Next Wave #596: Billie Black

Jazz vocals, skeletal beats…
Billie Black for Clash Next Wave, issue 97

The music of our youth appeals to our psychology as some kind of shared cultural symbolism, ingested by a generation and delivered to the next. It’s no wonder, then, that time and time again musicians go back to their parents’ music collection as a prime source of musical inspiration; transferring their early sonic experiences into their artistic practice.

Nineteen-year-old Billie Black is no different, and draws a strong connection between the music of her upbringing and the music she makes now.

“My mum used to be a professional disco dancer so she always had an obsession with ’70s disco. It was always being played around the house, in the car and at massive family parties. My musical upbringing has meant I do associate music with dance; I want to make subtle groovy tunes that make people sway.”

‘Subtle tunes that make you sway’ is a decent description of Black’s sound – but there’s more to it than that. Her jazz-infused vocals lilt easily over fluid, minimal beats that conjure up the kind of electronic production that we’re used to hearing in the work of James Blake or Sampha. Like those artists, her music’s got a lot of soul.

“I’ve tried to weave jazz vocals with interesting electronic production of all kinds, whether it’s deep dubby stuff, minimal avant-garde stuff or even house. I love the idea of combining the old with new.”

With song names such as ‘I Waited For You’ and ‘I Don’t Need Another Lover’, her music comes across as deeply personal. “‘I Waited For You’ is a song about the struggles of a modern relationship and the patience you can muster when you’re genuinely in love,” she explains, remaining vaguely elusive.

“But I love the music-making process. It’s one of the most exciting parts of being an artist. I co-write everything with Imposters and the feeling of stepping out the studio knowing you’ve created something you love is incredible.”

We mention that she went to The BRIT School. “I don’t feel that BRIT has affected me much as an artist. I’ve known for a long time what kind of artist I want to be.” Following this firm response, we ask if she has any advice for other young, emerging musicians.

“Persistence is the key! If you don’t absolutely love music I think it would be very hard to maintain the passion you need to succeed. You’ve just got to keep going, and never lose faith.”

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Where: West London

What: Silky jazz vocals melted over skeletal beats

Get Two Songs: ‘I Waited For You’ (video above), ‘I Don’t Need Another Lover’

Fact: She wishes she could live until she’s 150 because it “seems like a nice age”.

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Words: Daisy Jones
Photo: Christopher Fenner
Fashion: Candice Bailey

Billie Black online

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