After a 5-year hiatus from releasing music, spent exploring the depths of Neo Soul, Jazz and R&B, Freya Roy steps back into the spotlight with the release of her stunning neo-soul single ’22 Movements’, independently released through FCR Music on Monday 25th March. As a winner of the 2018 MOBO Help Musicians fund and listed for Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent 2019, Norwich-based artist, producer and label owner, Freya Roy is one to watch.

Growing up who were your musical influences? “There was always music playing around the house when I was growing up, particularly the likes of Pink Floyd, John Martyn, Norah Jones and Miles Davis. I would go to bed with my CD Walkman and fall asleep listening to my Dad’s Uncut Magazine Compilation CDs and David Gilmour albums and this really influenced my guitar playing from a young age. I later turned more of my interest towards Jazz – John Coltrane, Etta James, Weather Report – and this inspired the beginning of my music-making and drove me to study jazz”

Tell us about your music? “My music is a mix of Neo Soul and Jazz. At the moment the artists influencing me the most are ELIZA, Cleo Sol, Etta Bond and Noname and this is obvious in certain areas of my work. Being a guitarist, I spend a lot of time writing chord progressions and have always been inspired by jazz harmony and improvisation. I’m heavily influenced by a lot of Hip-Hop and R&B and these genres motivate my approach to production – J Dilla/A Tribe Called Quest. A huge amount of the material on my debut album, AHLKE, was written during my final year of studying. I was tutored by Abstract Orchestra’s musical director, Rob Mitchell (a massive hip-hop fan), who gave me the space to really explore the contemporary R&B elements in my sound, whilst maintaining a strong focus on jazz. I would say that I now go into a writing session from a more contemporary angle. I like to write with the listener in mind and make music that is going to be catchy and really work well in front of a live audience. I learn a lot from playing my music live and I use this as a catalyst to create”

Where do your ideas for songs come from? “It really depends – the more I write, the more I am able to churn out ideas and develop a track quickly. And sometimes things just pop out of nowhere! I am certainly still chewing things over and finding out how I best approach my production and the early stages of a song. I usually start with a chord progression and then the melody follows. Sometimes vice versa. Then the beat comes and I usually find myself working with small motivic ideas which string a track together from start to finish. I sometimes like to work with loops to improvise over which help bring out melodic ideas. In the last year, I have written a lot about gender and my sexuality, particularly on my new single ’22 Movements’. I am very passionate about the fair representation of women and LGBTQ in the creative industries and this has come through in a lot of my writing on my debut album”

Describe your music in three words “Soulful, positive, chilled”

Any funny/interesting gig stories? “I have done many terrible pub gigs in the past. The worst was probably when I was about 15, I went to play in a pub in East Anglia and my mum brought me along with my sister and her friend. We quickly realised that it wasn’t at all what we thought. There was no sound system and the manager was a very odd character. When we eventually agreed that I couldn’t play the gig, I turned around to find that my mum had left and was quite literally running towards the car with my guitar in her hand. Thankfully nothing like this has happened since”

What has been your best/worst gig? “The worst gigs have probably been the ones that almost/never happened! But I would like to think they are all in the past now. I have had some great gigs in the past, I would say one of the best was at Secret Garden Party 2017 when I finished the weekend with a solo set on The Living Room stage. It was a Sunday afternoon and it was safe to say that everyone was feeling and looking battered from the weekend, including myself, but my set seemed to bring everyone in from the wet and muddy outside and I played to a packed out Living Room with the most attentive audience I could ever ask for – a cherry on top of the weekend!”

What would you say the music scene is like where you’re based? “I am currently based in Norwich and there is a great music scene here. I grew up on Norwich’s music circuit when I first started out in 2010 and it is where I grew my first fan base. There is a real sense of community and local radio are heavily involved with what goes on, particularly BBC Music Introducing in Norfolk. The music video for my new single ’22 Movements’ (out April 8th) was filmed around Norwich, partly as a tribute to the scene I grew up on. I have only recently moved back here having lived in Leeds for the last few years whilst finishing my music degree. The same applies in Leeds, there is a really great scene there and Leeds College of Music students and alumni drive a lot of what happens in the city. There is always a chance to get involved and the college create amazing opportunities for up-and-coming artists. I think it is really important to be around a scene and community like that when you first finding your feet as an artist”

Do you have a favourite venue to play? “Headrow House in Leeds is one of my favourite venues to play. It always sounds great in there and some amazing artists have graced that stage. Superfriendz are an awesome Leeds promoter and they host a lot of the gigs here, as well as LCoM graduate and student-led promoters, such as Tight Lines and Cinnamon Presents”

Any other gigs coming up? “I have just begun my UK Tour for my debut album! I am doing a run of solo gigs followed by 4 dates with my band, with my first London headline show at Servant Jazz Quarters* in Dalston on May 23rd. Other dates include Leeds, Brighton, Manchester and Sheffield, and I am really excited to take my music to new places” 07/04 – Brighton 26/04 – Somerleyton 30/04 – London 01/05 – Leeds 09/05 – Manchester 23/05 – London 20/06 – Sheffield

What are your plans for 2019? “My debut album comes out on April 29th (vinyl release on 13th April, RSD 2019) and my UK Tour runs into summer dates too. I have some exciting gig announcements over the next few weeks so I hope to be busy on the gig front until autumn. I can’t wait to get back to writing once things calm down as I would like to spend some time working on a few singles. I am also slowly growing my label, FCR Music, as a platform and community with the mission to inspire and elevate female and LGBTQ+ artists. As well using FCR Music as a platform to release my own music, I have recently released a documentary project within this, in collaboration with independent filmmaker Emile Scott Burgoyne, entitled ‘FCR Music Presents: Women & The Creative Industry’. The documentary is a compilation of filmed interviews with a range of established and emerging-male and female artists, discussing gender roles and representation within the creative industries. I would love to make another one of these ‘FCR Music Presents..’ and grow the FCR Music brand. But in the meantime I am really excited to see where this album release and UK Tour takes me!”

By Siân Parker

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