Interview: Georgia Mancio

Georgiamancioweb2014 is a big year for award winning jazz singer songwriter Georgia Mancio as she marks five years of her Revoice! Festival.

Running 9-20 October, this year is the biggest edition of the event yet, with a whole host of musical heavy hitters from the jazz world and beyond appearing. 2014 is also the year the event stretches its wings across four venues, an indication of just how far Revoice! has come since its inception.

In terms of the line up, fellow singers Ian Shaw, Randolph Matthews and the Grammy-winning jazz singer and composer, Carmen Lundy are among some of the highlights. While Georgia works as promoter and marketer for the event, she’ll also be performing every night as part of a different duo. We tore hera away from her hectic schedule in the run up to this year’s festival to find out why she started it, how it’s grown and what the future has in store…

Revoice! is in its 5th year this October and it’s now taking place outside of London for the first time – what was the original motivation behind the event? And has that changed now its grown so much?

Originally I wanted to create a unique platform for vocal artists without a significant presence in the UK. As I’m an artist first and foremost I was also looking to build a residency where I could experiment with different collaborators. All of that is still very much at the heart of ReVoice! but as it’s become more known it’s also been possible to attract ‘better known’ names such as Tuck & Patti, Raul Midon, Gregory Porter, Beady Belle and this year Carmen Lundy. I stretch myself creatively as much as possible each year to work in new formats and even write specially commissioned work. The inclusion of other venues is a chance to really branch out with the ReVoice! name and widen our audience.

Could you explain about the planning and preparation for the event – when does the work start?

Sometimes the work doesn’t really stop and I find myself mulling over a subsequent edition before the current one has even begun! Mainly though I work on ReVoice! for 10 months from January until we open in October. Each year is both the same and different. I’ve learnt it’s not always possible to make it work with some artists but then others will come your way totally organically.

It’s comforting to have four (and now nearly five!) editions under my belt and there are certainly aspects that I’m able to handle more confidently from experience. I think it’s important not to get complacent and to ensure there’s always an element of change, risk and surprise.

You obviously perform a number of times during the festival – what should fans expect from you this year and who are you most looking forward to performing with this year?

There are some classic duo collaborations from the immensely talented pool of UK instrumentalists including Dave Newton, Colin Oxley and Andrew McCormack. I like these duos to be as conversational as possible – from selecting the material to performing it – and I hope the audience feels part of that dialogue and journey.

I’m really looking forward to working with Gareth Lockrane – a long-term collaborator. Our set is largely a flute and voice duo so it’s definitely a challenge but he’s a very special musician whom I trust and respect enormously. Pianist Tom Cawley suggested we write some original songs for our duo set – something I’ve not attempted before. We worked from my lyrics first – another first for me! It’s been an exciting and liberating experience and I’m proud to share the unique results.

This year I’m also doing two shows collaborating with other singers. The first is with the king and queen of British jazz – Ian Shaw and Liane Carroll. Both have given me so much support and encouragement over the years and sharing the stage with them is always an inspiring lesson.

The second is our grand finale at the 606 Club with UK singer/songwriters Sara Colman and Randolph Matthews. It will be the first time any of us have performed together and we’ve created a show to celebrate this meeting of musical strangers. We all share a love of storytelling and greatly appreciate performance craft.

How has promoting the festival helped you evolve as an artist?

It’s made me braver, more opened minded, more ambitious, more consistent and more determined than ever to be the best performer and vocalist I can be. Hearing and playing with such incredible talent night after night is humbling. It’s easy to be swayed by someone else’s style and while it’s fascinating to have those influences creep into your own work, it’s also vital to maintain a sense of identity and find the best way of conveying that (in a relatively short space of time) to an audience.

Which artist are you most excited about in terms of seeing play?

I’ve heard a lot about and seen considerable footage of French-Cameroonian vocalist Sandra Nkake and can tell she’s going to be one of those performers you don’t easily forget. She’s also an actor and her show is inspired by film noir protagonists and aesthetics. I think she’s going to present something very special.

I’m thrilled that we have the great Carmen Lundy this year: I’ve seen her many times and hugely admire the ground she has broken as both artist and writer. For the first time we also have a voice and dance collaboration – something I’d definitely like to develop in future editions (along with other art forms). Incredible singer/percussionist Vinx (lauded by Stevie Wonder no less) teams with much acclaimed British tap dancer Lee Payne. I can’t wait to see the Pizza Express jumping

You’re working with the pianist and composer Alan Broadbent in November. How did this collaboration take place?

By the magic power of email! A friend told me he was coming to the UK and on a whim I basically sent a fan letter to see if he would consider doing some gigs with me. I’ve loved his work since first hearing the sumptuous duo recordings he made with the much underrated vocalist Irene Kral

Then of course his work with Charlie Haden and incredible orchestral arrangements with everyone from Natalie Cole and Diana Krall to Paul McCartney and recently the NDR Big Band.

To my delight he said yes and last year we performed together for the first time including at the London Jazz Festival. There’s an extra layer to our concert this year as we have just embarked on a writing partnership. That he has trusted me to put lyrics to his beautiful music is more of an honour than I could ever have imagined.

What does the future have in store post-Revoice?

There is a live ReVoice! album that is long overdue: I’ve recorded the last couple of years of my duos so I’d like to pull those together.

In the last couple of months I’ve been writing more prolifically than ever before: my aim is to keep developing that and produce a companion piece to my 2010 album, Silhouette, which was mainly original work. Aside from that I want to spend some time travelling next year. South America always fires my imagination and I’d like to finally investigate my Uruguayan heritage.

Visit the Revoice! Website to find out more about this year’s event and how to get tickets.

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