Jazz vocalist Yazmin Lacey on imperfections, Future Bubblers and her forthcoming EP ‘90 Degrees’

Sometimes the human voice – with its details, idiosyncrasies and imperfections – can be the most moving and engaging of all instruments. Within neo-soul, contemporary jazz and RnB, we return time and again to those of Erykah Badu, Fatima, Meshell Ndegeocello, Minnie Ripperton and countless others, to appreciate the subtleties, intimacy and honesty captured on record and conveyed to the audience. If you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned artists, chances are you’ll fall for Nottingham-based soul-jazz vocalist Yazmin Lacey too. She came through the Brownswood Future Bubblers program and alongside he peers tied to the London label, is being highlighted as one of the leading lights in fresh UK jazz.

Her new EP 90 Degrees, which in Lacey’s words ‘is about that time of the day/night when there’s a shift in pace and energy…you decide to lock off from the ‘outside’ world and create your own atmosphere’ captures her mellow presence perfectly. First Word records (Children of Zeus, Myele Manzanza, Ross McHenry) and the Running Circle imprint are behind the release, which you can check out along with lyrics to its title track, here. We’re delighted to welcome Yazmin to Manchester next week for a show at The Castle with support from Shoa. Ahead of the show, we caught up with her to discuss her artistic backing, new EP and the musicians who help bring her sound to life.

So far in your young career you’ve been backed by some great initiatives: PRS’ Women Make Music fund and the Brownswood Future Bubblers project to name but two. How does it feel as an artist to be backed in such a way – is it vindicating and does it inspire/motivate you to keep pursuing your goals? Furthermore, anyone you want to shout out for helping you get to where you are now?

‘It’s definitely crossed my mind that it’s a bit mad, the support I’ve received after one EP! It’s amazing to be backed by such initiatives! Without the support of Brownswood and Future Bubblers, PRS, no-one would know my music! I am so grateful! And of course Future Bubblers! BUP BUP!!! When I met Amy [Frenchum] and Selassie [Tevie] I just knew I was in good hands. They made me feel so comfortable, none of the bulls**t that gets mixed up in music matters with them – they’re simply about nurturing creativity. Amy is one of kind. It’s is especially important for me to be connected with a woman in this industry, she’s an incredible force. In terms of the props motivating me…kind of, but before anyone was listening to this I was still writing and singing and I’ll always be doing that regardless of who is listening. It’s just my release; my way of making sense of the world – but I think the support makes me want to share my music more.’

Your voice has tremendous qualities and really ‘gets through’ to or resonates with the audience. How do you prepare to perform and keep your voice in the shape it needs to be – any secrets or is the key not to overthink it?

‘Thank you! Erm, I should probably prepare more! I’ve never had any training on this stuff, no singing lessons, no vocal coaching – so when I sing, I just sing! I dunno maybe that’s what people like, the honesty of it all. I get so nervous before shows – the main thing is to breathe! I think for me, the key is not to overthink it. When you’re telling stories, I think all the different tones and imperfections in the voice make it real. But it is important to rest too, rest is good.’

You’ve been recording recently and a new EP entitled 90 Degrees is in the pipeline. Were the sessions a success, have they challenged you artistically and are you excited to share the fruits of your labour?

‘I’m so excited to share 90 Degrees. I really meant what I wrote and I really felt it when we were recording too. I think the sessions were a success! We did well to turn that EP around in two weeks! It’s hard balancing six people and a full time job, and blah blah – but sometimes I need some pressure to complete things. I’m so used to making things – or singing things – that no one hears that it’s scary making it final, no changes!’

Yourself and your peers within the London jazz scene are receiving international attention at present. Can you sum up what an exciting time this is for British contemporary jazz and urban music and what have been your favourite records from the scene in the past 12 months?

‘This is an exciting time for Jazz music. Jazz for me is truth so there is a lot of honest interpretations of the world circulating in music right now. That energy will bring about change. Some of the artists in the scene at the moment are mind-blowing and I know we will be referring back to them in years to come: Ezra collective, Zara McFarlane, Nubya Garcia, Nerija, Joe Armon-Jones, Tri Force, Henry Wu, Kokoroko, Touching Bass, Shabaka Hutchings to name a few! Legendary!’

You’re bringing the full band with you on the road for the UK tour – can you introduce us to the folks you’re playing with and tell us how you came to know them/involve them in your musical world?

‘Me and Pete Beardsworth (keys/production) met through a friend. We met for a drink and I said I would love to make some stuff with a band, Pete was like yeah sure if you find a space I will turn up with a band, and he did! It’s a very unique gathering as we all are really different and have very different musical experiences but I think we benefit form that in the music.

Me and Pete have developed a really good language over the past two-ish years we’ve been working together – I think we push each other, I need that. Myself and the band, after the time we’ve spent working together, have created a playful and safe creative space now. We’re at a stage where we can come into the rehearsal room and anyone can throw an idea out. For me, a sense of ‘play’ is so important – rules limit creativity. So yeah, big up Pete, Tom Towle (drums), Charlie Bone (guitar), Owen Campbell (percussion), George French (bass). They inject a lot of energy into my songs and that brings them to life – very grateful for that. Over the past few years Manchester has become one of my favourite musical places! Same for the band too, we cannot wait to come to Manny!’

Yazmin Lacey is live at The Castle Hotel on 28th March and support comes courtesy of Shoa.

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Wednesday | 28.03.18

Yazmin Lacey + Mali Hayes at the Castle Hotel, Manchester

Band on the Wall, Manchester