The many layers of LaurellFriday, December 14, 2018
BY KEVIN JACKSON
Clifton “Specialist” Dillon is known for nurturing breakout artistes. He helped put Shabba Ranks, Patra and Cobra on the Billboard charts in the 1990s and has also made Alborosie and OMI international figures.
His latest protégé is London-based singer Laurell, who is is currently promoting the songs Crazy Love and Think About That, both produced by Dillon.
“My work is inspired by life experiences, people and the culture among other things. I am inspired by the way music moves me and the world. But as an artiste there is nothing like telling your story through art. I'm extremely passionate about music, even when I'm not in the studio,” said Laurell in an interview with Jamaica Observer's weekly Splash.
The 25-year-old grew up in West London, a region renowned for cultural diversity. Though that helped shape her appreciation for different cultures, Laurell said she draws on her Caribbean heritage to reach an international audience.
“My roots are there,” she says. “My father's from Grenada and my mother's Jamaican, so I grew up immersed in the music and culture of the Caribbean. It's where my heart is, because my mum sang in church and my dad knew many musicians like Jay Kay and members of Soul II Soul. Jamiro-quai used to rehearse at our house and my uncle, who was a bass player, was always practicing there too,” she explained, adding: “I heard a lot of funk and Acid Jazz through them and then I inherited a heavy reggae influence from my mum, who used to play Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Luciano... you name it. I heard everything from hardcore dancehall to Bob Marley, so I was lucky to have that experience.”
Laurell attended Hammersmith College in Central London, where she studied composition and performance.
“I was the R&B singer in the class who also liked pop and reggae, yet my teacher would put me with other rockers or maybe a jazz band. I took part in jam sessions, and that is when I began to understand what improvisation is all about. It was amazing. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I wasn't just listening to different kinds of music – I was actually singing with people who specialised in them,” she recalled.
Crazy Love and Think About That were recorded earlier this year, three years after she toured the world with OMI who was high on the hit song, Cheerleader, and Dillon as her mentor.
Her songs, she points out, are from the heart.
“I bring reality to the table; I bring truth, honesty, and relatability which is the only way I know how. Working with Specialist and his team has also pushed me musically, pushed me to study my pen more, write and experiment in the process. I bring the layers of a female, the vulnerable, the confident, the sassy, the everything that we feel and who we have to be. My music has many different layers.”
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