Heartsick Album Interview 2017
Norwich-based singer Malaya Blue is set to release her brand new album this month. (September 2020)
Due for release on September 18 the album, titled Still, has been produced by three time Grammy winning writer and producer Dennis Walker - for his work with Robert Cray and BB King. He collaborated with Malaya Blue, having never worked with any UK artists before, to write the songs after hearing her previous release.
“The album launch day was amazing. It starts as terrifying but as the orders role in you start to breath and as they build so does your confidence,” explains Malaya Blue.
“It was wonderful to see the names of those people who have been fans from the start appear as soon as the pre-order button went live.”
“In the USA we are also experiencing an incredible reception, in fact we have no less than 6 tracks in one chart, are in 5 charts altogether and I’m sitting at No. 25 in the Roots Music Blues Album Chart - and the album isn’t released yet!”
“The support from the Blues community has been fantastic, as well as the jazz and contemporary music scene, we have only been charting for two weeks, so everything is crossed for a rising chart position.”
On working with Dennis Walker, Malaya Blue adds: “It was an education. I had to go back to school, I had to be brave and I had to unlearn some bad habits.”
“Dennis has won three Grammys for his song writing and now that I have had the pleasure of working with him, I can see why. His discipline to his craft made me realise how I was not taking my song writing seriously enough. I thought I was, but I was wrong.”
“Dennis is incredibly humble despite his enormous talents. He mentored me in a way that was robust but kind, firm but fair. I have to follow this with what is really important about this collaboration. Dennis is a legend in the American Blues world and he has never worked with a British artist before. This collaboration means so much to the UK Blues scene, it adds to our validation and cements our place in history with one of the greatest blues writers of all time.”
Alongside this upcoming release, Malaya has also been signed by American label Blue Heart Records. Interestingly, this label is co-owned by Bestsie Brown who was born in Norwich and went to school at Town Close before beginning working for what was then Midland Bank.
Having been given the role of overseeing a bank sponsored exhibition of Chinese Art at the British Museum she decided publicity rather than banking was her passion.
Brown moved to the USA to marry, discovered blues music and is now one of the most respected figures in the American Music industry.
“Growing up in Norfolk in the mid-20th century, it might be hard to imagine how I ended up in Memphis, TN as a blues and roots music publicist,” explains Betsie Brown.
“I grew up in the village of Cantley, spending many an hour under the covers listening to pirate radio and going to local village hall concerts, where American Armed Forces’ musicians, together with local touring bands, gave us a taste of live music.”
“When money and time permitted, I’d regularly attend concerts, the first of historic note being Derek & The Dominos at the Norwich Lads Club, October 3, 1970.”
“After many years of corporate life, including a stint as a PR manager at Midland Bank, I ended up in the US, firstly based in Manhattan and then San Diego. While in Southern California I was introduced to the music of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker, Jr - I was hooked! I took my PR skills and developed my own business in music promotion and relocated to Memphis, the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.”
“My mission has always been to share this music worldwide, so how delighted am I to be working with a fellow Norfolk gal, Malaya Blue, on her new opus, Still.”
It wasn’t just Betsie who was keen to work with Malaya, the feeling was definitely mutual.
“We spoke with Betsie about the previous album Heartsick. We were very keen to get her feedback and we were quietly hoping there may be some discussions about being signed or promoted by her.”
“Betsie took her time to give us feedback regarding the album, she concluded ‘Heartsick is a great album, but Malaya you can do more’. That really resonated with me because in this industry you hear people say Oh PR will tell you anything to get your money..., but clearly that is not the case.”
“When we took Still to Betsie, again, she took her time, but this time she came back with an offer and we were thrilled. She has become an integral part of what we are becoming, and it is great to be in her company.”