By David Hennessy
Ahead of her debut album Sweet Sticky Fix being released in February, Helena Jesele has been winning widespread acclaim with singles Let The Game Begin and Sun is Shining. Working with Amy Winehouse producer Paul O’Duffy and Truth and Soul, the production team that has worked with Adele and Aloe Blacc among others, Helena’s debut collection is one to watch out for. Hot Press recently described her as “destined to set fire to the charts and hearts of Europe” and The Daily Telegraph was also overawed by her “presence” and “powerful, soulful voice”, but The Irish World recognised stunning Helena’s talents much earlier with an Irish World Award in 2007.
“I’m really happy, we only got the album a couple of weeks ago,” the soul and jazz sensation begins. “I’m chuffed with that because it’s hard to imagine, when you’re recording, what the end result will actually look and sound like. I think it’s quite a human thing, we need to see things to believe them.
“I’m looking at it now and I never thought this would be the end result because when I started out, I thought I would be doing a straight ahead jazz album but I started writing my own tracks and that gathered momentum.”
Helena describes the album’s coming together as ‘a tale of two cities’ with it being created in both New York with Truth and Soul and with Paul O’Duffy in London: “I was the Irish girl between everything, kind of an odd mix or maybe a really good mix. The album is split down the middle so the songs were literally recorded in the cities they were written in, which was great because I could go back and forth to New York which was amazing.”
So how exactly did these names happen to come on board? “With Truth and Soul, I heard what they had done with Aloe Blacc. I loved the sound and I thought: ‘I’d love to work with them’ so I sent them a recording I did of Cry Me A River and they absolutely loved it. They just asked me to come over and work with them so that’s how that happened. They came before Paul O’Duffy so I sent those tracks to Paul O’Duffy and he said he would love to work with me and finish the album.
“Initially I thought I would do the whole album in New York but then I quite liked the idea of doing it half and half because I loved New York and wanted to go and work there but kind of keep an eye on proceedings here. It was very serendipitous really. It all seemed to come together. I’m not a great person for planning, it has to be said, so I tend to be led by my heart and what feels right at the time. That is definitely how this album has come to pass. If you put the right intentions into something, the right people will come along.”
Working with such big industry names was an adjustment for Helena: “I was so intimidated particularly with Truth and Soul because they were like these really cool cats, I felt like: ‘Oh God, maybe they think I’m better than I am’. I’ll never forget when I was flying over to New York and I thought: ‘I’m playing with the big boys now: Am I capable? What if I’m sitting in the studio and nothing comes out?’ Because I do all the lyrics and melodies, the songs come from my stories so what if I get really nervous and I freeze? But they were really encouraging and just really loved my ideas. We got on so well, that’s the thing about writing with producers and musicians, you have to have good chemistry with them. I was really lucky, just having craic, the songs seemed to pour out. I would always go in with a story as Irish people do, there’s always a story and the story would always end up in the song.”
For the full interview, pick up this week’s (Dec 15) Irish World