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“You can have it all but it takes patience” - Alice Russell on life, children and Roundhouse show

In 2017 singer Alice Russell performed an acoustic show to raise awareness for the UN Women’s HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality at the Roundhouse in Camden. In 2020 the artist is returning to the venue for ‘In the Round’ a series of performances that includes Beverley Knight, KOKOROKO and Russell herself. On at Camden’s famed building the series of shows sees the venue configured in a full concert setup, a rare seated chance for an intimate performance by Alice who Jamie Cullum described as “One the greatest voices...in this country.”

Having sold out venues like London’s Scala in the past Russell is touted as a possible queen of British soul in the making, easy to comprehend when you take a look at her single ‘Heartbreaker’ made with long-time production partner TM Juke. Or look at the list of collaborations from Quantic to DJ Yoda and you see a variance, appreciation and respect most likely from music makers and innovators.

But also a quick look through social media posts and you see an artist unafraid of communicating fears and politics amongst the self promotion, whether quoting philosopher Iris Murdoch, bigging up other artists like Denai Moore or sharing posts about how “dark” this Brexit mess is - this is an artist with soul whether she’s called Queen or not.   

With all this in mind I asked Alice a few questions about the show, the artists she admires and what we can expect from her new album due for release in 2020.

Jayson: For those who don’t know, what is ‘In the Round’?

Alice: Well I’m an ‘In the Round‘ virgin too but basically it’s a series of more intimate shows, all seated , so the audience gets up close - just how I like it!

Also while I have been writing this new album I tend to walk home from the studio so I listen to what we have been up too and I imagine it live, I kept manifesting the image of us in the Roundhouse, intimate, lots of red lights and then my agent came to me with this possibility and well, I’m now in hook line and sinker and VERY excited.

Jayson: I’m curious about what material we’ll be hearing for your ‘In the Round’ show?

Alice: I am planning to perform my new album, there will be a couple of my previous songs that work with this set too but this new album has its own feel and sound and so - we need to go all in!

Jayson: Are your performances, say the style, nuances or theatrics specific to the venues you play? 

Alice: In the past this depends on when you are on tour because often you find yourself playing venues you’ve never experienced before but you rehearse a set for the whole tour, kind of a one size to fit all.

But with this show, and in the past when I got the opportunity to do a few shows at the Union Chapel, I very much create with the venue in mind, you can’t help but do this with some spaces. And for this I’ve already imagined the show and even the colours - in fact I’m waiting to see if I can get my dramatic lighting dream for this show, I’m trying my hardest!

Jayson: If you were going to describe you forthcoming album as a journey, what would it be?

Alice: It’s been a long and deep and I don’t mean any saucy pun there. I can see how that could be read but those two words describe this time for me, it’s been personal stuff I’ve been digging into and trying to make sense of so, yep, I’ll leave that there!
Jayson: What strikes me about your career is the diversity - working with dj’s like Mr Scruff and DJ Yoda, big 16-piece bands and stripped back smaller bands, among all of that where are you most at home as a performer?

Alice: I am finally now really at home doing my own thing, I cut my performing teeth with other bands but now I love to be doing my thing. In saying that  I recently had the joy of doing a couple of shows for other peeps like singing with Antibalas, some amazing backing singers from the House Gospel Choir and I also got to sing a couple of songs at the Proms with the Heritage Orchestra and yep I loved every moment, it really filled me up! Just communicating and making music with other souls who love it as much as I do is such an honour, it makes me very grateful...the latter especially was such a pleasure treasure!

Jayson: In a time when music consumption is so rapid, is it fair to say you have taken more time between releasing albums then perhaps some more commercial artists would?

Alice: Ha, yep well I’m not that commercial I suppose which is a blessing because life is life and as much as I need my music, I also have to keep getting on with life, messy or tidy! Things can slow you down a little bit, a side step here, a little sprint there and the long and the short of it is I have created two little guys in this hiatus and become a mother. And let’s face it, you got to take being there and helping your little guys grow as your number one so I had to take a little step back and things have taken a little longer.

But the silver lining has been learning a lot about myself through them, and giving me a renewed passion. It’s like when you start a new relationship the mirror gets held up... well multiply this by the hundreds when you have Children.

When you're as sleep deprived as I am, I question “what am I doing, can I still do this, do I even want to do this”? And it’s been hard but the music just won’t quit and I adore it more than ever and have realised that nope, I can’t do without it. You can have it all but it takes patience and juggle

Jayson: You posted a quote by Iris Murdoch “Tyrants always fear art because tyrants want to mystify while art tends to clarify. The good artist is a vehicle of truth” - in today's fraught times what does that mean to you?

Alice: Exactly what Murdoch said! An artist is a vehicle of truth, yes we can also play with song (and it’s fun to do that), let your imagination wonder in the garden of delight but also when you have that feeling in your gut, that sorrow, confusion, joy, it has to come from a place of truth. And now more than ever we must endeavour to connect with each other, really see each other and listen. And this album for me is trying to make some sense but also showing just how confused we all are by the things that affect us like grief and love, nothing is out of bounds and now more than ever the truth is all we got - hold on tight to it!

Jayson: Jamie Cullum described you as “One of the greatest voices we have in this country,” who would you say is one of your greatest voices or perhaps your most inspiring voices in this country?

Alice: Eska, Denai Moore, James Blake, Róisín Murphy, Carleen Anderson and Kate Bush are all still flying the flag for me. There are so many voices and lots to say. I’ve been in my own music bubble of late so I’m sure when I raise my ears again there are loads of new delights to greet me.

Jayson: When you look back on your career what are some of the things you are most proud of?

Alice: Hmmm, I’m proud of the musicians I’ve had the pleasure to share the stage with, I’m proud to still be here feeling excited about music and getting out there connecting once again! Oh, and I am very proud of not losing the plot.

Jayson: What is some advice for aspiring artists coming up in the music industry?

Alice: Truth will out - the old sayings are the best! sort your own air mask out, I mean your head, your heart, your soul house, try to understand your past and what triggers you, what keeps you from being open, get your emotional house in some kind of check. In saying that it will continually mess up again and again and even trip you up but if you come from a place of truth and honesty, well then you have the golden key!

Alice Russell
as part of In the Round
27 Jan 2020
Tickets and info: www.roundhouse.org.uk

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