Interview With Jazz Sensation Fiona Ross
Award winning vocalist, pianist, composer and producer Fiona Ross has become known for creating her own contemporary Jazz sound using fast paced Latin Jazz, vintage jazz club and a little neo soul along with heart wrenching ballads that demonstrate that “Her style is poetic and the messages ooze with Millennial angst” (Jazz weekly).
She came to the world’s attention as “The artist that gave Ed Sheeran his ‘first push'” (Daily Express), but has very quickly established herself as an artist in her own right and has received incredible reviews across the globe for all of her four albums. Her live performances have seen her perform at prestigious venues including 606 Club, Pizza Express, Bulls Head, Nells Jazz and Blues and Toulouse Lautrec and her music is played on radio stations all over the world including 40 stations in the USA as well as in Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Australia, Netherlands and Spain.
Fiona has achieved many accolades for her most recent album, including Best Jazz Song from the World Songwriting Awards for her song ‘For My Dad’, Outstanding achievement awarded by the Global Music Awards and most recently International female songwriter of the year from the International Singer Songwriters Association. She has been featured in many publications including Tinnitist, Jazziz, Record World Magazine, Jazz Corner, Ink 19 and Jazz Quarterly and was thrilled to be in the top ten of most played videos recently in Tinnitist. Fiona’s song ‘Mistress’ which was recorded live in a stairwell, was selected to be included in the British Library archives for prosperity.
MT: Hello Fiona, how long have you been singing for and when did you know music was your calling and when did you figure out why you needed to pursue music as your career?
Fiona: Hi! Thank you so much for interviewing me. Ha, well, my Mum used to say I was singing before I could talk. But I never had that defining moment when I decided to work in the creative arts. It’s just what I have always done. I trained in dance and drama as well as music from a very age and in fact had my first professional job when I was about two and was working quite significantly from about the age of six, in theatre. I just don’t know any different. I guess my parents decided it was what I was supposed to do, but I never objected or questioned it. It’s just who I am.
MT: Who is your influence; why did you choose to sing jazz and what do you love about singing jazz?
Fiona: I have been surrounded by a whole range of musical influences all my life and there are so many to mention. My older brother was always listening to more rock based music and great songwriters which had a huge impact on my style – Eagles, Blondie, Kate Bush, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell – my Mum was a huge opera fan and also wanted me to be the next Julie Andrews, ha. My Dad was all about old school Jazz – Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong. But also for me, my youth was full of Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Chaka Kahn, Aretha Franklin – all the power vocalists. I was also obsessed with Prince. Still am.
Jazz, for me, is about freedom. It allows me to write music that doesn’t have to fit into any boxes. There is room for a bit of everything. So, I can write some Latin Jazz, or something more soul influenced – I love the space it gives me to do whatever I want
MT: Who do you enjoy listening to as a fan?
Fiona: Again, so many I could mention, but, I listen to some Earth, Wind and Fire everyday without fail, they always put me in the right frame of mind – positivity. Michel Camilo and Hiromi are my heroes and I am huge fans of their work. I love finding new music and my work as a journalist allows me to meet and explore many artists and it’s quite wonderful!
MT: Your ‘Live Sessions’ in lockdown video album is divine; how long did it take to record the full video album?
Fiona: Thank you so much! It was so much fun. We recorded it during two sessions, so two days. The production side of it took much longer.
MT: I noticed that you wrote all the songs on the entire album; Do you collaborate with other writers and is there a personal favourite?
Fiona: Yes, I write all my own material, so haven’t collaborated with anyone yet. I’m sure I will at some point. I don’t have any favourites as such, but I enjoy different songs for different reasons. So, ‘Let Me Go’ is just fun to sing, and one my easier songs, vocally, whereas ‘The Evidence Suggests’ is really hard to sing and very emotional for me, so always a challenge, but in a good way. So, all the songs have different elements that mean something for me.
MT: Did you arrange all the songs for the band? If so, how do you do this; do you physically write each part for each musician, or how do you show your songs to your band to play?
Fiona: Yes, I arrange everything, apart from their solos of course. I do it differently based on what my musicians need. Everyone has a basic score, but then some prefer parts written out, and others, I will play or sing the parts and they notate it out in their way. I always like to give them whatever they need!
