With one of the sweetest voices you’ll hear this year, Kersha Bailey has been getting some attention on the UK underground scene for a while now. Backed up by the band Groove Control, the 21 year-old singer/songwriter and self-taught guitarist is definitely destined to go far. The sound of the group could be described as raw and organic with ‘pure vibes’ and together they are one of the most exciting acts in the UK right now. In her own words Kersha talks to Flavour about where she’s coming from where she going.
‘I come from a musical family. My grandmother had brothers who played in a jazz band. My granddad had a sister who was a singer. My mum, Dee Bailey was an underground singer in the 80’s and was signed to Warner Bros. She went by the name Leniece and was featured in the Voice and Blues and Soul, but internal differences meant the group fell apart. My mum saw my talent from an early age. At school I joined the choir and she could see something in me from there – she used to help me out with my harmonies and we would practice them at home.
When I went to secondary school I did things on the side in terms of music, like singing back-up for friends, but I never fully focused on music. Then I went to a drama school called Mount View. But there I studied acting more than music. I didn’t enjoy the acting though so I stopped at 17.
Then I went to college and did music. People were against it, but I’m very head-strong and I was like ‘I’m gonna do this no matter what’. It was at college that I met Inflow, a producer.
In my second year of college we were given an assignment in which we had to learn jazz pieces i.e. work by the likes of Frank Sinatra etc. I heard Autumn Leaves by Eva Cassidy and I wanted to make it into my own. I decided to remake it completely with my own tune on my guitar. So m first performance with my guitar was actually at college.
But then boyfriends got in the way....I was going out with this guy who was a bit of a ‘thug’ and I just abandoned singing and the guitar completely. I only did backing vocals here and there but never anything for myself. In the end, he cheated and we broke up which is how my single Ain’t Gonna Waste My Time came about. I think that whole experience reminded me not to take advantage of my goals.
I was originally a backing singer/vocalist for the band Groove Control. There was a rapper who was also a member, but he wanted to do his own thing so the guys asked me to be their singer. We went through many line-ups and had many names (The K Bailey Band, Truth), but now we’re KBGC. We’ve been together 2 years and we’ve only just taken off and started getting some proper attention. Yeah we’ve been through many changes, but we’re settled now.
I came second in the 291 Competition. That was a challenge as I had to use another band, but luckily the drummer used to play for my mum!
I’ve performed at the Jazz Cafe, Rise Festival, Hackney Empire, Shoreditch Carnival, The Royal Albert Hall and for MPs in Covent Garden. I've also performed at after parties for MTV Base, and I’ve been featured in the Tottenham Journal, The Voice, The Hackney Gazette, and Time Out.
I’m inspired by my mum of course, but also by artists such as Kim Burrell (I love her ad-libs), and I love George Benson – the way he sings with his guitar is amazing. Also Prince, Jazmine Sullivan, Pink (her attitude), Jill Scott – more her delivery and what she sings about. I love Tawiah, Eska, Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Dorinda Clark too. I’m also inspired by my fellow musicians – guitarists Femi Temowo and Michael Kiwanuka (he plays in our band) and bass guitarists such as Alex Bonfanti and Meshell Ndegeocello.
I would describe my style as indie/soulful/acoustic/experimental/organic. I guess I stand out from other artists out there because I’m positive, colourful and funny, and I give a heartfelt performance. The main subject of my music is virginity. I’m a virgin, I don’t swear, I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke. Yes, I’ve done things in the past where I may have been ‘over-stupid’, but I’ve learnt from them! Groove Control stand out because they’re fun, they’re humble, but it’s pure vibes with them!
In the UK, unless you’re doing the music that’s expected of you, it’s difficult to make it. For example Steven, our bass guitarist, has dreads so when we go to venues to play, and people see him, they expect reggae. Sometimes we’re expected to change how we sing, no ad-libs etc. That’s why I strongly believe in the success of black artists in America. There, they won’t change you whereas the music industry in the UK wants to pigeon-hole artists. I support the UK, but I would go to America to build my profile and then come back here. There are a few UK artists I rate as well – Tawiah, Master Shortie, Josh McKenzie (a drummer) and Timothy McKenzie.
If I had to pick between the UK and the US, I would have to choose the UK. The US has only a few inspiring acts, but in the UK the live shows are inspiring.
My plan for 2009 is to finish my EP in early April. I need to find recording space, do photo shoots, and lose weight. I want a nice CD – I want it bright and eye-catching. Once the EP’s done, I want to concentrate on gigs. I have to say I can’t do anymore free gigs as it affects the band. I’m also looking for management/agencies – I need to have a tight team behind me who know what they’re doing. Then this year and next I want to do a mini tour around Europe and the US.’
Words by Oseme Edehomo
To hear more of Kersha Bailey’s music go to www.myspace.com/kershabailey