Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Interview: Kaz Simmons ... in her own words

Dandelions, the third album from singer-songwriter Kaz Simmons, was released this week. It's an autobiographical album and has jazz elements, but also pop, folk, Spanish and Brazilian guitar styles. Jamie Cullum played the title track on his BBC Radio 2 show a couple of weeks ago. 

Kaz spoke to me today about the new record, her love of jazz and more. 

Photo credit: Steve Lyman

Congratulations on the release of your third album Dandelions! Can you tell us what the album means to you?
Thank you! Dandelions is the culmination of songs I've written over the last few years, mainly about my experiences in love, friendships, being scared of things etc. My first two albums, Different Smile and Take Me Home were more jazzy albums and featured covers, but Dandelions is purely made up of originals which fuse jazz, folk and pop styles. It's a very 'me' album - very personal, but with songs that I hope people can relate to.

How did you decide which tracks to include?
We recorded a couple of extra tracks, but they didn't make the cut! You hear what works when you record in the studio and whether a song will fit in with the 'vibe' of the album. I really wanted to include a Brazilian tune I play in my live sets, but it just didn't fit with the rest of the tunes.

You started your music career at a very young age. Is your family musical? 
Not really! My parents' have 'proper' jobs. Although, my Dad taught himself the guitar a few years ago and picked it up very quickly. My sister is an actress and musical theatre singer.

What took you down the jazz route?
I went to Goldsmiths University to study Music but didn't know what my career path music-wise was going to be. I just knew I had to do Music. When I got there, a lot of my friends were into jazz and some asked me to sing in their jazz bands. I also took up a Jazz History module and was fascinated by the music and the stories, so I decided to have jazz singing lessons from Laura Zakian who was a great teacher. I guess my love for jazz grew from Goldsmiths.

What is a career highlight for you so far?
Playing on one of the main stages at The Dubai International Jazz Festival in 2009 on the same bill as Mike Stern, Incognito and Lizz Wright.

Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?
I played the cello at school in order to be in the orchestra, although I stopped as soon as I left school.

You also teach music. Can you share one tip to inspire any aspiring singer-songwriters reading this?
I teach guitar to lots of kids and young adults and I keep trying to get some of them to sing and play, but they're still a bit shy. It's my mission and I will continue to hound them! haha. To aspiring singer-songwriters, I would say keep at it. If any possible lyrics come into your head, whatever time of day or night, write them down as they could be useful. Your songwriting will get better too, the more that you do and listen to lots of music. Go to open mic nights too - it's such good experience.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Currently, I'm listening to Rafael Saadiq's Stone Rollin', Hannah Peels' The Broken Wave and I always go back to Rufus Wainwright's Want One for inspiration.

Plans for the rest of 2011?
To promote Dandelions and play lots of gigs at lovely venues.

Thanks for taking time to chat Kaz! 

Dandelions is now available worldwide on Amazon, HMV and iTunes. There's also a limited edition vinyl! 

Listen to the title track Dandelions here and read a great review over at London Jazz

You can read previous interviews in this series here with more to be added soon! 

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