Introducing Lady Blackbird - a bold, effervescent West Coast-based vocalist who has burst onto the jazz scene, harnessing the energy of Billie Holiday and Chaka Khan to create her unique style.
Ally got the chance to sit down and talk with the breakthrough artist ahead the release of her third single and upcoming debut record 'Black Acid Soul'
If you haven’t already heard of Lady Blackbird, you’ll know her name soon. The LA-based vocalist is making the jazz and music community turn their collective heads with her distinguisably powerful and raw vocals. Thinking about the success and attention she’s had so far, Lady Blackbird (Marley Munroe) jubilantly exclaims “It’s been amazing! It’s been such a long road and process”.
There’s been some pretty remarkable influences and parallels drawn to Lady Blackbird, with Gilles Peterson labelling her “the Grace Jones of Jazz” and others pointing towards Amy Winehouse as well as many more timeless vocalists. Hearing these names and comparisons, she pensively comments that “they shock me ever time. They make me so happy…some of these people are my biggest influences. So, it’s your fantasy and dream to be like them. To have my name with theirs in the same sentence is remarkable”.
Before starting her career as Lady Blackbird, Marley Munroe trod an utterly different musical path. The vocalist's past career saw her exploring the realms of alt-rock and alternative music before finding her new jazz-tinged calling as Lady Blackbird. Reminiscing about this period, she muses that “I’ve gone through different phases and styles…I don’t ever think I’ll move away from anything because it’s all in me. It’s all music. I’m a true lover of music. All these different genres shape who I am as an artist”.
It’s difficult not to compare these two very different musical incarnations, but this latest project has had the oversight of Grammy-nominated producer Chris Seefried to help guide her journey into becoming Lady Blackbird. Tracing this transition, Lady Blackbird tells me that “With this record, the idea my producer and I had was just to strip everything down, making a vulnerable, raw album. The album was designed to really showcase my voice…[So] right now, Lady Blackbird is here to stay.”
The heightened critical attention surrounding Lady Blackbird has been present ever since she dropped her debut single ‘Blackbird’ back in May, a soul-stirring song written by Nina Simone which sketches the struggles of being a black woman. Nina’s songs are notoriously difficult to cover, but Lady Blackbird's rendition is sublime. It's impossible not to be intoxicated by the vocalist's dark tones which are met with trickling keys and understated strings. Recalling her draw to the song, she tells me “I’ve known this song for years, I always knew that something needed to be done, that I wanted to do with it. But, the moment just showed itself”. By some twist of fate, the song happened to drop two days after George Floyd’s murder and the reactionary rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, giving it even more meaning in our contemporary context. “It’s disgusting” that those lyrics ring "so true about the current state,” she tells me. “Unfortunately, lyrically and what the song is about, it rolls onto everything that still goes on today. It didn’t start with recording it anything like that. It’s a beautiful piece of work that has really, always, tapped at me”.
Building up to the release of her debut album Black Acid Soul, Lady Blackbird has released a creative reimagining of the Leroy Hutson and Curtis Mayfield produced tune ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ by The Krystal Generation. “When we approached the song, I knew I liked it, but we thought… ‘what are we going to do with it?’ How are we going to turn it into what we need?’” she tells me. “We started transforming this whole song. We slowed it completely down, we changed gender. We kind of did our own take on it”. The result of this experimentation was ‘Beware the Stranger’, another tender song which crescendos and builds throughout, climaxing with a bold choir-inspired outro.
Tapping into the energy and buzz surrounding Lady Blackbird, Chris Seefried and Lady Blackbird's team have reached out to some brilliant producers to rework the singles so far, including beats from Emma-Jean Thackray, Foremost Poets and Matthew Herbert. “My team is really amazing, I owe it all to them” Lady Blackbird humbly reveals
. “I always get excited when I get remixes sent back to me, everybody’s different interpretation of these song...it blows me away”.
With the third psychedelic-soul fused single ‘Collage’ dropping later this week, Black Acid Soul is due to arrive sometime in January 2021. Having such a bubbly and bold character, it’s hard not to be lulled into Lady Blackbird’s charms. Her album aims to reflect this spirited presence, she wants us to know “I’m here. This has been like, a rebirth. I’ve used that word before, it’s like a rebirth for me in the best of ways. In the most vulnerable, raw, honest ways that I can genuinely put myself out there. I’ve been doing this for a while, you know, and I haven’t quite cracked the code. This album, I think, finally does that. I hope it does that. That’s how I feel…It’s vulnerable. This is me at my most vulnerable. Finally, I think, being heard.”
‘Collage’ is out on the 16th of October with Black Acid Soul out in 2021 via Foundation Music and ADA.
Keep up-to-date with Lady Blackbird via her socials and website: