What’s in a title (Untitled)
Written by: Richard ‘The Hobbit’ Bamford
2003 was definitely a boastful year for North London, neo-soul diva Terri Walker. Not only did her delectable debut album, the curiously entitled – Untitled, get released to a flood of warm reviews but she was also nominated for several MOBO’s, an Underground Music award and, what to her was probably the most memorable and respectable accolade, the Mercury Music Prize. “I couldn’t believe that you know, I didn’t think I was out there enough for the Mercury prize. That [The Mercury Prize] was a nice shock though, coz generally people that are nominated for that are kinda more real and more raw sounding. It was crazy too ’cause it was my debut album”. Is the secret of her success down to her genre-defining new sound? “‘I can’t really class my music as ”neo-soul” because that kind of music appeals to a specific audience, it’s usually on a slower beat too but my music’s quite varied…it crosses boundaries and goes beyond one specific theme”, she wistfully articulates. Though Terri shares the same respect and understanding of classic ’60s and ’70s soul that make up her CV, the same way Erykah Badu and Jill Scott do; perhaps a little less purposely recreated, more due to her birth talent of singing song from the heart; a gift that is presented as naturally as her pretty appearance.
OK, so let’s rewind a little, Terri Walker was born here in the UK – check. As a teenager she lived in Germany with her mother and step-father – errrm check? “Oh yeah, I love Deutschland, it’s moulded me into what I am. I love here [London] too and I came back to go to boarding-school in London when I was 11. The thing is I still lived in Germany and didn’t actually come back proper till I was 17”. Another little known fact about Ms Walker is her love for Opera, something Terri’s been passionately devoted to from a very young age. “I started to study opera when I was about 15 and I started to sing it professionally from about 18. It was always a life-long ambition of mine. I think classical training is the best kinda training you can get. It helps with your breathing and helps you to learn how to hold notes. I mean, come on, if you go to an opera, those guys don’t even have microphones. It really teaches you how to use your voice. The subject of this voice and her early recordings on a garage tune are met with an onslaught of verbal abuse and tear streaming laughter. “Oh, for fuck sake! It was just some little things I did before this whole Def Jam deal. It was just a tune with Shanks and Bigfoot and it wasn’t Sweet like Chocolate before you ask.”
After meeting her, the first thing that is immediately apparent of Terri’s personality is, she’s extremely happy with her life and fun is the key to her illustriousness as she ostensibly chooses to ‘catch joke’ rather than irk us with the whys and wherefores of her new album, L-O-V-E. “I am trying to step it up a little for this one. I’m not sure how”, she joyfully imparts. “I’m just a very fun and happy person, everything makes me laugh. And that’s what I want to convey. It’s jus’ me man, it’s a me album. All brown eyes and 5 ft 6″ of me”. Raucous laughter ensues.
L-O-V-E finds Terri collaborating with the flair of the great Danes Soulpower and hiphop and rnb producers, Copenhaniacs, whose finished product is destined to thrust her deep into the consciousness of the listener as well as the critics; ensuring that everyone will know exactly who Terri Walker is. “A lot of people didn’t really know where to put me, I mean I was 23 but everybody thought I was about 90 the way they were going on!” Terri disdainfully recollects. “People seemed to be confused coz I wanted to have all different flavours on my first album and because of that I thought people wouldn’t be able to title it”. Hence the title, Untitled? “Exactly, I wanted people to make their own mind up”. And if they couldn’t the follow-up should definitively set things straight. “The first album was kinda rushed and it was stuff we did ages ago. I just think me is fresh and fun ya know? L-O-V-E is exciting and I’m very excited ’bout my new album. I wrote a lot of the stuff on my old album but this time round I wrote nearly every single track. So it’s even more of me and what I’m about”. After a little more deliberation Terri likens her new material to friendship. “You know the reason your best friend’s your best friend is because you can talk to them all day long,” she enlightens. “With some people, you can have a bit of a weird conversation with them, and those are the relationships that don’t last. I think music is the same. When the music flows and comes naturally, you don’t have to pretend to be something that’s not really you.”
You’d be wrong to assume that the real Terri Walker is the brash ‘n’ bubbly, the loud ‘n’ proud concoction of qualities that beholds you, “Nah man, I’m a bit of a recluse really” she charmingly explains. “When people see me, they might think I’m a certain way, but I only go out once in a blue moon. The scene I go to is the kind of scene where there’s a lot of unsigned singers, just normal people. It’s really bad but when I go there and they call me, I run away. You know, by then I’ve been drinking, and I’ll have to remember the words of the song, and I really don’t want to embarrass myself.”
One thing is certainly true of Terri Walker, she’s warm and welcoming, true to her friends and most importantly, true to herself; traits that are overtly apparent in her music as it seeps honesty and soul soothing song. With Untitled safely in the accomplished, contemporary, UK soul sack and the sequel, L-O-V-E already being penned as one of the most diverse soul albums of the decade, it would seem that all Ms Walker needs to do is, sit back in her hermit like fashion and watch, probably from her TV, as the nominations and awards spill from the screen.
Peep www.terriwalker.com for live dates.