2014 Through My Eyes: Jo Quail


photo by Karolina Urbaniak


How would you summarize this past year on an artistic and personal level?

Busy! Great fun, challenging musically and personally, and highly motivating too.

Which album have you listened to most often this year (not necessarily released in 2014)?

The Last Skeptik ‘I Don’t Even Like You’. TLS is Corin LD, a DJ and producer from London who writes and performs mainly instrumental hip hop, and I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to play some live session gigs for him, so without doubt I’ve listened to this album in its entirety more than any other this year. It has been a new field of music for me, and I wanted to get right inside TLS’s sound, so I had it playing all through the summer and on and off throughout the rest of the year too! It’s an awesome album, he is a phenomenal artist and producer and I’m looking forward to working with him again, actually in a couple of weeks, and we’ll be writing this time so I anticipate learning a huge amount!

What was the best gig you’ve attended?

Matt Howden/Sieben’s performance at Oxjam in London this October was legendary. I’m obviously a big fan of Matt’s, as well as being fortunate to consider myself his friend too, but I’m not saying this on a biased level. It was actually a jaw dropping experience to see someone I know so well in gigging terms just raise the bar from brilliant to 100% more so, he did that in one show, and the audience was unanimous in their verdict too, so I’m not alone! In other terms, not sure if this counts but I saw the production of ‘Sunny Afternoon’ in the autumn, and that was simply outstanding. I love the Kinks anyway, and this piece of musical theatre was superb, the cast handled the music and the personalities involved in a lively, sensitive and technically brilliant fashion. I’m not usually a fan of musicals, but this one I’d see again without doubt. I would also make mention of the Erebus Ensemble, a vocal ensemble who are making huge waves in the classical music scene at the moment, kind of in the line of ‘The Sixteen’ but definitely doing their own thing as well .I saw them at St John, Smith Square in London in November and it was utterly moving. I cried during their performance of Tavener’s ‘The Lamb’ and that’s a piece I know well and should hold no surprises for me, but their grace in this performance will remain with me forever.

What was the best non-music related cultural experience you’ve had?

Not sure this constitutes cultural, but visiting an aquarium with our daughter was the best experience ever! It was awesome. I’ll never ever forget the look on our daughter’s face when she saw the fish, the ‘red/blue’ jellyfish, the curious and incredible underwater (and monster!) life. Then her joy at seeing ‘Nemo’ in one of the tanks (she’s two and a half!). It’s an absolute privilege to see the world as children see it, and I honestly get just as excited as she does about things I’d never otherwise have seen. We often walk in the woods and Eila will notice things like leaves suspended on a spider web, and tell me it’s the ‘Magic Leaf’. Children see magic, and I see magic through Eila’s eyes, and I’m eternally grateful. And the best thing is being reintroduced to this as an adult; it means I’ll never now forget how to see the magic.

Was there an event within this past year that has significantly influenced your philosophy and outlook on life, or your perception of the world around you? For instance some specific place you visited, people you met and so on?

For me, the ‘world around me’ is my direct community. Of course I am concerned with global issues, but I know that what I can do is something directly relevant in my own community, for my family, my friends, and my neighbours on my street, and the people I meet during my day. And so, if someone close to me is upset or needs something or wants to share a joy, I feel that is part of my life too, and I participate however I am needed or able to do. So every day something happens that influences my outlook otherwise I’d be living in a sealed chamber emotionally speaking. Largely my perception of my world around me is that people are good and great, and within my ‘world’ there are rich lives, stories to tell, generations of families close together, myths, births, deaths, laughter, tears, and love. It’s on the one hand a somewhat utopian outlook, but then again I do believe that if some tiny pocket of a community can love and support one another without fear or judgement or animosity then this energy will spread, and one day things will change on a grander scale.

Another way to answer your question, is: Yes funnily enough a clock! I had an amazing experience in March this year when I visited Poland for the first time to perform my music with orchestra Cappella Gedanensis. It was an immensely humbling experience to meet so many warm and welcoming people, and to also be welcomed by these world renowned musicians without question even though I was bringing my line of odd contemporary music to them. During this visit I went to the church of St Mary, and saw this ‘thing’. I didn’t know what it was, Karolina (Urbaniak, superb photographer and great friend) took a picture for me, and I researched it when I got home. It turned out to be the astronomical clock by Hans Duringer, and it’s sparked a chain of research that has led to all sorts of philosophical and psychological mental discussions within me, bit of a long story, but suffice to say I think it will form the basis of a piece of music in the near future!

What was your greatest disappointment in 2014?

The greatest ‘oh no’ moment was waiting for Caldera (my album) to arrive from China, and knowing thanks to tracking that it was stuck in customs for an incorrect packaging error 12 hours before the launch show! Luckily, it arrived, thanks to the quick thinking of Alan Pride my manager who bypassed a big ordeal with the delivery man, the final hurdle it seemed, to siphon off 7 boxes before the rest were taken back to the warehouse due to the incorrect labelling!

Your plans, hopes and expectations for 2015?

I’d love to return to Poland to play with Cappella again, so I hope that’s something we can fix up, in fact I’d like to continue to work on my own repertoire with orchestras in general, it was such an amazing experience, and it’s now making me write differently too, I have two things in mind, solo and ensemble versions which is exciting if a bit daunting at times. I hope to have a new album ready to record by June 2015, fingers crossed. I’ve got a lot of travel coming up in 2015 including several EU dates and another Australian tour, and I hope to get back to Japan too at some point this year. But most of all I ask to continue to look for and see magic.!

My next London concert is Saturday 7th February 2015 at St John on Bethnal Green, London.

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