Photo credit: Bob Williams
Alaska-born vocalist HALIE LOREN will be making her UK debut at Pizza Express High Holborn on 31 July. Whereas most of her previous albums had a strong bias towards the American Songbook, this new album, From the Wild Sky (Justin Time / Nettwerk) consists almost entirely of her own songs. The new album was produced here in London by Troy Miller, and London guitarist Femi Temowo is also featured. Interview by Lauren Bush:
LondonJazzNews: From the Wild Sky is very different from your previous work…..
Halie Loren: This new album definitely takes a different direction. It diverges from being something that can be categorised more strictly within the jazz genre and it definitely delves more into the pop and folk influences in my music. Also, it’s all original with the exception of the last track and so it’s the first time that I have done an album that focuses on my original material since my very first CD that I released independently about 12 years ago. A lot of my roots are in songwriting, so I felt really called to do this as an artist for a few years now and finally the moment arrived where I felt like I really needed to do it. The whole idea of crowd-funding it is what kind of made this stuff possible in terms of the way that I did it. In every way, it’s a new adventure.
LJN: How were you first guided into the world of jazz and the American Songbook after your first original album?
HL: Jazz was always a part of my path, growing up. My mom listened to a lot of jazz albums when I was growing up so I knew a lot of the American Songbook just through listening to it my whole life and singing along. I loved Nat King Cole and Etta James was one of my favourite vocalists, and Ella Fitzgerald and all that stuff is just part of my experience with being a young person interested in music. I knew and performed a lot of these songs from forever ago but when I started making albums, the first one that I embarked on was original music.
LJN: Perhaps you could tell how your songwriting process worked for some of the songs on this album?
HL: The songs I wrote for this album took shape in many different ways. For the song Well-Loved Woman, I came up for the chorus of that song while I was on a road trip and it stuck in my brain for forever. Then I wrote the rest of the song maybe a year or two later. A lot of songs come to me that way. It was also more of an a cappella writing style.
With Noah, I came up with the melody of the chorus and immediately went home and sat at the piano for hours to figure out where it was supposed to go. For me, I have to have my hands on the instrument and be simultaneous for it to connect for me. Then the melody comes through as this message that is informed by where my hands are. Then my hands listening this weird way to what my voice is doing and it’s like this hide-and-seek game. It’s very fun and whimsical. It’s like these 2 sides of my brain are speaking different languages, trying to figure out what the other one is saying.
LJN: You’ve spent the last two years composing these personal songs. What was it like taking them to your producer to help you bring it all together?
HL: I’ve never done that before, so I didn’t know how the process would work exactly, but every process and every collaboration is different. I did know, because I had specifically sought out to work with Troy Miller, that I resonated with his work. I knew that we would probably work well together. I already trusted that he would do a great job because I had heard proof of that. It was definitely a moment of vulnerability to say “here are these songs in really rough form, is there anything that you think you could uncover and polish up to a brilliant shine?”
LJN: What was it like traveling to London to work in Miller’s Spark Studio?
HL: It was wonderful. We ended up spending less than two weeks together to record this album from start to finish. The first five days were actually spent doing pre-production, plotting out what we were going to do to arrange these songs, what elements we wanted to have on them, trimming sections of instrumentals or tidying up these songs. We then spent two of those days tracking the songs that didn’t require the entire band to be present because the rest of the musicians were all in Brooklyn. We recorded all of the a cappella stuff and everything that Troy and I played in London and then we went to the studio in Brooklyn to record everything else.
LJN: Tell me about this stellar band …
HL: Troy Miller was a very instrumental part in assembling the cast of musicians who appear on the album. He’s done a lot of work with all of these musicians I admire, including, of course, Becca Stevens. We’ve still never met in person, but I’ve long admired her artistry, and when she came through town, Troy was able to bring her in to collaborate on my song Wild Birds. These were all connections that I’d never met before, but they are all world-class musicians. Femi Temowo was a big part of the collaboration musically from start to finish. He and Troy work together a lot. The music world is so small in so many ways and there are so many connections to be made.
LJN: It must have been really exciting working with all new people?
HL: They’re all so amazing. I was floored. I had a hard time not laughing, thinking: this is so delightful!
LJN: This is going to be your London debut. What are you most looking forward to?
HL: I’ve wanted to play in London for years and it’s always fallen just shy of coming to fruition until now, for whatever reason. It’s felt like two ships passing in the night, London and me! It’s going to be really exciting because quite a few fans of mine are located in or near London and I’m really hoping I get to meet some of them. That’s one of my favourite things about social media. That you can connect with fans who are located halfway across the world and then sometimes, you get to put a face to an online profile. The fact that it’s going to be under these circumstances, with this band, too, is so beyond me. I’m so excited to be able to reunite with my studio buddies! (pp)
Halie’s gig at Pizza Express Holborn is on 31 July.