Photo credit: Alexander Barnes
Singer, pianist and songwriter FIONA ROSS has released her second album of 2017. She spoke to Peter Bacon.
LondonJazz News: Some songwriters eke out the new material over years and years. Black, White and a Little Bit of Grey will be your second album within a year, and follows on from a double album! Does writing come easily to you?
Fiona Ross: Ha, yes, everyone seems to think I’m a bit crazy releasing two albums in one year. At the moment, yes, I have so many ideas going around my head and I just want to get them out. I am aware this will probably not always be the case, so, I’m just going with it while it’s there! I’ve already started writing a few new ones for the next album.
LJN: Do you have a set way of writing? Words first or melody? What’s your favoured process?
FR: I try to not analyse my process too much and just go with the flow, as such. I generally start with a chord sequence, or a groove, never really a melody or lyrics. Although that does occasionally change. Out of two songs I have just started, for example, one started with a little riff that a trumpet would play, then I just worked out the chords and groove that will go with it, then the lyrics, etc. The other one I actually had a short melody with lyrics together to a chorus, after someone said something to me, so then I worked on the groove, etc. I really just go with the moment – and that could be a variety of things.
LJN: Does the new album have a theme? Tell us what led you to these songs…
FR: Yes, it is a concept album about the complicated relationship between a wife, husband and a mistress. Situations like this can be very clear cut, right and wrong, but then not everything is life is actually as simple as that.
[Here’s how Fiona explains it in the publicity material]
“The new album, ‘ Black, White and a Little Bit of Grey’, explores the story of a husband, a
wife, and a mistress: a web of emotions, of desires, of regrets, of ecstasy. Situations are not
always as clear-cut as they may appear as allegiances shift and betrayals become
serpentine—not everything is black and white. Sometimes – when the victim becomes hazy,
when pain and passion become intertwined—there’s ‘a Little Bit of Grey.”
LJN: Your band: Gibbi Bettini (guitar), Derek Daley (bass), Marley Drummond (drums), Kris Buzow (saxophone), Simon Todd (congas)… Do you always use the same musicians? What drew you to them?
FR: Oh my goodness, I love my musicians to bits! Yes, I always use the same musicians, although on occasion have to use session musicians for live work. Apart from my saxophonist, they are all my past students. An amazing group of people that is a real honour to work with. We have so, so much fun. One of the most important things to me, is working with genuine people that share the same passions. They all have different backgrounds, experiences and influences – it’s so wonderful to be part of. We laugh so much when we work together – in rehearsals, studio, live. It’s wonderful.
LJN: You’ve done a lot of teaching and nurturing the careers of other performers before attending to your own. What are the most valuable pieces of advice you have given your students? And do you follow them yourself?
FR: Advice? So many things I could say. Know your craft, from every angle, inside and out – the business, the history, techniques, everything. You have to be the best you can be and more to have a chance. Be genuine – know yourself and be more than ok with who you are. Understand the business side of the industry so that you can protect yourself and make the right decisions.
And ha, yes, I do follow these things. I practise for a minimum of four hours a day (which is not enough), without fail and I am very disciplined with that. I am always learning something about my craft and that will never end and nor do I want it to. The business side of things, yes, and again, still learning, but yes, I like to be in control of my work and be able to make the right decisions. And I am always genuine. I am who I am, take it or leave it. Ha.
LJN: Three things on your musical bucket list?
FR: Gosh, I’ve never really thought about that. Well, I am desperate to see Stevie Wonder live and I am ashamed that I never have. I want to sing in all the venues that Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday sang in. And I want to sing a song with Earth, Wind and Fire – with their amazing full band. (pp)
LINK: Fiona Ross’s website