BLACKBIRD, THE debut single from hotly tipped US vocalist Lady Blackbird, was released earlier this year – and if you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this wonderfully enchanting interpretation of Nina Simone’s powerful civil rights anthem … what are you waiting for?
Having worked with some of the biggest names in the business as a support and backup singer as well as flirting with a plethora of musical genres over the years, Lady Blackbird (aka Marley Munroe), is about to have her own moment and not before time.
This journalist has been lucky enough to hear the full extent of the project that will be coming your way later this year and it’s a corker. Her voice is simply amazing, a blessed and finely honed instrument from God.
It’s clear when we speak that she has been waiting in the wings for her time to shine and it’s going to a moment or two before she is used to the amount of plaudits that will inevitably come her way.
However, she’s clearly grateful that time seems to be now, even if the global pandemic did scupper plans for a more extensive rollout. “It’s been amazing,” she says, referring to the way her debut single has been received.
She adds: “This whole COVID (situation) and everything being released now, we’re living in such a different time and having to go about things differently, but the feedback has been amazing.
“I’m not out there performing –no one is – but the feedback has been amazing. “Every article and all of the comments so far, it’s been very well received. I’m very grateful, it’s been a journey.”
Compared to the likes of Grace Jones, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Celeste and reflecting influences as varied as Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and Chaka Khan, Los Angeles-based Lady Blackbird is humbled by the raft of greats being juxtaposed with her talent.
“Gosh, it’s a lot to live up to, but if that’s what people think then I am grateful for all of the compliments,” she says.
“The people I have been compared to, they are why I sing. They were the inspiration along the way and who I was raised listening to, so I feel very grateful.” She’s taken something from them all but is distinctly herself which is best reflected on her forthcoming album, ‘Black Acid Soul’.
There isn’t a release date for the project as yet, but talking about the creative process of pulling it all together, Lady Blackbird said it started with the debut single.
“My producer and I were talking about making an album that was different from a lot of the other genres that I sang,” she says.
“I’ve done a few, probably more rock or alternative, however you want to call it, to now doing this Jazz album and it was really about just taking everything away and presenting myself in the rawest of formats.
“It was about really building an album around my voice, as opposed to building my voice around a big production and just really coming out bare.
“That’s where it started and in talks about the jazz album we started pulling together these songs getting an understanding of what it would sound like. I came across Blackbird years ago, the Nina Simone cover, and I absolutely loved it and it was what I brought to the table.
“I played it for (producer) Chris (Seefried) and he loved it. We actually went on the spot and he played some sort of noise, it wasn’t even an on key tune, nothing. There was no drum or anything, just this awkward sound and I went in and I recorded that vocal just to that.
“It was only supposed to be a demo but it was the vocal that actually ended up being used.”
Lady Blackbird’s organic moment of genius was finished in one of the greatest studios on the planet, a blessing she says was like the cherry on top.
“Being in the legendary Studio B, (Prince’s room), in Sunset Sound with my band and my producer Chris Seefried was a ground-breaking moment for me as an artist. “It helped me find a way to express who I am now and marked the re-birth of me as Lady Blackbird.”
She added: “It was Prince’s room and you look around, especially when you have been at it for a while, and you finally see the pieces coming together and feeling right.
“To look around and just feel like s**t’s happening – it was a wonderful experience and especially with this being the first project.” So, what’s a while? Where has Lady Blackbird’s career taken her?
“I don’t want to give up my age,” she says with a broad smile etched across her face.
“I’ve always sung. I sang my whole life knowing this is what I wanted to do.
“I’ve always done something and it has been the one thing I have pushed for and worked hard towards. I’ve had people around me to help get me to this place.”
Since dropping Blackbird in May, Lady Blackbird has released Beware The Stranger. The song is a captivating reimagining of the ‘70s funk/soul anthem Wanted Dead Or Alive.
Originally performed by The Krystal Generation, the song was made popular by soul ensemble The Voices Of East Harlem, whose classic rare groove version was produced by Leroy Hutson and Curtis Mayfield and provided the inspiration for Lady Blackbird’s powerful, jazz-influenced reimagining.
She enthuses: “When we started working on this song, we thought it would be cool to expand on the choir vibe that’s in the outro of the Voices of East Harlem version.
“It felt right to do a lyrical gender flip to the tell the story of a powerful woman with this powerful song.”
Her forthcoming debut album ‘Black Acid Soul’, which features a stellar band including former Miles Davis pianist Deron Johnson, presents a wholly fresh take on the jazz vocal idiom from an artist blessed with a bold, unmistakable voice.
She’s here to stay and with this debut solo works, she’s made a very exciting start.
Full Interview below: