In Conversation With Yazmin Lacey

Not all artists have had successful singing careers on their vision boards from an early age. True, undeniable talent comes out no matter one’s intention of becoming a star. East London singer/songwriter Yazmin Lacey pursued her own career path, with destiny and the universe’s timing playing a significant role in Lacey’s angelic vocals surfacing the world. 

Leaving London to study Drama and Education, Yazmin Lacey moved from London to Nottingham and entered the charity sector. During the twenty-something exploration of identity and purpose, when nights are longer, heartbreaks hit harder, and emotions are stronger, Yazmin Lacey took a friend’s advice and started leaving recordings on the phone of her observations as musical journals. 

Inspired by the after-night-out intoxicated bliss, Yazmin Lacey felt the courage to use the voice she always knew she had. She opens up during our conversation and shares details of her surprising trajectory and how she performed for the first time at 26. 

Today, Yazmin Lacey is 33, sharing her debut album ‘Voice Notes,’ an accumulation of personal keepsakes of her self-discovery journey, life lessons, mistakes, and everything in between. Merging jazz and alt-soul, ‘Voice Notes’ is a 14-track collection written for “those needing a space to let go, pleasure seekers, dreamers, creators, and magic makers,” executively produced by  Dave Okumu (The Invisible, Jessie Ware, Arlo Parks, Ibeyi). 

Yazmin Lacey is set to play a sold-out headline show at London’s St Pancras Old Church on 31st March 2023.

How was it growing up in a musical family?

I actually didn’t grow up in a musical family! No one else in my family plays an instrument or sings or DJs or anything. First one! Having said that they do love music though, growing up my dad was always playing the radio or records…my brother really loves music! He’s really into Neo soul/soul/hip hop and jazz so I would say his passion for it inspired me too! I always loved storytelling, and a good melody! That’s what excites me about making music! 

You were raised in East London, what are your favorite spots around there?

E12! East London has changed so much since I grew up here!

Do you think London is a great place for up-and-coming artists?

Er I think really it just depends to be honest some people make the best music in their bedrooms and some people need to be in the thick of it. I think London has got so much going on it’s fun and full of musicians but it’s also soooo expensive!!!! So maybe not the best for up-and-coming artists the hustle is hard! Hahahah but I do love the communities of musicians in London, all sort of crossing over lots of different projects, getting to play with different jazz musicians here has been a lllloovveellly time! Also you can go and see soooo much music in London so many great gigs I love that here 

You moved away to Nottingham, could you share the story of how you felt comfortable to show off your singing voice and what happened after?

It was just a thing I did on a whim really, I met someone and they said I bet you can sing – I’d never sang for people before in my whole life but he said he could tell by the tone of my speaking voice, I got a gig randomly in a pub smoking area cause someone over heard me singing, I don’t know what possessed me to actually go through with it but I did! Thank goodness! I would never have ended up singing otherwise, the first gig was awful I was shaking and sweating, I tried to spin the 2.5 songs I had into a 30 minute set! Hahahah a true blagger! After that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put myself in that situation again so I just thought If someone asks again I’ll do it and if not I won’t! Over time the nerves have got less and I enjoy singing live, connecting with people over music is beautiful! 

What did you learn from working at a children’s charity? Was it something close to your heart?

I think I learnt to be braver! I felt like I learned a lot of jokes outdoor games! I think I learned to try different things and adapt! To not take things too personally! 

Also working with young people really taught me to be more curious about life! You’re so curious when you’re younger exploring things for the first time and I think it’s good to keep some of that! Curiosity and play.

How did you feel performing ‘On Your Own’ on the famous COLOURS channel?

I loved it! I’ve watched Colours loads of times so I was so excited to do it! The team were soooo lovely! And we just kinda went for it, I had Jordan amazing musician, on guitar and we were just doing our thing! it was fun! A special one.

Your previous single ‘Pieces’ is “an open goodbye letter” to your previous relationship, how do you find opening up about your personal life in your songwriting, does it come natural to you? 

I think it comes natural in my song writing for sure cause I’m just telling stories of my life and the people around me and how I experience the world, it’s also always been my way of making sense of things…sometimes I will feel compelled to write the lyrics in a way that I haven’t even processed those emotions yet, like sometimes the songwriting be telling me what’s happening! Haha but it’s only after when it’s be done it that I think about others hearing it, that makes you feel vulnerable! Artists are soooo sensitive! Hahaha but it’s also fine cause it connects people which makes the feelings of the song less individual.

What are your most recent singles about, ‘Bad Company’ and ‘Late Night People’?

‘Bad Company’ is me making a character out of my shadow self kinda thing, I’ve given her the name Priscilla and talk about her as though she’s like an old annoying friend/sister who you’re clashing with over the years, but also this character is a part of you, sometimes that part of you is necessary, to acknowledge! It’s also me just getting joke off my extremely emotional self! 

‘Late Night People’ is an after hours anthem, many late night people helped me make this album! It’s just about feeling alive a night time! Creativity for me peaks at night time! I love going out to dance and hear music louder than your own mind, new conversations, observations. Very magical!

You’ve been on the scene since before 2017, how do you feel being able to finally release your debut albumDebut album ‘Voice Notes’?

Yea it feels a bit mad, I remember my friend now manager talking 6 years ago and she said oh yea when you do your album and I thought at the time like what a cute idea! Hahahah didn’t really ever imagine making one but I’m so glad I have! Feels like a big deal having actually completed it! It’s exciting just let it out and also bit scary, the whole time you’re making it you’re just in a lil bubble with your friends creating and you don’t think about people hearing it and then suddenly it’s like whoah shit! People are actually going to hear it now.

Could you count how many voice notes you have on your phone? 

About 800ish at the minute, and the worst part is hardly any of them are labelled, playing them out loud is like roulette! 

Are you comfortable recording in public, whenever the inspirations strikes?

I think that’s the great thing about technical, I can just grab my phone and record, not in front of people though I’d probably just say I was going toilet or out to smoke and then record it, a lil secret moment that might turn into a song. I actually still feel shy recording in front of people a lot of the vocals on the album I recorded on my own after jams and stuff. I wanna feel more free to just go for it in the studio at the time I think we were getting there during the album. I think the shyness is just because you’re letting everyone in the studio into your mind in real time and you don’t know what’s gonna come out sometimes.

This album is written over the course of two years, what themes will you be focusing on? 

I didn’t really set out to do a theme it’s kinda more like my life had lots of changes over that period of time and it’s me expressing it all, where I’m at, things that have changed, my wants and desires, my mess, my dreaming, my peace and my letting go. I was just writing as and when I felt the need to over the two years. These are a collections of moments, experiences, thoughts notes and conversations that have stuck in my mind the over the last couple years.

What is next for Yazmin Lacey?

I think next for me is more collaboration and more music! I learnt so much during this album process, about production and taking risks in the studio and I just want more of that! The process is the best part! Each idea can be everything or nothing when you’re creating and I find that really exciting!

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Photographer: Nina Manandhar

Words: Karolina Kramplova