Photo Credit: Sam Mills-Williams
London-based singer and composer BB (Beccy) Kean is excited to share her dynamic vocals and saucy style at a Valentine’s gig at The Pheasantry on 15 February. She talks here to Leah Williams about the upcoming gig, her latest single Valentine’s Miss, and working with top-flight players such as Derek Nash and Sebastiaan de Krom:
LondonJazz News: What’s your earliest memory of singing?
BB Kean:I think I’ve always sung! It took me a while to get the confidence to do it in public though. It wasn’t until I moved abroad and felt as though I had nothing to lose that I started to perform — now you can’t stop me!
LJN: And what got you into jazz and blues?
BK: It’s the only music I’ve ever really been into. I grew up with jazz, blues and Motown music as it’s what my parents always listened to. I never really got into pop or rock or anything else really. Although I do love the way contemporary musicians like Jordan Rakei, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding are starting to blur those boundaries a bit more.
LJN: Who were some of your main inspirations growing up?
BK:All the big divas like Etta James and Aretha Franklin. I have memories of singing along to them when I was about ten years old! Then when I was in my early twenties I discovered Eva Cassidy and I just thought ‘this is it, this is pure magic’ and I knew I wanted to be singing music like that in dusty jazz bars everywhere.
LJN: When did you start writing your own music?
BK: When I was really young. I actually wrote my first big hit when I was just 11 – it was a song about the environment that I did for school and they’ve been teaching it to kids there ever since! I’m still pretty proud of that although my style and subject topics have somewhat progressed since then…
LJN: What kind of thing do you write about now?
BK: Well, I never sit down to purposefully write about anything in particular. My compositions tend to come more from vocals and melodies that gradually formulate in my mind until they’re ready to come out. They’ll be about whatever experiences I’m going through at that time, things my friends have told me about or perhaps interesting stories I’ve heard.
LJN: What’s your most recent single Valentine’s Miss about?
BK: Ha erm..it’s actually about when you date a guy who’s really sweet and lovely but then just a bit of a wet blanket in the bedroom [she laughs]. It’s a pretty cheeky song, like most of the tracks on that EP, just trying to have fun with the music.
LJN: Is that how you would describe your sound, cheeky?
BK: It’s hard to put into just a few words. I’m an old soul really and am definitely influenced by that vintage funk and blues sound that can be a bit saucy at times. But I also like to write songs about things that are important to me and so am equally comfortable singing about personal, heartfelt experiences. I’d say as an artist your sound is generally in a state of constant flux anyway and the newer material I’m writing is definitely developing and moving towards something a bit different — it’s exciting!
LJN: Your debut EP Laid Bare was produced by Derek Nash. How did that collaboration come about?
BK:I sent a track across to him and before I knew it I was at his studio out in Kent recording with all these amazing musicians like drummer Sebastiaan de Krom, pianist Paddy Milner and bass player Geoff Gascoyne. It was such an incredible experience and Derek did a really great job with the EP.
LJN: Do you enjoy collaborating with other musicians?
BK: Absolutely. Working with different musicians is a large part of the fun and, especially when you’ve been playing with a band for a while, it really influences your songwriting. When I’m composing music now I feel as though the individual styles of the musicians I work with are present in my mind and can shape the musical choices I make at times.
Someone I regularly gig and write with is guitarist Jamie Howell and my next EP will most likely be a collection of tunes we’ve written together.
LJN: Will you be playing some of this new material at your gig at The Pheasantry?
BK:Yes, I’ll be playing the tracks from my current EP and giving a sneak peek of some new material as well as a few sultry, romantic classics — it is a Valentine’s gig after all!
It should be a great night, I’m really looking forward to it. I love nothing more than being up on stage; those magical moments when you’re singing something that really matters to you and know you’re connecting with the audience is what it’s all about. I’m so lucky to have such a great band with me as well. I really hope to see some familiar and new faces there! (pp)