UKM: Say a little about yourself.
MJ: I’m a singer/songwriter. I’ve always sung – for as long as I can remember but song writing is a more recent thing although I’d always loved writing. When I was growing up I loved writing stories and poems which I’d put into cards and, later on, I began to write the occasional song. But it was really only something I thought of now and again but never really did.
My former vocal coach encouraged me to start song writing properly but I wanted to write with someone so went on the hunt and that’s when I met, Ross Lorraine, the man I now write with. When I started song writing and I realised how much of a buzz I got from doing it, it was like a light bulb moment. I couldn’t believe I’d taken such a long time to start doing it.
UKM: How would you describe your music for the public audience if they have never heard you before.
MJ: I’d say it soulful blues, folk-jazz with country tinges.
UKM: Thinking back to early childhood, what was your first experience with music like?
MJ: Great. My dad loved music so was always playing his calypso, soca and reggae records in the house and calypso and soca were key at parties. Then there were Church hymns that he sang frequently and my dad liked the odd country record too. Jim Reeves was a popular choice.
He sang well but not professionally. He also played harmonica a little. I loved musical films too so I used to love watching lots of old movies and singing and dancing along to them. I was influenced by my older sisters as well who introduced me to soul.
My love of folk came much later on through Joni Mitchell then eventually Bob Dylan. And I developed an appreciation for blues and jazz through friends at university.
UKM: As a child growing up, music surrounds us; what type of music did you hear the most back then? How does it differ from what you listen to now?
MJ: It differs greatly. My dad’s musical taste was pretty limiting. I love calypso, reggae and soca but my taste has broadened a lot.
UKM: What made you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
MJ: It’s been a very slow gradual process realising and accepting that a career in music is what I want to have. My parents were pretty old school and would never have allowed me to entertain the idea of being a musician. I had to study, get a good job with a good pension so being a musician was ruled out really. But music has latched onto me.
Over the years I’d tried to push it to one side as just a hobby but eventually it’d find its way back into my life more seriously. During my time living in Paris, I allowed myself to explore this side of me and I really got a taste for performing and it was hard to turn my back on it when I came back to England. I really feel like music has chosen me.
UKM: What are your songs about?
MJ: Mostly about me and my own experiences. It’s the easiest way for me to write because then I’m simply putting down on paper what I feel and know. It’s also a good way of processing thoughts and feelings I otherwise wouldn’t deal with or talk about.
UKM: What do you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far in your musical career?
MJ: Making this record, Day Dawns, has really been an amazing experience and opened me up to a whole other world and made me realise just how much I enjoy making music. I really feel like there’s no turning back now.
UKM: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
MJ: To write more songs, to play more gigs to bigger audiences both here in the UK and worldwide. And introducing more and more people to my music.
UKM: If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry what would it be?
MJ: Actually, the changes I would like to see are happening very slowly. I’ve loved making my album, Day Dawns, because I’ve retained autonomy from start to finish. I oversaw the production process, decided on a concept for the look of the album and took control over how that happened. Had I been with a large record company I probably would have handed all over that decision making over to them.
That’s a really important part of the process for me. But it’s very costly so now that there are more and more sites which enable fans to contribute financially to an artist’s career development it makes it very possible to still retain this control with the assistance of those who enjoy your music – which is great. And from a fan’s perspective, it must feel great to know that you’ve played some part in making the production of a recording, happen.
UKM: Who are your favourite musicians?
MJ: There are many but: Amos Lee, Nina Simone, Ray Lamontagne, Joni Mitchell, Lizz Wright, Paolo Nutini, Eric Bibb (and on and on).
UKM: Do you perform in public?
UKM: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?
UKM: What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
MJ: Breathe. Lots of deep breathing.
UKM: How do you balance your music with other obligations – social obligations, children, job?
MJ: With difficulty but it’s possible if you really want it to be.
UKM: How do you rate your live performance ability? Do you feel better performing live or in the studio? What would you like to change or improve?
MJ: I love performing live and get such a buzz from it. It’s great connecting with others through music – especially when it’s mine.
UKM: If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead, alive, who would it be? Why?
MJ: Would love to perform with Amos Lee just because I love his music so much.
UKM: Thinking back to the very beginning of the band, how do your feel about your performance today and it is much different for you now than when you first started performing.
MJ: Yes, very different, I’m growing all the time as a performer which is great and what I want to be doing.
UKM: Do you currently have an agent, endorsement, record label, sponsor, etc.?
MJ: My album, Day Dawns, is released on my own label, Slickersounds.