Interview / Preview: Gabriella Swallow's Urban Family at The Forge. 12 Feb

Gabriella Swallow
Photo Credit © Philip Gatward


Sebastian Scotney spoke to Gabriella Swallow about her gig at the Forge on 12th February with her Urban Family.

Sebastian Scotney: Is there a theme to the evening? / What is urban family all about?

Gabriella Swallow: The theme I suppose is that throughout difficult times, my family of musicians have always been there for me. Whatever happens in my life, music has been something that has helped me; not just the physical art of playing but socially too. When I do gigs, my friends and I look after each other and you end up spending more time together than with your blood relatives! I have had some wonderful opportunities to work with some fantastic players, over the last two years especially, and this concert will be an opportunity to celebrate those collaborations.

SS: And there's Judith Owens - how would you describe her to people who don't know her songs?

GS: I first started working with Jude in 2007. She has this unique ability as an artist to sound so familiar – as if you have known her songs all your life – and yet there is also always something fresh about her songs and covers. Her band has become so instinctive like a family unit, with Laurie Cottle or her husband Harry Shearer on bass and Pedro Segundo on drums… the rehearsals are always a riot.

SS: And there's a DJ...?

GS: Yes, DJ Vauxxy. James has set up two music companies since leaving his job in the city. I have worked with one of his artists Alex Phountzi who used to be part of Bugz in the Attic. My duo ‘G project’ have recorded two dance tracks with him and James is producing them, mixing live cello and percussion with samples.

SS: Do you like the Forge?

GS: I love the Forge! When I decided to host my own night there was not another venue I would have even considered. I'm a north Londoner and having a venue run by musicians on your doorstep is such luck. Plus the restaurant is fantastic!

SS: Have you worked with Graeme Flowers before?

GS: I first met Graeme at the 606 Club New Years party back in 2006. I used to live on the road next to the Chelsea Ram and it was very much my local haunt. We became firm friends and have gone on to work together, mainly with London Horns where I have even filled in once for the Sax player! He is my favourite trumpet player in town and his funk playing especially is amazing. I learn so much from him about rhythm and attack when I am fortunate enough to sit next to him at gigs.

SS: Are you an improviser?

GS: Yes and no. I improvise very freely in the contemporary classical genre but with jazz I'm still very much at pre-school! I am a member of The Gwilym Simcock Quintet and have recently worked with The Nigel Kennedy Band. Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate as I'm simply in awe of their improvising skills. Both the violinist Thom Gould in our quintet and Nigel prove that you can do it on a string instrument and it doesn't sound naff, so there are no more excuses! SS: You are known for work with contemporary composers / Xenakis – Lachenmann. Will there be premieres?

GS: Not as such but some of the music will be improvised so in a way very much so! There are some pieces being written for me at the moment so I'm looking at various opportunities for premieres this year.

Sebastian Scotney: How come cellists are suddenly everywhere?

Gabriella Swallow: It's an instrument that blends very nicely with the human voice so we always seem to be the instrument of choice when it comes to singer-songwriter collaborations. And the range of the cello is quite huge so there is also lots of scope for writing. Plus, we are much more up for a party than violinists...

Tickets HERE

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