Amy Gadiaga has arrived

Written by | Interviews, News, Women in Jazz Media

Bassist, vocalist and composer Amy Gadiaga represents everything that is new and exciting in today’s jazz scene. Nominated last year as best newcomer by the Parliamentary Jazz Awards and signed by Jazz Re:Freshed, I have been thrilled to follow and support Amy’s work. Performing to a sold out and very excited audience at last years London Jazz Festival events, Amy not only demonstrates that she is one to watch but that she has arrived – and what an arrival!

Born in Paris and based in London having completed her degree at the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of music and Dance, Amy beautifully combines influences from Betty Carter and Wayne Short to D’Angelo and Michael Jackson and celebrates art, freedom and black pride in her performances. Her critically acclaimed debut and Jazz FM track of the week ‘Everything I Do’ demonstrated a thirst for her artistry and with a partnership with Fender and her recently released EP All Black Everything, there is much to explore!

You were born in Paris but moved to London to study at Trinity. How do you find life as a musician in London compared to Paris? 

I was born in the outskirts of Paris which is called the Banlieue. It’s important to know that the banlieue unlike Paris is deprived from a lot of opportunity academically and culturally amongst other things. So, I would sometimes go to Paris but never felt like I belonged there. Also, I moved to London when I was just 18 so I didn’t experienced Paris as an adult, but I did go to a few jams. I can say that London is much more open to artistry and collaboration. I’d bump into someone, and they would give me a chance. I don’t think that could happen that easily in France but on a more positive note, I think that in France people are more inclined to excellence and quality in my opinion. Things tend to feel more real there and less surface level.

You studied double bass, but singing has become really important to you. Can you tell us how singing became part of your work?

I always sang at school but never ever thought I could do it professionally as I couldn’t identify with any popular singers at the time. So, I left it alone and focused on learning instruments. In first year of conservatoire, I had to learn a large quantity of standards in a short amount of time and singing the head in the practice room really helped. I could already sing and play at the same time because I’m an Esperanza Spalding’s fan but my rhythm teacher at the time ( Pat Davey) told me that this was a unique skill and that I should explore it further. A year later in 2019 I joined the roundhouse choir after a massive audition was held, and I got in with 2 other singers so that made me believe in myself as a potential serious singer.

You play double bass and electric bass, but when I attended your sell out gig at the London Jazz Festival, you played double bass for the whole night. Do you have a preference and how do the different basses make you feel when you play them?

I prefer double bass at this moment. Electric bass has been an obsession when I was younger but is now linked to me migrating to the U.K, leaving my family behind and for a long time I couldn’t play it without feeling some kind of bitterness. I completely stopped playing it until very recently when I got the privileged to go on tour with this incredible artist Jonah Yano. For the first time in years, I thoroughly enjoyed playing electric bass and I feel like I’m ready to rediscover the instrument. Double bass is still my preference because of how giving it is. You don’t have to plug it or do anything fancy to receive the warmest sound from it. It’s interesting to play.

There are still not many female bassists and historically, this has been an issue – we need more powerful role models, like you! Have you faced any issues, as a female bassist? 

I think that there’s plenty of female bassist nowadays especially in London. I haven’t faced any issues as a bassist per say but just a feminine presence I did struggle at conservatoire which is a male dominated environment. Though my classmates were all lovely, very few of them cared to include me in anything. I was the only female instrumentalist in my year and there were 2 other ladies that were singers. I can recall the moment that made me think “I better go out there and create something because if I stick around my classmates, I won’t get to play much.’’. One of my classmates had a gig at Oliver’s Jazz Bar, Greenwich organised by the conservatoire and he invited everyone in year to play on different tunes. Everyone but us ladies. I was so cheery and supporting the band on stage until I realised that my whole year got to play except from us.

Your influences include ‘old school jazz singers tradition of musicians such as Betty Carter or Wayne Shorter and  and modern bops of artists such as d’angelo and Kimbra’. Who inspires you musically and shaped your artistry?  Can you tell us what it is about their work that inspires you?

My main music hero is none other than Michael Jackson. I was in elementary school when he died, and my parents loved him, so I was very shocked to see him go that way. One thing that my mother always used to say when he was still alive is ‘He’s a genius but he’s making terrible decisions’. Over the years I became fascinated with the idea of being such a fine-tuned being, and yet have such struggle to live a normal life. One of the main reasons why he’s my hero, is that through all his difficulties, he never stopped creating and getting better at his craft.

Another hero of mine is Betty Carter, a true pioneer, uncompromising jazz legend and unique singer. Her way of doing it is so distinct and that’s what draws me to her so much. I got into B.C the very first day of Conservatoire when Cleveland Watkiss, one of the teachers, recommended a tune for her. Later, a jazz journalist told me about her allegedly having to work as a cashier rather than adapt her sound to achieve more commercial success at the end of the bebop era. I love this so much.

I also am a big Stevie Wonder fan mainly because of his compositions. King Krule because of his writing, Graham Coxon for the same reasons. Twinkie Clark because her music heals and George Harrisson for the same reason. Sampha for everything. I have also love kpop since my early teens and Japanese culture. I think that I grew up in a very uncolorful era in french culture and I found comfort in Mangas and east asian pop culture as a kid and am still very into it. Some of my favorites are Nctdream, BiBi, Youra, Naruto’s theme songs.

Your first single ‘Everthing I Do’, released in August 2022, talks about purpose and people pleasing. Can you tell us about this?

To be honest I do not remember the mindset I was in when I wrote the song, but I can confidently say that I’m not a people pleaser! I do things in my own time and am quite the opposite so maybe I wrote this song for someone else…

Your next single, ‘Nephi’, released April 2023, talks about ‘self-awareness and the process of identifying negative thoughts’. Is this something you have struggled with or seen people struggle with? 

Well same again, I wrote this song so long ago (2020). It goes to show how long it takes to release material as an independent artist as it’s very expensive when you want it to look right. But going back to the song, which is the favourite piece I wrote, I remember playing piano in the practice room and the song wrote itself very quickly. It was about embracing darkness.

You are a brilliant role model to many embodying female empowerment, beauty and artistry. Do you have any words of wisdom to women out there or perhaps young girls thinking that they are not seen?

Thank you that’s very kind! For me growing up, I would spend hours online digging for inspiration. I found it Animes, in Michael Jackson and old hello kitty tribute blogs. I think that as long as you are curious and open minded, the world is your oyster because everybody used to tell me that the life I’m living now was not even an option. Therefore, if you’re creative and keep inspired, there shouldn’t be much holding you back. Also, don’t expect anything from anyone. If people want to help you, nice but don’t wait on them or rely on them to make things happen.

And finally, congratulations on your new release!

I’m actually super grateful today to all the people who contributed and believed in the magic of creating with me. When I was younger I never thought I could be a solo artist because it wasn’t something I’ve ever really seen happen around me; but art was and still is my obsession and my comfort. All Black Everything is an invitation to be yourself. It’s an hommage to individuality, to the blackbirds and the black sheeps and the people that don’t fit in.

All Black Everything was released on Jazz re:freshed records on April 5th and is available to purchase here

Black and White photos by Benedikt Achmed

Colour photo by Fiona Ross

Last modified: April 17, 2024