Florence Jack is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Aberdeenshire. Her songs are featured regularly on BBC Introducing and other radio stations. Her music ranges from acoustic ballads to electro-pop songs. We have featured her before when Lorraine (me!) reviewed her single “Such a Shame.” Now, this was a remix of a track she released in 2021. It has a catchy beat, simplistically catchy, with a little sing-a-long bit that has certain radio appeal.
Having just reread my review, I liked part of it so much that I will repeat it here. I said that I wanted to find her music ‘in one of those old jazz bars where the smoke would lie, and this stunning singer would be swaying to the beat that you could feel pulsing through the cramped surroundings. On the dance floor, through the haze, a couple of cool dudes would be slow dancing, cigarettes in hand. The dimly lit room would be filled with the smooth melodies of a saxophone or piano, intertwining with the sultry voice of the singer. The air would be thick with the scent of whiskey and laughter as patrons leaned in closer to hear the soulful lyrics. The music transports you to another era when Harding was in the White House, worries faded away, and all that mattered was the rhythm of the night. It was a time when people embraced the moment, lost in the intoxicating ambiance of the jazz.’ And there Florence Jack would be! But then again, with her new single (and possibly with the EP), she has moved away from all this!
“Read the Room” is out on February 2nd, a collaboration with Nat Cartier and not at all jazz-influenced. Nat Cartier is the co-CEO and Creative Director of the Edinburgh Collective and a student at the Edinburgh University Futures Institute pursuing an MSc in Creative Industries. Originally from Switzerland, he is now established in Edinburgh and has a number of tracks out, making this a single already attracting wide interest. It was chosen for an industry panel at Resonate Scotland (the yearly Scottish music industry conference) and has been lined up as the Edinburgh Underground Sounds song of the week in February.
Turning to the song, it is a departure from that earlier sound by Florence; it is more funky pop, and there is this spoken section in the middle that has more than a touch of the Pet Shop Boys. I will have to revisit it to get a second listen, as it is a song that demands attention.
With all this in mind, we sat down to gain a full update on all things Florence Jack and Nat Cartier from the duo.
We wondered how the guys hooked up for the single, and who did what and when!
Nat: Florence and I connected online through social media and recognised we were both up-and-coming artists in Scotland, and then we decided it might be fun working together. Florence travelled down to Edinburgh for the first session, and I remember her saying that she had the idea of a song called “Read the Room.” She had the concept and some ideas of how it would sound. So, Florence had the original spark, and then we co-wrote it, both working on the lyrics and music. I did the recording and production side of things, but we nearly always worked together.
Nat has a song called “So Alive” that we came across and wondered how typical that was of his current music. There is a great live version of it on You Tube, performed on the piano.
Nat: “So Alive” is very me and my vibe and energy. It represents my way of living, and the music video represents my Edinburgh community and friends. I have been able to grow a lot here, and I am so happy with the way the song has evolved over the years. The video is finished, but the music is still being recorded, so the song isn’t out yet, although I have posted the current version with the music video online. But, for sure, it is a good taste of what the finished song will be like!
The last piece done with Florence was the “Such a Shame” single, but this single seems a departure from that. We thought she was changing direction slightly musically.
Florence: I think I am slowly moving more toward pop. Although, that said, I have always loved listening to those jazzy, bluesy songs and music, and my voice has grown more into that style. However, I am wanting to move more toward pop, and “Such a Shame” was a step up. I had “Don’t Wanna Know,” which was back in April ’23, and then “Such a Shame,” and each one moved more toward pop. “Read the Room” is a great single with Nat to showcase that break toward pop. It was such fun to make as well, and the production by Nat has taken it forward.
In a brief chat around ‘Such a Shame,” Florence indicated an EP was possible in 2024; was that still on the table? And is there any chance of more collaboration with Nat, or is this a one-off?
Florence: I would love to work with Nat again; he’s a talented musician and producer, and we hit it off. When we had a walk-through of Edinburgh, it was like he was already an old friend, and so I think another collaboration could be on the cards in the future. As for the EP, I am working toward one toward the end of 2024, and I also have a couple of other collaborations with other UK artists. I have a couple of summer singles to get out as well!
Nat: I’m sure Florence and I will collaborate many more times throughout our music careers! But, for now, it’s “Read the Room”!
And in the songwriting for this one, was one the lyricist and the other doing the music? And Nat was at the helm of the production?
Nat: I produced the track, and I would say with the lyrics that we co-wrote the lyrics. Florence had an original audio, but we refined the verses and lyrics; it took a few changes before my verse really slotted in. In terms of the structure and chords, that was a joint thought. I drove in the producer’s seat and played all the instruments that you hear on the track, from bass to sax to piano—that’s all me!
