I’m a sucker for time travel, which is why I love making calls from New York to London. It gives off the feeling that I’m discussing music with someone who has already seen things I haven’t yet – someone who’s living in the future. For instance, as I was wiping the debris of a late lunch from my face, Corrine Thomas, who performs as Veda Black, had more than likely already had her dinner.
Barely taping her mid-twenties, Veda Black can already add self-taught musician, singer, songwriter and producer to her curriculum vitae, but that hasn’t been without persistence and an artful rebellion against any box the music industry and society would like to put her in. That defiant streak can be seen in the perpetual style changes to her hair, a vibrant wardrobe that would put kaleidoscopes to shame, but most importantly, the experimental dynamics of her sound. It’s one that could be described as alternative soul – but even that definition may be limiting considering her tracks play nicely with her stylistic influences which range from Pink Floyd to Marvin Gaye and popular 90s R&B bands in between.
“As a kid I was always kind of listening to nineties R&B like Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, just trying to sing in my living room. Then, when I got to about eight years old, I remember my dad playing a lot of country music and I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of wanting to, not only play an instrument but wanting to write my own music. That’s when I actually picked up the guitar for the first time around, but I really fell in love with the instrument during my time at uni where I studied music. Suddenly, my music knowledge expanded and I was listening to things like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and I suddenly became obsessed with wanting to learn guitar in a way that would sculpt how I write my songs, kind of learning jazz chords all from my living room. I’m not an amazing technical player, but it really started to shape how I write and the kind of music I write today.”
Born and raised in East London, the daughter of a dressmaker and fashion designer from Jamaica, Veda Black was brought up to appreciate her Caribbean roots and her power as a woman, two things that aren’t lost in her music, or the confidence behind her decision to pursue it on her own terms.
“I always knew that music made me really happy and it was something that I wanted to do. But I think definitely at the age of 13, that’s what I probably started writing my own music. And I was really determined to take my guitar around London and busk, just this acoustic guitar and me, and play the three songs that I knew.”
Getting to where she is now wasn’t easy though. Just a year after she started writing her own music, she met with a producer who tried to stifle her voice to fit what they believed would be more marketable.
“I remember at 14 I went to meet with the producer at the time and I was quite young and impressionable and he basically told me that in his own words that singing “Black” as a Black woman wouldn’t get me anywhere and that I should try and go down the country, folk, indie route.”
Lucky for listeners, Veda Black continued down the path she’d been paving through her own mixture of experiences and influences, something that can be heard in her latest track, “Jim Morrison.” The single hums in gently at the offset, its vexing narrative disguised beneath back and forth strumming and sweet sighs, a careful rocking typically saved for lullabies. But then, Veda soulfully details, “the status update about your acid trip, you’re a little to old for this” an arrow aimed towards an unseen anti-protagonist. As I shared with Veda Black midway through our conversation, we all know a Jim Morrison, and I wasn’t referring to the leather-clad frontman of The Doors who was regarded as equal parts poetic and obscene. The track, written about a musically inclined destructive personality couldn’t be more timely.
“During the time I went to music school and obviously meeting loads of different musicians from all over Europe and England, I was definitely exposed to that lifestyle. It’s quite shocking for me because I didn’t even have my first drink until very, very late. I then got into a relationship with someone who was very dependent on living their life this way. And I mean when I look back on the three years I spent it’s almost like, you know, picking up after someone, being someone’s mum. So I guess from there and just seeing the people that were in his circles, that’s how the song was sculpted, a bit of a call out.”
Although Veda Black has found her voice literally and figuratively, she’s still staying future-minded, and not just by five hours.
“I feel like I’ve changed massively. I feel like this is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in myself, the music I’m making now. But because I’m just so obsessed with music and I’m constantly listening to things. I’m sure I’ll always sing in a soul kind of R&B style, but I mean, I am always interested in mixing up the arrangements and the genre and the instrumentation, so I imagine at some point that, you know, I will probably change.”