Last week was a disastrous one for losses in music – heroes Tony Allen, Little Richard and Betty Wright to name a few have passed, but even closer to home the loss of Brixton-based rapper Ty has been a big shock and sent ripples throughout the UK artist community.
Deborah Jordan‘s latest album, See In The Dark, seeks to evoke the importance of ‘seeing positives through the darkness, regardless of the pain we can all sometimes suffer’ – together with the potentially overwhelming uncertainty that the country finds itself in at the moment, it’s a great time to release an emotional but ultimately uplifting piece of art.
As is customary with releases from the tight-knit Futuristica stable, See In The Dark treads waters saturated with hip hop, jazz, broken beat and everything that surrounds those genres, a handful of close producers adding even more depth to Deborah’s songwriting and vocals.
Deborah has worked with Jneiro Jarel, Dego and Kaidi Tatham as the vocalist for their Silhoutte Brown project, Unforscene, Emanative, Electric Conversation, Soundspecies, Bugz in the Attic and 4hero to name a few.
See In The Dark takes all these experiences and fires them forward, Deborah’s voice ethereal, timeless and soulful at the same time. Bonafide touched base with her for release day.
It’s such a surreal time, my condolences about Ty. What a massive contribution he made. Do you have any memories you’d like to share?
The community as a whole is devastated and heartbroken. Ty was such a beautiful, genuine, sincere and straight talking spirit. We shared jokes, we went deep. He is the guy that always ‘saw’ you. Into your soul.
I have some beautiful memories thank goodness which will help keep him present. Two stand outs are bumping into him in Brixton and him launching into a super deep conversation on the street and lifting my spirit in the way only he could! The other when he came to our home for a kind of retreat weekend by the sea – he played the Work of Heart album mixes before the project was complete, we stayed up most of the night discussing anything and everything, putting the world to rights.
He was always so easy to be with because of his honesty. His physical presence will be sorely missed by us all but his legacy will live on in everything he achieved, not only musically but also by his elevating and supporting everyone in his community. He touched us all deeply, which is why it hurts so much.
It’s been a while since your last solo album – has it just not been the right time or have other things taken over?
A combination of factors. I definitely had some writer’s block for a while after the second solo LP and all the other collaborations around that time, and life certainly threw some major obstacles in the way which again for me made it difficult to find the creative headspace I needed and wanted.
What’s the story of making this album – what’s the journey been like? Did it change during the process of making it?
It’s been very organic. I’ve allowed it to take the time it needed rather than trying to force things. Given working with producers who already knew me, I knew there was no pressure from them and that collectively we only wanted to make something as good / beautiful as we could.
Some tracks evolved over time and others came together quickly, thankfully once the creative block shifted and I felt in a more expressive space again. I definitely had to learn patience and to embrace the fact that I wasn’t being as prolific as I wanted to be which can be a difficult space to inhabit. But also the life experiences over that period of time undeniably informed my writing and so in many ways the album has been a cathartic and healing process. I can see now with hindsight that the album is exactly as it should be and at the right time.
What are your gut feelings about how this album compares to your previous works?
I feel it’s my most personal work. Emotional, raw, honest. It expresses the hurts and joys, the highs and lows, that we all experience in life. I think it’s the album of which I’m most proud. In some ways it’s hard to find words to answer the question as I find it hard to judge or talk about my own music. All I can say is it’s a heartfelt expression that I feel ready to share at last.
Who are the key personnel/collaborators around you and what do they bring to the table? Why these producers in particular?
I am incredibly blessed to know and work with phenomenal musicians/producers/artists in their own right who always incite me to raise my game and try to get the best out of myself to match their contributions!
This album has centred around a core team of Marc Rapson, K15, Mecca:83, Tris Browne and Simon S. We all have huge mutual respect for each other which is why we are the Futuristica Family. We’ve worked together on various projects so we understand each other on many levels which I think enhances what we’re able to create musically.
Each of them are incredible at what they do but have their own unique sound and feel to which I think I respond differently and yet there’s a cohesiveness to the whole. I have to feel a connection to then be able to bring my creative input to the table and these guys always make me feel excited and inspired! I hear their tracks and need to get into the studio because somehow they get right to the heart of me which has also helped this album become my most personal.
Marc has been instrumental with Simon in helping to create the cohesiveness of the project, but I think we all complement each other’s artistry and craftsmanship which is why the album comes together as a whole.
See In The Dark cover art – photography by Helena Smith
Did you provide a vision to producers for this album or collaborate from scratch together?
Again, it’s been more of an organic process. There was no defined vision from the outset, it’s been more an evolution which has slowly revealed itself as we progressed.
In some instances the producers sent me tracks and I worked on them separately, others more collaborative being in the studio together to generate ideas but then again worked on individually until we arrived at the end products.
The beautiful thing in working with people you know well is that you have a great sense of trust so can allow each other space when it’s needed, but can also have magical creative moments when you are together.
What are the obstacles to releasing music independently right now?
