Emilia Mårtensson has built a well-deserved reputation as one of the most exciting young vocalists on the UK Jazz scene.
To get a taster of what’s in store for her her appearance at Omnibus on the 21st of February, we decided to pick her brain about home and the future of jazz.
You’re London-based, but Swedish, with a Slovenian mother, where do you call home now?
I count myself very lucky to be able to call London, Sweden AND Slovenia home. I’m very blessed to have strong connections to people and the culture in all three places and I love the contrast between the three.
Which is your favourite city in terms of performing?
It is always wonderful to perform at home so I would have to say London, Izola (Slovenia) and Malmö, (Sweden).
Was The Observer’s tag ‘The New Face of British Jazz 2012′ a help or did it just set up awkward expectations?
No it didn’t set up any awkward expectations at all. It was a good year for me as I debuted with my album ‘And so it goes…’ and also Kairos 4tet, a wonderful band I was singing with led by Adam Waldmann, which had just won the MOBO Award for best Jazz Act. It was great to get the recognition and it came at a good time as I was just starting to make a name for myself on the Jazz Scene, so I am very grateful.
Who are your heroes, in music and performance generally?
Oh is it too cheesy to say that all musicians I know, love and work with are my heroes? The London Jazz scene is such a wonderful community of people. I constantly get inspired by people’s drive and determination and of course by all the great music that keeps coming out from the London Scene. I am very proud to be part of it.
Your Swedish roots are obviously still important and your blend of folk and pop into your repertoire blurs categories. How much do you think labels like ‘jazz’ are important to you, and to audiences?
It is not so important to me. I suppose labelling music has a purpose in that it gives you some direction in to what the music involves, but actually these labels can be misleading and scare audiences away from music they might really appreciate. For example the word Jazz, I think, is often associated with having a specific sound but today there is SO much music that is being described with this word.
Your ‘Women Make Music’ funding from the Performing Rights Society is something you are obviously proud of. Is it still hard for women to make waves in the music world?
I am proud of it and I think it’s great that schemes like these exist in order to draw more attention to female artists and composers to create more role models.
I feel that things are starting to change slowly, even if it is with baby steps. There are a lot of great female band leaders, artists and composers on the scene right now, which I’m sure will encourage the next generation.
Has jazz got a future in the 21st century? What are the important things that will bring new audiences to jazz?
I think improvised music, rich harmonies, great melodies, stories and collaborative musicianship definitely has a great future in the 21st century. It would be really sad if not. Perhaps one thing that needs to happen is the exclusion of categorizing the music and leaving it open for people to make up their own minds about what the music means, is, and sounds like.
Who are your favourite musical collaborators and why?
I have been and still am collaborating with lots of different musicians and projects and my favourite thing about that is that you get many different musical outlets so I can’t say I have any favourites. BUT I am perhaps a little bit extra excited at the minute about my next project, which is a collaboration between myself and Janez Dovc (Slovenian accordion player and composer) and Adriano Adewale (Brazilian percussion player and composer). Together we have composed and arranged a set of music inspired by our three different folkloric cultures. The music involves a lot of improvisation and interaction on stage with an emphasis on telling stories. I am excited to say that we will be recording in April and the album will be released in September this year on Two River Records.
I am also very excited about my collaboration with Luca Boscagin (guitar) and Fulvio Sigurta (flugelhorn and trumpet) who will be joining me for my performance at OMNIBUS on Sunday 21st of February. This is a new project which will involve all sorts of songs that we love, including Jazz Standards, Swedish Folks songs and original compositions. I am really looking forward to this!