Photo credit: Kat Pfeiffer
Cecilia Stalin is a Swedish-born, London-based jazz singer and vocal improviser, educator, activist and traveller. On 8 March at POSK in London, she will be celebrating great female songwriters for International Women’s Day. Interview by Kat Pfeiffer:
LondonJazz News: How long have you lived in London? What makes it attractive to you?
Cecilia Stalin: I’ve lived in London for 12 years now… I love the very diverse, creative, amazing bubbling underground scene!
LJN: You recorded I Wish You Love with your father…what led to that?
CS: My father is an incredible stride pianist and has played the piano since he was 13. But he never pursued it professionally, even though he gigs as much as me and has had a Dixieland band for over 50 years now! I have always sung with him at home since I was five years old, so one Christmas I gave him a recording session with us and his band so that we could celebrate our passion together!
LJN: You’ve recently travelled to China and Brasil, what’s the story there?
CS: I was recently invited to come and perform in China by a Chinese promoter and so I did a two-week tour in mainland China in October going from Chengdu to Xi’an to Shenyang to Hangzhou to Beijing, seeing and experiencing a lot of China. It’s an intriguing country with incredible food (in the Szechuan region) and a young jazz-craving audience. I had an amazing time and can’t wait to go back in September.
LJN: Around 100 women sang in your choir project Mirth Control at the Southbank a couple of years ago. Tell us about it.
CS: Yes! I got asked to write a vocal arrangement for their 200-voice choir – all levels – for the Mirth Control event with Sandi Toksvig for the Women of the World festival. I got to choose a song for the commemoration of amazing women that had passed. I’ll Be Seeing You is a beautiful standard by Sammy Fain & Irving Kahal celebrating memories of someone who’s not around any more. I sing it to honour my friend Ben Amure who passed far too early
LJN: And you’ve also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company…
CS: I was working with The Royal Shakespeare Company in their production of Antony & Cleopatra in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2017. The music was written by Laura Mvula and had a lot of vocal-led themes and inflexions throughout the play. It was a fantastic experience to have been a part of!
LJN: What is the Fika Session and what made you set it up?
CS: The Fika Session is a live music and discussion event for creative professionals to exchange ideas, support and build a creative community. It’s a free entry, non-profit, monthly event hosted in London (and online) and it’s about getting all the different creative industries together to talk. Each month I feature artists, a DJ plus two panellists in an interview about their experiences on an industry topic (isms/creative freedom/importance of an online presence/value/sustainability) and then open up for a Q&A with the audience on the topic to create a discussion between everyone. I started The Fika Session because I felt that there wasn’t enough connection when experiencing creativity, both as a performer and an audience. It’s now been running for two and a half years and I love it! This week I’m in Berlin to celebrate International Womens Day by doing a The Fika Session here in collaboration with SheSaidSo (a network for women in the music industry) and Soho House Berlin.
LJN: What have been the most successful things that has happened at Fika since you started?
CS: The most successful thing with The Fika Session that’s happened is that people walk out of the event inspired, full of energy and smiles! A truly unique and beautifully creative community!
LJN: What other projects do you have coming up?
CS: Upcoming projects are recording my next full length album with my band Tom Mason (bass), Laurie Lowe (drums) and Alex Bennett (piano). It’s been a while but I did a gig for the London Jazz Festival where I trialed the new music from the album and it went incredibly well so now I’m looking forward to recording it. I am also working on a Brazilian project with an incredible Brazilian filmmaker celebrating some incredible contemporary Brazilian songwriters. We’ll be doing a crowd funding campaign for this from about April so please check it out on my social media platforms and support a transatlantic collaboration.
LJN: Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
CS: Absolutely! Like most of my fellow Swedes, we want equal pay, rights, support, treatment in society as men. And what’s interesting is that because we have always had discussions about and quotations of women and women’s rights most of my male friends in Sweden are feminists too!
LJN: In your experience are things getting better for women in music?
CS: In general I don’t know whether women have it better than before, but there is definitely a movement to talk about the difficulties we endure and finding support from other women and men. I also think that social platforms can help unify women, like SheSaidSo, and in that way get the music industry be a part of a collective effort for more equality. Having equal representation is key on so many different levels: role-models (inspiration & neutralisation), booking culture (book what you can relate too), perspective (a slightly different approach).
Cecilia Stalin will be at Jazz Cafe POSK, 238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, W6 0RF on 8 March 2019, Doors 19.30 BOOKING LINK