When and how did you come to start playing music?
I started taking drum lessons when I was eight. A teacher came into our school and started giving lessons. There was never a time I could remember where I didn't want to play the drums so it all fitted in very well for me.
Tell us a bit about the path of your musical development.
When I started playing drums at primary school I was in a group with 3 of my friends and we had a lesson together. As I got older and went to secondary school I played in all the school ensembles, notably my school jazz band was run by local saxophonist Chris Aldridge and I found him very inspiring. I'd always been interested in improvised music and it was great to learn from an accomplished improviser like him. As I got older and was studying at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College I also joined some adult amateur groups such as the Shrewsbury Light Orchestra and Wellington Brass Band alongside some paid gigs playing for musicals and gigging regularly with The Jamie Brownfield Quintet playing jazz standards. At the time Jamie was 13 and I was seventeen. Jamie's now made quite a name for himself as a trumpet player, particularly on the trad scene, another player of note from that group was Joe Northwood who is a great musician and recognised name on the Cardiff scene.
How did you get into jazz and why did you choose to focus on studying/playing jazz?
Jazz always appealed to me because improvising was a very natural thing for me. It just made sense to make things up. It wasn't until I joined the school jazz band with Chris Aldridge that I really knew anything about jazz. Until that point I'd only really heard classical music at home, folk music from going to ceilidhs and rock and pop that all my friends listened too. I chose to study jazz because I wanted to study music performance to a high level and it was a much better fit for me than a classical course. Although I play jazz I primarily consider myself a musician who likes all types of interesting music rather than a jazz musician per say.
When you are composing, what are the key elements you aim to incorporate in your music?
For me melody is the most important thing, if I can't hear something and hum the tune I have little interest in listening to it so why would anyone else? Then of course rhythm next (I am a drummer!). When I write for my quartet I try to keep everything simple. I have a band of great improvisers and I want to make it easy for them to do that. I don't go for tricky changes or odd time signatures very often for that reason.
Which musicians have had a key influence on you and your music?
The jazz drummers that I really love are Art Blakey and Elvin Jones and in both cases it's all about their feel. But over my lifetime of playing the drums I've also been influenced by these drumers in these particular outfits, I've listed them chronologically: Zac Hanson (Hanson), Dom Howard (Muse), Roger Taylor (Queen), Travis Barker (Blink 182), Seb Rochford (Acoustic Ladyland/Polar Bear), Paul Motian (Bill Evans/Keith Jarrett), Joshua Tillman (Fleet Foxes) and John Bonham (Led Zepplin). I like drummers that play what the music requires of them, where the song and their part are inconceivable without one another.
My teachers growing up have also all been massively influential on me and I'm very grateful to them- Claire Stone, Pekka Tanskanen, Andy Richards, Gene Calderazzo, Malcom Garrett, Tony Levin, Jeff Willams, Andy Bain and Paul Clarvis.
As for composers I love anyone who writes a great tune but particularly people like John Taylor, Robin Pecknold, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin and Kenny Wheeler.
If you were introducing a friend to jazz music for the first time, what 3 artists or albums would you recommend to them?
Kind Of Blue- Miles Davis
Moanin'- Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Music for Large and Small Ensembles- Kenny Wheeler.
Please tell us a bit about an upcoming/future project.
I've recorded a short album with my quartet and I'll be doing some gigs with that later in the year. I'm also in the process of recording a second Album with my other project 'Boat to Row' which is a collaborative Folk/Rock group. We've got a tour coming up in March and April and we'll hopefully be releasing the new album in the Autumn.
What key advice would you give to young female musicians planning to build a career as professional musician?
Don't be put off by the macho environment of the musical (particularly jazz) world. What you have to say with your music is just as important and vital. Be the change you want to see and believe in yourself. Take criticism on the chin and keep going.