Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Espa. A quirky, sweet, funny, and talented singer/songwriter. Espa started out writing songs for other artists but has decided to step out into the spotlight and sing her own songs. With a pedigree like hers, it’s no wonder Espa is as talented as she is.
What made you fall in love with music?
My grandfather Christopher Smith. He was an incredible musician with a bold vibrant personality to match. He had a fearlessness in achieving every single dream that he ever dreamt of and he literally did that. From being a poor 17-year-old boy working on the docks in London to breaking into the music shop and stealing his first trombone. (laughs). Fast forwarding 30 years and being on tour with Frank Sinatra and conducting Judy Garland. He really achieved everything, being on TV and being one of the most celebrated trombone players in history.
He was a big, big influence on me and really kick started my fearlessness in going and actually getting my dream. Not just the dreams I’m allowed to do because society tells me it’s ok to do them.
You worked behind the scenes writing for other musicians. What made you want to step into the spotlight?
Well, that was my original calling. From the age of five, I used to boldly stand up in class and say that I was going to be a pop star. (laughs) Like it wasn’t even a question. (laughs) Then as I grew up I decided that it was a silly naive dream to have. It would be a much better idea for me to study music fully until I was accomplished and able to write songs, orchestrate string orchestra’s, write for a horn section, sing Jazz, sing classical, etc the list goes on.
I ended up doing a lot of backup vocal work and a lot of arranging and writing. I did a lot of stuff for commercials and DJs and stuff. It wasn’t until I left The Royal Academy of Music two and half years ago with my degree in composition and singing that I decided I want to go back to that initial spark! That fearless fire that I had deep inside of me when I was a little girl. I’m going to follow that because I’m only in my early 20’s once. I only have this zest for life right now (as far as I’m aware) and I have to follow what initially called me to do this.
I feel is my purpose is to be a global artist.
How were you discovered?
I don’t even know if I’ve been discovered. (laughs) I don’t know. I think that phrase means someone discovered someone and they became a star overnight. For me, it’s been a slow burner. It’s been like chipping away at a lump of rock until you find the statue, the work of art in it. I guess I discovered myself and through hard work and persistence I’m putting out consistent work. I think that people are starting to catch onto it. My audience will build and grow until I feel that I have been discovered by the world.
You have a very bluesy quality to your voice. How did you come up with your sound?
(laughs). By trying to imitate my heroes. Who vocally are Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Lady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera. It’s a strange mix. I also have a rock influence. I like Radiohead, Jimmy Hendrix, and Nirvana. My sound is a mix between jazz, rock, and soul. I feel like it’s given me this color palate that I play with. I don’t feel like there’s one particular sound. It’s more like an access to a variety of sounds that I play with when I record.
What inspires the music you create?
Everything. Most of my songs come from life situations that I’ve gone through. 141 is a real life story about losing a super close friend. All of my songs are stories. I try to translate my life experiences, which have been pretty intense considering I’m only 24 years old. I try to put them into an accessible song experience. So that my listeners can have some kind of identification with them as well.
I also find inspiration in the work that I do. Like with self-development. I’m really into astrology, yoga, meditation, food, fashion, and all kinds of art. I’m obsessed with photography. I’m obsessed with Rankin. I’m absolutely enthralled by modern art and I love history. Particularly the history of the 1940’s and the 50’s. The glamor of Hollywood. The list goes on. Just being alive inspires me. (laughs)
Are there any artists you would love to collaborate with?
Kendrick Lamar, Bjork, Flying Lotus, Tom York of Radiohead. That would be insane. I would love to spend a day with Lady Gaga just taking photos and writing stories. Not even necessarily music. I think she’s the real deal.
Kendrick Lamar is like the ultimate for me. If I only got one choice it would be Kendrick because I think he is a prophet.
Do you think growing up in the UK influences your music?
Yes, definitely. Garage music, grime music, house music, everything that makes our music scene so unique and eclectic has really influenced me. However, I spent most of my childhood listening to old-fashioned American music. So that’s where I find my strange tapestry of sound. You know it’s like I spent a lot of time listening to the Rat Pack but also Craig David. (laughs)
Are you currently working on your first full-length album?
Yes, I’ve got over 200 songs in my repertoire. I’ve been writing them for years. I’ve released two EPs and a single, but the plan now is to put out more singles. I have my weapons up my sleeve. I am prepared. I‘ve been working with Linda Perry for my album. Hopefully, this album is going to be quite a fresh sound. That’s my goal.
We at TNWU all have something nerdy/geeky about us. What is something nerdy or geeky about you?
I’m nerdy about so many things. Every day I check the astrology weather report. It’s like an anal thing I do in the morning before I get out of bed. I have to know exactly where the planets are. It’s kind of creepy, actually, that I’ve just said that out loud. (laughs)
The other really weird nerdy thing about me is that I sleep in a bed with crystals. (laughs) They have their own personalities and I carry one with me in my bag every day. I really maybe should consider getting a boyfriend. (laughs). I also really love wrestling.
Where to find Espa: