U.K.-based singer Alice Russell is known for her commanding and soulful voice. She’s had a successful solo career and collaborated with artists such as Quantic, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
This Friday, Russell and her band take the stage at the Skirball Cultural Center as part of the 15th anniversary celebration for her label, Tru Thoughts Records. We caught up with Russell ahead of her show in L.A. to talk about what it’s like being a touring mom.
On how her touring life has changed since having a baby:
I've got a little five-and-a-half month old, so this tour is a mini-tour. My little baby's come with me on the tour, can't leave her at home, definitely not. Usually we pretty much do five nights in a row, or six nights, no days off unless we are rehearsing. But the band's hanging out with us here in San Francisco, we've got two days off, and it's like a holiday compared to usual tours. So having babies helps calm everything down, but you still do it. So it's cool.
On how her pre-show ritual has changed since becoming a mother:
The main thing is just getting a little bit of time by myself and just warming up the voice. I just hum up and down a little bit. Basically ... just go up and down the scales. If you're doing it in a cab, people look at you weirdly, but it warms up the little croaky throat. Depending on the show and how you're feeling, I used to have a little shot of vodka, but that's changed cause I'm, you know, making milk at the moment.
On how she keeps her voice elastic during intense touring:
The one thing that's really good for the voice — I remember Chaka Khan saying it when she was at her height of being very naughty on lots of substances — is sleep. It's the most important thing, which is probably the kind of thing you get the least of on tour. So if you can't get sleep, the other good thing to do is to steam. The baby's definitely changed that, because on tour I used to leave the boys and go off and have a little steam sauna, but now I can't really do that, so I'm just using the power of the mind.
On her concerns about becoming a mother and touring at the same time:
I was a little bit hesitant with thinking about how I was going to continue touring when I got pregnant. I was kind of quite defiant in the way that I was definitely going to have to carry on, because it's what I do and it's part of who I am, and you want your children to know that about you. But at the same time, when kids come along, that's your world as well. So you need to do what's best for them. It just means you have to be a little more careful with the travel arrangements — a lot more planning than a normal tour, which is loads of planning anyway. But I only have to be away from her for two hours, max, so I feed her and get her to bed, bath, before the show, then I jump in a cab, warm up, get myself ready, and go on stage. It's been pretty crazy. I'm knackered, but I'm happy.