KNEWYU Interviews Tracy Kashi

Singer

Traci Kashi is a mother, and singer from London. I came across her music from the hit Television period series, The Halcyon. It features a 45 second snippet of this stunning ladies voice which is perfect because it leaves you wanting more. It leaves you wondering who is this person as I don’t think I’ve heard her voice before, but whoever she is, I want to know because sooner or later, everyone is going to know about her and she is going to be everywhere!

So, to feed into my curiosity, I searched YouTube and found that one person had uploaded a video of the intro The Halcyon. It didn’t display the name of the artist but as I scrolled through the comments, one stood out to me. It was by Tracy Kashi who was explaining that she sang the song with the great Samuel Sim and that it was called Hourglass and was available on streaming. Well, that was all I needed!

Tracy is such a humble lady and was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions we had about music genres, being a mother, the struggles of the industry, as well as things aspiring singers should take into account. Check out the interview we did with her below!

NADINE: PLEASE TELL US YOUR NAME, WHERE YOU’RE FROM AND WHAT YOU DO.

Tracy: My name is Tracy Kashi. I am a former solicitor, mum of 2, session singer from North London.

N: HOW DID YOU GET INTO MUSIC? WHY JAZZ?

T: I grew up with classical music and Sephardi Religious music. The Sephardi sound is a mix of Jewish and Spanish. I played classical violin into my teens and sang with my dad every Friday night around the dinner table. Madonna and George Michael and high 80’s pop was around but loved singing along to opera! I became a musical foodie: gorging on Sugar Cubes, Nina Simone, Irving Berlin and David Bowie. So plenty of different influences there.

I’ve never been a proper jazz junkie like some of my friends but I love mucking about in different genres. I’ve done modern opera, musical theatre, gospel and world music. Singing in French, Hebrew, and Spanish is one of my favourite things to do. There is a freedom in jazz though that can be a precious and playful thing in the right hands. I always kept my hand in music by session singing for writers and doing backing vocals for friends with bands. I think I was too pessimistic though to ever think I could make a career of it. After finishing my law studies I started doing singing workshops and one of the teachers invited me to join a showcase of students. An agent was there and we started working together. It was a dream that quickly turned sour as the realities of constant auditioning made me paranoid about my weight, height, skin colour, teeth, curly hair as well as eroding any confidence I had in my talent. Ask any jobbing actor or session singer what its like and they’ll probably tell you the same thing. There was enormous pressure to enjoy the few jobs you were lucky enough to get but invariably it was a challenge to appreciate the artistic qualities of hard sell commercials and truly dreadful fringe theatre. By the time I made it to a West End production I was so exhausted emotionally I couldn’t appreciate what a privilege it was.

After that I wanted to focus on training so I worked with Donna Sotto Morettinni at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and then with Mary King at the Royal Festival Hall. I gained invaluable insights into different genres and learnt crucially how to view my voice as an instrument and not as a defenceless window into my soul. I also finally learnt to let go of audition paranoia and saw the shoe from the other foot. Seeing a panel of casting agents and directors as a creative process and not as a firing squad!!

N: DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?

T: The idea of hobbies makes me laugh a bit! I have 2 girls, one is 6 and the other is only 20 months so by the time their needs are taken care of and I’ve done a bit of music…all I have left in me is 10 minutes of reading or half a movie like most parents I think. If I had unlimited spare time I would love to paint and read and write and walk in beautiful places. I adore my girls though so being with them is awesome too!

N: WALK US THROUGH A DAY IN YOUR LIFE.

T: A typical day involves being woken at 5 am by the girls and then trying to sort them out so I can have a lie in! Never works but I’m still hoping. I find the right music to get dressed to which these days is anything from the soundtrack to Walter Mitty to James Brown. School run, nursery drop off and then a workout/music session/food shop/errands/appointments/ all in 2 hours! Then pick up the baby and home perchance to nap. Hang out and cook food. Try not to get swallowed up by social media. Pick up eldest girl then home with her choice of music in the car which can anything from Elvis to the Sing soundtrack. My girls are great singers and we love nothing better than a disco in the kitchen or before bed. I try and get them into whatever I happen to be learning thus saving valuable time. Bedtime seems to take about 3 hours then its life admin/work/practice or more likely zone out in front of a box set…. Sleep and repeat.

