Ontario-born, British Columbia-raised, London-based singer Lauren Bush, a finalist in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2016, is about to release her third album.
Tide Rises explores themes of “self confidence and being ‘okay’ in yourself, plus new beginnings,” says Bush. It was released on 6 October on the Mighty Quinn label, and the album launch is on 24 October at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Holborn, London. Interview by Sebastian Scotney:
LondonJazz News: Who is Mighty Quinn Records and what is their ethos/credo?
Lauren Bush: Mighty Quinn Records is a small boutique label based in New York City started by Jerry Roche (Dot Time Legends, Mosaic A&R). The Mighty Quinn motto is basically to promote and release ‘good music’. Jerry’s got a ridiculous ear for ‘good music’ in my experience and so I’m flattered to be considered amongst the others on the label. It’s small at the moment but there’s something to be said for getting in on something on the ground floor.
LJN: And how did you get to know them?
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LB: I met Jerry at jazzahead! in 2017. It was the year after my first album came out. I’d had quite an exciting year and was attending jazzhead! for the first time; it was a whirlwind of networking. Jerry was working for DotTime records at the time, and invited me to a showcase he’d organised.
We kept in touch, and got close to working together for my second album, Dream Away, in 2021 – but backlogs from Covid meant it didn’t quite work out. We spoke again at jazzahead! in 2022; Jerry’s personal label Mighty Quinn Records had always been a subsidiary of DotTime, but was starting to grow legs to be independent and we agreed to release Tide Rises together.
LJN: You have a mix of standards and originals – how did the shape of the album evolve?
LB: Jerry and I spoke a lot about recording ‘standards’ vs. recording original music – something that I’ve never been particularly drawn to.
But with his encouragement, I took on the challenge to write three songs for this album. I had basically no experience so I looked at some unconventional ways to ‘write’. I found a poem by Henry Wadworth Longfellow that was in the public domain and wrote a melody for it – it became the title track ‘Tide Rises’. I penned lyrics to a tune some Canadian friends wrote , added a bridge and it became ‘Easy Does It’, and I aurally transcribed Chet Baker and Kenny Drew’s solos on their version of ‘Do It the Hard Way’, which has become my version: ‘Happier On My Own’.
Writing songs in this way has really filled me with confidence to know that songwriting isn’t beyond me. It’s been a lot of fun, and having the support and encouragement of Jerry was the catalyst for that.
LJN: You start with ‘Joy Spring’ and there is quite a theme of optimism here. What do we learn about you from that?
LB: To be honest, I don’t really remember why I wanted to record ‘Joy Spring’. I always try to consider jazz songs that aren’t just “American Songbook” songs. It gives me a challenge and broadens my repertoire.
After choosing and recording all 10 tracks though, I noticed quite a strong theme amongst all the tracks: self confidence and being ‘okay’ in yourself (Easy Does It, Nobody Else, Happier on my Own…); and new beginnings (Tide Rises, Circle Game, Beautiful Morning, Madrugada). Joy Spring combines those themes: being okay with winter, because spring is coming. A metaphor for living a happy life in a way.
LJN: I keep thinking of the presence of Jon Hendricks, he’s looking down on this album from on high, right?
LB: Interesting, I hope so! Jon Hendricks has had a major impact on my musicality. I met him at Ronnie’s after hearing him play and he was just lovely. Sometimes meeting your heroes does work out! Writing vocalese lyrics was his forte and I’ve listened to enough of them. I recorded his ‘Doodlin’ lyrics on my first album and I remember singing his ‘Cloudburst’ lyrics at a university choir concert – mayhem! So I thought I’d try my hand at it and I’m proud of how it turned out.
LJN: Tell us about the musicians on the album.
LB: Working with Liam Dunachie on all three of my albums has opened the door for me to play and record with some of the best musicians in town.
Having Nick Costley-White and Martin Shaw in the studio for this album was a total dream. I rarely play with guitarists, so it was really cool to see how Nick’s contribution opened up a lot of interesting sounds and arrangement opportunities. The introduction to ‘Tide Rises’ for instance… what a treat!
Someone once told me to always book the best musicians you can so you can rise to their level. I can only thank all the musicians on this album for helping me grow.
Lauren Bush is a singer and also writes for LondonJazz News.
LINKS: Tide Rises, listen and buy