Our first event of the autumn at The Jazz Room features the songwriter and trumpeter Alex Hall. We caught up with Alex to find out more about his musical influences and inspirations, and how he makes sure his repertoire suits the audience and venue….
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Difficult to say. Probably a combination of lots of small factors. Having good mentors, being surrounded by music/musicians growing up, always having a fascination with music – and trying other things and realising that I wasn’t much good at the them!
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I think picking up my first professional tour at 26 was some sort of validation that I needed which gave me the confidence I could pursue music (also for my family – the road has been long!), so it was hugely important I got some kinda break – albeit it wasn’t doing my own thing. What I’ve learnt from those experiences is beyond that what goes on in the practise room.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Losing my voice for an extended amount of time was really horrible. I was like an injured athlete. I was very very restricted with work and it was emotionally and psychologically difficult. I ended up busking some classical guitar over in Bath that summer!
I think for any musician living in London who is starting out (or a little bit further down the line even) it is a great challenge and I commend anyone who is pursuing it. Especially with the housing market now.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’ve done so many things in different genres it’s difficult to say. There are some recordings which are to be released later this year which I’m excited about and maybe it’s a good thing that I’m probably most proud of this as it shows I’m progressing!
I’ve done some avant garde improvisations sets at The Union Chapel as part of their Saturday music sessions which have been hugely, hugely challenging and fun. The natural resonance in there is magic!
How do you make your repertoire choices?
I’m quite meticulous about repertoire. I take into account venue size, who I’m performing with, even the day of the week, promoters, general audience etc. I think people are collectively much more in an upbeat mood on a Friday evening compared to Monday so it’s important I don’t ‘offend’ them with a 250BPM aggressive bebop track on a Monday evening, for example!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. Nathan the owner has done wonders there cultivating a community space, retaining the integrity of what it is, but at the same time developing the venue. I’ve done about half a dozen gigs there now with Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. I think it might be the only social club in England that is on the international touring circuit now.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Cheltenham Jazz festival. We played the afterparty in this beautiful manor house – it was totally impromptu too, and I think because of that people were going crazy. We all looked at each other afterwards and just said “that was unreal!”. I felt like I was playing at a lavish Victorian banquet! Very surreal but beautiful.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Being able to make a living in music has to be considered a success. It’s getting harder and harder and I think any musician should be, and probably is humble enough to say that!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Learn your musical language. Listen relentlessly. Be as original and intuitive in your personal practise as possible. Collaborate. Write. Learn the business side of things (YouTube, Photoshop, Instagram), accept no one is gonna give you anything and that you have to go out and get it.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I like the idea of living abroad for a while but we’ll see!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness to me is a transient thing so I don’t think ‘perfect’ can ever be equated to it – but being able to creatively do music on my terms all the time would make me very happy!
What is your most treasured possession?
Alex Hall plays West Coast Jazz with his quartet on Tuesday 10 September at The Jazz Room at The Bull’s Head. More information and tickets
Known predominantly as the moniker Alec Sala, Alex Hall is a London based songwriter, touring musician and music producer based in North London.