Interview/ Premiere: Emma Rawicz

Photo by Mario Lazoladz

Emma Rawicz comes to us with her brand new single ‘Mantra’ premiering on the site today.

Rawicz switches from tenor to soprano sax for ‘Mantra’, where she outlines a meditative melody and harmonic loops with the serene guitar lines of guitarist Ant Law that express the piece’s title. Rawicz’s virtuoso soprano takes on a Tenderlonious-inspired solo as the music develops.

It’s a hypnotic affair filled with an uplifting sense of positivity and just like a mantra, you’ll be replaying it over and over again.

‘Mantra’ is a well-rounded modern jazz record that draws you in with its warm, rich, and multi-layered textures. Think Wayne Shorter, and Kenny Garrett, but with a modern twist and you’ll get a sense of what to expect from the rising artist.

“Mantra is a continuation of my exploration of words and titles relating to the subject of my first single, “Voodoo”. I chose the title before writing any music, and spent some time thinking about the meaning of the word ‘mantra’ and how that could be expressed musically.”

We caught up with Emma to ask her a few questions about her forthcoming album, live shows, musical influences and more.

Hey Emma, how’s your day going?

My day’s going well thanks.  I’ve spent most of the day so far practising and writing a bit of music. Looking forward to going to check out a friend’s gig this evening.

How did you get started making music? What did it sound like?

I started making music around the age of 6, that’s about 10 years before I picked up a saxophone.  At that stage, I was playing the violin and a bit of piano.  I used to really enjoy writing and playing folk and classical music and experimenting on the clarinet. I picked up the saxophone much later when I discovered jazz at the age of 15 or 16 and that’s when I started to get into music that sounds more like what I do today. 

We recently featured ‘Voodoo’ over at Twistedsoul, the first track you wrote for the album- how did it come together? 

I wrote Voodoo after not writing much in the preceding two years (mainly due to lockdown and not being able to foresee where I would perform). With Voodoo I rediscovered how much I loved writing music and from there I quickly went on to write other tunes. Voodoo was inspired by a piece of abstract art that I saw online.  I have a strong visual connection to music owing to the fact that I have synaesthesia (I see colours when I hear music) so I often find a lot of inspiration from visual art and colours when writing music.

What was it about ‘Voodoo’ that made you use it as the first single from the upcoming album? 

I chose Voodoo as the first single as I think it sounds really strong and it’s a good statement of where I’m at artistically.  It encompasses a lot of the influences I hold closest to me and it was important to me personally as it marked me returning to loving the process of writing music again.

We’re eagerly awaiting the release of your debut album, Incantation. How long has it taken to develop? Did you encounter any challenges along the way? 

I am so excited about Incantation’s upcoming release.  It came together quite quickly – in Feb 2021 I decided that it was time for me to write an album, it had been an ambition of mine for a long time.  I wrote the 8 compositions for the album over a period of a couple of months and we recorded it in June 2021.  I applied for some funding for the project early on which I didn’t get, looking back I can see why, as I didn’t really have a clear vision for the project at that stage.  It’s been a steep learning curve for me as I had not recorded any music previously and as an independent artist, I’ve had to learn about all of the aspects of creating and releasing an album. 

How do you feel about the album as a whole, and which song is your favourite and why? 

I am very happy with the album.  it was an ambitious project for me, especially given I was in my first year at Uni.  I’m very proud of it and am so excited to get my music out there for people to hear.  It’s really hard to choose a favourite as my view on that seems to change every day!  I do really like Wishbone though, it’s the final track on the album and we aren’t releasing it as a single so you will have to wait for the full album release in May to hear it – it’s a real ‘rock out’  – I used to listen to a lot of rock music when I was younger so I guess that’s where the inspiration came from.

In your music, I hear everything from Wayne Shorter to Kenny Garrett. Who are some of your contemporary influences? 

My contemporary influences are wide-ranging; I love Chris Potter and Joshua Redmond and they were early influences of mine.  I also remember coming across a pianist Ivo Neame (who I now play with) a few years ago, before I was even really playing jazz and finding his music really incredible and inspiring.  I also love Kurt Rosenwinkel and Pat Metheney.

Speaking of influences, If you had to choose just one saxophonist who’s had an impact on your music, who would it be?  

This has to be Chris Potter, he’s been a favourite of mine for many years and is a big inspiration.  I love his playing and his writing – absolutely brilliant.

You regularly perform at Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express Jazz Club and The Vortex Jazz Club; what’s your most memorable live show moment?   

My most memorable live show moment so far has to be walking out onto the stage for the first time leading my own band at Ronnie Scott’s in June 2021.  It was an incredible feeling, I had previously sat in that room and watched so many other musicians perform and if you had told me, even two months earlier, that I would be on that stage leading my own band with some of my favourite musicians beside me I would not have believed you!  The fact that the gig was sold out and my music was so enthusiastically received by the audience made it a really special evening for me.

Where can we catch you performing in the near future? 

At the moment I’m in the middle of a tour with my band and I’m really enjoying playing at lots of different venues. – in the next few weeks we will be in Nottingham, Poole, Brighton, Cornwall, Devon, Oxford, Manchester and Leeds as well as London.  I guess the highlight gig must be my album launch at Ronnie Scott’s on 10th May – I’m really looking forward to returning to the venue where all of this music was debuted for the first time last year.  I hope to see lots of people there to help us celebrate.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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