The new album from songwriter Sara Colman sees her calling on her love of the ‘classic’ songwriting of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones.
It was listening to those writers, who cut through during the late-1960s and early-1970s, alongside records by Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald, which lay the foundations for Sara’s third album, What We’re Made Of.
“Classic songwriting is probably songs which sit on top of structures which are commonly used,” Sara says, explaining the term. “That can be an A-B-A-B structure. Blues, that structure we recognise. That’s what I mean rather than something that’s been through-composed, or something which has less of a structural subliminal awareness.
“For me that means the standards I studied, ’70s singer / songwriters, where that whole confessional thing came about.”
What We’re Made Of sees Colman – who released her debut album 20 years ago, and has subsequently worked with such artists as Laura Mvula, Mahalia and Liane Carroll – also embrace the narrative thrust adopted by many of those ‘classic’ writers.
“I guess the lyric is the thing – generally I think I tend to write less abstract lyrics … they have to have stories in them; I write less snapshots, I definitely write a narrative, that’s a classic thing, rather than a modern, snapshot impression.”
However, she does slightly veer from that template occasionally, notably with Open (a co-write with guitarist and partner Steve Banks), and Dreamer (a co-write with fellow pianist Rebecca Nash).
“Open and Dreamer are a little less like that maybe. The music was driven by other people. My inspiration wasn’t the starting point for those I wasn’t thinking about a story, and the music itself had less definition in it. They’re not completely abstract, but less structured than what I may have chosen for myself.”
Jazzlines presents Sara Colman: What We’re Made Of, Saturday 10 November 2018, CBSO Centre, Berkley Street, Birmingham B1 2LF. Details: www.thsh.co.uk
What We’re Made Of is out now via Stoney Lane Records.
Bandcamp link to album: