jazz instruments and jazz musicians. I wrote (as always) melodic songs with references to pop and soul, and my vocal swings through a soul/r&b landscape. With Wesseltoft’s production this is the first album in my discography with such a strong reference to jazz.
LJN: Some great musicians perform with you on the album: Joshua Redman, Gregory Hutchinson and Reuben Rogers…. Was your musical dream fulfilled with this?
BSL: Oh yes:)
LJN: Last time you performed in London it was in 2013, at the ReVoice Festival. Do you remember that evening?
BSL: I remember it with a big, warm beating heart and a grateful smile. The band and I gave everything from the stage. When we receive such a great response from the audience the whole thing becomes electric somehow. The room rises into a new sphere. I love it when that happens! It’s magical.
LJN: You will be performing in the London Jazz Festival soon – 18th of November, Kings Place! What will you be performing?
BSL: At the concert in London I will be performing together with most of the NYC band. Both Bugge Wesseltoft and Gregory Hutchinson who were recording with me the “On My Own” album will join me on the stage. We will play lots of songs from the new album, but not only!
LJN: You are one of the biggest stars of so called nu jazz in the world, with a cult status in many countries. Not everyone knows that your father is Polish – Zdzisław Lech, violinist. Was it he who instilled a love and passion for music in you?
BSL: Yes, both my dad and my mom were musicians as I grew up. My father was a jazz violinist and my mom a singer. I was with them on rehearsals and tours. I early got to know the term “backstage”. There was a lot of music in my childhood and for me to be a musician myself was the most natural thing in the world. I didn’t really make a choice. I think I’ve always been one 🙂
LJN: You studied, created your music and lived for many years in Oslo, which seems to be fascinating place… How would you compare Oslo to London? – or vice versa…
BSL: I obviously don’t know London as well as I do know Oslo… But Oslo is a city with an okay size for a creative artist I think. There are 600,000 people living there which is quite small for a capital, but not TOO small…:) There’s a lot of stuff going on in the city, there are many scenes, but at the same time you can walk or bicycle everywhere and the musical society is not so big. Most of us know of each other and it’s easy to collaborate across genres.
I love London as well, but I have only been there as a visitor. I never want to leave London when I’m there. I haven’t had enough of it. Maybe I need to stay longer next time… Bugge Wesseltoft with Beady Belle + Isabel Sörling’s Farvel