Interview: Yvonne Hercules
I love doing interviews with artists – afterwards I always feel so inspired! This time I was able to ask Yvonne Hercules, a singer and self-taught musician based in London, a few questions – and her answers really captivated me!
Old school blues, folk and alternative music are the main music genres that inspire her – as evident in her new single Roving. That is not all though: Add her incredibly soulful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics and I promise you will get hooked!
Read below to find out how she taught music instruments to herself, which current events influenced her to write Roving, and more!
First of all, how would you describe yourself to those who don’t know you and your music?
Hi, I’m a singer-songwriter who grew up in Cambridge, UK but am based in London. I would say that my music is a blend of Ambient-Folk, Blues; Soul & Electronic sounds. I pay a lot of attention to lyrics and this is something I like to do within my own music. My lyrics are littered with metaphors and imagery. I like to write about real-life experiences which have happened either to myself/people I know – or things that are going on in the world around us
You are a self-taught musician – did you find it rather easy to learn instruments by yourself or was it difficult to have the discipline to continue?
I think that the motivation to learn was always there and that’s what gave me the discipline to continue. I used to sit for hours practising (when I had the time to do so) and would find time somehow to play every day, even if it was only for 5 minutes.
“I always wonder whether there will ever be a day that I feel like i’ve reached the peak of my playing ability but then I remember reading something Jack White said that if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing it probably means you’re doing something right! ”
It’s been difficult trying to put the theory aspect of the technical aspect of music into play and this is something I’m still trying to get my head around! To be honest I definitely like I’m still learning everyday and most musicians probably feel the same.
When did you discover your talent in singing and decide to take the musical career path instead of becoming a dancer?
I had danced for years and although it was always my main creative interest I had always loved singing and writing too but always felt that I was never good enough to actually pursue it as a proper career so dismissed it as something I would always do but just on the side. It wasn’t until I made the decision to start to slowly put myself out there and let people hear my voice and my music that I began to feel motivated and realised that I was a lot more passionate about it than I had allowed myself to be. I think because of this, I started to invest more time in my music and it just felt right and I realised there wasn’t really anything I loved more than writing/playing not even dance.
The footage of Lightnin’ Hopkins performing was a turning point for you. What was it that fascinated you so much about it?
It was his ability to create something so emotively haunting but at the same time so raw and real that really fascinated me. I watched a documentary a while ago on the evolution of the Delta Blues which featured him and after this I went through youtube finding footage and recordings of his music. I loved how there were no gimmicks and no big fancy production elements. You’re just drawn in by his voice and delivery and the guitar.
Having in mind that your mother is Jamaican/Sierra Leonian and your Dad a Nigerian – are there any specific artists from those countries that you look up to? Which artists do you look up to in general, and why?
I would say that Bob Marley definitely had a big influence on my sound and songwriting. I used to listen to him a lot when I was growing up. I didn’t really have specific Nigerian artists that I listened to when I was younger, however I’ve recently started to listening to Nigerian Funk music artists such as Fela Kuti and William Onyeabor.
My musical influences range across lots of different genres and time periods. I have been heavily influenced by Blues pioneers such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bessie Smith whose vocal rawness and lyrical vulnerability I was drawn to but then also Folk legends such as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan because of their incredibly honest and beautiful songwriting. Modern day artists I am influenced by include Bon Iver, Laura Marling and Beach House whose music I love for different reasons but they have all influenced me in terms of my sound and writing. I also like a lot of Gospel and Soul music especially the old school Spirituals because of their harmonies and vocal layering.
With Roving you have released a very powerful track with honest lyrics that discuss a current issue of society – Recently there has been a lot of police brutality going on, especially in the United States, did you base it on the current events over there?
I think that the issues taking place in America in terms of police brutality definitely gave me the spark to write Roving but also I felt that the issue of police brutality was connected to a wider issue of how we perceive democracy especially in our Western society where many minority/disadvantaged groups are still subjugated.
…Also the accompanied music video to Roving is beautifully deep and definitely contains a true and strong message. Was it easy for you to visualize your ideas, and to find the perfect place to shoot it? How did the collaboration with the dancers in it evolve, did you know them before?
Eliot Jones (the videographer) and I worked together on the concept. He comes from an art background so is really conceptual and great at correlating ideas and themes. We actually found the space really last minute and had arranged to shoot at another location which didn’t work out but actually the space we did end up shooting in worked out perfectly for the purpose of the mood of the video. It was an abandoned victorian warehouse and was absolutely freezing! We spent most of the time in between takes trying to regain feeling in our feet!
“I really wanted to incorporate movement in one space to give the impression of freedom but it being constricted and defined by the space around you.”
I met Myron (the choreographer who also features in the video) a while ago on a dance related project, we hadn’t spoken for a while but I always remembered that he was an incredible dancer so I knew right away that I wanted him to be a part of the music video for Roving. Jan who features in the video is a good friend of mine. He came on board to actually do styling but has a dance background. I asked him last minute if he wanted to do some improvised choreography which he agreed to do and I’m so happy we did, he was so mesmerising to watch! I was introduced to Elizabeth through my sister whose an actor and had worked with Elizabeth on one of her projects. Elizabeth comes from an actor/movement and aerial based background so it was really interesting to see all the different things she was able to bring to the concept. She’s also incredibly flexible!
What are your plans for this year? Are you releasing new music soon?
An E.P. is definitely in the works and I am currently still in the writing phase for this. I am hoping to have this finalised and to start recording everything in the summer and it should be released not long after! I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated!
Watch and listen to Roving below:
Follow her on her socials: