Feature on Anoushka Lucas a Multi-Talented Exhibitionist.
Nicola Greenbrook went underground to the 606 Club in Chelsea, London to meet singer-songwriter Anoushka Lucas, hear about her upcoming album and watch her heat up the stage. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.
The prospect of meeting someone you’ve admired for some time is always a bit daunting. Arriving at London’s 606 Club to meet Anoushka Lucas as she rehearsed for her performance later that evening, I needn’t have worried. She jumped up off of the piano stool, bounded over with a beaming smile and greeted me like I was an old friend rather than simply a writer she’d exchanged a few emails with. Warm, funny and very down-to-earth, my nerves soon completely dissipated.
Anoushka is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist born and based in London with her own brand of melodic jazz-pop. An Oxford-graduate with a languages degree in Italian and Russian, she possesses the kind of natural talent most of us can only dream of. Post-graduation and while doing five years of gigging she began her upward trajectory with the release of her self-titled debut EP in 2009. A sophomore EP followed in 2011, Left to My Own Devices, which features the striking composition Runaway With Me. She has written music with playwright Che Walker for a number of productions, including ‘Klook’s Last Stand’ where she collaborated with UK soul legend Omar Lye-Fook MBE and ‘The Etienne Sisters’ which had its premiere at Theatre Royal Stratford East in July 2015.
I first came across Anoushka at the inaugural Jazz FM Love Supreme Festival in 2013 where she had deservedly won their Discovery Competition and then supporting AverySunshine at the Islington Academy in 2014, and had followed her progression ever since.
Before taking to the stage, we caught up about her current projects and a new album is imminent. Working with Martin Terefe of Kensaltown Studios for the past 18 months, they have created a concept based on her own unique sound ‘just louder and a bit jazzier’. As Anoushka explained, although at least an EP’s worth of material exists and it is coming soon, an album release date isn’t yet confirmed as she wants to take time to seek the right label. Live shows have naturally wound down to allow work on her new material, but Anoushka admitted she is ‘a complete show-off and loves gigging’ so fortunately for us that winter’s night we had a show. As she dashed off to change she promised ‘the purest version of Anoushka Lucas tonight’. Lucky us.
The 606 Club is an enchanting venue with a speakeasy vibe and an intimacy that makes you feel like you’re hanging out in someone’s front room. Just a really cool one with exposed brickwork, prints of Dylan and the Stones hanging on russet walls and a striking mural of jazz greats at the back of the club.
Anoushka was joined on stage by ‘her enormous band’, comprised solely of the brilliant bass-guitarist Rick Biddulph (drummer Ben Reed sadly absent having had to fly to the US to be with an American star) but the size of the band was by no means a drawback. At the piano, she showcased effortless playing and a silky sound with opening track Far From There and with lyrics like ‘I don’t behave this way at home’ her music evokes a sensation of escape and forbidden love, a welcome departure from the quotidian.
Daydreams provided ample opportunity to flaunt her voice, one of great depth and quality that effortlessly moves from soft to powerful and has the occasional London inflection, and Get Up, a motivating call to pick yourself back up when life gets too tough, was soulful and uplifting. There was a natural on-stage rapport between her and Rick as they performed their acoustic set and this suited the jazz club’s relaxed ambience.
Anoushka is also an accomplished guitar player and momentarily left the piano to perform one of her new tracks. ‘All my guitar songs are sexy or angry, all my piano songs are sad…’ she said with a smile, and Love on Me was definitely the sexy kind. With sassy lyrics (‘boys in t-shirts wandering by’ and ‘ain’t it better when your woman’s feeling hot) and sultry tones it was exquisite. Something About You carried on the steamy theme ‘even though the room is heavily populated by my Mum and her friends’ she said with a grin (we’ve had sex too!’ one of them quipped). What we really needed was a hot, breezy, lazy afternoon, although late night Chelsea did its best. It was note-perfect and intoxicating, as was Heartbeat, about falling in love again (‘there’s something in the way we kiss that makes me think we’re made for this’).
She may give good sultry, but Anoushka is also brilliantly sassy – she’s not afraid to document her own life experiences through her music using intelligent, punchy lyrics and clever composition. She chucks in some goodnatured swearing along the way, but it is always light-hearted and never brash. There was a lot of laughing and smiling, from her and from the audience, thanks to her colloquial style and to be honest if I could sing like that, I’d be smiling too.
Later, we were given a taste of her ‘angry’ guitar tracks, but they were delivered with a mischievous smile rather than acridity; Dictionary is about a silly dishonest boy ‘whose jealousy reeked of someone in love’ and in Temper, we learn about someone who has mistreated her but can’t bare seeing her with her fingers in someone else’s hair. Back on the piano for the gutsy Hey Sweetheart (Sexual Harassment Samba), she showcased not only her powerful voice but razor sharp wit. A based-on-real-life track about sexism in the city and a poor girl who ‘got a reputation ‘cause she got an education’ it was empowering.
It was a return to the evocative with I’ll be Your Woman about about going ‘some place further where they can’t recall our names’. Anoushka is half-French and so she could get away with introducing the seductive Chanson L’Hiver with ‘all French songs are about lost love and leaves’. She sang entirely in French with ease and a faint smile on her face. The melody played by Rick on the sitar was haunting and you could have heard a pin drop in the club.
Brixton Hill is a standout track and one that resonated with me most when I first heard Anoushka perform it live; maybe it’s my deep affection for London or just the fact it is a beautiful song. A sultry love letter to the district where she used to live, it’s about welcoming the change in summer season and celebrating the sunrise on Brixton Hill.
Anoushka performed a bumper twenty-three songs on the night with note-perfect ease and tireless energy, with just a short break in the middle, but each song was so different, so instantly likeable that everyone’s attention was held. The compere asked us if we wanted an encore, and it was an emphatic yes. With The Easiest Time she seamlessly transitioned a low-tempo introduction into an upbeat track and the crowd were still buzzing. Two encores apparently are rare at 606, but the crowd still had an appetite for more. Yet Seasons was to be her night cap song as ‘some of us live on the underground’, and this end-of-summer track, beautifully wistful and reflective soon put any thoughts of the District Line far from my mind.
Anoushka showed her gratitude to us all for being such a warm and attentive audience and even took the time to come over and thank me, and wish me luck on my journey back East.
This was a gig with a lot to offer; location, exuberant acoustic set, sensuous tracks and sassy delivery. Overall, it showcased an unique artist to be inspired by, to admire, who undoubtedly has the knockout looks but uses her brain and musical talent to shine amongst a saturated market. I personally am very excited about the album. Anoushka told me it will feature lots of new and different tracks but the songs on the night can be found online if you search hard for them, including this performance of Brixton Hill for Sofar New York. She promises to release more of the old favourites soon for existing and soon-to-be fans.
Look out world (and silly boys). Anoushka is coming to get you.
Nicola Greenbrook has her own great personal blog right here: http://www.materialwhirlblog.com/
Kalpesh Patel has more concert photography on his personal Flickr website here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate/
The whole photoshoot is also here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Anoushka-Lucas/G0000SnAyJfttrMU