Features

Alice Russell: Gathering thoughts

Alice Russell isn’t your average run-of-the mill pop, soul diva. This girl has chiselled her solid career so far collaborating both in the studio and live with the likes of Max Sedgeley, Bah Samba, The Quantic Soul Orchestra and Nostalgia 77, to name-check just a few, the praises this girl has received have stemmed far and wide and even had Groove Armada and Massive Attack gushing about her voice and their interest in a possible future collaboration. Finally the time is upon us for the release of her second solo venture ‘My Favourite Letters.’

The record is a lightening bolt through your world if you enjoy a tasty spectrum of soul, jazz, electronica, beats and funk all served up with a generous topping of Alice’s amazingly exquisite vocal power, a soul singer from the same quirky, signature vocal family as Roisin Murphy. In the lead up to her second set of Australian shows, ITM’s Vocal Assault managed to get a hold of the genre jumping Alice as she sits nursing a cup of warm English tea as the rain pelts down relentlessly outside her UK residence, to ask her a few questions about the new album and her highly-anticipated return to Australian shores.

How do you feel about the new album coming out?

“I’m really excited, this is the first time I’ve actually done an album from start to finish in my own name, the other one was more of a compilation, so I’m quite excited about how it’s all going to come out into the world.”

How long did it take to write and record from beginning to end?

“We got together in January/February last year and did the writing and then just started recording as we went along and felt the songs were ready for the final touches. The whole thing was pretty much done by the end of May, so it was a real ‘let’s just get in there and write together’ experience. It was really weird, I’ve never really worked like that before, but the process seemed to lend itself to us this time I think.”

So you didn’t find that process a little too pressurising to you at all?

“It was in a way, but once I got my head around it a bit, I realised that it actually brought more stuff out of us, that probably wouldn’t normally be brought out had we taken our time to get it together. Cause sometimes I like to be up late and just write then when I’m in that mood. But this worked for me, cause we were put in that environment where we felt free for that stuff to just flow freely through come out, whereas sometimes you don’t get to put yourself in a comfortable environment where you feel able to write as much as you’d like to. So, it was a different way of doing it, but a good way. Most of it was recorded in our bedroom on the computer, then we went into a studio for the last four or five days, just to record vocals and a few extra bits.”

Did you find while writing this album that you were influenced a lot more by your first trips overseas and those foreign surroundings you discovered yourself within while taking the first record on the road?

“Of course, inspiration comes from all over the place, and lately I’ve been around and seen a lot on tour. Actually at the moment I feel that there might be a song coming up about being awake for so long on tour, I find it hard to get down to actually sleeping whilst on tour.”

Yeah, being on tour is a weird and unnatural feeling, I don’t think many people really understand until they’ve had to actually go out and experience it themselves.

“I think so yeah, and also for me it’s pretty tough when you’re the only girl on the road, as much as I love all of the boys that I go away with, it’s hard not seeing some of the girls sometimes. Just finding myself in a male dominated environment most of the time and then coming home and having to pack a suitcase and go off again, it’s pretty hard on me sometimes, but it’s pretty brilliant as well, I mean you get to go out and see all of these amazing places, meet these amazing people and do what you like doing I guess and be paid for it.”

So what was the most exciting part of your last travels?

“I think, recently, out of the last couple of dates, we did a Dubrovnik gig -I’d never been there before and wasn’t too sure what to expect. But it was all so beautiful, we did this gig on the beach. It reminded me a bit of Byron Bay, which was definitely a highlight on my last trip, you’re so lucky, it doesn’t matter how tired and delirious you are, you can always find a little bit of peace by going for a little walk on your own and getting away to these beautiful places. We only got to spend a night there last time, so I’m looking forward to our four days there on this upcoming adventure.”

What can you tell us about your upcoming tour?

“All I know at this point is that we’re going to be playing dates in the same places as last time, so just capital cities and I think we’re going to get the chance to check out New Zealand this time as well, so it’ll be a nice little getaway for us all. I think we’re going to be doing mostly concert orchestra stuff, but we should be doing some of my new stuff from the new album as well, so that’ll be good, I hope it goes down well.”

How did you feel about your last shows out here? I heard they were just stunning!

“It was all good fun. The Bamboos are brilliant and I’m definitely looking very forward to working with them again. They’re really good lads, very nice, very tight. My singing teacher told me that Australian musicians were really tight, but I got to learn first hand on my last visit.”

Are you looking forward to seeing how My Favourite Letters will be received?

“Yeah, I mean so far we’ve had some really good support over here, but it’s all a bit of a waiting game for us now, until we take it all on the road again, so I’ll probably be ignoring all of the reviews until I come back and hopefully they’ll be good.”

What was it that set your mind towards honing your craft in the music industry, was it anything specific, or it was a little bit of everything that lead you here?

“I went to art college in London when I was younger, and I’ve just always loved music, it’s something that’s just a part of you, isn’t it? And one thing lead to another and it just sort of happened. I’ve been really lucky with the people that I’ve met along the way, that have asked me to come and do stuff and it’s all developed really naturally.”

Check out Alice’s brilliant, sparklingly soulful sophomore record ‘My Favourite Letters’ out now on Tru Thoughts through Creative Vibes and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the chameleon diva’s Australian live dates through November:

Fri 18 Nov – PoW, Melbourne w/ Quantic Soul Orchestra & Raw Fusion Sound System (BUY TICKETS)
Sat 19 Nov – The Metro, Sydney – w/ Quantic Soul Orchestra & Raw Fusion Sound System (BUY TICKETS)
Wed 23 Nov – The Rev, Brisbane w/ Quantic Soul Orchestra
Fri 2 Dec – Venue TBC, Adelaide w/ Quantic Soul Orchestra
Sat 3 Dec – Heat, Perth – w/ Quantic Soul Orchestra