“Love Quiet” is the new album by UK singer-songwriter-pianist Joanna Eden. She talked about the influence of Uruguayan music on her song writing; supporting Van Morrison and Jamie Cullum; teaching Sam Smith, and her upcoming gig at the London Jazz Festival. Feature by Alison Bentley.
London Jazz News: It’s an emotional album…
Joanna Eden: I think I’m quite an emotional writer. During lockdown, the world was divided between people who were living in complete hell, and people like me thinking this was just the hiatus I needed – and at the same time meeting an amazing musician and being able to share that with them. [Uruguayan bassist] Andrés Lafone has been a leading light on the Latin jazz scene for years so I’ve learned a lot. I must have had a former life as either Juanita or Joaninha, because I’ve always written bossa novas. Latin music is like any form of music – the deeper you go into it, the more you realise how complex it is. I find writing much easier in a straight timing than a swing rhythm. Andrés wrote the music to Firefly years ago and I wrote some lyrics. He plays bass in such a melodic way, almost like an acoustic guitar. He plays chordally, and when we perform it I can stand up from the piano – it’s literally just voice and bass with hand claps and percussion.
LJN: Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius?
JE: I’m always happy to talk about Joni. I love the relationship she had with virtuoso musicians – I think one of her main traits is that feeling of freedom.
LJN: “Love Children” has a folk element?
JE: The folk singers I really warm to are people like James Taylor, Carole King and Joni who’ve got folk and jazz elements. The song was written for some friends of mine in Devon – 70+ year olds who are still like children.
LJN: “Smiling” is another Latin tune, and Love Quiet made me think of Flora Purim.
JE: Smiling is very loved up! I love Diana Krall – I thought it sounded a bit like a solo she did on one of her albums. She’s an incredible pianist. Love Quiet is about loving the quiet of lockdown. I love Return to Forever and Chick Corea. The idea is something ethereal: a whale, the moon, the sea, the waves and then setting up a samba with everybody singing. At the end there’s a Chilean poem by Nicanor Parra.
Sunrise is taken from the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran with my interpretation of his words. I love improvising on outros. My dad always says – can you just finish the song!
Falling is about that abandoned feeling when you fall back in somebody’s arms. We loved using an original mellotron – it has an unworldly vibe. I’m a massive Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks fan too. Gerry Hunt played pedal steel guitar and he was brilliant.
Nick of Time is by Bonnie Raitt. I got to play a real Wurlitzer and I think it makes a difference – you get that warm feeling. So Many People was me stealing Carole King’s I Feel the Earth Move Under my Feet. On gigs I say this song is actually about depression, but if you don’t want to know about that just listen to the jolly groove. It has Gerry again on the guitar solo.
LJN: You cover the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze”.
JE: I like the idea of great pop classics working in a swing setting. I love the idea of jazz meeting something a bit more. I love that whole era from the late 60s through to the mid-70s.
Every year I write a Christmas song that’s not too obvious! Freight Train is about making money out of it so it’s a cynical Christmas song.
LJN: Ella Fitzgerald was your other major influence?
JE: It was the first voice that I fell in love with – my dad had her records. He was a bass player in the RAF. He had a Miles Davis collection and some Ellington. People used to ask who I trained with, and I used to say Ella – I never met her but you hear so much about phrasing, timing, breathing, pitching and swing. I have three shows about people other than me: Joni, Ella and Stephen Sondheim. It’s a chance for me to explore their work.
LJN: You started playing piano when you were seven?
JE: My very first lesson was a disaster. The teacher said, “She’s got a good ear but she’ll never be a concert pianist.” The day I got my grade 8 I said, “Great – I never have to play the piano again.” It took me a few years. It was through jazz – I thought, “I’ve got to get back to this instrument.”
LJN: You’ve famously had a lot of success with your own students, especially Sam Smith.
JE: I was very lucky – he was my first singing student. I taught him for about 9 years from the age of 9, and we wrote songs together. I’m very proud of the fact that I encouraged him to write.
LJN: You’ve also supported a lot of well-known musicians yourself.
JE: That was due to my ex-manager. I played a support slot for Jamie Cullum and the Buena Vista Social Club. It snowballed from there: last year it was Van Morrison; this year it’s Tom Jones and Simple Minds. It’s a nice way to meet new audiences.
LJN: You’ve a gig coming up at Crazy Coqs.
JE: Yes, 12 November as part of the London Jazz Festival. It’ll be me with Andrés Lafone on bass, drummer George Double who I’ve worked with for years and Guillermo Hill on guitar.
My whole raison d’etre is to write songs of my truth. That’s all I want really – for people to hear my music and enjoy it!
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LINKS: Joanna Eden’s website
Bookings for Crazy Coqs on 12 November / EFG London Jazz Festival
Categories: Feature/Interview (PP)
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