Our May Bank holiday had a new soundtrack to road test. The bounds of #CLICsLIVENOISE are expanding and, brilliantly, discovering all sorts of unconventional creations. Two weeks ago, I saw the jazz scene gain a bright young star. London-born songstress, Paula James, is setting her sights on a whole new stage having cut her teeth performing classically in London, Norway and Italy. Guitar wielding Paula draws her inspiration from genre-defining female jazz artists as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. When faced with our hard hitting inquisition, she prefaced her answers with a superbly ballsy personal statement…
“I’m a dog person and aside from a few foibles, a very happy, well-adjusted, totally responsible woman.”
When and why did you start playing?
I started playing guitar when I was 8 years old and had lessons at school. I had tried the violin for a year before that but I think the noise of me practicing the violin was a little hard on the family, so my aunt Karen gave me a guitar and I never looked back.
What band name alter egos have you tried out on your musical journey?
I always wanted a really sophisticated name when I was growing up and thought I could be called something like Clara Fox, but I’d never get away with it, I am no Ms Fox!
What was the first tune(s) you learned?
I was learning Spanish & Classical guitar at school but the first thing I taught myself to play all those years ago was the Bond-theme tune Monty Norman one. I remember being really impressed that I was able to manage both rhythms at the same time. Such a nerd.
What is the most embarrassing album in your music library?
You know, I’m not really embarrassed by my rather eclectic music library, and that’s not because I’ve got the coolest albums (far from it). It’s just that I’m appreciative of how even the strangest albums have influenced me. Whether it’s Dolly Parton Slipcase, Collie Buddz, or a talking book of Star Trek Next Generation (I warned you, nerd), it has all helped to shape me and I’m happy to acknowledge that.
How do you handle a mistake on stage?
I smile and carry on. If ever I make a mistake you’ll see me grin, it’s not the most professional way to deal with it, but it takes the pressure off, and usually goes down fine with a happy audience. I am really bad for corpsing though!
Who or what is your ultimate influence, musical or otherwise?
That’s harder to answer than I thought it’d be. My family is very supportive and understanding, and without my other half I wouldn’t be able to do what I do, so they have the greatest influence over me. However, a lot of my songs wouldn’t exist without the lubricating qualities of booze!
What scares you most in the world?
If we’re talking, “what’s most likely to make me go from relaxed to totally freaked out in a matter of seconds?”, then I have to admit that ladybirds freak me the fuck out, especially en mass! Everyone thinks they’re lovely and pretty, but then their shiny shells split in two and these black leathery wings start flapping away. They really make my skin crawl.
If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?
My superhero power would have to be mind reading. I’d love to experience how other people’s brains work, but I’d also need the ability to turn it on and off at will, otherwise I’d probably go mad.
Where and when would you travel back in time to perform?
I’d go back to LA in 1931 to perform with Louis Armstrong in front of a crowd of Hollywood stars. It would be a strange and trying time due to my race and gender and the state of the world, but it would have been an electric place to perform.
If I gave you an elephant where would you hide it?
Well, I’d have to leave it outside it’d never fit in my tiny flat, and I do have an array of scarves, so I’d have to hide it under a rainbow of scarves and pashminas and hope whoever’s looking for it is easily bamboozled by colour.
Which instruments do you play?
In order of how well I play them, I play the guitar, guitar-ulele, mandolin, ocarina (yep, like Link), piano, kazoo… Rock Band guitar… I really thought this list would be longer. That’s disappointing.
Crunchy or smooth?
Smoooooooth! Definitely smooth, that way when you eat too much in one go, it kinda glues your tongue to the roof of your mouth, right?
If you could have anyone locked in a room so that you could torment them for a day, whom would you choose and how would you torment them?
I’d take a (or any) world leader who is actively working to regress the progress made in areas of social justice and lock them in a room and force them to listen compassionately to the stories of those negatively affected by the decisions they’ve made, in the hopes of altering their perspectives.
What was the last lie you told?
I don’t have reason to lie very much, but I am trying to stop smoking at the moment, under the watchful eye of my better half who stopped smoking years ago (and sometimes he’s super preachy). So, while I try very hard to be honest when he asks whether I’ve smoked that day, sometimes I’ll fib, just so I don’t have to see that look in his eye. I guess I won’t be able to do that anymore.
Paula James ‘Shelter EP’ hit the sound waves on May 19th… get to listening.