Elise LeGrow on The Making of Her New Record 'Playing Chess'
    • TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

    There are some voices that are so good, they captivate you immediately upon first listen. Singer-songwriter Elise LeGrow has one of those voices. Hailing from Toronto, several influences can be heard in LeGrow's soulful delivery like Adele, Nina Simone, and even Amy Winehouse. As she gears up to release her debut album Playing Chess on August 4th via S-Curve Records, we chatted about collaborating with prestigious artists (Questlove, The Dap-Kings) and how she went about picking the songs for the record, which reimagines the music of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and more. She's also hitting NYC this week for a gig at Mercury Lounge on Wednesday, 6/14. Tickets here.


    You're releasing your debut album—how long did it take you to make this record? What was the process like?

    We recorded over the fall of 2016 and winter 2017 in New York and Toronto. Each recording session really had a life of its own and some of my favourite moments on the album were born spontaneously jamming with the band. I think having heavyweights on both sides of the console gave us all more room to stray from the charted path and even get a little lost.

    What kind of artists were you taking inspiration from?

    It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly! Having immersed myself in the Chess catalog for several months I couldn't help but absorb some of the soul and swagger of those performances. That said, my influences are diverse, spanning genres - pop, rock and rnb from the '60s to the '90s.

    Can you talk about the process of picking songs from the Chess catalogue?

    Steve Greenberg, Michael Mangini and I spent months going through the Chess recordings mining for gold. Eventually we met in New York and spent about 7 hours in Steve's office comparing notes and listening to the tracks we felt had something special. We left that day with a long list of about 20 songs that we'd have to whittle down over the coming weeks. Arriving at 11 songs was really a difficult process when there was so much great material to choose from - a good problem to have though.

    What was it like working with so many incredible people? (The Dap-Kings, Questlove, Joss Stone's producers, etc.)

    It was like a dream! I'm still pinching myself! I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a great team on this album including Steve Greenberg and Michael Mangini - both Grammy-winning producers; Questlove and Captain Kirk Russell of The Roots; David Guy, Cochlea Gastelum, Neal Sugarman and Ian Henderson Smith of the Dap Kings plus Ms Betty Wright, a true soul queen of the past, present and future.

    And you have a show coming up at Mercury Lounge in NYC on 6/14. What's your set up look like? What can we expect to see during your live show?

    The show at Mercury Lounge will be the live debut of songs off my forthcoming album, including my new single, "You Never Can Tell." I'll be accompanied by the same stellar 4-piece band at the core of the record. It's been a riot getting back to work with these guys. I'm really looking forward to the show.
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