Following on from the audio of “Pray For Me”, and the gender politics discussion on “Rodney”, which featured Erick Arc Elliot of The Flatbush Zombies, Espa returned with the Studio Moross directed visual for “Pray For Me.” The track speaks volumes of talent, with Espa’s stunning, and haunting vocals, cascading over the expert production of Hoskins and Nick French.
The video took us on a surreal journey of mazes and landscapes that appear otherworldly – a haunting addition which relates not only to the incredible soundtrack “Pray For Me”; but also the EP as a whole. The project is a story of coming of age, as Espa discusses the far-reaching topics of family, spiritual-awakening and addiction recovery; the title “LG60”, relating to her seminar room at university.
Her creative energy spills into all aspects of what she does. The debut EP artwork, videos and styling were all conceptions and creations that came from Espa herself, which have now informed her current collaborations. Working in tandem with Studio Moross and long-term collaborator Holly Silius for all hair and make-up concepts and designs. The fruits of their labour on this current release can be seen in the striking new video coming soon.
As displayed throughout the ‘LG60’ EP – and in particular with focus track ‘Pray For Me’ – Espa adopts a significant intimacy in her sound and songwriting. Classic soulful R&B informs a large amount of her approach to her music but by the same token, she will never be confined by one musical style. Erykah Badu, Jimi Hendrix and Madonna are cited as inspirations: as much for their ability to reinvent themselves as for their music. And while her music speaks of a long relationship with soul and RnB, her work with hip-hop taste-makers and friends and collaborators, Flatbush Zombies on ‘Red Light, Green Light’, gives an idea how far her musical parameters extend.
Our music editor Lulu Jones caught up with her last week…
Hi Espa! We adore your new EP LG60 here at After Nyne, you have such a wonderfully soulful sound – what was your inspiration for it?
Ah thanks! I pull inspiration from everywhere, everything and everyone I come into contact with! This Ep in particular is inspired by the journey i’ve been on from starting at college to now. The title comes from the basement classroom which I spent my 4 years of college in, honing my craft and learning all sort of life lessons, ‘Lower Ground 60’. The four tracks are all stories from that chapter of my life.
‘Rodney’ features the amazing Erick Arc Elliot – have you got any more collaborations in the pipeline? Is there anyone you’d really like to feature in your music?
Erick and I continue to work together every time i’m in NYC, which is often. We have an impressive body of work forming, and yes there is a very exciting colab on the way between Erick, an incredible UK rapper and myself! My dream colab project would probably be with Kendrick Lamar & Thundercat or Artful & Craig David, depending on the day of the week.
‘Pray for me’ is my favourite song on the EP, the lyrics are quite intense, what messages are you wanting to get across in the song?
Pray For Me is a balanced expression of desperation and hope. I truly believe that in some circumstances the only way to move in a different direction is to hit rock bottom. That is what had happened to me at the time of writing this tune, and i’m so grateful for that moment. When I put my hands up and sai’d ‘I can’t continue like this’, everything changed for the better, it was the first step. Sure i’m still facing my demons, as everyone does, but the difference is that now I believe that i’m worthing fighting for.
What’s the song writing process like for you, do you come up with the lyrics or music first? Let us into the musical mind of Espa!
It really varies from song to song. I’ll get inspired by a beat a producer plays me, or i’ll play some chords and the producer will work around that. Sometime’s, as cliche as this sounds, a song will be delivered into my brain, fully formed, without me even being aware of it. You have to run with it when that happens (i.e. Pray For Me). An artist cannot really take credit for their work, we are just channels, and its our responsibility to translate a message to the masses. Its very exciting, especially when it becomes a form of therapy for the artist too, but it’s so important to remain unattached to the credit and praise you get with being the musical messenger.
You must get asked this a lot, but how did you get into music?
I come from a family of musicians, my grandfather was the first, he played with my heroes (Frank Sinatra, Shirley Basie, Barbra Streisand, Sammy David Jr), my father is a composer and my mother a saxophonist. Although my parents struggled to stay afloat financially and were often out gigging 7 days a week. Watching them work themselves into the ground like that really put me off the musician life and I resented them for their job. Then, at 14, I discovered what it was like to sing in front of Big Band, I sang ‘Fly Me To the Moon’ at an RAF ball… haha! I caught the bug, left home and made it my mission to be on stage!
Have you got any advice for young women trying to break into the industry?
Yes, do not consider yourself to be a ‘woman in music’. You are a musician in music. Oh and make sure you really know your shit; study chords, song writing, music theory, learn an instrument, understand what you have to offer the world. Easy Peasy!
I have to mention that your look is incredible! How long did it take for your face to be covered in all those amazing gems? Where did the inspiration come from?
It took us 7 hours in total to create and shoot this look. 6 hours putting the crystals on my face, 20 mins shooting and 40 mins taking them off! It was a concept that I created with the wonderful make up artist, Holly Silius (also behind the artwork for my debut EP ‘150th & Broadway). We hand picked each of these precious stones, smashed them with a hammer on set and began to improvise their placement on my face… kind of risky but so much fun! I’m very inspired by the work of David LaChapelle and Rankin.
And finally, if you could describe your music in three words, what would they be?
Fantastical, Layered, Fun.