LJ: Women have always played an integral role in shaping the history of Jazz, yet represent only 5% of instrumentalists in Jazz UK. What was it that got you interested in Jazz, and how did you go about pursuing a musical career?
GEORGIA: My grandfather Gerry was a jazz pianist and I was lucky enough to have jazz music played in my family home as a child. I also worked in the family restaurant as a teenager, where all they played was jazz, so I think I was immersed in the music a lot growing up. I always tried to imitate the great singers, such as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. I think I have a sensitivity that allows me to hear and reproduce small detail in the emotion of the voice. I was learning piano but I also felt a deep connection with writing lyrics – I was always keeping diaries and scribing my feelings down. I think that’s what lead me to songwriting!
I didn’t study jazz at college, but instead I went out there and learned from the older musicians whom I look up to. I learned ‘on the gig’ as they say… making mistakes and getting thrown in at the deep end. Those formative years really allowed me to learn and hone my craft of jazz singing and it gave me a chance to sing the songs I had been writing with my co-writer Euan Stevenson in front of audiences.
LJ: How do you aim to inspire the next generation of women in jazz?
Georgia: It’s really important for me to be a positive role model to other young women. I think about the women I look up to in this industry, in jazz in particular, and what values they represent. Nancy Wilson for example, possibly my favourite jazz singer, was someone who meticulously honed her craft and made decisions based on her own wants and needs, which was highly unusual for a women in the music business during the 1960s. She was assured, confident and radiant with authenticity. She never apologised for what she didn’t know – in jazz many people think you have to know it all and be able do it all (theory, chords etc), but there is something so cool and admirable about letting go of that notion and playing to your strengths. And like Nancy, I hope that my music delivers a message of authenticity and encouragement to the young women of tomorrow.
LJ: Your debut album, Only The Lovers Sing, remained in the Top 20 for its first 16 weeks and scooped ‘Best Album’ at the 2021 Scottish Jazz Awards. How did you go about writing your second album, Sure of You, after such success?
Georgia: My second album is a duo project with my boyfriend, pianist Fraser Urquhart. After releasing my first album of all original music, I wanted to experiment with recording some of the jazz canon, songs I have grown to know and love over time. During lockdown we started performing together a lot at home and off the back of the success of many live streams, we decided to record the music. It features 13 songs that we love performing together – songs in which we share a special musical intimacy, which we wanted to share with an audience. The songs are all covers – ranging from contemplative jazz ballads such as Carl Sigman’s “Crazy He Calls Me” to up tempo swing songs like “Too Marvelous For Words” which is an ode to our shared love of Frank Sinatra. Contrary to my first record, this is a very stripped back and exposed album, and I think people have enjoyed hearing that side of me.
LJ: You’ve supported the likes of Gregory Porter in his sold-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall – how does performing in bigger venues compare to more intimate settings?
Georgia: I was thrilled to sing at the Royal Albert Hall – this was truly a life time dream come true! A milestone in my career also to support one of my heroes Gregory Porter… it’s a different energy on a big stage though. You do notice the sheer number of bodies in the room, and it seems that the energy is returned to the stage – acting almost as a fuel for us to go further. It’s really amazing. However, I just played to a tiny jazz club in Paris where I could see the whites of people’s eyes. In some ways that is more daunting, but I do have a much more personal experience on those kinds of shows.
LJ: What are you most looking forward to about performing at Turner Sims?
Georgia: Turner Sims is such a beautiful space for live music. The acoustic in the room I’ve heard is incredible… also I cant wait to sing to the wonderful Southampton audiences! I’m really looking forward to performing some of my new unreleased music too which is going to be a special preview for the audience!
Book your ticket to see Georgia Cécile on Friday 21 April here