VERY rarely does an artist arrive with such an immediate…
impression and memorability. When reviewing Vanessa Forero’s From the Uproar E.P. – I was lucky enough to assess it earlier this week- I was staggered by the originality, passion and beauty throughout. With so many sound-alike solo acts around: Forero stands out as one of the true originals right now. Beginning her career as a film and T.V. composer: Now, she is emerging into a sensational musician capable of mainstream glory. Listening to her songs- throughout From the Uproar– you immerse yourself in a wonderful world: Taken somewhere exotic, wonderful and entrancing. The British-Colombian musician blends South American instruments inside traditional Folk/Indie sounds: The resultant seduction is a head-spinning and dream-inspiring concoction.
With her E.P. on the horizon- it will be released in less than two weeks- I am excited for Forero. She is a breath of fresh air in the current music scene: Someone who can inspire other musicians to push themselves and become bolder. Having recently moved from Bradford to Brighton- “for curiosity really”- this year is shaping up to be an adventurous, itinerant and busy one. I have fallen for Forero’s music- and such a fascinating human being- so was keen to chat (online) with the stunning young songwriter. She talks about From the Uproar– and the recording process- and plans for this year- how an extraordinary background (and mum’s influence) has affected her music.
Hi, Vanessa. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Lovely week, thanks! Started by scoring music for an Easter advert: Then to Bangor to talk about film music; then back home to work on E.P. promo- including speaking to you. Hello!
For those new to you and your music: Can you introduce yourself to us?
I’m a British/Colombian, Indie-Folk singer-songwriter. I’d been working as a film and television composer and producer- until Brit Award winner Beth Orton selected me for her writers’ residency last year- and put me on a stage (for the first time last year). At first, I cried but now I’m hooked!
Your E.P., From the Uproar, is released shortly. What themes/subjects inspired the E.P.?
A lot of the songs are from myself… to myself: Songs to help pull me into the new land that my fears and insecurities try hold me back from- but the land that my north star is naturally pushing me towards. There are songs to try and help me get along with uncertainty and new belief: Some that help remind me that I will get it wrong but that’s ok- and songs about isolation and longing for something greater. Textbook Vanessa!
I have been one of the few lucky enough to hear From the Uproar. I was blown away by the confidence and nuance of the music. Where was the E.P. recorded? What compelled the songs/themes on the E.P.?
Why, thank you! I recorded it myself; mostly in my home studio. The songs actually came from a time when I couldn’t face said studio for about a year- because my life was transitioning so much. Old beliefs, old ideas; perspectives and certainties, the image I had of myself – all completely fell apart. One knocked the other down and it left me stuck on a couch with just a guitar for a year- trying to wade my way through the rubble. The songs are my tears, my confusion; my moments of clarification and I suppose this record is my public therapy.
With regards your influences and idols: Which artists have been particularly important to you with regards your musical upbringing?
I didn’t grow up with songs really: Mainly instrumental music – like classical pieces, war themes and movie themes. Debussy was always my favourite. Then came Thomas Newman from the film music side. The songs came later and I suppose the artist I clung to first was Tori Amos: Mainly because I adored Bosendorfer pianos and music with some weirdness to it.
Same Boat– the latest single from the E.P. – has impressed and seduced fans. Have you been surprised by the feedback it has been receiving?
It’s strange; I forget this bit comes! The part of putting music out there is not actually the main event for me- in the whole process- but it’s definitely the bit I’m most grateful for– to have someone listen to the thing you’ve been nurturing (and to enjoy it). That has been a very beautiful thing.
Given the fact From the Uproar is forthcoming: Will you be taking the E.P. on the road, soon after?
Yes! My manager is organising a tour as we speak for spring/summer- so keep your eyes on my social media pages.
You have had a busy and productive last few months. What plans are in the store for the rest of this year?
I can’t stop writing songs! I know I’m meant to be in E.P. promo-mode but the writing cogs won’t stop turning- so it’s meant I’ve now got all the songs for an album and maybe that will begin this year. But one thing that is definitely coming next (besides a tour) is a very cool video for a brand new song. Watch this space. I have a big crush on it.
You have mixed British and Colombian lineage. How much of your Colombian heritage has inspired your overall sound?
Very much so. Initially, less-so in the music and more so in the attitude of the culture – that strong, feisty, spirited, colourful, wild thing. It’s only- in spending some months in Colombia recently- that I was exposed to a whole underground music scene out there: This very tribal, raw, earthy sound- rather than the bright Salsa trumpets – and that’s a sound I really clicked with- and that has definitely played a big part on this record.
You have been writing music since the age of nine. What are the proudest/fondest memories- so far- from your time in music?
Yes. That was when I first penned a piece (called My First Encounter; inspired by E.T.!) but actually I’d been improvising way before that on the piano- I just couldn’t notate yet. My fondest memory (golly): That’s a bit like asking what your fondest memory is- of seeing your child- grow up with you! Every bit of it! But, always the bits done in the dark for me: Those moments where I’m sculpting notes in my cave and suddenly they spark- as the magic flows- through the perfect combination. It never gets old.
Which current artists and acts would you recommend to us- either mainstream or unsigned?
To my shame, I’m not actually a very good listener of new music. I spend too much time making it but I do know my jaw drops every time I listen to the Little Comets album In Search of Elusive Little Comets. The production and song-quality goes way past sky-high. Then there’s Jack Garrett, isn’t there –is he some kind of a wizard?! Amazing talent.
I often ask musicians this question: What inspires your songwriting and creative process? Do you have to be in a particular mood/mindset or do songs come from dreams/off-the-cuff moments?
There are sparks all over the place for me: At every time of every day; especially inside of music – one sound, one note and there’s a million possibilities waiting for you right there – but it’s what you chose to do with that spark that’s the thing. That’s the bit that takes the time but makes the song. For lyrics, though, it always helps (to feel) emotionally overloaded by something- enough to be desperate for an outlet. It’s a fantastic pressure and fuel for music; although not always nice.
There are a lot of great female artists coming through (including yourself). Do you find there is still an expectation for female musicians- how to look and what to play- and have you faced any obstacles or struggle getting recognised?
I think there’s definitely that expectation in the Soul/Pop world more. In the singer-songwriter world, there seems to be more acceptance for female musicians and writers who come dressed however they come. I have faced the problem of having to prove myself as a producer, composer and musician- more than I think a guy would- especially in my band days (when I was just one of the musicians (keys player). All too often, when we turned up at a gig, the venue owner or P.A. guy would come to me saying “Are you the singer?”- just because I’m the girl of the band- even though I have a keyboard under arm!
You don’t get assumed (to be one of the musos) or the producer so much when you’re a chick- and when you say you do- you sometimes see that bit of mistrust- because there aren’t as many girl producers and musicians around as there are guys. So, I think (that’s) now partly down to the girls to change the landscape: To get on the instruments and the gear- because it can get annoying to get pigeonholed into that one aspect of music just because you see more females singing. (Nothing against singers – that’s like the hardest and most technical bit!). But girls: Come on, spread out! We need more out here!
You have an extraordinary family background- Vanessa’s mother was raised by monkeys for several years (in Colombia) as a youngster. How important has your mother’s background/upbringing been to your career and determination?
I think (indirectly) it definitely has been. Mum is a survivor to her bones and I’ve absorbed the culture of ‘no excuses’ for sure. That belief: That everything has the potential to change and move if I want it to; that I’m not a slave to circumstance: That, if I want it, then I’ve got to put the muscle in to learn new ropes and do something bold to get it. She also raised me to have no shame which is a very dangerous thing! That’s from too many years spent climbing trees; throwing sticks at passers-by.
You were formally based in Bradford- Vanessa has recently moved to Brighton. What prompted the move down south? How does music here (the south coast) differ to that of Yorkshire?
I only moved from curiosity really: Just to experience a new way of life; nothing music or career-based. I just like to move around: Makes me feel like I’ve read more chapters in the book of the universe!
Having seen your videos on Facebook– especially the ‘making-of’ the E.P. – you come across a very charming and witty person; brimming with personality and passion. A lot of musicians leave me cold- being too distant and sterile. Do you think it is important to connect with fans and let them into your world- rather than being sequestered and closed-off?
Well, thanks for the character compliment! I think it’s important to just be yourself for your fans. I’ve spent a lot of years faking being that moody, serious musician- for the Rock bands I’ve been in- just because it suited that genre/look. But this whole record is about a personal release and self-acceptance; celebration and allowance for ‘real Vanessa’. So I’m not intentionally being open and friendly for the sake of P.R. or the project: That’s just me! No social filter! No shame! Total geek 🙂
I often ask this question of musicians: What does music mean to you, personally?
I honestly find that a strange question because music isn’t an external thing that you can just pick up and put down (for me). It’s not a career or even a hobby: It’s the way I feel, it’s the way I process; it’s the house I live in. What it means to me is as much as my heartbeat means to me: It means everything.
Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through? Those making their first steps into the industry
Find your edge. Copying is good- to grow your tools and learn some music ropes from artists that know a thing or two- but imitation should never be your goal. Keep your eyes open for the lane that only you can fill. Write only the music that you can write. Stop being so damn serious about it! Just breathe in it.
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here). Why is it special to you?
A song called Deja by Sidestepper: Lead by British/Colombian producer Richard Blair- who I met in 2013 and who set me on the road to the artist I am on this record. He’s an entrepreneur of music, in that he experimented fusing the British dancehall with Colombian Dancehall music- and as you’ll hear here – it worked wonderfully.
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