Andy Sheppard talks jazz, growing up in the South West and developing your own sound as a musician…

How did you discover you had a talent for saxophone?
When I was very young I sang in a choir – I owe so much of my music to that experience. I first blew a saxophone aged 19 and found immediately that it was the perfect replacement for my voice – I felt connected to music again in a profound way.

What was your big breakthrough?
I guess my big breakthrough was getting a record deal with Island Records. I had just returned to the UK from Paris where I’d been living for 5 years playing in numerous bands. The record company saw me performing on TV and called me the next day with the offer of a deal.

You are self-taught, do you think this helps your improvisation?
Being self-taught has its advantages and disadvantages – sometimes I wish I had more schooling and technique. We all improvise our way through life, improvisation in music seems totally natural to me.

Who are your musical influences?
I guess I have to credit John Coltrane as a massive influence – the list of saxophonists and musicians who have shaped my music is huge – also artists, film makers etc etc etc

You grew up in the South West, could you tell us a bit about that?
I was born in Warminster but didn’t stay long… we moved around quite a bit when I was young – formative years were in Salisbury – then I moved to London then Paris then Bristol. I liked the vibe of the west. I now live in Lisbon – I’ve spent many years now traveling the world as a touring musician – music has no borders, about time we realised we are all on the same boat.

What advice would you give to a young musician, looking to develop their own sound?
The note starts inside you not on the instrument. If you work towards the centre of things you will find your own voice – you may not be too fond of it but it’s you – then you have to work on it.

Does the way Jazz music is presented need to evolve in order to encourage more women to play?
I see jazz as a major art form and therefore it should be presented in a hip way. I’ve worked with many wonderful musicians men/women/all nationalities – this music is an international language open to all. The more people who play/listen to music the better. We are all one, any form of discrimination is just a terrible thing – luckily music/art/culture can heal terrible things….

Don’t miss Andy Sheppard on Friday 10 November

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