Meet a musician: Véronique Joly

Véronique Joly is an experienced jazz singer. Singing in English, French and Portuguese, Véronique’s varied career ranges from co-writing and recording a song for the BBC to providing vocals for the movie Nightdragon. She currently tours round Bournemouth and Poole with her duo, trio and jazz band.

This Spring we were delighted to collaborate with the SoundCellar Jazz Trio (Véronique, jazz guitarist Rob Palmer and tenor saxophonist Terry Quinney) through our Live and Inspired initiative. In just 5 days the trio performed to more than 3400 pupils across Bournemouth and Poole.

After their busy week of touring around 10 schools, we had a chat with Véronique about her career as a jazz singer, how she handles nerves and why she thinks live music is important…

Hi Véronique! Thanks for talking with us. You’ve had a really interesting career, starting off in Paris and then moving to London and now in Bournemouth. Can you tell us a bit about your music career so far?

Bonjour SoudStorm! Yes, I started to sing professionally when I was 17 and living in the south of France. My first paid singing work was recording radio jingles in a local recording studio. I then went on to collaborate with a composer, co-writing original songs and had various dealings with major record companies when I moved back to Paris (where I was born). In London, I also co-ran a contemporary music label Sargasso and worked with a couple of recording studios, one of which being a music production company called Crocodile Music. With them, I recorded vocals for several Rick Stein’s TV series and co-wrote and recorded a song for his French Odyssey. Nowadays, I sing and perform mainly Jazz and Latin music.

What was it that inspired you to start singing jazz? Can you remember when you first wanted to be a singer?

It’s really when I met my husband guitarist Rob Palmer that I started to explore jazz music. I’d always been a big Ella Fitzgerald fan and also a fan of contemporary jazz singers like Christine Tobin so I knew a lot of the repertoire. Rob encouraged me to do it and we soon started to perform jazz together. I never set out to be a singer per se; I was singing all the time as a teenager and a friend of mine started to enrol me in his projects and recordings (for children in schools and summer camps) and other offers quickly followed!

Is there any advice you wish you’d had starting out as a singer?  

Perform with many different musicians and as much as you can before finding the right people to collaborate with and find your “sound”. I think it’s also really important to be authentic and not try and sing in a style that doesn’t suit your voice.

We work with lots of young singers in Bournemouth and Poole and we know that stage fright can be a huge barrier to singing in public. Is this something you’ve had to cope with? Do you have any tips for dealing with nerves?

I never really had full on stage fright as I use to do acting in my teens and dance performances since the age of 6 but I still get nervous when I do an important gig. My best tip would be perhaps to focus on your breathing. Also make sure you’ve done your homework and really ‘own’ the material you are going to perform. My opera singing teacher used to tell me: “Don’t forget, people come to see you because they think you are going to be good!”- remember the audience is on your side!

You perform in 3 languages (Portuguese, French and English). Can you tell us a bit about how you find performing in different languages with different audiences?

I love singing in those 3 languages because they have such a different sound and rhythmic qualities. English is great for funk and most of the jazz repertoire. I love French for French Latin songs, ballads and some swing. I feel English doesn’t suit Latin music in terms of rhythm and sound so Bossa Novas and sambas are much better in Portuguese. I’ve always had a positive feedback when I sing in those 3 languages and knowing that I’m French, people always ask me to sing songs in French!

You’ve recently finished the ‘Live and Inspired’ tour with the Soundcellar Jazz Trio (performing to 3400+ students!). What was your experience of the tour? Was there anything that surprised you?

I‘ve really loved doing this trio tour where we’ve involved so many children from different backgrounds and age groups. I have particularly enjoyed directing them in large groups, signing rhythmic and improvised melodies. I was surprised to see them so focused!

Why do you think it’s important for young people to experience live music?

These days, children experience music mainly on YouTube or Spotify. They hear pre-recorded music but have no idea how the music can be played live by real instruments, the skills and musicianship involved; how singers perform and improvise with other musicians and most of all, how musicians on a stage listen to each other in order to play together.

And finally, in one sentence, tell us what music means to you.

It’s a blessing to perform and connect with others through music.

To explore more about Véronique’s music, including performance dates, visit her website: www.veroniquejoly.co.uk.

See our ‘Live and Inspired’ video below to see Véronique and the rest of the trio in action!