IN terms of genetics and family background…
Yvonne Hercules leaps off the page and inspires curiosity and fascination. I ask about her Jamaican/Sierra-Leonean roots and how important that is to her music/writing. Hercules talks about new single, Roving, and issues like oppression against the black community and politically inactivity. I was interested to hear her views on recent race-related events and how she feels about this. The London-based singer-songwriter tells me about idols Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bessie Smith; how Lovers Rock Reggae played an instrumental part of her formative years and whether Roving is an indication of future fertility. She waxes lyrical about the Blues and what it was like filming the imaginative and striking video for Roving.
Hi, Yvonne. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello, my week has been great thank you! Very busy but exciting at the same time!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! My music is a blend of Ambient-Folk, Blues; Soul & Electronic sounds. I tend to pay a lot of attention to lyrics and would say this is something I like to do within my own music. My lyrics are littered with metaphors and imagery. I like to write about real-life experiences which have happened either to myself/people I know – or things that are going on in the world around us.
Roving is your new single. What can you tell me about its origins and influences?
Roving came out of a place of frustration for issues taking place across the world – in particular, issues relating to police brutality (particularly in America).
I actually had the title of the song before I had any of the lyrics. I liked the idea that ‘to rove’ means to wander/travel constantly without restriction. To me, it’s the epitome of freedom and I felt it spoke to the heart of what some of the disadvantaged groups of people have been experiencing. That freedom in whatever capacity is sold as something of a basic human right; but, in reality, there are restrictions to some as to what this actually means in practice. At the same time, I liked the idea that we are constantly roving/meandering around these issues without really getting anywhere.
It has an oldskool Blues/Folk sound to it. Who are the artists that have moulded your song and inspired you along the way?
I would say, definitely, people like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bessie Smith – who I feel had such a raw quality to their voice and songwriting – I connected with emotionally. I also was massively inspired by Folk legends such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell – whose songwriting I have always admired for being very honest and incredibly beautiful – also Bon Iver. I remember listening to the first album thinking I would love to, one day, write songs that are as beautiful as this!
I know the song looks at police brutality and oppressing against minority groups. Was there a moment or particular event that compelled you to put pen to paper?
I remember reading a lot of news articles and things on social media about the Trayvon Martin and Alton Sterling cases. I also remember, at the time, feeling very frustrated/upset about what was going on and continually seeing new stories emerge about another young black male or female who had been killed by the police; for reasons that didn’t justify how they were treated and why they were killed. The thing that really inspired Roving the most was Ava DuVerny’s documentary 13th.
It really brought home the issues affecting black Americans and other people of colour groups (across America). It made me think about how these issues also affect individuals living in other parts of the world, including the U.K.
I was also inspired by other related issues concerning disadvantaged groups across the world such as L.G.B.T. rights; the refugee crisis etc.
PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Gallifent Photography
Attacks against minority groups continuities and it seems the police, in some nations, use force and violence without consideration for human life. What do you think can be done to reduce and eliminate the problem?
I think there needs to compassion and regard for all people no matter your age, race; sexual preference etc. I think we, as human beings, need to be rallying for the needs of others just as much as our own. I also think the concept of respect needs to be addressed as it should be mutual. We’re always taught that we should respect authority, but when this isn’t reciprocated by police and the institution, these groups need to be made accountable.
The video for Roving is quite eye-catching and intriguing. What was the concept behind the video and what was it like seeing it back?
The concept for the video was something both I and Eliot (the videographer) came to an agreement on. It was really interesting to hear his ideas as he comes from an art background so is quite conceptual and really imaginative. I really wanted there to be a movement that took place in one space: to emphasise the idea of freedom and it being a restricted for certain groups of people.
Seeing it back was really great and I was lucky to work with such a talented group of people – who I felt really managed to channel the heart of what it was Roving meant. There was quite a lot of improvised choreography which literally meant I got to stand and watch the others just move their bodies in the most incredible way; with feeling and in a way that matched up to what I had intended when I first put pen-to-paper (or finger-to-iPhone I should say!)
Can you reveal any details about any new albums or E.P.s? Will we see a new release in the coming months?
An E.P. is definitely in the works, however, I am still in the writing phase so can’t give any details on dates of when it will be released.
I’m almost there with the material. I feel like we will make the final cut (so definitely) soon.
I want to talk about the Blues legends like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Bessie Smith. Are they idols of yours? What is it about the Blues style that resonates with you?
Definitely idols of mine! I always felt like I connected with them emotionally as artists because of their delivery. I think Blues, out of every genre, has the ability to do this – maybe because of the simplicity; there’s a focus on not just how they’re singing but also what they’re singing about. There is an emphasis on the overall emotional feel of the music.
You have a mother with Jamaican/Sierra Leonean roots and a father from Nigeria. How much of their heritage and D.N.A. goes into your music?
I grew up listening to people such as Bob Marley – he was also a massive influence on my songwriting.
My mum also listened to a lot of Lover’s Rock reggae which was really chilled – a more ballad-type of Reggae. This was such a difference to my dad’s Nigerian music – which was a lot more rhythmic. I think that a lot of my appreciation for music stemmed from these experiences. I always had the impression that music was supposed to move you in some way – whether that was physically or emotionally.
PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Gallifent Photography
Do you have any plans to tour in the coming months?
I think definitely, once an E.P. has been released, a tour will be in the works! Watch this space
You were born in London and grew up in a rural village outside Cambridge. Obviously, you have Blues roots in your music but did you assimilate a lot of new artists and genres growing up in England?
I felt that I had a wide range of eclectic influences when growing up which I assimilated through the music of my parents. I listened to these as a child but, also, through sharing music knowledge with friends. I started listening to a lot more Rock and Alternative music in my adolescent year: artists like Nirvana, Blink-182 and Kings of Leon’s earlier stuff. I also started to become more interested in Folk music around this time: listening to artists such as Laura Marling, Leonard Cohen and The Mamas & the Papas (who were all big influences on my sound).
There is a lot of love for you on social media. What message would you give your fans?
I just feel so grateful to everyone who’s listened, shared or liked my music online: it’s always such an honour to have people who appreciate what you do or create. Especially since it has taken me a while to get to a point where I’m comfortable showcasing my music.
To have people respond positively is such an encouragement so I really am grateful to those who have shown me love online.
Which new artists do you think we should be keeping our eyes on?
Bokito – they’re a great band who I had the pleasure of seeing live recently! Would highly recommend that everyone does so! Also, a great new artist called Rebecca Christenson – she writes beautiful songs with an oldskool Motown/Soul feel. It is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse. Lastly, CNTR, who is a great Electronic songwriter/producer. He actually produced my track, Roving.
What advice would you offer any new acts emerging at the moment?
I would say find your authenticity/voice and keep sticking to it! I’ve found, also, meeting and networking with other musicians – and different types of creatives – has been such an important part of my growth.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can each select a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
CNTR – Fire
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