Gigi Williams Q&A

The rising jazz-influenced singer-songwriter tells us how music has shaped her life since attending Camden Music Service as a child

If you had to sum up Camden in an image, memory or sensory experience would that be? 

Camden smells like a full, steamy bus in the rain making it’s way down the high street, bustling with busy people going about their days.

How would you describe your sound?

My first EP is somewhere between soul, jazz and pop. I haven’t fully figured out if that’s what I want to sound like, so I’m in a continuous process of experimenting with different ideas. I’m currently working on a new release and having lots of fun playing around with new sounds.

What does music mean to you? How has it shaped or changed your life? 

It has played a central role in developing my confidence as a young person. Some of my earliest memories are waiting to pick my sister up from Camjam voices (Camden Music Service) and singing along at the back. I spent most of my Saturdays as a kid and teenager going to Camden Music Centre, which is where I learnt so much of what I know. Nikki Yeoh and Binker Golding run a class that sparked my love of jazz and gave me the confidence to perform in front of people. Singing and songwriting for me is a way to connect both with yourself and to others. It feels like such an intimate process that bypasses the rules of conversation to communicate something bigger to those listening.

 

Who or what inspires you? 

So many people inspire me. A lot of my friends who are also musicians, with their work ethic and determination, and also people who have lots of different projects and skills on the go. They all inspire me to keep an open mind and remind me to work on what makes you feel good. 

Can you recommend one album and/or artist? 

I routinely ask friends for recommendations – that usually sorts me when I’ve become stuck listening to a smaller selection of music. I’m trying to listen more consciously to an artist’s whole discography and albums all the way through. Currently I’ve been obsessively listening to Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil’s discography. His career is so long and varied that there’s something in his work for everyone. So I’d really recommend his 1979 album ‘Nightingale’. Think disco funky soul vibes. 

What’s your writing process like? 

Writing and creating is such a funny one. Some people are really good at separating their process from how they feel – they can just sit down and write. I really struggled with writing over the lockdowns. I felt like I had nothing useful to say. Usually (like many other singers I find) a melody or fragment comes to me in a moment and I won’t have long to get it in a voice note before I forget it. I usually then noodle with that idea for weeks or months before it figures into a finished song. 

I think as a singer, lyrics are so important, and I’m always surprised when people say they don’t pay attention to lyrics because for me they make up such an integral part of the song. That being said, there have definitely been times when I’ve taken the easy way out with lyric writing and been happy with the result so I guess it really depends. 

Can you tell us a bit about the artwork you make for your music covers? 

For my first EP I took a central theme from each of the 4 songs and made a lino print for each one with my friend Rebecca. Some are more obvious, one of the lyrics of my song ‘Thoughts’ talks about a ship in the night and the corresponding print is a ship, and some are more abstracted. I love the tactility of lino prints and think they lend a very physical feeling to the images.  

How do you hope your music makes people feel?

I don’t always write my songs with how it’s going to make people feel in mind, but I hope that when people listen to my music they connect with the emotional state that I’m trying to convey, be it joy or sadness. I write music as a way to feel and I hope when people listen to it they connect with those emotions. 

If you could give your 16-year-old self a piece of advice what would it be? 

When I was sixteen I was in a jazz band at Camden Music Centre taught by the fabulous pianist Nikki Yeoh. She would give us these pep talks that I didn’t really take seriously at the time, encouraging us to be proactive and go out and grab life. I guess my advice would be listen to those because everything she said was true! 

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on a second musical project, and also preparing for some up-coming gigs. It’s an exciting – and slightly scary – time.

See Gigi playing live at Camdenist Presents A Taste of Buck Street Market on Sunday 26th September.
Limited tickets available here

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