It’s a common story, an aspiring jazz or soul musician spending their formative years raiding their parent’s record collection, uncovering ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ and adopting it as a contemporary gospel. Finding refuge in music, these artists would begin to reach audiences of their own with the likes of Soundcloud and Bandcamp just years later.
Hailing from the current capital of British music, South London’s Ego Ella May has been on the tip of many music aficionado’s tongues for some time now, with her latest album ‘So Far’ planting her firmly at the forefront of the neo-soul revival.
“I grew up on my parent’s music collection, it was really eclectic. But my favourite artist has always been Stevie Wonder,” she says, looking back on her earliest memories of musical infatuation. “I eventually started writing and putting my music up on Soundcloud about ten years ago, and it just naturally grew from there.”
Stories of dinners alone and complicated relationships in a post-Tinder world, May’s painfully relatable lyrics meld with experimental jazz fills and dynamic electronic production, bringing something that sounds both comfortingly familiar yet distinctively different.
“I actually don’t like describing my music at all. I find that I don’t have a system when writing, and when I have a lot on my mind, that comes easily. My songs are very personal, so I’m only ever writing my truths.”
London as a node of creativity leaves every artist spoilt for choice in collaborators and influences. ‘Come On’ featuring British rapper Kojey Radical is one of May’s latest tracks and a self-confessed personal favourite. “It’s bigger than me,” she admits. “It reminds me why I started making music in the first place.”
“I'm more interested in live music these days, but I still have a lot of music that's heavily produced. I think that the biggest change in my sound has stemmed from working with more artists, whereas before I was only ever working with one person.”
May’s predecessors have come and gone in the shapes of Dusty Springfield, Sade, and the likes - all of which being uniquely British sources that have inspired the sound of contemporary soul, evocative of the melting-pot of culture and sound. With a nod to each of these, May’s music is arguably the outcome of a golden age in soul, combined with an inventive era for jazz.
Now, creating some of her most daring songs to date, you can only imagine the trajectory that her new music will set her upon. “I’m really excited to release my next album,” she says, considering her steps going forward.
“If you don’t know my name by now, I ain’t working hard enough” might be May’s most telling lyrics of the current mantra in song-making. But her presence in the music industry is now far from remote – her heartfelt tracks are gradually clawing back the years of absence in British soul music, and plating them up right under our very noses.
- - -
- - -
Ego Ella May will be playing Roundhouse Rising on October 25th, grab your tickets here.
Words: Gemma Ross
Photo Credit: Karolina Weilocha
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.