You may not have heard of Anoushka Lucas and nor had I until I saw this small feature on her on the 5th June edition of the Evening Standard paper. I was taken by this story of a young lady who had won the chance to perform at the renowned Love Supreme Jazz Festival (where Esperanza Spalding would be playing) after taking on a host of competitors.
At the core of this short feature was a good old fashioned tale of human endeavour encapsulated by characteristics like inspiration, resilience and perseverance-the Oxford graduate almost gave up her dream of a singing career.
After my interest was sparked I sought out this multi-instrumentalist (she plays the piano and the guitar) lady to interview her and through the power and ease of social media websites-hey presto I got in contact with her through twitter and arranged the meeting which took place at her manager’s London flat.
Her manager Anastasia Hatzivasilou a rather charismatic lady who counts Lionel Richie as a close friend re-tells with clarity how she was taken by this young slightly bohemian lady with the powerful voice and great song writing the moment she heard her music. She states with fortitude that she knew Anoushka would be destined for a “great career” and with their combined efforts “this is only the beginning”.
The beginning however has come only after a string of near misses for this young old lady (as they say in Barbados) who counts the immense almost cult figures of Billy Holliday to Aretha Franklin as inspirations to her singing.
“I was always writing songs” she states when the obligatory question which delves into her past is posed. “I started writing songs when I was fourteen fifteen and I would play on my parent’s piano and sing really loudly but because I was very academic and I got into Oxford University I thought that following an academic career was the safer option.”
Studying Italian and Russian which was “really hard” her musical talent took second place to the more stable world of languages and a guaranteed job in teaching. Possibly it was the time spent alone in Russia that gave her time to reflect on her life or maybe the fact that music was too ingrained in her make-up to ever completely disappear-either way music took hold of her thoughts.
“While I was studying I realised that music was actually what I wanted to do-I was singing with different people, writing music and I was just itching to go gigging. So when I came back I was eager to get into music but I just did not know how you went about becoming a musician. I had never gigged with other musicians, I did not know how to find gigs, yet I had to make money. I was lucky because I can tutor in Italian and French so I got a job in my old primary school.”
Like many aspiring singers the hustle of juggling two or possibly three very different careers to finance the ambition/love is very apparent and indeed her story is no different. In her quite animated foible the pretty Anoushkha details with a palpable level of frustration the difficulties she faced.
“I had been doing music for three years but because I was doing these little odd jobs to live my musical progression was not happening.” Through this tough period she was able to put out an EP in 2009 with her first manager through. She is refreshingly honest in the analysis of that EP: “all I did was sing really on that first EP”.
The singer could be mistaken for a typical young singer because she is very engaging and humorous with some great comedy timing but she is evidently a lady blessed with an iron determination- she states as a matter of fact when talking about her trials in getting her career going “the thing is that I am really ambitious”. It is this ambitious streak that has meant that where some might of given up particular when faced with the fact that as an Oxford graduate a very good job awaited she did not buckle and totally give up even if there were points where she wavered.
Following the break up with her first manager (a situation that can sometimes throw an artist) she was still able to create a second EP called Left To My Own Devices-the title obviously detailing her situation. I heady and absorbing mix of writing with brilliant tracks like Runaway and Watch Your Language it is accomplished considering her self-confessed “lack of knowledge” regarding music at the time.
“I put out Left To My Own Devices in 2011 and by that time I had learnt a lot about this whole music thing. I did not have a manager and so I had to find this band and pay for everything myself but I did not know what to do with the EP; I did not know who to send it to and production wise I was a bit lost as well. So this time I have thought rather than do that again even though it was a brilliant experience and I am quite pleased with what we ended up I want to do things differently and with the right people who can help me.”
While she is obviously a tremendous singer who makes each and every word play with a repetitive resonant joy it is her song writing which appealed to the musical behemoth Stephen Rinkoff. He firstly offered advice and then became involved with work on her album which she is currently working on. It was in fact her work with a UK soul legend Omar and play write Che Walker that brought her into contact with Rinkoff.
“I met Che Walker in 2010 and I went to audition for his play and it was kind of an accident because I did not at first realise it was for acting and I cannot act. I sat opposite this guy and I did some acting and he was like ‘yes thanks but no’ “. She laughs, “After he wanted to know what I did and I told him and played him something and he liked it. So since then we have written together on The Ballad Of Little Benny and it is really good and it has been commissioned by the Bush theatre and then there is the new show-Klooks Last Stand which is a love story between an older person and a young lady. Omar wrote all the men’s songs and I wrote all the women’s songs.”
On Omar: “It sounds cheesy but I love to learn. Working with him on Che’s project was really interesting to watch how he plays the piano but it was also a new experience because I am quite a control freak and so it is usually me who writes a song and bring it to the band and so to stand behind Omar and not be in that role was great-I also learnt some new chords!”
So with such great experiences behind her the interview turns to present day and Anoushka who is bristling with the confidence of someone who finally sees that a real opportunity is in their grasp. She is a lady with more mature tastes in music and her sound and subject matter is just that. There are elements of an Amy Winehouse savvy for transmitting a song on an emotional level without necessarily the levels of inner turmoil that came out in Winehouse’s music. Whatever comparisons that I or anyone else want to make however at heart she is a young fresh artist who is finally realising a dream.
“I am really excited to have an album coming and even if it goes tits up and I have to go back to my little old teaching job (which it won’t) then that is how it is.”