Barely one year into her career, Ava Rene already has numerous singles under her belt, a BBC Introducing appearance, a Music Week feature and music video with more than 15,000 views under her belt.
It seems strange then that Rene, who plays at The Bedford in Balham tonight, is only just getting ready for her first set of solo gigs in April.
Strange that is until you realise she is the sole mastermind behind it all.
“I’ve been taking myself to the studio and doing my own thing,” she says.
“I went to the studio thinking I’m going to start with one song , and paid for it. I liked the first track, so I went off to do a full-on EP.”
That EP featured Rene’s first single, Okay, and was quickly followed by more original releases and covers which lend themselves to a soulful, diverse repertoire.
On stage, singing with just a piano for company, Rene’s vocals hint at her musical roots. Like many soul singers, she found her voice singing in a gospel choir.
It was at college then that she developed her own style, described as soulful pop influenced by artists across many genres, but especially B.B. King and Nina Simone – ‘the ultimate queen’.
Her compositions reflect the influence of Simone in their distinctive piano riffs and moody chorus lines, though a lacquer of pop harmonies and clean, modern production mark Rene’s tracks as bona fide originals rather than knock-offs of blues classics.
Rene proudly runs her music business single-handedly and is suffering from no delusions about the work she has cut out for her but she’s not keen on slowing down.
“As long as my health is good I have no intentions of resting. I’m doing what I love, so why should I ask for a break?
“Maybe after five years I’ll go travelling and go and discover myself – a different version of myself!”
Nor does she want to trade the artistic license self-management gives her for less administrative responsibilities by signing up to a label.
“There, people can always tell when you do a record and you’re not doing you.
“It’s important to put out music that isn’t contrived. It’s ok to have an element of compromise, but less so with the music.
“Most artists do it because they love it, so you can change my clothes and my hair and everything, but don’t take away my music.”
But she does find some of the hurdles she faces, as a young woman new to the industry, as incredibly frustrating.
“As a woman, a lot of times you can meet investors who think ‘oh wow she’s so pretty’, or she sings great music but they don’t take you seriously, they think you should just be an artist.
“There was one occasion, I went to this meeting and the investor completely crushed me.
“He told me I should go off and become a digital nomad, try living in Thailand and think about other ways of doing music. He told me ‘you’re too young to be able to do this’.”
Yet, Rene seems to have taken it all in her stride.
“It made me stronger. You can’t let anyone define who you are or how far you go. That’s completely up to you.”
Ava Rene is playing tonight, March 26 2019, at The Bedford in Balham at 7.30pm.
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