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Alice Russell

Alice Russell is a U.K.-based soul singer and songwriter. She's renowned as a solo artist, session singer, and touring vocalist for various bands including Quantic and TM Juke. Her ambitious solo albums on Tru Thoughts include Under the Munka Moon (2004) and the diverse My Favourite Letters (2005). Under the Munka Moon II (2006) was a hodgepodge set that included the Bugz in the Attic remix of Idris Muhammad's disco-era anthem "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" in collaboration with Susumu Yokota. Pot of Gold, produced by TM Juke, was released in 2008 on Six Degrees and firmly rooted in late-'60s soul. Russell collaborated with Quantic's Combo Barbaro on 2012's co-billed Look Around the Corner. Despite undertaking a tour that year, she found time to record To Dust, released during the winter of 2013. After a decade away from the spotlight, she returned in 2024 with the long-player I Am on Tru Thoughts. Russell was born in Suffolk in 1975 and raised in Framlingham. Her father was a classical organist. She studied cello and sang in church choirs as a youngster. She claimed in an interview that the training she received in choir was invaluable. She was an avid fan of the radio and absorbed recordings by American soul singers including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Kahn. In 1994 she moved to Brighton to study art and music and, given the musicians and atmosphere in the seaside town, she allowed her classical and gospel disciplines to take a back seat to her emerging R&B chops. She performed and recorded singles with Bah Samba and Kushti. By the early part of the 21st century she was already singing live with Will Holland's (aka Quantic) various bands as well as guesting with Ben Lamdin's Nostalgia 77. She signed her own deal with Tru Thoughts and issued her debut album, Under the Munka Moon, in 2004. The 13-song set was helmed by a veritable who's-who of producers including Quantic, Dave Noble, Kushti, and Julien Bendall. Given her near-constant performing with her own band and with Quantic, Russell's album won the respect of critics. 2005's My Favorite Letters fared even better. Produced by TM Juke, its singles, "Humankind" and "Fly on the Wall," both received airplay across the European continent as well as in the U.K. 2006's Under the Munka Moon II was a kind of compilation. Given her full-time membership in the Quantic Soul Orchestra and TM Juke's band, writing and recording an entire album of unissued material proved a challenge. The set boasted her collaboration on Susuma Yokota's cover of Idris Muhammad's "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This." A disco-era classic and staple at Paradise Garage, this version was mixed by Bugz in the Attic. In addition, it included her appearance with Nostalgia '77 on their cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," which had a substantial run on the U.K.'s rare groove DJ scene -- fronting Natural Self on "I Don't Need This Trouble" and the Bonobo remix of "Mirror Mirror on the Wolf 'Tell the Story Right.'" That year she guested on Nostalgia '77's The Garden, and on singles by TM Juke, Quantic, Luke Fair, and Max Sedgley. She also performed more than 150 live dates. Over the next two years, Russell continued working with Quantic Soul Orchestra and recorded sessions with the Bamboos, Natural Self, Juke, and Robert Luis. In 2008, TM Juke produced, engineered, and mixed Russell's Pot of Gold, an ambitious collection of original songs (written by either her or Cowan) that wed funk, R&B, Afrobeat, gospel, and blues. The lone cover was "Crazy," the Gnarls Barkley vehicle. "Hurry On Now," a midtempo, bluesy soul ballad, won airplay across the U.K., France, and Germany. The following year, Pot of Gold Remixes, a double-disc set, comprised bracing versions of the earlier album's tracks with assistance from Yellowtail, Clutchy Hopkins, Kidkanevil, Mocean Worker, and DJ Vadim, among others. Through it all, Russell was on the move, touring on her own or with the bands she sang with. She appeared with David Byrne and Fatboy Slim on the single "Here Lies Love" in 2010. The following year she recorded with Mr. Scruff on the Nickodemus & Zeb remix of "Music Takes Me Up," and Bah Samba on "Everybody Get Up (Superphonics Southport Weekender Mix)." In 2012, Russell stepped out of her comfort zone. She served as a co-billed collaborator on Look Around the Corner by Quantic and his Combo Barbaro. Recorded at Quantic's Cali, Colombia studio, the band included longtime guitarist Mike Simmonds, Peruvian pianist Alfredito Linares, bassist Fernando Silva, and conguero Freddy Colorado. The set's drummers/percussionists were Colombians Wilson "Coco" Viveros and Larry Joseph, and a string section was added. The program included cumbias, Latin jazz, hybrid soul, and left-field funk. February 2013's To Dust marked Russell's first album under her own name in five years; it was produced by TM Juke (under the pseudonym Differ-Ant) and featured a songwriting collaboration with Cowan. The set proved a stellar showcase for Russell's exhaustive command of soul and R&B styles, and it performed better commercially than any of her previous outings. She hit the road and played dozens of dates before her father died that summer. The day after his funeral, Russell discovered she was pregnant. She stopped recording and touring for a decade. During that break she underwent therapy for generational trauma, healing, and life's darker side. She also had a second child. During that entire period away from the spotlight and the many years she spent touring, Russell was writing. The summer of 2023 she returned to performing. She graced the main stage of Gilles Peterson's We Out Here, supported Nile Rodgers on tour, and performed in a tribute to Aretha Franklin throughout France. In 2024, Russell returned to recording with the album I Am. Produced by TM Juke, it had nine co-written originals including the single "I See You," a piano ballad about overcoming adversity after experiencing childhood trauma. The track was commissioned by Lemonade (a location-based music exploration platform) composed for the festival's theme of "Care" chosen by guest curator, author, and broadcaster Lemn Sissay. I Am was released by Tru Thoughts in April 2024.
© Thom Jurek & Andrew Kellman /TiVo


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