“People ask me what my genre is and I can never say,” offers singer and songwriter Amy Steele, reasonably, as she sits opposite me in a central London café.
That makes two of us.
In fact, more accurately, it makes three: her sister and manager, Nicole, is also in on a conversation that has touched on a wide range of subjects, including Amy’s degree in Medicine, her selection of producers and collaborators, the private thoughts she translates into some intelligent lyrics, and the time it has taken for her debut EP – now scheduled to include twice as many tracks as originally mooted to this publication back in 2014 – to be completed. We’ll come to some of those shortly. But this thing about musical genre [and the avoidance thereof] is crucial to understanding what it is that Amy Steele does. And does not.
The night I meet Judith Hill, she’s backstage in a tiny dressing room crammed with bits of stage gear, getting ready for her first date performing in a basement jazz club in London. Intimate would be a fitting term for the show, and also as it turns out, musically adventurous, by turns fiery and heartfelt, and always as funky as hell.
For someone who’s sung to packed stadiums with the likes of Stevie Wonder and wowed millions on US TV talent juggernaut The Voice, it must be a bit of an adjustment. Judith says it’s all a matter of perspective: when you’re in a massive amphitheatre you feel safer singing out to that big space and getting all that energy back; in a smaller room you’re more exposed, but you get the gratification of a stronger connection with the audience. It’s all about responding to the energy and going with the flow…
“I love food a lot,” says Homeboy Sandman when Echoes calls him and Edan to talk about their new album Humble Pi.
He’s in a Brooklyn branch of Whole Foods, while Edan is at home. The front cover of Humble Pi finds the two decked out in chef’s gear with a fresh-from-the-oven pie in front of them. Are they foodies?
“I wouldn’t qualify as a foodie,” says Edan. “A ‘foodie’, I guess, is a passionate person; someone who peruses culinary experiences to an above-average degree.”
“I mean, I eat more than a lot of dudes,” adds Sandman. “I love eating. All my life, people have commented on how much I eat. So if it’s just about sheer volume, then sure.”
Stephen ‘Lenky’ Marsden is one of the most successful and innovative dancehall producers from Jamaica, yet he’s hardly known outside of those circles. The reason for this is that he sees himself as a musician first and foremost, and shuns the limelight. Like his old friends the Kelly brothers, he rarely gives interviews, but with the release of his first solo album, Self Taught, he graciously agreed to break cover.
The first time I met him was at Penthouse in the early nineties. I’d gone there to see Sly Dunbar who said, ‘Come and meet Reggae Jesus’. I had no idea what he meant, but we walked into the studio and there was a young, light-skinned guy wearing sandals and with long, straight hair pulled back into a ponytail. The name suited him…