SHEA BRYCE is an up and coming UK soulstress. The one-time BRIT school pupil is all set to release her first solo album in the New Year but already a single from the set – the smoky, jazz dancer ‘Where Did You Go’ – is making waves on the underground soul scene and advance previews of the LP reveal a lady who’s making the most of her past and varied musical experiences on the UK dance and soulful house scene. SJF recently caught up with Croydon’s finest and we wanted to know more… about the album, her musical CV and, of course, how she got into the business…..

Music has always been in my life. It was always playing in the house when I was growing up. Even though my family weren’t very musical, there was a big appreciation for it. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to listen to music or sing; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

What about musical influences and who are your heroes and heroines?

I’ve probably been influenced the most by Lauryn Hill. Before her I’d always tried to sing along to big vocal style singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, and was left disappointed when I felt I wasn’t good enough. It was my love for Lauryn’s voice and the tone and texture she used that taught me to appreciate my own, and write songs that reflected that. The love I discovered I had for jazz and swing brought about a heavy influence from Ella Fitzgerald too. The vocal control she had was flawless. Listening to greats like her, Dinah Washington and Nina Simone taught me a lot about my voice and emotive singing.

Tell us about your experiences at the BRIT School

BRIT school was a fun time for me. Unlike many of the artists you hear of that have come from there though, I didn’t go to the college part. I was actually there from the age of 14-16. I learned loads about being creative, and had lots of fun times, but weighing it up to other experiences I had, I’m not sure that it really had a major impact on my life.

Take us from BRIT School to becoming an in-demand sessions singer on the soulful house and funky house scene.

Well, I thought I had been discovered at BRIT when I got placed into a girl group at the age of 16. We were together for nearly 3 years, but it just didn’t work out. I then spent my teens taking part in lots of karaoke competitions, collecting some really high winnings sometimes, and worked with many producers making all sorts of ‘urban’ music, but again most of the projects were fruitless. It was only when my brother who was working for MJ Cole’s manager handed him a demo to listen to that things started to change. I ended up in the studio with him, wrote a song and bam! I had my first release! I got to perform all over the place, watching people singing back my lyrics. It was an amazing time. Once my voice was out there getting heard, the other tracks I featured on just followed through.

funkyTell us about some of the tunes you’ve worked on

I’ve worked on so many tracks and genres! I’ve covered lots of house, funky, soulful, deep, electro; I’ve done afro beats, broken beats, drum n bass, 2 step/garage/4 to the floor, UK Funky, and underground soul, jazz and funk. I pretty much go by the motto that if I like something, I’ll do it. That’s what music is all about to me, and since I get to write my own melodies and lyrics, I really enjoy adding my flavours to different genres.

Now – what about this debut solo set… how did it come about?

I’ve always wanted to do a solo album. I ended up being side tracked by the other things that I was doing that it got pushed aside for a while. When ‘Make it Funky’ (a tune Shea worked on with Attaca Pesante) started to push through the scene, it gave me an opportunity to leave the day job I was doing, and really spend some time on making the music I’d always dreamed of. After being fortunate to meet and work with Drew Horley, I found myself making music beyond that. Music I didn’t even know I could make. It all feels very natural to me, and I’m very proud of what’s been created.

Why the enigmatic title – ‘Grey Skies And Rainbow Fingernails’?

This album is very personal to me. I wanted the title to really reflect that, as well as reflect what the songs were all about. There isn’t a particular running theme; some are about heartache, and some are about being happy and making the most of things. ‘Grey Skies and Rainbow Fingernails’ basically sums it up for me. Sometimes things are dark and grey, but you can always paint your own rainbows if you choose to….

You write your own songs too – how do you go about that?

To be honest, it changes every time. Sometimes I have something I really want to talk about so it starts with the lyrics, sometimes I have a tune in my head that I really want to find words and music for, and a lot of the time, I’ll hear music that inspires to me to write in some way. I would say generally, I start with the melody, but anything goes.

The lead single is ‘Where Did You Go’ – a definite Amy Winehouse flavour – was that intentional?

It actually started with me having been listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, and scatting along to a drum beat that Drew was playing. Once I was set on the melody I wanted to sing, we tried to make the music fit around it in a way that wasn’t conventional swing/jazz. I can understand why people may think of Amy with this track, as she was also very jazz and swing influenced.

Then there’s ‘So High’ – very Corinne Bailey Rae – I thought – another influence on you?

I’m quite surprised you say that to be honest. I wouldn’t imagine Corrine being an influence on me at all. I like what she does, but her style’s a lot more earthy than mine, in particular with ‘So High’. When I sing that song I think of mojitos, dancing in the sun, and bands playing in the street!

What do you hope to achieve with the album?

What I really want, is to do a ‘Grey Skies and Rainbow Fingernails’ tour. It’s been a dream of mine forever to go on tour singing my own material, and now that I’m so in love with my album, I want it even more!

shHow difficult has it been to bring it altogether?

Sometimes heartbreakingly difficult… I’ve been faced with many obstacles, and even now they seem to pop up and surprise me! It’s something you definitely need to have the love for.

Where do you hope to go from here?

Everywhere! I want to tour over land and seas! I want to be crazy creative and write until I can write no more, making music that I can share with all corners of the world. It’s also an ambition of mine that one day, I’ll be able to have enough recognition and acceptance to take it right back, and tour with an amazing full jazz swing band, singing in locations that the old school greats made famous like I dreamed of as a little girl.

Finally – and we often ask this of young up and coming singers – you’re talented and ambitious – so why have we never seen you on X Factor and Britain Got Talent?

I’m not going to lie, I really enjoy these shows! The intensity, the talent, the drama! I think that programmes like these have great entertainment value, and for a singer desperate for a break or some limelight, these types of shows have the capacity to give you that if you’re one of the lucky few. Of course, anyone who is an artist wants some limelight; we all want to be heard. However, I want to be heard making the music that truly means something to me. Nothing else. If I lose that privilege, then there really isn’t any point for me. My art and creativity will always come first. Unfortunately, the kind of quick success you get from these shows, means that personal creativity as an artist is placed far down the list of importance.

Where can we find out more about you and the album?

Look me up @ …. it all links to me and the music can be found there.

SHEA’S single ‘Where did you go’ is officially out on January 28th 2013 and the album ‘Grey Skies And Fingernails’ is out April 2013.