This is better aimed at Si (Simon S run Futuristica Music) than myself! Not that I’m not involved with the ‘business’ but my focus is on making music just because I have to – it’s in my DNA so it’s just what I do and I will continue to whether it’s released or not.
I’m not a particular fan of streaming as I feel artists do deserve to be recompensed for their work but I’m a bit old school! I love the fact that music making has become more accessible to all, but it does make it harder to find you audience when there’s so much to stream out there.
I’m extremely lucky to have been involved in projects like Silhouette Brown, Robert Mitchell’s Panacea and to have had a beautiful response to the first two solo albums and to have an audience that still want to hear from me! The initial response to See In The Dark has really shown me how loyal an audience can be for which I’m extremely grateful!
How have you found lockdown – I presume it’s affected your work, and has it affected your worldview?
I have to admit to finding it all rather surreal!
I’ve missed connecting with my singing students – it’s just not the same online!! – and having that human, in person interaction. Being a tactile person I find it hard not to give people a hug and especially when we are losing loved ones and need comfort it seems against all nature to not be able to provide some form of physical contact, whilst logically I understand the reasoning of course.
I’m frightened for musicians and the live music industry as so many are struggling to make ends meet despite trying to find creative ways to cope with the imposed restrictions.
Conversely I’m sure that many artists are finding this a time of increased creativity having more time to focus on ‘just making music/art’.
I am incredibly blessed to know and work with phenomenal musicians/producers/artists in their own right who always incite me to raise my game and try to get the best out of myself to match their contributions.
I’m disappointed that our government don’t seem to see the value of the arts and culture to our society. Some countries have shown much greater support in these difficult circumstances. I feel that much as we did with the Brexit debacle, we are seeing a division between those who are for a fair and equitable society for all and those of a more selfish egocentric view. I hope that for many it will be a time of reflection and that a more compassionate, humane attitude wins out.
What would you like people to get out of See In The Dark?
Whatever they need is my instinctive response. Each listener will hear the album from their own unique perspective, coloured by their own experiences, so I hope that they will connect with what they feel I am sharing from my own perspective.
Although some songs are tinged with sadness and born of difficult experiences I also feel that it is full of hope and positivity so again I hope the listener will perceive that joy too. As I wrote in the liner notes these songs document my journey, but they relate to universal themes we all experience so I hope that they can comfort and uplift others on their journey.
What do you bring from the classical world to your own work ?
Interesting question! My last classical experience other than working with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Goldsmiths Big Strings for Robert’s Invocation project was to sing Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and what that experience reminded me of was the work ethic, the amount of practise, the level of unity required to perform classical music.
I trained as a classical flautist before my focus became singing and I think that training never leaves you, regardless of what genres you might diversify into. My time as a member of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus allowed me the privilege of performing masterpieces such as Carmina Burana, Verdi’s Requiem, Rachmaninov’s The Bells (in Russian!) to name a few, and the power of singing in that context is indescribable.
One thing many people comment on with regards to my voice is the clarity or purity of it and I’m sure that is in large part down to the need for those characteristics in the classical world.
Ultimately, I want to express whatever I’m singing in the most honest, sincere way possible in order that it reach and communicate with the listener on that emotional level. Technique is vital, but if there’s no emotion have we done our job as the singer or storyteller?
I’ll See You Again ends the album, and is intensely personal. Was it a hard decision to put that out there, or has it helped your own process?
Wow. Yes, it is THE most personal song having been written to honour my mother after her passing. Musically it sprang out of Marc playing the chordal idea whilst we were filming one of the Futuristica Family live videos and me falling in love with it. We had a moment where we just knew that it was something much bigger and in many ways quite intimidating for us both! Marc got Nathan Thomas and I to sing the harmonies without knowing what we were actually singing then went away, developed it and then sent me an initial arrangement to write to and at first I just couldn’t. I couldn’t find the words. I would cry every time I played it. Then one evening I started writing the lyrics almost as a stream of consciousness without the track playing, then the next day decided to record it.
It was one take as I was crying whilst singing and even writing about it now makes the emotion come vividly back to life! So raw. But it was the healing that I needed. It was the way for me to tell mum (who was my biggest fan!) what was in my heart and for me to release some of the pain.
One thing we all are certain of is that we are going to experience that particular pain and loss and that we are going to have to live with it, process it somehow, so I hope that others will be able to listen to it and that their pain becomes easier to bear. Many people have written to me since the video release to say that the song has brought them a feeling of hope which is beautiful!
It was much harder to share the video than the song because I knew when filming that the emotion would come flooding out and I wouldn’t be able to control it. But that was the catharsis needed. To let go. To cry and not be ashamed of it. To share the honest human experience as raw as it is and to hope that it helps others through the grieving process.
To bring us full circle, the moment I heard of Ty’s passing the song started playing in my head almost as a reminder, as if to allow me to feel the intense grief but also to say you’ve gotten through it before and you know you’ll see him again, so celebrate the life lived not what you feel you’ve lost.
See In The Dark is out now on Futuristica Music. Buy and stream the album here.