[INTERVIEW] Beatriz Pessoa on going from Insects to Humans

We present to you Beatriz Pessoa, a talented and very young Portuguese singer who mixes jazz with pop and indie into beautiful songs about being human.

Some months ago we interviewed a new promising name from the Portuguese music world. Beatriz Pessoa is a talented and very young singer songwriter, who dedicated herself to Jazz from a very young age. With time she let herself drink from other styles and the result was Insects, her very first world-pleaser three-track EP. WtMM had the opportunity to talk with her about her story and her dreams.

From karaoke to Jazz

Hi Beatriz, how are you?
Hi! I’m good and very happy for being here today, thanks for the opportunity.

Can you tell us a bit about how and when you started signing?
When I was younger I used to sing everywhere all the time. I did a lot of karaoke at home and knew by heart all the songs that used to play on the radio (laughter). I also used to sing a lot of Beyonce songs! Meanwhile my mom enrolled me in a music school in Oeiras (Lisbon) and later I took a jazz workshop, the Lisbon Jazz Summer School at CCB. I was 14 then, and that made me start enjoying Jazz. From that point on I continued studying it, got in the Hot Club and took a degree in the university (Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa). I think it was a logical process, taken step-by-step. You could say I did the entire academic musical route (laughter).

Taking into consideration that you studied Jazz, how did you come to your current musical style?
Although my academic degree was in Jazz, that is not my style – even though I like it very much, or at least it’s not what I intend to do. The songs I write diverge a lot to other styles like pop, folk or indie.  Of course the Jazz influences are there, I cannot run from it, but it is not the so called pure Jazz.

Considering that, what are your main musical influences?
I used to listen a lot of different things: I still listen to Beyoncé all the time (laughter), and I adore singer-songwriters like Lianne La Havas, Elliot Smith, Paul Simon… The classical Jazz interpreters like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, or Nat King Cole… I don’t know!! I like a lot of distinct things. I also love Feist and Grizzly Bear. I could stay here saying names the entire day! Borderline, I think I’m under the influence from all these artists I listen to every day.

It’s easy to see how jazz is everywhere in your songs, but also maybe a bit of dream-pop?
Yes, sure! I listen to Beach House a lot too. Maybe it came from there. I love the more intimate and nostalgic vibes of music. I love the vocal harmonies and those toy-sounding instruments… But to say the truth, even when we were recording, we only used a vintage mini-korg and the rest was just acoustic.

Is the creative part only yours? Or is it a collective process with your band?
No doubt there is a very important collective effort. But the compositions are mine, as well as the lyrics. I take the structure, the chords, some melodies and the lyrics, and from the things I already have in my mind concerning sonority, each band member finds his flow on it. In the end there is a collective creative process in the product of every song. Thankfully! (laugher).

Beatriz Pessoa and her band in studio

Insects, and the political analogy

Getting into Insects in more detail, how did you feel with this first recording experiment?
It was all too sudden! We gave our first concert and manage to find our editor (Arruada) right away. They helped us a lot and proposed to record the EP. We then spent 3 days in the studio, which was a completely new experience to me. I’d never been in a studio recording my own songs. I enjoyed very much: it was intense, which could had made it harder, but in the end I’m very proud of the final result!

Along with these 3 songs, are there more songs coming soon?
Yes! We want to record a full album. We still don’t have a scheduled date, but I’m confident there are already a lot of new songs ready to be recorded. It will be soon, I hope!!

If you take all the three songs of Insects separately, how would you describe them?
Starting with Insects, it was the first song I wrote, and at the time I was living in Paris. It was when those bad things happened in Bataclan, and that made me write the lyrics as an analogy between the life of insects and the humans life. All the running about and lack of relationship between people, and the fact we tend to look into the future and worry only about our own stuff. In the end the song has two distinct parts. One more ballad, and the other more high paced, but a constant feeling that portraits that impersonal tendency about life.

Disguise is the EP ballad. A song I’ve started to play only on the piano and that meanwhile gained a distinct sonority with the band. It’s a song about disguising and masks. And one I really enjoy singing because it brings me peace and tranquility. It’s almost like a lullaby song! I don’t know if anyone already felt asleep listening to it or not… (laugher).

And then there comes You Know. It evolves around a loop – it was the first time I’ve ever worked with a loop – and has a political analogy. So, in the end, this EP is a bit political in all the songs, even though I rarely talk about politics. This is a more danceable song. More easy to listen, and probably more dream-pop as you saying.

Concerts, the future and wishes

Since the concert at the Park Bar (Lisbon), you have been not only presenting this EP but also playing other songs. What is the feeling about being on the road with the band and playing the unrecorded songs along?
I think it’s the same feeling I had in the studio. It’s the first time I’m on tour with my own project. It has been super fun, we are all friends which makes everything easier, and I’m able to play at places I’ve never been. I’d never been to places like Castro Verde or Salão Brasil in Coimbra to play… I think it’s exciting!

You said you like intimate ambiences, but do you think in this world getting more and more digital, where you know there are a lot of people who listen to your songs but you cannot see them, what means for you to be on stage?
It’s without a doubt important! I enjoy to feel close to people, I like to look to the crowd and feel an emotional bond with them. That fulfils me! That’s why I like to sing. I also enjoy to create those emotional-cosy environments in the concerts, with just a few lights spread all over the place. As big as the room can be, I make it small and feel the crowd is also part of the show. But yes, there is also that digital side to it. Sometimes I imagine that someone that is on the train, going to work, or relaxing in a park, is listening to my songs. To be able to be part of those people lives… it’s a very beautiful feeling!

Beatriz Pessoa and her band in concert.

Where do you see Beatriz Pessoa in 3 to 5 years?
It feels like I’m being interviewed for a job (laugher). Honestly, I don’t know… I would like this project to be more solid, and that I could be more matured and with more concrete ideas. I think the fact I’ve been given this opportunity very young can make me very naive (in a more personal way). In a professional point of view, I would love to continue touring, go to more places in Portugal, and outside… who knows. Above all, I would love to continue making music that people enjoy.

Taking that last sentence as the starting point for the last question, is there any musician you would love to collaborate with?
I have a big thing about MPB (Brazilian pop music) like Marcelo Camelo, Rodrigo Amarante, Cícero… Because I write my songs in English, and even though I listen to a lot of Portuguese music I tend to not listen too much of Portuguese sung songs. The exception are Brazilian based music. For that reason I would love to collaborate with them. Above all, their poetry is very beautiful, and almost seems like it’s easier to write in Brazilian Portuguese. But don’t get me wrong, I would love to be able to write beautiful poetry in Portuguese.

Beatriz’s home studio.

From the bottom of our hearts, Where the Music Meets would like to thank Beatriz Pessoa for this interview and congratulates her for the beautiful music she makes. It’s good to know that Portuguese music has talented people like Beatriz, and we would love to be able to extend her reach to outside Portugal. Best wishes to Beatriz Pessoa! We hope all you guys like her songs!

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