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Florence Rawlings - The IndieLondon interview

Florence Rawlings

Interview by Rob Carnevale

FLORENCE Rawlings’ first single, The Only Woman in the World, was a rolling bluesy romp of a song that blends elements of country and Memphis soul with buoyant horns, rollicking keys, romantic yet raunchy lyrics and even a harmonica bridge that could easily have graced a Motown classic.

Signed to Dramatico Records (home of Katie Melua, Marianne Faithfull and Carla Bruni) Florence’s debut album A Fool In Love promises to offer an impressive debut of authentic soul, raw grooves and rhythm & blues that Music Week described as “a blend that could elevate her to the similar heady heights Melua enjoys”. She talks to IndieLondon about her hopes for it…

Q. How did it feel to be signed to Dramatico Records at such an early age, at the same time as someone like Katie Melua?
Florence Rawlings: Actually, I was introduced to Mike Batt when I was 13 but we started working together when I was 18 and officially signed when I was 20. Katie has had some amazing success so to be linked with Dramatico records like her, was obviously a very exciting experience.

Q. How were you first bitten by the singing bug? And when did you know you wanted to pursue it as a career?
Florence Rawlings: I caught the singing bug when I was 6, I would sit and watch the snowman on repeat for hours and from then on I starting attending singing classes. I performed professionally for the first time when I was 12 singing Summertime in a pub in Barnes and from that moment on I always knew that I wanted to be a singer.

Q. Which musicians/artists inspired you, and continue to inspire you?
Florence Rawlings: I’ve always been mightily influenced by music from the 60’s and general Motown music with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, and Mick Jagger.

Q. How was your recent showcase at Café de Paris in Soho? Was the reaction good? We’re sorry we missed you!
Florence Rawlings: It was a fantastic night with a great audience and was a well received gig. It’s a great venue – it feels quite theatrical so it’s a lot of fun to put on show there.

Q. And how was opening the Isle of Wight Festival? Are you looking forward to performing at various festivals throughout the summer? How do you find a festival crowd compares to the one at somewhere like Café de Paris?
Florence Rawlings: The wonderful thing about festivals is that everyone is there to have a really good time, listen to good music, chill out with their friends and family and so the crowds seem to generate a great atmosphere for all the acts. On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got gigs like Cafe de Paris, so there’s a different vibe from the audience, but they seemed to really enjoy themselves – so it was still a brilliant experience – just different.

Q. Is it daunting to take to the stage in front of so many people at a festival?
Florence Rawlings: I always get butterflies before I go on, but that’s a good thing because I always bubble with adrenaline, and as soon as I get on stage in front of my amazing band all my butterflies go.

Q. What has been your favourite concert memory so far? You mention in your PR that you’d sing for whoever would listen when growing up…
Florence Rawlings: The most recent gigs for me have been the most amazing. I think I’ve really grown up and developed over the past year and there was a period where I wasn’t gigging at all – I was just completely focused on the album – and so to be let loose once more on the stage after a couple of months off was really liberating. So, I’d probably have to say performing at my first festival and first gig for a long period of time, which was the Isle of Wight Festival, was the most fun and fills me with fond memories now on reflection despite it being so recent.

Q. The debut album, A Fool In Love, promises an intriguing mix of new songs and rediscovered gems? Was it fun to assemble? And how long did it take?
Florence Rawlings: The album is a combination of Mike Batt’s new songs, which he has written for me, and some classic songs which Mike and I found together whilst searching for some classics to bring back to life. Overall, it took a couple of months to assemble. We recorded the rhythm section [drums, bass, guitars, piano and my vocals] all live which gave it a real “authentic” feel and then after that the brass and backing vocals were added to the tracks.

Q. Did you pick out the cover versions? And what led you to Allen Toussaint’s Riverboat?
Florence Rawlings: Mike and I would research together and separately and then play the songs together to see whether or not we thought it would be able to fit onto the album. I think Riverboat was one of the gems that Mike found.

Q. Likewise, Chuck Berry’s You Can’t Catch Me? Why that record? It must have been fun to record?
Florence Rawlings: We listened to the version by the Rolling Stones and it immediately seemed to characterise the ‘swampy’ feel that Mike and I wanted for the album.

Q. Do early comparisons to Katie Melua add to the pressure on you as you approach the release of your debut material? Or are you happy with them because of the awareness it’ll raise?
Florence Rawlings: Stylistically, our music is actually quite different, so I don’t feel any pressure. Katie has obviously had great success and it’s exciting to have that same team behind my project.

Q. How do you view the Internet in terms of how it’s re-shaping the industry? Is it good, bad or both?
Florence Rawlings: I think it’s good as it’s making music easily accessible and gets unknown artists more recognition. Discovering new music means that more people are likely to go and see these new artists live. It’s a tough job to try and stop illegal downloads, it just means that perhaps the industry will move more towards live music, which could be a great thing.

Q. Do you ever Google yourself?
Florence Rawlings: Hasn’t everyone?! I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t!

Q. Are you bracing yourself for the media attention that may follow the release of the album?
Florence Rawlings: That comes with the territory I suppose. The most important thing is the music of course.

Q. Will you be touring after the release of the album and the festival circuit?
Florence Rawlings: That’s the plan. There are constant developments with the live schedule and playing live is what I love.

Q. When you’re not singing and touring, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
Florence Rawlings: My favourite things to do in my spare time are spending time with my friends and family, and going to clubs to dance and generally let my hair down. Other than that I try to keep healthy and active by going to the gym and doing sport, walking my dog, going to see comedy and going to good gigs. I try to do something new and interesting everyday…it’s an aim of mine.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iTunes player at the moment?
Florence Rawlings: Aqualung – Brighter Than Sunshine (one of my all time favourite songs!)
Detroit Spinners – It’s A Shame (a Motown classic)
Blur – There’s No Other Way
Little Boots – New In Town
Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
Amy Winehouse – Addicted
Babyshambles – I Wish
The Beach Boys – Sail On Sailor
Bedouin Soundclash – When The Night Feels My Song
Fatboy Slim – Praise You

View photos of Florence Rawlings

  1. I saw her supporting Booker T….She is seriously fit.

    Danny    Aug 4    #