Jelly Cleaver is a guitarist, producer and singer-songwriter based in South London. Jelly is involved in both the jazz and DIY/punk scenes, as well as being an activist, leading to a strain of political dissent running through her music. We caught up with Jelly to chat about her new album, The Dream Jazz Manifesto.
The Dream Jazz Manifesto is a concept album about finding purpose in a meaningless world.
First up, tell us a bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
I’ve always been into music. I started playing guitar when I was about five, and was trying to gig with my music when I was thirteen. Song writing just became an all-consuming passion from then.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
I’ve got a really wide taste of music. My big three would probably be Joni Mitchell, Esperanza Spalding and Jeff Buckley. But I listen to a lot of jazz, obviously the greats but also a lot of the bands on the London scene at the moment. And I’m also a big fan of anything from the sixties/seventies, you can’t beat a bit of Jimi Hendrix.
How would you describe your style?
It’s a real mixture of everything I’ve listened to. There’s a bit of punk, a bit of lo-fi, a bit of alternative R&B. If I had to go with a label it would probably be ‘nujazz’ because I think that label is most open to interpretation at the moment. But I’ve got a track which goes from Motown to disco to hard rock in one song, so it’s all a bit of a stylistic mix.
If you could collaborate with any living artist who would you choose?
I’m absolutely obsessed with James Blake’s music. I went to see him at the Apollo last month and decided he’s definitely one of the greatest artists of all time. I’d love to work on a track with him.
Tell us about your new album The Dream Jazz Manifesto. What’s it about?
It’s a concept album about finding purpose in a meaningless world. There are quite a lot of themes covering philosophy, spirituality and social justice. It’s going to be interesting to see what other people take away from it.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
I wrote the songs between three and five years ago and recorded it over lots of different sessions. Most of it was done in my bedroom. I used the Roundhouse studios and Premises studios for some of the sessions. There were a few more sessions at mate’s houses. One in a park. One at Abbey Road studio. It’s been a long process!
How does The Dream Jazz Manifesto represent your style?
It’s more the crazy experimental rock side of me coming through. My last album was much more folk-inspired. I’m hoping in the future to work on more jazz and also electronic production.
What are your hopes for The Dream Jazz Manifesto?
I’m not really sure what peoples’ reactions to it will be. At the moment I’m just hoping some people will like it. I’ve got a pretty amazing live band, their musicianship is incredible, so I’m looking forward to performing it live and seeing it develop from there.
Where can we see you on tour this year?
I’m planning a tour later this year, but for now I’m playing a few festivals - DJazz in Durham and Jazz Stroud. I’ve also got lots of gigs in London so come see me there.
Finally, if you could wish for one thing to happen for you this year, what would it be?
World peace? Well, if I can’t have that then one thing I’d like from this year would be to get my album printed on vinyl. I’ve always wanted to have my face on some vinyl. We shall see!
Listen to Jelly Cleaver on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates go to jellycleaver.com.