Vocalist and songwriter Victoria Klewin.

Sophie Wales catches up with vocalist and songwriter Victoria Klewin, based in Bristol.

We’ve been checking-in with jazz artists and musicians throughout the South to see how their lockdown experience has been, and how they’ve been adjusting to the new normal.

What was your first ever encounter with jazz?

It was probably through watching old musicals. Many of the jazz standards from the Great American Songbook were originally from musicals. When I was a kid, sitting me down in front of anything with singing and dancing was a guaranteed way to keep me entertained (but not necessarily quiet!) for a while, so my parents did it quite a lot! My Dad in particular has always exposed me to a wide range of music, both live gigs/concerts, and at home.

I was also lucky enough to live next door to a pub that had a jazz club when I was in my teens. That’s where I started singing jazz properly. The landlord set me up with the house trio when I was about 14, and I was hooked!

Name a track you wish you’d written. 

For the royalties, I’d have to say ‘Yesterday’, The Beatles! But for the artistry and lyrics, ‘Buckets of Rain’ by Bob Dylan; Erroll Garner’s ‘Misty’ for the beautifully constructed melody and harmony. Ooops, sorry that’s three!

Who have you been listening to recently?

I was listening to music pretty much constantly during lockdown, revisiting old favourites, and finding new ones. I’m into a lot of different genres really, but jazz-wise I am utterly in love with American singer, Veronica Swift. She is just phenomenal! Her tone and feel is just so authentic, she’s really got jazz in her bones and sings with wonderful humour and conviction. I couldn’t believe it when I found out she was contemporary.

I also love Laura Mvula, Melody Gardot, and Lianne La Havas – as a songwriter I find these three particularly inspiring to listen to and I love the production and orchestration of their records. I am always cycling back through the discographies of the jazz greats too, there’s always something new to find. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Blossom Dearie, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughan are pretty constant companions!

Favourite gig you’ve ever been to and why?

So not jazz, but I saw IDLES at a festival while on tour in the Netherlands. Such a powerful live band, with important things to say… and they’re Bristol boys too! Also, Lake Street Dive who are an American band with great songs, vocal harmonies and a lead singer (Rachel Price) has the most insane voice and technical ability.

Any livestream concert recommendations?

Jon Cleary has been doing a sterling job with his Quarantini Happy Hour gigs and live piano lessons. I love him so much. I’ve also really enjoyed the live streams from Ronnie Scott’s. It wasn’t live, but I did an online session for Brecon Jazz Festival. They did a great job of adjusting to the situation and putting the whole festival online. I did a set of tunes from my Blossom Dearie project with Denny Ilett on guitar and Chris Jones on bass. Do check it out and support Brecon Jazz as they do an amazing job for jazz in the UK.

What advice do you have for fellow musicians adjusting to the current situation, and the new normal?

Oh God. I really don’t feel I’m in a position to advise anyone about anything! It’s been so so tough for all of us. I’ve got through it by trying to focus on the positives and work with what I do have rather than pining over what I don’t. I’ve been relatively time-rich because of having no work, so I’ve tried to utilise that time to learn new things and invest in my technique and promotional materials.

Don’t give up hope. As hopeless as it may feel and as much as the music and arts industry is suffering, music itself and art will always survive. People value the arts. Music brings immediate joy, solace and distraction to people, and that’s vital, especially now. You do matter!

I’d also say, as we emerge from this crisis, be even more wary of people offering sub-standard fees and trying to take advantage of your work. Just because you haven’t gigged for ages, don’t accept ridiculous fees, because you are doing yourself and other musicians a disservice and perpetuating the problem. We need to stand together. This may even be the perfect opportunity to collectively reset our standards in that sense…

Have you been working on any new material recently?

Yes! I’ve been in the studio working on some of my unreleased originals which I am hoping to continue with and release, as soon as finances allow. There is years worth of material waiting to see the light of day! My last release was in 2016, so I’ve developed a lot since then and really focused in stylistically on jazz.

What are your post-lockdown plans?

Just to get myself back on my feet really. I need to find somewhere to live, get the diary filled up, and SING; I certainly won’t take a full diary for granted ever again. I also need to record and release a new album of my own. I’ve spent much of the last few years touring as a session musician and writing for other artists, so now it’s time for my own work…it’s long overdue.

Our next ‘Catching Up With…’ will be posted on 2nd September. Follow the series on our social media: Facebook and Twitter.

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