The Revivalist met up with singer Zara McFarlane to discuss some of the duos she’s worked with and some legendary ones that have influenced her own style.

When did you first start singing?

When I was around 11 years old when I started writing songs. Before that I was always singing around the house like children do but I did not have a specific interest to be to explore it any further until I was inspired to write songs.

Who are some your musical influences?

Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson (I think he has inspired most people in music in some way shape or form over the last 45 years).

Can you talk about the journey of the making of your album Until Tomorrow and how you met Gilles Peterson?

I met Gilles through a connection with a producer friend of mine. He liked my music enough to play it on s radio show in Feb 2010. I then met him at the Southport weekender in May 2010 where I was performing a set of my house tracks and he was DJing. I managed to talk to him and he asked me to come onto his show as a guest artist. So I kept tweeting him to try to get a date and the next time we spoke (some months later after much persistence) he asked to release the album instead!

I originally produced an EP, which was how Gilles heard about the music. By the time I was signed to Brownswood I had produced and recorded about 80% of the album. The support and encouragement of Gilles and Brownswood has been absolutely fantastic. I was at a point not too long before where I was in doubt about continuing with music but their enthusiasm for my music pushed me forward. Just the thought that they believed in the project enough to want to release it was more than I could have wished for at the time.

What is your song writing process?

It varies greatly. Sometimes I play about with some chords and then work out a melody over the top. Other times I have a strong melody first and experiment with what chords can work underneath. Sometimes I write the lyrics first and work with melody afterwards. Sometimes it all comes out at once.

You cover two lovely Harry Whitaker tunes “The Children and the Warlock” and “Thoughts;” why did you choose these tunes?

The album Thoughts: Past and Present was introduced to me by Gilles. He has a great ear for music and where an artist is coming from musically and I fell in love with the album straight away as Harry Whitaker’s playing reminded me of Peter Edwards, the pianist who plays on my album.

How would you describe your sound?

I think this album is very influenced by traditional jazz. Words that come to mind are swing, soulful, elegant, mystical.

What was your experience like getting your Masters in Jazz Studies at the Guildhall school of Music?

It was extremely hard work and very intense as I was still teaching in schools part time and gigging with the Jazz Jamaica band, but it definitely exposed me to many different aspects of jazz music and I especially enjoyed learning about composing and arranging.

This month’s issue of The Revivalist is the “Etymology of the Duo” who are some of your favorite musical duos?

Who are some of the favorite people that you collaborate with? I really love the album with Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson I think that is a very nice duo.  I am quite new to collaborating and am interested in exploring slightly more abstract collaborations outside of the jazz idiom but still within it’s sensibilities.

What are your musical aspirations for the coming years?

I shall be releasing a new album, I hope to work with an orchestra and keep exploring the language of music and performance.

Zara McFarlane Online

Grab yourself a copy of Until Tomorrow

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