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:: Spotlight :: Alice Russell - a dynamic voice from Britain

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Incredibly, Alice Russell seems to go largely unnoticed within certain circles. Her powerful soul-tinged voice makes her one of the hottest singers in the UK at the moment. Her style is mainly blues-soul, but she has such versatility that allows herself to pass into territories of funk, jazz, gospel and beyond. She came to note with her first album ‘Under The Munka Moon’ through Tru Thoughts Recordings/Creative Vibes in 2004. Now, she returns with a delightful album titled ‘My Favourite Letters’. Alice is soon to tour Australia and I had a short chat to her.

Tell us about your background and growing up in music?

I come from a classical background. Mum and Dad were in a choir and I used to go to their rehearsals as a child with my toys. I developed a bit of an ear for music then. I got into jazz and discovered Stevie Wonder, Prince, blues and gospel music as a teenager. That was it for me. I was totally besotted. Gospel being the ultimate vocal expression I love most.

You have a stunning voice. Where did you get it?

My voice came naturally. Later on, I got vocal lessons but something was there anyway. For touring, it’s good to learn techniques. You need to fall back on something when you’re tired or you feel as though you’ve got no voice left.

Tell us about any influences on the album?

On “All Else Can Wait” you can tell I was thinking of Stevie Wonder – the chords and harmonies are Steviesque. You can’t help it. Whatever you listen to and like will come out in your songwriting. There is even a Sergio Mendes feel to a couple of the tracks.

You visited Australia for performances in November 2004. You must be looking forward to returning here soon…

Yes, I had a couple of weeks with the Quantic Soul Orchestra. We did a few gigs. Now, we’re back this November. I’m in Japan with my band prior to the Australian shows and will tour here on my own because it’s expensive to bring them all the way to Australia. I’ll be getting together with The Bamboos, a Melbourne band. They’re really good – a funk, alt-sounding band.

I can just picture you on stage, totally captivating an audience…

The singing bit comes easy, but I’m getting better at talking. People say that I’m not the best talker on stage but I just learn the songs and have a little singsong.

Tell us about collaborating with TM Juke?

The first time I did stuff with him was on his solo album. I did a couple of tracks. On my previous album ‘Munka Moon’, we did ‘Hurry On Now’. We got on so well that we thought we should do the next album together. We bounce off each other really well. We had the same ideas – quite freaky really. We’re very much on the same level as far as songwriting goes. We work pretty well on this album. I’m really pleased with it.

Have you got plans to release the album in the USA?

I haven’t been to America as yet, but will be looking at heading there next year. It’s a massive market. Every State is a New World and you have to work them differently. Also, we’re very much underground. It’s either rock or R&B there, so we’ve got some work to do. But we’ll have a go next year.

Will you still be making yourself available to other collaborators and producers, or concentrate more on your material?

It’s good to work with other artists. One that I am interested in is Fat Freddy’s Drop. I’d like to work with them on doing a track.

You recorded the White Stripes’ song ‘Seven Nation Army’…

The lyrics are amazing. The White Stripes are simply amazing. I heard them at Glastonbury and they’re brilliant.

What did they say about covering the song?

I don’t know. I haven’t heard any reaction. I assume they must have heard it.

Who are some of the other singers you admire?

I like Jill Scott, MOFO (doing stuff with Bugz In The Attic) and the guy from Fat Freddy’s Drop. He has an amazing voice.

Has the reaction in the UK been generally good?

It’s still pretty underground. We’ve had some really good reviews.

There was a story about you joining Massive Attack as their vocalist. Is that true?

They’re doing a new album. Daddy G contacted me about doing a track for their album. That’s as far as it’s gone so far.

Thanks and we look forward to seeing you in Australia again soon.

‘My Favourite Letters’ is out now through Tru Thoughts/Creative Vibes.

Alice is on tour as follows:

Friday, November 18 - ALICE RUSSELL, QUANTIC SOUL ORCHESTRA, RAW FUSION SOUND SYSTEM, THE BAMBOOS, RUSS DEWBURY - Prince of Wales, St.Kilda

Saturday, November 19 - ALICE RUSSELL, QUANTIC SOUL ORCHESTRA, RAW FUSION SOUND SYSTEM, THE BAMBOOS, RUSS DEWBURY - The Metro, Sydney

Wednesday, November 23 - ALICE RUSSELL, QUANTIC SOUL ORCHESTRA, THE BAMBOOS, RUSS DEWBURY - The Rev, Brisbane

Friday, December 2 - ALICE RUSSELL, QUANTIC - Sugar, Adelaide

Saturday, December 3 - ALICE RUSSELL, QUANTIC SOUL ORCHESTRA, THE BAMBOOS, RUSS DEWBURY - Heat, Perth