INTERVIEW: ALICE RUSSELL

By LA CANVAS
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British soul singer Alice Russell shows no sign of slowing down. Nine years after her first studio album, Under The Munka Moon, she has released four more including her most recent one, To Dust, released through TruThoughts Records. She has also released countless EPs including the August release of For A While and the very recently released Midnight at The Beverly Laurel, which is chock-full of remixes from various producers. Earlier this year she played at the massive U.K. music festival Glastonbury, today she is touring the U.S., and later this year she will be heading back overseas.

Alice has contributed vocals for the likes of Fatboy Slim and Mr. Scruff, but her most popular collab has been with musician, Quantic, whom she released an album with last year titled Look Around The Corner. She has enough confidence behind her powerful voice that she doesn’t seem to mind that years into her career she is still being compared to other female British singers such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and Adele. She sits among the trio as the lesser known but perhaps as one of the most natural and effortless sounding singers in her category. Her music is a fine attempt to create timeless material by avoiding the pitfalls of disposable “gimmicky” pop singles. She fuses classic genres with contemporary sounds to create something that’s both moving and comforting.

Last Saturday LAC was able to catch up with Alice before her sound check in preparation for her performance that evening at The Echo. She shared with us her excitement to be back in the U.S., her process of creating music, and some of her favorite L.A. spots.

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LA CANVAS: How was Glastonbury? 

ALICE RUSSELL: Oh it was wicked! We literally arrived two hours before we were on stage and then had to leave an hour afterwards because we had to get on a flight. We got a big entrance and a big exit.

LAC: You just started your U.S. tour.

AR: Yeah, we just started five shows ago. Washington DC, Philly, New York, San Fran, Santa Cruz, then here. So we’ve been in the states for about a week now, doing shows and some rehearsals.

LAC: In your previous album you collaborated with Quantic, but your new album is primarily just you. Do you prefer to be a solo artist?

AR: I mean with Will (Quantic) on that album, we sorta just wanted to do that together, so that was our treat side project. Yeah, I do love doing my own thing. You always want to express yourself in your own way.

LAC: What is the difference between your last solo album, Pot of Gold, and the new one To Dust?

Well, we got TM Juke again on the new album. He is my on going partner whom I write most of my songs with and he also produces. With Pot of Gold it was sort of a live album, with this one we wanted to go darker. Even though all of it was played by us, it was cut up in loops so it was going back to some of those hip hop sounds.

LAC: Citizens is just an amazing track on the new album, it’s just as you just described it.

Yeah! Originally it had strings and everything, we were like, “you know what, no, it just doesn’t work.” That was around two in the morning and we had to strip it back. Keep it minimal.

LAC: You have so much going on. You’re touring extensivley, you have a new album, a new EP, and another EP full of remixes. Where’s the energy coming from?

AR: (Laughs)

LAC: You’ve been doing it for a number of years but yet you have that youthful energy.

AR: I’m like a little granny. If you see me throughout the day, I’m almost half asleep. I have to save that energy because you want to give the people everything. You can’t hold back with things like music and performing.

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LAC: Do you write or record while on tour?

AR: At the moment just thoughts, because when the tour is up in the end of November we are not doing anything for a while so I got December and January clear. We are planning to get back in the studio. I want to do a couple of EPs. I want to do something a little more stripped back.

LAC: You do these wonderful covers, what do you find interesting about re-doing songs?

AR: I think with covers they pick you.  Recently it was James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’, it’s beautiful and timeless, same with ‘Crazy’. I think it touches a lot of people.

LAC: On your own songs do you purposely go for a timeless sound?

AR: I think it’s important. The thought of gimmicky shit doesn’t excite me. You could always do something that’s fresh and new without doing it to be cool. A song will lead you to do it the way you want to do it and things will influence you.

LAC: How do you challenge yourself with making traditional  music?

AR: Well me and TM Juke made so many versions of every song. We made so many, we ended up going back to all the demo versions because they worked. With that, we challenge ourselves because we’re very open at letting go. I’m not a perfectionist and I wish I was sometimes, but all of it is just coming from an honest emotional place.

LAC: How did you find all these traditional songs when you were young, and how did you avoid the pressure of your friends to listen to pop radio music, especially when you were a teenager?

AR: You know what, there wasn’t that much pressure. Even as a kid I was into James Brown. I found a record of his and it blew my little brain. But then I was obsessed with Prince, but I was never really following the pop songs or anything, I was still drawn to the older sounds. Although, when I was a teenager I’d go to these parties and hear all this hip hop and picked that up.

LAC: When did you realized you had that voice?

AR: It’s weird because it’s something I’ve always done. When I was a teenager  people started asking me to join their bands, and from there on I gained more confidence to continue to sing.

LAC: How do you feel about being compared to other British vocalists?

It’s cool you know. I think people always try to liken someone to someone else. Amy (Winehouse), both of us released an album in 2007, so there was that comparison. Now it’s Duffy and Adele. If it makes someone check me out, that’s a positive. I used to get a bit, “come on…” but now I don’t mind.

LAC: What’s next?

AR: I want to do more writing. I haven’t had time to write. I’m looking forward to have that time at home and getting back to writing. Right now, I still have a tour. I’m going to Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, then end up doing a few dates in the UK.

LAC: Do you get home sick being on tour?

AR: No, we got so many friends here. L.A., San Francisco, New York, they feel like second homes. I could live in California. I just need to persuade my Londonite boyfriend to move. I love the vibe out here. I love all these crazy flowers you guys have. The food’s good.

LAC: Any particular places?

AR: Swingers! We love Swingers, and Café Gratitude if we want to go a little healthy, but there are loads of so many spots out here.

 

Purchase her latest album here

{ text & photo by HERNAN QUINTANILLA }

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