On April 12th, get ready to be enchanted by the new voice of soul music. Jalen N’Gonda will perform at Gardenstate for this year’s third concert produced by Light Fm Productions in collaboration with Beirut Jam Sessions. We got to chat with the star on the rise about his life in Liverpool, songwriting, his sixties sound and his first stage experience. Here is what he had to say.
BBS/ Was music always around while growing up in Maryland? Did your parents play a role in your early musical influences?
JN’G/ Music was around me to an extent. I didn’t come from a musical family but I grew up going to church where we would sing Gospel and Hymns. But outside church my folks listened to music on the radio and whatever they owned at the times.
BBS/ There has been a revival in 60’s fuelled sound in the last few years. What is it about that era that is particularly inspiring to the new generation of soul and R&B artists?
JN’G/ Like all music and styles they come and go and back again. I think soul music from the 60’s was very important for rock n roll and pop music which allowed artist to sing with joy and pain and to write about it as well. So I think whenever someone from our generation hears that, they cant help but be inspired.
BBS/ How has life in Liverpool influenced your music?
JN’G/ By hearing stories that people tell. The music that comes out of the bars and pubs. The fellow musicians i met along the way.
BBS/ What can you tell us about your first live gig on stage?
JN’G/ My first live gig on stage was back in Washington D.C as a guitarist for a band called Carbon Dioxide. I taught them a song I wrote called « Don’t Just Sit There » and when we performed it people loved it. It was a great feeling.
BBS/ You were invited to open for the legendary Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at Liverpool’s Art Club. You also opened for the likes of Lauryn Hill, Jamie Woon and Laura Mvula. What have you learned from artists of that caliber?
JN’G/ I learned about their stamina and how they can put on such a show and do the same exact thing the very next day without breaking a sweat and how the songs that they wrote are so connecting with the audience. I wanted to do the same
BBS/ On songwriting Burt Bacharach said “It’s important that you visit your worksite every day, even if it’s just to improvise, touch the piano, play some chords. Be in touch with your music.” Do you agree with that?
JN’G/ Absolutely yes
BBS/ Which one of your tracks is your favorite song to perform live and why?
JN’G/ My favorite to perform would have to be a song called « It’s Kind Of Wonderful » a song that i had written with fellow singer/songwriter Mylo Waters. The song has a huge sound like those Phil Spector records.
BBS/ How would you describe your live shows to our readers ?
JN’G/ My live shows are dancing-friendly, but allow to chill and just nod your head to as well.
BBS/ What’s your idea of happiness?
JN’G/ I guess happiness for me means that there’s not another moment where you need more happiness. You don’t ask for anything more or anything less.
Here is Jalen N’Gonda performing his song “I Need You” live on a grand piano in the St. Nicholas Church in Liverpool.