Crossing generations and continents with Zara Mcfarlane


“It’s an album that celebrates the strength of women, from the alpha female to the housewife.” This is how Zara Mcfarlane, a London based jazz musician who describes her very personal album ‘If you knew her.” The album which dropped in January was inspired by the many vibrant, amazing, charismatic black women in her life. Her voice is not only captivating but puts you in awe, stripping you bare just like her songs. She attended BRIT school, which is where many stars have reign from including the one and only Amy Winehouse, Adele, Jessie J, Rizzle Kicks and many more. Zara admits she took a gamble releasing a jazz album, but it has definitely paid off, as she has just wrapped up her tour around the UK. Zara eliminates that jazz is still very alive and her love for cheesecake pretty much sums up why we love her.  

We chat to Zara about how Gilles Peterson has been a very influential person in her career, why she felt she took a gamble releasing a jazz album, why music is crossing generations and continents. Margaret Tra writes.

Firstly can I say you are absolutely stunning! You attended BRIT school, how do you think that shaped you as an artist? 

Thank you very much!  Yes at BRIT School I studied Musical Theatre. It was the first place that I saw you could be taken seriously that it was possible to have a successful career in the arts. On the course music, dance and drama had an equal focus. It was a very involved, demanding program. You had to be focused at all times, creative, willing to participate in everything even though often your strengths may have been two disciplines as opposed to all three initially. Also you had to be extremely committed to working as team throughout the two years within the department. But the school as a whole at the time had a very positive, exciting, non-competitive vibe about it. At the age of 16 it taught me discipline, determination, stamina and gave me the tools I needed to work towards a career in the arts.

Having just dropped a very personal album, do you ever second guess what you should or should not reveal about yourself in your music?

This album compared with the first is definitely my most personal album. Even though it is personal, I feel have allowed space for the listener to find their own understanding and relation to the songs. I really enjoy writing in that way as it allows me to open in understated way.

You said you took a gamble releasing a jazz album, is this something you will continue to do? 

I really wanted to release a jazz album but like most artists I am inspired by different genres of music. I hope to continue making music that means something to me and to challenge myself as a musician. I am not sure where that will lead me but I think it is a good ethos to live by.

You believe jazz is alive, how do you keep it relevant to our generation? 

Yes I do not feel it is going anywhere anytime soon! I think these days more than ever music is far more expansive crossing generations and continents. I try to keep my music relevant to me in the hope that it will resonate with others.

Gilles Peterson has been a very influential person in your career, what is it that he's taught you, that no one else has?

Gilles Peterson has taught me the art of thinking outside the box, the art of trying things out and just seeing where that leads without putting pressure on a definitive product. He has taught me that there are still people who are passionate truly passionate about new music and new artists who are willing to help them.

What stimulates your soul?

Spending time with my family, dancing crazy silly dancing! Heavy bass lines! Cheesecake!

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