Perhaps the most lavishly soulful voice in the UK today, it has always surprised me that Alice Russell has never really quite got the recognition she deserves. Through working and touring with an array of talent including TM Juke, Quantic and her own live band, she has served up two very impressive albums as well as a remix album, with which she has carved out her own style, whilst still staying true to her gospel and soul roots.
This kind of talent is currently at a premium in the UK and her efforts have not gone unnoticed between top producers in the UK, with Four Tet, Groove Armada and Massive Attack amongst the admirers.
Whilst she was touring round Europe, Louis Soul got the chance to throw a few questions to gain a little more insight into Miss Russell…
What made you want to be a singer and how did you first link up with Tru Thoughts?
There wasn’t one defining moment when I thought… “Right I want to be a singer!’… It just sort of happened! I have always sung, whether it’s in the choir or just messing about…but it wasn’t until I started to get hooked up with local bands and sing that things started to turn that way! I was asked to sing on a Kushdi track, and later on Tru Thoughts managed us for a short time… then Will Holland [Mr Quantic] was looking for a singer to work with so we were put in touch and that was the real start of my relationship with Tru thoughts
So where do your own musical tastes lie? Do you think this is reflected in your voice and style in any way?
My musical tastes are from gospel ,soul ,blues ,hip hop ,classical … so much music ,so many different kinds and yes they all get soaked up by me and come out when I write my own songs definitely! Isn’t that with all things in life?! We eat up what we enjoy and what moves us and that is the history that helps move on to create new and mixed up things weather it be music, art , food…new recipes!
On your new DVD, there is a number of varying cover versions, which is your favourite to perform? Are they personal favourite tracks of yours?
Well Seven Nation Army is my favourite…the lyrics are amazing! The White Stripes lyrics are great to sing and I get to have a big blast blow out when we do that song live!
” It makes you feel a whole lot better and you may get a decent song out of your frustration! …”
Your lyrics are refreshingly different; is there a certain mind state or mood you have to be in when writing to a tune, or do you find it comes more naturally?
All songs are different…sometimes I write alone and they tend to be more brooding songs…when it comes to me and TM Juke…we work in the studio together and that’s when we turn each others ideas on their heads and more unusual lyrics can be born! …and if you have a load of emotions brewing up there is nothing better than just singing it out and seeing what comes out! It makes you feel a whole lot better and you may get a decent song out of your frustration!
What’s the process when you work with other artists such as Quantic and TM Juke when making a tune? Have you ever tried your hand on the production side of things?
Well the first two songs I did with Quantic, he sent me the music and I did all the vocals here at home on my dodgy 8 track, then when he moved here we began to work and write in the same room …which was good! I’m a bit slow to start doing beats and stuff on my computer, just because it can freeze and mess up and break the flow and I like to work fast. If I have an idea I want to get it down, so I will have to learn maybe then I will be quick innit! Also with production, it’s more that TM Juke and I map out each song…what goes where, and what instruments we both want together but he has to do the tech bits, like going through all the drum tracks and cutting it all up and that joy…and press record!
How was touring with QSO? Do you prefer touring with your own band and being centre stage?
It was amazing! When we 1st started there were 11 of us and most of the guys were Will’s mates from the Midlands…all very naughty and funny chaps! We had a great 2-3 years of going all over the place…many a story to tell! And for me it was less stress than my own band as with QSO, I just had to turn up and sing a few songs! But I adore touring with my pups! We have been together for nearly 2 years now and we all work together, so it fits together perfectly! Also Al, TM Juke and I share all the band stuff so it is all good…plus there is nothing like going out and doing your own thing!
Are you still involved in projects with Bah Samba or are you concentrating more on your solo career?
I am putting all my main energy into my own music at the moment, as I found myself being too stretched out… so I am focusing on my own music for the time being yes!
What are your opinions on the amount of publicity and press coverage you receive compared to singers like Amy Winehouse? Are you happy that you have stayed more low key and on an independent label?
Well there are always pros and cons of big labels and more independent ones…you just have to do what is right for you at the time and keep on making the music and hope it gets to as many folks as possible! Being on a smaller label, no they can’t go out and blow loads of cash on PR but hopefully the songs make there way up and out there!
As for Miss Amy, she deserves all the exposure like the next person…Back To Black is a great album… Love Is A Losing Game got me right there in my tum and it’s on me ole IPod…but I will say that it is also part of the business…if you are on a major and you have got a good story…lf you have great style in how you look and have a great album behind you then hey!…the press are going to love you and so they should…but in my opinion also, they should leave her alone on the whole drinking thing. Being 23 it’s totally normal to party hard! But I do hope someone is looking out for her and gives her a holly bob soon as she must be knackered, it’s only been a matter of months since it all blew up!
” We eat up what we enjoy and what moves us and that is the history that helps move on to create new and mixed up things weather it be music, art , food…new recipes! …”
If you had to assemble a dream five piece band (living or not) with yourself on vocals, who would you choose?
Prince on guitar, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway on various key and piano…Bootsie Collins on bass…hmmm John Bonham on drums and and and…but hey I love my pups and frankly couldn’t want for a better band of merry minstrels!
What do you miss the most when you are on tour?
Having time with my man Nando and just hanging out with my friends…ahh and cooking your own din dins!
So what does the future hold for Alice Russell? Any forthcoming projects we should look out for?
Well me and ole’ TM Juke are doing the next album right now, which should be ready this year! We are already trying out new songs live with the band! Also Mr Quantic and I have some songs to make too…so I’m planning a visit to Columbia to make music with him!
June ‘07 saw Tru Thoughts’ first ever DVD release: Alice Russell Live in Paris. The DVD contains 80 minutes of Alice’s delightfully soulful vocal chords belting out 15 of her best loved tracks including covers of the White Stripes, Nina Simone and Outkast. Pick up a signed copy from the Tru Thoughts website now…
– Louis Soul