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Lauren Kinsella: In Between Every Line

By Published: March 5, 2013
In 2010, Kinsella left Dublin to try her luck in London. "For two years, I was living there and meeting people on the scene and getting involved in the community of improvisers, jazz musicians, playing some gigs and finding my feet," says Kinsella. "All of this takes time. You only realize that when you move somewhere; you have all these ideas, but it takes time for them to unfold."

Kinsella has also found the time to further her vocal studies: "I decided to take a jazz Master's, as I'm also very interested in teaching about the voice and thinking about how we can move improvisation and vocal technique into a contemporary space. I hope it will help my career as an educator." As if it weren't enough trying to balance studies and working as a professional musician, Kinsella is taking her Master's, at the Royal Academy of Music, in one year instead of two. "My metronome is on double time," she says, laughing.

Working together with the other students is a rewarding experience for Kinsella: "Some perhaps haven't worked with such an experimental vocalist before, so it's a good journey for them, and it's a very good journey for me because the standard in the academy is ridiculous. It's a given that everybody is extremely proficient on their instrument, and that level of musicianship and professionalism is very inherent to this London scene. There are a lot of people who are good, there are a lot of people who want to play jazz, and it keeps you on your toes. It's brilliant, actually."

Kinsella's quintet Thought-Fox has toured Ireland and played a number of prestigious dates including the London Jazz Festival, the 12 Points Festival, the Songlines Encounters Festival and the European Jazz Nights Festival in Oslo, so, given the band's relatively short creative life, it has done well to reach such stages. Nevertheless, Kinsella recognizes that, these days, a musician has to have a lot more strings to his or her bow besides creating music to make it. "It's always challenging," she says. "I think, as a jazz musician today, you have to be good at several different jobs. To book gigs, to write the music, to practice, to rehearse the music, to have an online presence, to sort out tours, to apply for funding, to go to live gigs and meet other musicians, to deal with agents and promoters—the list is endless."

Kinsella realizes that it's a long and continual process: "You learn as you go along. It's a career that develops over a lifetime that you create for yourself and that others help nourish and vice versa. You meet some amazing players along the way that you'll be playing with for a lifetime." Although the future is largely an unknown, Kinsella is certainly optimistic about Thought-Fox's potential: "We are going from strength to strength, and each time we play a gig, audiences are happy—they smile, they ask me questions, they come up to me and let me know how particular songs made them feel. That's a very special thing for me—to be able to connect with the audience in that way. I think we are onto something good."

Another challenge for Kinsella is reaching audiences that might not be aware of the type of music she performs, and this is where the media has an important role to play. "The media is a whole other issue," says Kinsella. "I have people come up to me after gigs saying they'd never heard singing like that before. Maybe one part frightened them, and another part made them cry. You know, what we're doing is not selfish, and it's not throwaway. It's important, and it's saying something deep about communication, about self-expression, about human nature. Unfortunately there's a lot of media who'll listen to the music once and then dismiss it, without really listening and trying to understand what's going on, what the intention is.

"So much media and culture is flippant," Kinsella continues. "If it's not instantly gratifying or easy to understand, then too often it's dismissed. There's a lot of really exceptional music going on in Dublin, in Ireland right now, and the media should be telling people about it in an informed way. This is why it's so great that people like All About Jazz and others take the time to really listen—who see the importance of what's going on and help promote it."

Kinsella works in a number of other settings, too. There's the vocal duo Lupo, with Swiss singer Sarah Buechi, with whom Kinsella recorded Sessile Oak (Self-produced, 2009). "She's an amazing singer," enthuses Kinsella, "and one of the only examples of a European singer who has mastered the sound of Indian language in konnakol and improvisation in ragas. She was based in New York but recently has been living in Dublin again, so we're due a sing-song. We have no immediate plans to record again, but we are eager to play some gigs soon."

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