Sultry jazz is a style of music we at FAME adore like the rest of you, and when we get the opportunity to meet with one of the genres hottest acts on the scene, we are not going to miss that chance to learn more about what to some is a guilty pleasure in the music industry. Which is why FAME we had this chat to vocalist Helena Jesele about her latest release ‘Lovesick Avenue’ and much more.
Hi Helena, you have a sound that brings together many of jazz music greats, who inspires you most?
Ella Fitzgerald was my first inspiration. I was listening to her cassettes on my Fischer Price tape player when I was a child, and still listen to her on a daily basis now.
Her voice definitely had a special magic about it, and her version of Ray Noble’s ‘The Very Thought Of You’ is probably my favourite recording of all time, its just so beautiful. Julie London has always been a big inspiration too.For those readers who have yet to hear your work, how would you describe ‘Lovesick Avenue’ to them?
Its on the corner of unrequited and heartache! I would describe ‘Lovesick Avenue’ as a sultry, bittersweet song with hints of John Barry and shades of Philly soul in there.
The inspiration for the story came from a conversation I’d had with a friend. He’d just had his heart broken and was telling me about it, I’d been going through something similar at the time so we were both feeling a bit miserable and lost.
I remember that during the conversation the words ‘Lovesick Avenue’ popped into my head, so when I got home that night the song just poured out.
You have family links to both Manchester and Dublin, have either city’s musical heritage influenced yours?
I’ve always liked the story-telling element that Irish artists have in their music, particularly the likes of Christy Moore and Mary Coughlan.
And I love to paint a good visual story with the lyrics in my songs, so yes, maybe that comes from growing up in Dublin.
I associate the performance aspect with my mother’s side of the family who are from Manchester. There are a lot of great voices on that side and as a kid I used to really love watching them get up to sing at family getogethers.
One uncle in particular used to sing ‘Autumn Leaves’ with such an effortless ease, and the most beautiful natural tone to his voice. I used to be utterly mesmerised.How involved are you in the writing/creative process?
This album tells the story of the last 2 years of my life, so I’ve been very involved in the creative process. Lyrics are my thing, so I really enjoy immersing myself in the stories and also the vocal melodies too. My jazz roots definitely have an impact on the latter.
Half the album was written and recorded in Brooklyn with the Truth & Soul producers, and the other half with Paul O’Duffy in London, so it was interesting to see how each collaboration brought out something different in me artistically.
I learnt a huge amount from both parties, so I’m really grateful I had the opportunity to work with them.
How did you get into the music business?
After studying art history in University, I got a job in a London gallery, selling art by day. And by night I was singing in jazz clubs around London, doing open-mic sessions, meeting musicians, honing my craft etc.
Eventually I had to give up the day job as it became too difficult to juggle the two. Music has always been my biggest passion though, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make.
Did you always have the dream to be a part of the music industry?
Well, when I was about 9 I went through a phase of wanting to be a marine biologist, and/or a ballet dancer…luckily I wasn’t cut out for either!
I always wanted to be a singer though, but never thought it would actually happen, as I was always so shy about my voice when I was younger. I’ve been fortunate though, because the right people seem to have come along at certain crossroads in my career, and steered me in the right direction.
Who inspires you in the industry?
I love slightly offbeat groups like Nouvelle Vague and Koop at the moment. Also I think Emeli Sande is brilliant, I love the nods to Massive Attack in her music.
Maverick Sabre is cool too, I really liked his Lonely Are the Brave album. It’s very inspiring to see Irish acts like him doing so well over here.
What does the rest of 2012 hold for you?
We’re releasing the first single from the album, Let The Game Begin, on the 10th of June. I’m very excited about that because we’ve cut limited edition vinyls of it and I’ve always wanted todo a vinyl!
Lot’s of live dates will be coming up in the diary too so keep an eye on the facebook page for updates.
Can you give us an idea of the kind of fan responses you get?
Recently I’ve been doing some small, intimate acoustic gigs around London to try out the new material. At the last gig a girl came up to me afterwards and said how much a particular lyric had really touched her.
It was a song from the album called Girl In London, which is quite a sad story, full of raw emotion. I love it when people say they can relate to the stories in the songs, that’s what keeps me going.
What advice would you give to someone getting into the business today
When I started out I came across a quote from Ella Fitzgerald, and when things have been tough, as they so often are in this business, I’ve tried to remember the words.
She said, “Just don’t give up trying to do what you
really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong”