PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Beady Belle (Ronnie Scott’s, 6 May)

Beady Belle
Photo credit: Egil Hansen

Norwegian singer and songwriter Beady Belle (real name Beate S. Lech) has recently released an album entitled Dedication and will be at Ronnie Scott’s this Sunday May 6. Tomasz Furmanek found out the background:

LondonJazz News: Your new album called Dedication has just been released, please tell us about it.

Beate S Lech: I'm really proud of my new album! This is the most honest and personal album I've ever released, both musically and lyrically. It's cut to the bone, somehow. Since my first album Home was released in 2001, all my consecutive albums have reflected my journey – from the more "clubby" and "dancey" style, to jazz, to electronica, to country – and yet I believe you can hear that in all these albums it is me, Beady Belle. I wrote and sung the songs, but I dressed them in different kinds of clothes on each album. Now, on this last album I feel like I have undressed. There are no clothes, no costume, no make-up. It's flesh and blood – take it or leave it.

I'm very inspired by the Soul music from the '70s. I love it! And I believe that you can hear this love on the album. All the music on the album is played on various old and original instruments from that period, and recorded live, to get a spontaneous flow. I didn't want it to be polished and clean. I wanted it to be honest and personal. And then I needed the rusty parts, the fragile parts, the playful parts and the emotional parts too. This all gives it its signature.

LJN: What does the title refer to? Is it about being dedicated or is it rather dedicated to someone or something?

BSL: The title Dedication refers to that something, what at any given time, is the most important thing in life, and how you go through hell and high water to achieve it. We all have battles to fight and some of the fights require one’s total dedication to win. And winning is never guaranteed. But if you win, the prize could be just a little glimpse compared to the energy you spent striving towards it. You can spend a lifetime getting there. And the victory could be short as a breath, lasting for just a moment.

I believe dedication and calling is more or less the same thing. For me this is something beyond our choice, not something I choose or not. It's something I have to do. Personally I'm a very dedicated person and I can sometimes forget a process just because I focus on the goal and the result. It's not important for me to have fun while I'm working. It's not important to feel good. The only thing I focus on is to reach my goal – no matter what it takes. But even if I am willing to sacrifice everything to reach my goal I remind myself that it’s important to enjoy the ride. Because, before you know it, the journey is over... In Scandinavia we have a saying: all those days that came and went, little did I know that they were my life...

LJN: Your previous album, On My Own, produced by Bugge Wesseltoft, was more acoustic and, let’s say, jazzy then your previous ones… Is Dedication, in a way, a return to your usual groovy, often hypnotic, more electronica sound the audiences loved so much?

BSL: The Dedication album doesn’t wear jazzy clothes, there’s no double bass, not much grand piano and little acoustic jazz sound... and yet it's not electronica either. There is no programming or anything like that. Everything is played! There are acoustic drums and an electric bass, and then a bunch of keyboards: Hammond organ, clavinet, Fender Rhodes, Moog, Prophet, etc. These are all original instruments from the '70s. Every sound you hear is processed live as we play, the keyboardist plays through effects and boxes that process the sound from the instruments to create an atmosphere and a sound that is not acoustic and not “clean”, yet still warm and alive! And yes, the groove – the groove is in the centre! I'm very focused on making distinct melodies with direction and drive, but without a tight groove the whole thing is pointless to me. You can pick the most gifted musicians in the world, but if they don't communicate and they don't ride the same groovy wave the musical flow stops. I think my band on this album is so incredibly tight and close, and they are all going in the same direction.

LJN: What had an impact on you that made you choose this direction?

BSL: To be honest I have wanted to make such an album for a long time. This is me! Yes, it is more similar to the old stuff, but not as programmed, and not as "clubby" as before – now more with a melody as a strong sister of the groove. I have been longing for this kind of music for a long time, but there were years when it was more or less a taboo to make this kind of music, at least in Norway. The history repeats itself in cycles, and now the pendulum is back where it was. There are so many new, young neo-soul and nujazz artists coming up! And I'm so happy about that!

I have students at the State Academy of Music who grew up with my music. My music shaped them as musicians, and I can hear an echo of my own music in the new compositions they perform. This is of course very flattering, and also it's a realization of life. I could be these student's mother – a young mother though…(laughs). And I'm no longer the one who is the young and promising youngster. I am the "master" leading the young ones. I couldn't see this coming until quite recently... until these young, talented musicians and artists made me realize I should be proud of the music I created and shaped as my own style and genre. So finally I felt I could return to the fundamental core that is me.

LJN: In the song Bury from On My Own you sang “I bury my head in the sand as occurrences pass me by” – I guess that is not the case anymore now?

BSL: I'm still burying my head in the sand, but not to hide... you know, the answers might be underneath the sand. So I keep looking everywhere – also in such places where one from the outside might say I'm avoiding the truth… The chorus of this song goes like this: "I search inside the swallowed pride, eyes open wide. I'm facing reality!" I'm constantly searching for answers that open new questions. Because the questions are the source for curiosity, creativity, tolerance and love!

LJN: Where are you now in your life, how is Beate Lech?

BSL: I'm good. I'm very focused on the fact that I'm going on tour in a couple of days. I really want people to hear my new music! And really hope it will be appreciated and well received by the audiences. This is more important for me now than ever before... Most of my days are currently spent on practising and focusing on the tour – as I told you before, I'm very dedicated... My whole body and soul is filled with this right now.

LJN: Tell us about the forthcoming gig at Ronnie Scott’s in London – what will you play? Will it be mainly the new music from Dedication? Any surprises?

BSL: If I tell you about the surprises they won't be a surprise anymore, will they?..(laughs). I'm so much looking forward to coming back to Ronnie's. I sang there a couple of years ago with the Soul Family, and actually that's where I met the backing vocalists that are singing on my new album: LaDonna Harley Peters, Sharlene Hector and Vula Malinga – LaSharVu. They will also sing with me live at Ronnies – except I will have Brendan Reilly (instead of LaDonna) who is also an extraordinary singer! The band, as on the latest album, will be David Wallumrød on keys, Bjørn Sæther on drums and Marius Reksjø on bass! We will perform a lot of music from the new album and also a lot from my previous albums. The new album sets the standards, so when I pick the songs from the other albums I want them to fit into the sound of the new ones. This is a fun process! Many of the old songs will be played in new ways... and how? Well, that's a surprise...

BEADY BELLE, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on Sunday 6 May 2018.

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