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Tanja Maritsa is a formidable jazz-folk singer based in the UK. Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve Rudd, she chats about her childhood in France, her infectious passion for singing, and how a new addition to her family has impacted on her life…

Hi Tanja, how are you?

Hi Steve. I’m great, thank you. A little bleary-eyed of-late as I’m a new mum, so I’m getting used to all sorts of delights including sleepless nights! But there is nothing on earth like it… and, like all mums say, he is without doubt the most beautiful baby in the world!

For those not in-the-know, you’re an acclaimed jazz-folk singer. Can you recall how old you were when you first started singing, and what was it that first compelled you to pick up a mic?

I started classical singing, I suppose, when I was about ten, entering competitions, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I turned to jazz and folk and started frequenting some of the jazz open-mic clubs in London.  Through one of these clubs I was lucky enough to go to New York and try out some of the venues there, and I just loved the whole scene… small, intimate, smoky jazz clubs with some brilliant musicians.

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You spent the first few years of your life in Paris. What do you remember about growing up in France? 

I only lived in Paris until I was five, but I think it’s amazing how you seem to be shaped and influenced by things when you’re very young. I love Paris, particularly Montmartre where all the artists hang out, and I used the carousel there for the front cover of my single Live For Today. I used to play on it as a child, so it felt special to go back and do a photo-shoot. I also love the French chansons and singers like Edith Piaf, hence the cover version of La Vie en Rose on my first album, and Jacque Brel. Such music and French culture seems to have a special resonance for me.

Do you think your childhood in France had much bearing on your desire to become a singer?

I’m not sure really. I think music certainly seeps into you without you realising it, but whether that really made me want to sing, I’m not sure. More likely, I think, I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors and supporters along the way who’ve really inspired me to sing and write songs.

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What is it that you enjoy so much about singing? 

I suppose singing, for me, is the best way of expressing myself. I like all sorts of art forms including painting and dancing, and I’ve also been doing quite a lot of photography lately, but singing is really the most emotional.

Your first CD was entitled Child in My Heart. Were you in any way surprised by the rave reviews it duly received?

I was delighted. It’s very scary doing your first album, and it’s a big learning curve. There’s always something you think you could have done better, but at the same time you develop through the process.

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Your second album came to be called Fragile. What made you settle on such a title, and did you find it any easier to record given the experience you gained the first time around in the studio?

Well, Fragile is one of the songs included on the album. It’s a cover version of the song by Sting and it was beautifully arranged by my producer, Richard Niles. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. Also, I think it reflects what I was going through and learning about life at the time. My father was suffering from cancer when I was recording it, and it made me realise how delicate and precious life is. He was incredibly brave throughout his illness and to the very end of his life. He also cared very deeply about injustices and inhumanities in the world. Since I dedicated the album to him, to choose that song for the album title seemed very appropriate.

Since releasing Fragile, have you written or recorded anything fresh for jazz-starved ears?

Well, my next album is really just waiting for me to find the time and energy. Like Kate Middleton, I had hyperemesis throughout my pregnancy, which is incredibly debilitating, so things were put on hold for a bit, but I’m hoping to get back into the studio next year!

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Finally, what’s the best way for people to sample your music?
All my music is online via Amazon and iTunes. There’s also a lot of info on my website as at www.tanjamaritsa.co.uk

(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Tanja Maritsa)

This interview was conducted on 3rd December, 2013.

Steve’s first book, “Pulse“, is now available on the Kindle here

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