Photo Credit: Stefan Ferrol
In FIONA ROSS’s role as a teacher she saw at an early stage the potential and talent of new stars in the making, like Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Jess Glynne. but now it’s her time in the limelight as songwriter and performer. A major burst of creativity has led to preparations for a second album – currently spilling over into plans for another…. Interview: Stephen Graham
You get the palpable sense that singer Fiona Ross is on something of a mission. Constantly on the go and currently preparing for a third album she was limbering up for a rehearsal with her band later in the day when she came to the phone on a warm summer’s morning.
Fiona’s second album Just Me (And Sometimes Someone Else) was released earlier in the year, a substantial double album full of her own songs she agrees that she’s something of a late starter as a solo artist having switched from a lengthy teaching career although she actually began in music as a child encouraged by her jazz loving father and opera buff of a mother. Becoming a mum herself while still a teenager her music career in the early days embraced performing in musicals and session work and she still wears plenty of different hats in her artistic profile as a composer, choreographer, director, dancer, and actor although she says with a laugh ‘my dancing days are behind me.’
Her jazz sensibility derives from a love of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, her love of Billie arriving later as she grew deeper into jazz. She also admires the Japanese piano sensation Hiromi who she says ‘I listen to every day’ and beyond jazz admires Prince.
Above all she says without hesitation ‘I love the writing process’ and she brings an intimacy and immediacy to all her songs. As a former long-time teacher at the British Academy of New Music in London she witnessed the drive and determination of future stars in the making such as Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Jess Glynne at an early stage of their careers. She says ‘they were all so motivated and inspired’ and yet she has seen so many equally talented musicians who have never achieved quite what their potential suggested.
As a singer-songwriter she values honesty and communication and she ultimately would like to perform at all the leading jazz clubs, with Ronnie Scott’s top of her own headline slot wish list. ‘What I’m about is being genuine,’ she says, an instinct that derives from the singer-songwriter impetus that seems to underpin all her work.
Photo Credit: Goat Noise Photography
She’s kept her latest band together for the last year many of them former students of hers who bring influences from reggae to classic jazz into her pared-back sound. And there has been a lot of activity in terms of her own creativity over the last year with the release of A Twist of Blue in 2016 and preparations for a new record well under way.
Her songs have an easy melodic intimacy that leap off the page, I’m Lost, for example, a song that she describes as about ‘going through life not really knowing who you are or how to find out; pretending you’re ok, but you’re not really… and no one knows.’
For now going forward it’s a pivotal period in her burgeoning career as a bandleader and there seems to be a galloping enthusiasm and thirst for adventure about Ross now with teaching behind her and a strong desire to perform and record more inspiring her in new directions. While she says she is ‘quite naturally introverted’ and yet, just like her idol Hiromi, there is plenty of attitude and sassiness on display in her ‘on duty’ approach and on the new album gear changes from stripped back acoustic nocturnal moods to a poppy sense of optimism.
She’s keen mostly to showcase her own material at the moment, years of doing sessions where she was less connected with the material have led her to her own individual path as a creator more, a certain amount of ‘life’s too short not to’ part of this direction, and certainly time to give her own specific artistry a chance to shine.
‘The dream’ she says, ‘is to spend my life writing new material, gigging and rehearsing’ –– and that dream is well on the way to becoming her daily reality. (pp)