INTERVIEW: Yolanda Ingley II (new album Woman Got To Cry out now)

Yolanda Ingley II
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Singer/songwriter Yolanda Ingley II lives in Melbourne Australia. She grew up in the UK, living in London in the 1970s; she still visits regularly with her music and life partner saxophonist Steve Dagg. She spoke to fellow singer/songwriter Jeanie Barton.

Yolanda Ingley II found commercial and critical success with her first album of original songs This Dangerous Age released in 2016. Her second album of originals Woman Got To Cry is out now on vinyl via Only Blues Music and to stream/download from iTunes et al. It was recorded direct to analogue tape at Half Mile Harvest Studio and produced by Sam Teskey of The Teskey Brothers.

Jeanie Barton: You’re really making waves in Australia with your new songs enthused with jazz, soul, blues, folk and gospel. How does this success feel?

Yolanda Ingley II: Of course I have been very pleasantly surprised. I had a big break from music bringing up my children but have been working pretty hard these last ten years, first singing jazz again but then more recently writing my own material and performing it. At first I wasn't sure what I was expecting or wanting but when I made This Dangerous Age, I knew it was a good album with great musicians, and I knew the songs were strong as I'd been getting good feedback, so in a way I wasn't that surprised that people liked it.

JB: What do you think it is about your music that is speaking to so many people of all ages?

YI: I think people are hungry for songs that have some lyrical content. Not just "silly love songs" so to speak. I try to write from the heart so love is always there but also talk about our real concerns. And I think memories play a big part... and I suppose if there are any "themes" in my music they are ones about the world impacting on our personal lives, the struggle between our outer and inner worlds and maybe something too about the ambiguities that exist in our relationships. Real people relate to those things. That's why Cohen was so popular and Dylan. In turn the music seems to evoke strong feelings in people. I get a lot of people coming up to me at gigs saying how moved they were. That's a good thing.

JB: You have spent many years in the UK and I understand you started to sing on the London jazz circuit, how did that scene give you the foundation for what you now do?

YI: It was a huge buzz to play with some of the people I met through the London Jazz scene; particularly Downstairs at The Kings Head in Crouch End on Sunday afternoons. I lacked experience on the stage so to speak, so started out quite tentatively but I knew a lot of songs and had a good ear for them. I was thrilled to be able to sing with such stalwarts of the London jazz scene as drummer Laurie Morgan and double bassist Coleridge Goode and to get feedback that was positive and encouraging from everyone there. I knew they'd played with some of the best singers from jazz’s hey day so their encouragement meant a great deal. I met so many people, great musicians who I began to do my own gigs with, including a four-week run at Jazz After Dark in Soho.

JB: What inspired you to write?

YI: I knew the songs I was singing (basically the entire Billie Holiday Songbook), all the great standards of jazz, had been sung by the greatest singers of all time and I felt if I was going to keep singing those songs I better be able to do something bloody good – something better – but that's almost an impossibility; you are singing songs that have definitive versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, etc. I didn't think I could ever write a song in that vein (in a way those songs of yesteryear are pure nostalgia and you can't write songs like that now) – they are not really relevant to today's world – so I began with some of my poems. I'd always enjoyed writing poetry. That was the key to unlock the door and find my own voice. The words had immediacy, the songs were about current ideas and I knew no-one else had sung my songs so I didn't have to feel I was competing against any other version. The version was mine. I own the definitive version.

JB: You’re playing guitar too now, how does playing an instrument as well as singing in the band change the dynamic?

YI: Playing guitar has helped me to ground the sounds with their own style. I'm no guitarist really but I can set up a base for the song to flow over. I don't write complex chord structures and I leave a lot of space in the music which gives the musicians in the band plenty of room to move and improvise. Plus I love sitting in the band and playing guitar. I never felt comfortable out the front with the microphone. I like being embedded in the band. But that might change again one day.

JB: What do you hope to do next – I understand you are planning a UK tour also?

YI: At the moment I'm busy here in Melbourne promoting my new album Woman Got To Cry and doing as much as I can to extend my base. I will be doing a tour of some other Australian States early next year and then hopefully will be in the UK in the middle of the year to do some dates and push the album to a wider audience in the UK.

Jeanie Barton is a jazz singer and songwriter. https://jeaniebarton.com

LINK: Yolanda Ingley II on Soundcloud

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