When we release songs as singles, we sometimes lose that sense of continuity that you get when they are released in an album, with the flow of the album. But, we guess, the release of singles connects better with social media listeners who quickly check in, have a listen, then head off!
Nat: The way music is consumed has changed a lot. But I would say that the true artistry in the form of the song collection within an album still stands, absolutely. You can hear so well when songs are written in a DAW production mode, versus songs where the artist has moved away from the digital world to craft the song. There, you notice the differences. If you hear an album that speaks to you, then you’ll want to listen to the whole thing and give every song attention. So, I firmly believe in the album in this modern digital age. Personally, I have a funky/dance/hip-hop “Neo” EP that I am working on to release this year. I make neo-music and am building momentum towards an original album titled “Love Odyssey.” So, I am deep in the process of writing songs that fit and flow together at the moment, although “Read the Room” is definitely a standalone single. There is great value for artists in creating better stories around a collection of songs, whether EP or album, and having a beautiful, flowing progression and narrative from start to finish should not be underestimated; that is where true artistry lies and where the works are more likely to stand the test of time.
Florence: EPs and albums are still so important for music artists to enter the journey. But times really have changed, and stand-alone singles are becoming more popular, and people lean more that way. I think TikTok and social media are responsible for that; these are huge platforms. Artists blow up on TikTok, but the EP and albums matter too.
Nat: I do believe in true artists, and those who will be successful in the long term will still need to have those as part of their portfolio. Yes, there are artists who only turn to the single and explode on social media, but to tap into wider emotions, you still need a body of work. Look at “Thriller” or Harry Styles; any of these are historically significant. But singles keep the immediacy and promote short-term growth, especially for independent artists.
It is not easy being an independent artist, especially getting on the tails of this vinyl revival and getting products into the record shops.
Nat: You need the support of the record industry. People out there may wish to see the vinyl from newer artists, and those artists would love to see their work on vinyl with great record cover art, but it’s getting to that stage where it is financially profitable for the stores to have your work there. How do you break into that market? All those Beatles albums will be under deep contracts, and the cake will be split in many ways. Compare that to the small artist who has a couple hundred pieces of printed vinyl. I will be thinking about how on earth I would get my “Love Odyssey” vinyl into shops around the UK and Switzerland; I have no idea! It’s very hard if you are not Harry Styles and right at the top of the business.
It is strange how the market is almost saturated, as it is so easy to make music now. But a saturated market doesn’t necessarily mean it is a better-quality market. It is a hard pond to navigate through and get your music heard.
Nat: In the end, I believe it comes down to what you are doing it for. Recently, I was in my flat going through a song for a gig I was doing. The song touches on not wanting a connection with a person to break, and when I was singing the song, it felt emotional, as if I was singing the song to my flatmate, who was in the flat at the time. If the song exists so you can express your true feelings, I think that is the most important thing, as it helps you express yourself. You should write the music for yourself; it should help you experience living; otherwise, it is surely less fulfilling. I don’t care about the streaming numbers if the song is something I connect to, and it takes me to the people I wrote it with and for. And with “Read the Room,” you can play it live, just with the guitar, and the song will feel just as good. That matters; songs with hearts mean that others can play them and pick up the feel.
Are there any live plans from either of you in 2024?
Nat: Florence and I have already been on stage a handful of times; one was back in June when I did a Scottish tour called the ‘Scottish Odyssey Tour’ and Florence and I performed in Aberdeen with the band; that was cool. We performed in Aberdeen again in September at the ‘Music Hall’ and we will get some gigs in 2024. There may even be a trip to Switzerland on the horizon, performing the song there in June at the Lakeside Festival “Zuger Seenachtsfest” in Zug, Switzerland. It’s exciting, and I believe the universe wants it to happen!
And the last album you listened to all the way through?
Florence: It would be Taylor Swift, and it was her rerecorded “1989” album. She is my inspiration, and so I constantly listen to her. “1989” was a breakthrough album for her; it was pop, and that is what I want to get into. Her songwriting on that album is wonderful; she’s a clever lyricist, and her melodies are inspiring. She’s on tour now, and that’s a popular album with her fans.
Nat: I last listened to “I had a beautiful time; now I have to leave” by Felly (2023). I loved the direction and the songwriting. The production is very modern and neo; it is a soft R&B-style pop. I loved the stories, and Felly’s artistry is one of my big inspirations out there.
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By Lorraine Foley
Mark C. Chambers