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February 08, 2018

Mahindra Blues Spotlight: Meet Layla Zoe, The Magical Songstress Of The Blues

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

“Over the years, I have often found myself to be the only woman in the line-up at festivals. I wonder why more concerts don’t include women more regularly”

On the genre being dominated by men “Over the years, I have often found myself to be the only woman in the line-up at festivals. I wonder why more concerts don’t include women more regularly. It saddens me when I read ‘Top 10 blues albums of the year’ lists and awards nominations and see women only in the token ‘female vocalist’ categories. This needs to change.”

On playing at the Mahindra Blues Festival for the first time “I have always wanted to visit India so to finally go there and have the chance to sing for its people is incredibly thrilling.”

On alternative career options “I wrote poetry and short stories as a child and it is a personal dream to finish a novel or pen down an autobiography someday. If I were not singing, I would spend time perfecting my craft as a writer.”

On the blues as her preferred genre “I always had a predisposition to songs that had a hint of the blues when I played in cover bands, and the audience seemed to enjoy my voice best on that material. In 2003, I attended a workshop in Hornby Island, where I met some of the best blues artistes in Canada. Soon after, I left the safety of my band and started out on my own.”

On what’s keeping her busy right nowGemini, a double album slated for a fall release, which will include both acoustic and electric recordings.”

On the evolution of the blues as a genre “People worry that once the larger chunk of the blues fans die, so will the genre. But I have seen so many young fans attend shows and festivals even now. I also hear the genre being replicated in pop music today, so I believe the blues will always have its place.”

On her most memorable concert moments “Singing with Jeff Healey was one of the highlights of my career, as was performing with Sonny Landreth, one of my best friends in the business. Some of my favourite moments were the times I’ve connected with audience members and held their hands while I sang to them or saw them wipe tears from their faces after I finished singing.”

On her collaboration wish list “It had been a lifelong dream to work with B.B. King but, sadly, that won’t come to fruition anymore. My other fantasy collaborations would be with Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Neil Young and anything that is produced by Jack White or Derek Trucks.”

Her ode to the blues “It gets into the spaces and cracks in your heart that you can’t see, and finds a way to rip them open even wider, but then somehow heal them. There is no music, and there is no life, without the blues.”

The Mahindra Blues Festival will take place at Mehboob Studio, Mumbai from February 10-11, 2018.

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