Acclaimed and local-ish singer Sara Colman tells us what she’s made of.
What We’re Made Of is the latest album from (mostly) Birmingham-based musician and writer Sara Colman.
Released via the Digbeth-based Stoney Lane label – whose slowly expanding catalogue includes Live At The Spotted Dog and releases from Gonimoblast, Ben Lee Quintet and Jonathan Silk – the collection has been several years in development.
“Sam from Stoney Lane was very very supportive, and waited at least three years,” says Colman, who divides her time between Birmingham Bristol and London, of the long-player’s long gestation. “The album was s’posed to be finished in 2016 …”
An accomplished collection of originals, co-writes and choice covers, What We’re Made Of combines Colman’s experience of performing jazz standards with her formative love of late 1960s/ early-1970s singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones (specifically Rickie’s first two albums), all drafted with the assistance of a group of well-trusted musicians – among them pianist Rebecca Nash, drummer Jonathan Silk, guitarist (and partner) Steve Banks, and brass player Percy Pursglove.
“This time around I realised I didn’t have to do it on my own,” she says of her collaborative approach, adding that their input and additional financial support afforded her the time to craft the material and not downscale her ambition.
“Getting an Arts Council England grant really boosted my confidence, and there were a lot of people around saying, ‘C’mon, you can do this, think big, what would you like to create?’“ enthuses Sara, a vocal tutor at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire who also recorded the material there and at studio facilities in Bristol.
“I had the luxury of being able to block book [studio time] out and spend 2-3 days and work on a couple of songs, then go back a few weeks late and look at the vocals. Just spending time! It took about six months to get the album recorded, and that was OK, it became what it needed to become.
“I think it evolved over that time. I had the Big Idea, but not the detail. The detail I let take care of itself…”
Opening with the aptly titled It Begins and title track (which essentially sets out the album’s core themes), before concluding with an unexpected cover of Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years (“Paul Simon just leaves you with a bit of warmth, it works,” she says), it’s a well-sequenced body of work – best enjoyed in that specific sequence.
“I don’t know if I could have done it any other way,” she says. “I think it’s a generational thing, I grew up listening to albums that you turned over on a turntable. You could sing the next note, you know what came next you’d listen to them so much, you knew the order. I liked that, even now, I like to listen to new albums that are like that. I’m not somebody who skips through tracks I tend to listen to the whole thing. Therefore, that was what I wanted to create.
“Messing around with this album, there were definitely orders that weren’t right; this order felt like it said things in the right order. It had to be like that.”
Jazzlines presents Sara Colman: What We’re Made Of, Saturday 10th 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.