N: YOU HAVE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL AND UNIQUE VOICE. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO FIND YOUR STYLE OR DID IT JUST COME NATURALLY?

T: Well firstly WOW and thank you! Generous compliments are so appreciated right now I can’t tell you. The voice for Hourglass is my voice with a jazz twist which technically means I tilted my larynx a bit on the top and added a bit of twang to my usual breathy lower register. That’s the instrument of the voice explained. For the feel; I had Billy Holliday and Macy Gray in mind. The lyrics and melody took me to a deep place of loss and grief and truth. That’s never been hard for me but Samuel Sim is an extraordinary composer and a producer with exquisite taste. We held back a lot so the orchestration and the strings in particular could do most of the heavy lifting especially at the end.

The feedback I’m getting is that a lot people are finding it very hard not to get addicted to this song…even people who normally can’t stand Jazz. As an unknown and unrepresented artist my life line has been social media and people getting in touch to say how much they love the song. I am so grateful because I still can’t quite believe that after all these years..singing in the background I’d given up all hope of any sort of success… The challenge is what next. I’m starting a residency at Momo’s in Heddon Street in April so hopefully performing live regularly will help me with that. There are artists I admire like Elbow, John Grant and Agnes Obel and artists I go to like medicine; Alexi Murdoch, Sufjan Stevens and Jose Gonzalez. When it comes to dancing though I adore anything by Mark Ronson, Rudimental or Ryan Tedder.

N: YOU’RE SINGING THE BEAUTIFUL THEME SONG, HOURGLASS IN MY FAVOURITE TV SERIES, THE HALCYON, CONGRATULATIONS! HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT AND ARE THERE ANY OTHER CLIENTS THAT YOU WOULD LOVE TO WORK WITH?

T: So it was a chance remark on a play date that led to me singing the title for The Halcyon. I was with a lovely mum and the kids were arguing about pasta with/without sauce and we were trying to get to know each other. She said her husband was a composer. I was in such a relaxed mood that I said ‘Oh I used to be a session singer before I had kids, tell him if he ever needs a singer to give a call.’ Very unlike me! I met Samuel Sim on the school run but we never really had a conversation until he needed someone who spoke French and sang jazz for His work with Maigret…. being in front of a microphone and problem solving with an incredible artist in a studio was SO amazing. I was like a very enthusiastic puppy. The vocals had to be very low key and Edith piaf but modern. The melody was haunting and the films with Rowan Atkinson I thought were very beautiful. Anyway, that woke me up a bit and I sorted out a website and tried to get more work. Meanwhile Samuel Sim was working on The Halcyon…..he had an idea for something a bit different to go over the title sequence. He played me the backing track and in a few hours we had the 45 seconds he needed. He said it would probably have to be re recorded by one of the stars attached to the show but I was fine with that. It was a pleasure to work on and I felt proud that Sam had found me useful. I was in total shock when some time later I was told that the producers liked the demo so much they wanted to use it for the titles and to record a full album version for the soundtrack. I was sitting in a car park at the time reading the email with tears running down my face looking at the heavens and thinking about fate and luck and the crazy paths life can take us down. I would love to work again with Sam and I think working on a soundtrack is a wonderful anchor for a musician. I write my own songs but don’t quite have the guts to get them out there yet. I probably need a writing partner or strong producer. I’m definitely up for more collaborations and mixing genres.

N: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR MUSICAL CAREER SO FAR?

T: Hourglass is the highlight. Hearing my voice in such a heavenly mix of orchestration is the most surreal honour….I still can not believe it. When I met Chris Croucher the producer of The Halcyon at a screening I couldn’t help myself and I uttered the immortal words “thank you for taking a chance on an unknown”!!

N: WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING SINGERS?

T: Gosh I still class myself as an aspiring singer! The hardest thing is how to earn a living…how to get the child care sorted. But for the young and the free I would say…don’t hide your broken bits, your vulnerabilities, your “mistakes”. They are the things that make you unique. Forget perfection and aim for the truth…the messy and broken truth. To sing anyway when you’re ill or down hearted..to be fearless..to support other artists and be enthusiastic in the crowd. And when its your turn in the spotlight…shine.

Visit: www.tracykashi.com

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