Helena Jesele has returned this week with her great new single Sun Is Rising - which is from her forthcoming album.
I caught up with her to chat about the new track, the album and what lies ahead for her.
- You are about to release your new single Sun Is Rising so what can we expect from the new track?
The new track… well I am looking out of the window now and it is pretty grey here in London. It was one of the last songs that I wrote for the album and I wanted to end the album on a high if you like.
So it is about coming out from a bit of a dark place and coming into the light and the sunshine again.
It is quite summery and uplifting but it is also quite soulful, a friend of mine said that it was odd in a way because it is quite chilled out and yet it is quite up at the same time (laughs).
It is a song that will lift your spirits I think - it is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
- While this is a pop track there is a real soul and jazz feel to this record as well as some of your other songs so where did your love of this genre first start?
The love of the genre is going back to when I was a really tiny child. I grew up in Dublin and there wasn’t much jazz around then.
I think that my mum was a big influence because she was into Julie London; she is still one of my favourite artists ever.
I remember as a child just being really drawn to Jazz and I think Ella Fitzgerald was my first musical love, and still is; you never forget your first love do you?
There was just something in her voice that still… if I am having a terrible day I will listen to Ella and there is something calming and soothing in her voice.
I remember listening to one of her cassettes, which I found recently, and I use to put it on my Fisher Price cassette player which went everywhere with me.
So I would listen to her and that cassette over and over and over again and I think I just got hooked.
Into my teens everyone was listening to… I still liked pop music at the time but I suppose Jazz music was my form of escapism - and I think that that still rings true as I can disappear into that music. And it influences the stuff that I write now as you can hear the escapism.
- Well you have slightly touched on my next question really as I was reading that the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin are a couple of your major influences so what is it about these two artists that inspire you?
Well I think Aretha Franklin I associate with my sisters, I have three older sisters, and I remember bouncing around the kitchen with my sisters to Respect; that became like an anthem for us and when it comes on at a party we are straight up on the dance floor.
So I suppose that comes from those memories of being with my sisters and being very young and dancing around with them.
I remember having to do this video and we had to mime Respect to this video we were making, I was only about six, and they dressed me up as this 1960’s character.
I think there was sexuality about Aretha Franklin’s music because of the heavy bass - you can hear it now and it still has that magic about it.
With Ella Fitzgerald there is a purity to her voice and in her music and so together the two are quite complimentary and are like two different sides; Aretha Franklin has that real sex appeal and Ella had a bit more of purity and lushness to her music. I love them both.
- There is also an album on the way so how does this single introduce us to the rest of that album?
There will hopefully be another single from this album before it comes out - I think that is the plan.
From the two singles Let The Game Begin and Sun Is Rising you have Ella & Aretha because you have the sex appeal on one side and then Sun Is Rising is the purer version of that.
So I think it shows both sides of what the album has in store because it is slightly cut down the middle and I don’t know whether that is because one half of it was written in New York and the other half in London.
- Paul O’Duffy serves as producer on the album so how did that collaboration come about?
I wrote half of the tracks with him and then the other half of the tracks with Truth & Soul in New York. How did it come about? I am not sure as this album has come about… there has been so much synchronicity and serendipity and chance meetings.
It was through someone who had heard the stuff that I had done in New York and he said ‘you should hook up with Paul O’Duffy as he would love you’ and so we sent it to him and sure enough he did.
So that is how it really came about - and that was how it came about with Truth & Soul as well - thing just happen for a reason and that is how this album has been born. It happened for the right reasons and the right people have been involved and so here we are.
- He has worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse so how did you find working with him and what does that experience bring to the record?
That is a good question actually. He has worked with so many different people and he really got my musical influences; he has done some Bond stuff in the past as well.
But I think what he bought to the table was… with the Truth & Soul boys it was completely free reign with the music and I would go in and write with them and whatever happened just happened.
They weren’t thinking ‘lets get this on the radio’ it was quite organic or lets create some magic in the moment. But with Paul it was a lot more sensible in some respects as he had a lot of knowledge of what works.
He gave me free reign but he reigned me in at the same time - because of my jazz influences I tend to go off on a tangent.
So we were quite a good combination of the freeness of my style of writing and the more methodical and sensible approach - the two together worked really well.
But I had such a great time working with Paul as he was a real laugh. He really understood where I came from so it was joy to work with him on this, it was really good.
- You have mentioned already that you went out to New York to do some writing so how was that?
That was incredibly. It was the best experience of my life. Meeting Truth & Soul came through a chance meeting with someone else who said I should get in touch with these guys, so I did.
That really was a magic moment in my career so far just being in Brooklyn and the studio with them. We are around the same age and they were into likes of Portishead and Massive Attack, as I am.
There were no computers around it was like walking into a studio in 1969 - their approach was really old school as everything was analogue and everything was really real. We would just talk and then play and then I would start writing lyrics and it was a really magical experience. I loved it.
- You have penned all of the tracks on the record so what are your major influences when it comes to penning a track?
I never trained as a musician, singer or a writer and so writing songs was the last thing that I ever thought I was going to do as on the jazz scene I was singing The Great American Songbook.
You can’t fault those songs and so I never really had the confidence to write until I was encouraged to by a producer that I was working with. Maybe I do harp back to the jazz stuff that I have been in to but I don’t have any rules and so I am inclined to just go with the spirit of it.
I always think that ignorance is bliss with these things. All musicians always listen to a lot of different music so music, whether you can pin point it or not, is always going to influence you on some level.
But I don’t think if any other songwriters in particular that have an influence - but I am sure there are loads that are influences that are not immediately obvious.
- You were born in Manchester and raised in Dublin, both of which have a great music heritage, so how do you feel where you are from has influenced your music?
I saw my mum the other day and we were talking about that. I was nearly one when we moved to Dublin so I have no memories of growing up in Manchester but my elder siblings have memories.
On my mum’s side of the family there are some incredible singers, but none of them did if professionally so I am the first to make a break for it (laughs).
I remember being very young and one of my uncle’s singing Autumn Leaves and being spellbound by his voice, he worked in the mines so he was a proper northern lad.
So he was a huge influence and also listening to my mother singing as well - so that side are all Manchester people and they all have these magical voices from somewhere.
On my father’s side as well you have the Irish influence - I don’t know a big Irish family that has get togethers and sing-songs around the piano.
So yeah I feel really lucky to be a hybrid of these two cultures as I think that it has influenced my music and how I perform.
- You have an ever growing fan base so for any of these fans reading this interview do you have a message for them?
Thank you for following first of all. And also thank you to FemaleFirst for really flying the flag as I really appreciate it (laughs).
I really hope that the people who are listening to the music are touched by it and I really would love to hear any feedback that they might have.
So just thank you for all of the support and I hope they are looking forward to the album coming out because I am too.
- Finally what does the rest of 2012 hold for you - do you have any live shows planned?
Actually I have just got a new band together and we are in rehearsals. So I am hoping to get back doing some gigs around town and further a field - autumn and winter I think will be the time that I will be doing lots of gigs.
I think I am going to be going to go over to New York a couple of times to check out what is going on over there. Watch this space, there’s lots going on.
Sun Is Rising it out now.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw