PHOTO CREDIT: @amandathomasphotographer
THERE are not many artists in music who…
pack punchy and vibrant music with a big and bright personality. Eva Lazarus has a huge voice and phater beats: immense beauty and a songwriting talent in its own league. She spins sounds across disparate genres Jungle and R&B; via Soul and smooth-Pop embers; sassy rhythms and cool-as-ice vibes. She has collaborated with the likes of Santon Warriors, Dub FX and Danny Byrd. Her first mixtape, Konichi-Wah-Gwan, picked up huge acclaim and proved she is an innovative and staggering young talent. The Bristol artist has picked up big-respect from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra; played at Boomtown and Glastonbury; she discusses new single, Bad News, and what we can expect from her this year. She talks about race in music – and whether we need to do more to promote equality – and the talent she recommends for success. PLUS, we get a unique insight into a colourful, intriguing and mercurial talent.
Hi, Eva. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m good thanks! My week’s been amazing and productive! I put out a single, played a couple of shows; got my Konichi-Wah-Gwarn T-shirts stocked at That Thing – a sick Bristol INDI shop; booked a holiday and discovered a new obsession with Gnocchi. Delish!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. My name is Eva Lazarus and I make whatever genre of music I feel like making!
If I feel like writing over Hip-Hop or acoustic guitar, I do that. If I want to write over Reggae, Jungle or DnB, I do that! I like the freedom to create however I want to! Whatever I’m writing to, I make sure to add a whole-heap of soul; but yeah, I make lots of different styles. It’s enjoyable to have that variety in my life.
Bad News is the new single. What can you tell us about its messages and inspiration?
The song is about being in a dysfunctional relationship. You know it isn’t working but feels so good when it’s going right (that you can’t leave).
It’s not about anyone in particular. When I write, sometimes I’ll draw on one real-life story and sometimes I squash multiple experiences into a narrative. I’ve experienced different forms of feeling: knowing I’m not right for someone and vice versa. It’s weird knowing that it isn’t going to work but so desperately wanting it to. I feel like many will be able to relate.
It is quite an instant and memorable track. Was it easy to put together or did it take quite a bit of time before it sounded ‘just-right’?
I feel like this came together reasonably easily. There have been a few different versions of this song before it took this shape but it never felt painful getting to a place where we were all happy with it.
The instrumentation and synth. sounds are incredible. Who was producer on the track and what was the vibe like in the studio?
The producers are Brad Baloo (The Nextmen) who I worked with alongside Etherwood on Light My Way Home; Sam Interface (Jus Now) who I have worked with before on Run Di Dance (with GotSome & Serocee).
They are both amazing producers and I have such a massive respect for how they write and what they are putting out into the scene!
Your previous track, Flash Your Lighter, gained heavy support from BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. What was it like getting that kind of backing from heavyweights? Were you surprised by the reaction it got?
The track was a Killa Mosquito track that featured myself and Red Rat.
We sat on the track for a long time. I feel like it was the right time for people to hear that release, and of course, it is always amazing when the track is picked up by radio.
That support means a lot.
I wasn’t surprised. Curtis (Killa Mosquito) had vision for the track and I trust him. I was very happy about it, though.
That song featured in Brotherhood. That must have been cool hearing it on the screen? Your music has that cinematic, dramatic quality; romance and tenderness too. Would you be interested in writing music for T.V./film is someone approached you?
I wasn’t approached personally – Curtis dealt with all of that stuff! Also, I never actually heard the track in the film – my friend and I was late to the cinema. Standard! We had to stay ‘til the end to see my name in the credits….. worth it! Hahaha!
BBC Radio 1 seems to be the target station/demographic. It is very cool and contemporary. Will future recordings have the same kind of sound as your current material? Can we expect an Eva Lazarus E.P. this year?
The sound I am putting out now and what is going to happen in future will almost certainly be different. I love playing with different sounds and moods and writing styles.
I have an E.P. on the way that I did a crowd-funder for. I’m spending this year writing and developing. The fun bit!
I hear a lot of Reggae, Jungle and R&B in your work. That is quite an eclectic mix! Who were the artists you grew up listening to?
My mum’s taste in music is so good that I took my lead from her! The Fugees, Lauryn Hill; Jill Scott, Erykah Badu; A.T.C.Q., Gregory Issacs; Congo Natty, Omar; Shy FX, Fabio and Grooverider; Aaliyah, Miles Davis; Courtney Pine and Aretha Franklyn. She (my mum) loved Ska, Punk and Classical music. My house was always full of music. I love that about our family!