MT: When was your very first recording and release?
Fiona: As a Jazz Artist in my own right, it was A Twist of Blue a few years ago – 2016. I have been working as a session musician/composer etc for many years, but I have only been doing my Jazz thing for four years.
MT: Can you explain a little bit about your song-writing process?
Fiona: Of course. Well, I don’t have one process, other than, I write whatever is going on in my head at the time. So sometimes, a song will start with a bass line that I’ve come up with, and sometimes it might be a groove or a chord sequence – it varies all the time. Almost always music first and then lyrics as I’m going along
MT: As an independent artist, it looks and sounds like you have a great band; are they your regular musicians who you have beside you when performing at a live gig?
Fiona: Yes, I am so very lucky to work with some incredible musicians, live and on my albums. I have the occasional dep player, if there is a gig clash, as they all work for other artists as well, so scheduling can be tricky, but yes, I work with the same group of musicians all the time. It’s very important to me. The chemistry and our different backgrounds and influences is so wonderful.
MT: How long did it take to record your lockdown live video album and where was it recorded?
Fiona: I did two sessions, both in London. One was at St Cuthbert’s Church, which was a four hour session where we recorded 2 songs. The other was at The Premises Studio where we did 7 songs, over about 4 hours, although the setting up took a while.
MT: Covid 19 has proved an enormous challenge for artists in thinking outside the box and how to get ‘Out There’ so to speak. You have obviously taken this on with ease (or so it looks) with your live in lockdown album. What has been your frustrations and challenge during the pandemic?
Fiona: Ease? Ha, well it has been so very challenging for everyone – and still is. But you know, I am a very positive person – sometimes annoyingly I reckon – and I have always lived by three simple rules based on the quote by
Reinhold Niebuhr: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
So with COVID, I cannot change that situation, so I haven’t felt frustrated as such, I’ve just tried to do what I can under the circumstances. I have had to accept that gigs were cancelled and goodness knows when they will return, so I’ve tried to do more online – with this live album for example. It also came at quite a good time for me, as I was supposed to be writing my next studio album, so I wasn’t supposed to be gigging a huge amount until January anyway, so this was helpful. My biggest concern was how to help others. So many of my friends suffering with no income and feeling very down, that has been the hardest thing. It has been just heart breaking.
MT: As a whole, what has been your biggest challenge in your music career so far? How did you overcome that obstacle?
Fiona: Well, for me, it’s never thinking I’m good enough. There are so many incredible artists out there and if I stop and think about it, I would just give up. So many of us just trying to do our thing and it can be very hard. I always get genuinely overwhelmed when people say nice things about my music, as for me, it’s never good enough. But the positive in that, is that it always drives me to be the best I can be and strive to be better – both as a human being and as an artist. I am not trying to be the ‘best’ artist, I am trying to be the best me I guess.
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MT: From what you have learned about your challenges in the music business, what advice would you like to give upcoming independent artists?
Fiona: Strength and resilience are key. Belief in yourself as an artist and what you are trying to achieve, no matter what people tell you. If you don’t fit in a box, embrace that rather than try to fit. Surround yourself with good people who care about not just your art, but you and your wellbeing. And always remember you are part of an amazing community – help and support each other, other artists – you are all in this together and it is not a competition.
MT: Besides singing, do you play any musical instruments? How long have you been playing them?
Fiona:Yes, I am also a pianist and started playing when I was six.
MT: What’s a typical day for you? Do you work on your music every day? What other activities or hobbies besides music do you like to do that your fans may like to know about?
Fiona: Well, before COVID, I would have said I don’t have a typical day, but I do have more of a routine for now at least. Yes, music everyday. I practice for four hours a day and at the moment I’m spending time on writing my next album. I also work as a Jazz journalist, so I’m often interviewing people or writing reviews. The business side of my music is time consuming – not fun, but has to be done. The continual self promotion is always a challenge for me, as I would far rather talk about other people, but it has to be done! The only thing I do that is not music, is Taekwondo and I read a lot.
MT: Thank you so much for your time Fiona, I really appreciate it and all the very best with ‘The Live Sessions Video Album’.
Interview With Jazz Sensation Fiona Ross
Interview With Jazz Sensation Fiona Ross