Gigi Williams in the 'First Thing' music videoYouTube / Gigi Williams

In the time of quarantine, the resource of creativity can be simultaneously essential and intimidating. I spoke to singer and Oxford student Gigi Williams about her flourishing career as a jazz musician navigating a global pandemic.

Gigi released her first music video last week: the product of ‘two years of feeling, writing, singing, arranging and recording’, culminating in the release of her EP, First Thing. Dressed in a blue boiler suit, she stands on a platform being painted, rendering the vulnerability of being in the spotlight for the first time. As Gigi puts it, being a growing artist is ‘equal parts fun and scary. I think a really important part of releasing your own stuff is trying to convince people to listen to it, which I can find a bit icky. It’s not very British to sell yourself but I’m trying to suck it up and get over it because no one is gonna do it for me!’

Aside from her degree in music at one of the most demanding academic institutions in the world, Gigi has single-handedly written and arranged all of her songs. I ask how she’s managed the demands of Oxford. ‘I find maintaining consistency across terms and the holidays really hard. Your entire routine changes, and you kind of have to reset everything, but I also am a big believer in the idea that productivity generates more productivity’, she says. ‘Sometimes being really busy can be really motivating because you know you have so little time to get shit done. I definitely think I’ve benefited from being at a University with really talented musicians’.

"For me, it’s definitely about trying to pin down exactly what I want to say and that kind of leads the song in a particular direction"

Gigi admits that this period has been challenging. ‘Now is such a weird time for musicians - everyone being stuck home and all. I was supposed to be recording an album just after lockdown started which is now on pause’, she tells me. In some ways, though, lockdown is the perfect opportunity to emerge as a young artist. ‘Being a young musician - especially right now - is such a bizarre, wonderful and precarious existence. Anyone can literally upload anything to the internet, and decent microphones can be bought cheap so there’s been a huge explosion of music and musicians - the possibilities are endless. For me, it’s definitely a double edged sword: I have complete control over all my artistic output, but I am also in charge of managing everything myself’.

Without the disruption that term brings, during lockdown Gigi will be releasing a collaboration with singer-songwriter Rosie Frater-Taylor. ‘I’m really looking forward to it because we make quite different music, but I think it sits somewhere in between our two styles’, she says. Her own influences range from Stan Getz to Roy Hargrove. One of her biggest inspirations is singer-songwriter Nai Palm (of the band Hiatus Kaiyote): ‘she has the most incredible way with words and an ability to manipulate her voice that is so visceral, so human and yet almost otherworldly’.


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Describing her own artistic process, Gigi explains that, for her, there is no formula for song-writing. ‘Sometimes I’ll hear an entire composition in my head on my way home and voice note it and it’ll be finished. Sometimes I’ll be stuck with something that doesn’t feel quite right for months until I rewrite a section and it works suddenly. For me, it’s definitely about trying to pin down exactly what I want to say and that kind of leads the song in a particular direction’.

Gigi’s new song, ‘Stella’ will be released soon.

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