One of my happiest memories of living at home is me and my mum rapping every single word to A.T.C.Q.’s (A Tribe Called Quest) Scenario and then pulling up the track so we could do it again!
Haha! She’s such a G!
You have performed at Boomtown in front of 16,000 people. You’ve also performed at Glastonbury and Soundwave. What has been the most memorable festival memory and how daunting is it playing at somewhere like Glastonbury?
Last year playing Lion’s Den stage at Boomtown with Mungos Hi Fi: performing in front of that many people was a diiiiiiiferent buzz! Haha!
One of my most memorable festival moments, aside from Boomtown 2016, was Glasto.
I played to a full tent at Pussy Parlure in Silver Hayes. They sang me Happy Birthday. I cried! Haha!
I know you are playing a few U.K. dates until June. Any particular one of those dates you are especially excited about?
Outlook Festival! The opening show with the orchestra is going to be next level! Celebrating ten years of Outlook‘ means this one is going to be something really special!
PHOTO CREDIT: @marcsethi
After that, you head to Berlin (9th June) and Croatia on 19th August. Have you performed abroad a lot and are you excited about hitting the festival scene again?
This year there is a lot more overseas shows appearing in my calendar and I love it! Exploring the world via music is the biggest blessing!
Yeah, of course, I’m always keen to get back into the various fields of the U.K. and catch vibes with people – festivals in the U.K. are very special – there is a real magic to them.
Your live shows are legendary. You employ the backing vocals of vocalists The Afronaughts and D.J. Chris Munky. How did you come to hook up with those guys and what is it like touring with them?
I’ve actually known them all for a few years. When I left the band I was in (in 2015); one of the things that was high on my list of priorities was to make sure I work with some women,; but not just any women… it had to be Ngaio and Naomi: their voices fit so well together and they are really good humans to spend life with! Working with Chris Munky is just the biggest pleasure. He’s a dope producer, D.J. and amazing company on the road. This makes the whole experience of building my own show really enjoyable. I get to work with people I know and love!
You are a young black woman in modern music. Do you think it is harder for artists such as yourself to get attention and focus? Do you think there is imbalance when it comes to race and gender? If so, where does the problem lie do you think?
There are problems across the board for women being booked for shows.
If you look at, statistically, how few women are being booked – then look at how may of those women are non-white – it really is quite shocking.
I’m very busy right now; nine-times-out-of-ten, I am the only woman on the bill.
The problem lies in the industry, wherever it might be: labels/promoters/press etc. not seeking to balance their rosters/line-up/content. There are plenty of women who are active in the industry but they aren’t getting the opportunities.
More visibility of W.o.C. (women of colour) encourages more women to tread the path that has been walked before them. I mean, that’s what I am doing!
At the same time, I also feel like positive changes are being made daily!
I mentor for Saffron Records (a Bristol-based record label that is run by a W.o.C., Laura Lewis-Paul) whose vision is to push and promote women in the industry, thus contributing to closing the gender-gap. https://www.facebook.com/Saffronrecords/?fref=ts.
PHOTO CREDIT: Joanna Robb for Studio 5D Print
As for lack of visibility for W.o.C. within the industry; great steps in the right direction are being made by industry backing of stars like Little Simz, Lady Leshurr; RAY BLK, Laura Mvula; FKA twigs, Andreya Triana; Izzy Bizu and NAO.
Even outside of what is considered commercial or Urban; women like Yolanda Quartey and Lea Lea are pushing the boundaries of where black women make their space in the music industry. Things are out-of-balance but I like to celebrate the wins: stay aware of the negative but focus on the positives; help however I can to push things forward!
Who are the new artists you recommend we investigate?
Here are my top-five must-check-out artists:
Tanya Lacey – https://www.facebook.com/tanyalaceyofficial/?fref=ts
Chris Munky – https://www.facebook.com/chrismunkybeats/?fref=ts
China Bowls – https://www.facebook.com/chinabowlsmusic/?fref=ts
Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?
Write as much as you can! It’s like going to the gym: flex that muscle, build on it!
Not every song you write will be THE ONE, but everything you write will get you closer to it!
PHOTO CREDIT: @abigalatiaphotos
It’s a really strange business, sharing what goes on in your mind, but just know that your quirks and you personality shine through in your writing.
Be as honest as you can manage – people can almost always relate to something real.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
NAO – Bad Blood
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PHOTO CREDIT: @abigalatiaphotos