Going With The FLO

“FLOetic?” I hear you say, “Sounds Familiar”. Well you’re half right, Flo is British, she has a beautiful face and beautiful vocals like Marsha and she’s got lyrics like Natalie, you could even say she has a neo-soul vibe, but these facts are more coincidence than imitation. Flo explains, “I started out at 17, and at the time Floetry were big, and their album ‘Floetic’ had just been released. I appreciated their music but they weren’t idols because I hadn’t grown with them musically,  but over the years their music began to influence me. However the name isn’t some kind of homage, it’s not related at all, and now I wish the association wasn’t there to be honest”

So far, so forceful, but its exactly what you can expect from the 26-year-old Brixtonite who first took to the stage in 2002, bringing something ‘ young, raw and fresh’ to the open mic poetry event Brixtongue. Since then she’s never looked back, sharing her poetry and laid-back soul songs at regular gigs, eventually leading to her deciding to be more serious and ‘become professional’ around 2005, when she realised the influence of her music. In fact Flo says the influence of her music is the best thing about being a performer. She says, “A few of the musicians I work with have kids, and when they see me, they’re like ‘wow!’ and they’re singing my songs back to me. Its really humbling especially when the  majority of kids  are singing Rihanna and it’s a joy to know their parents are sharing my music with them.”

Her own musical journey was inspired heavily by the one and only Erykah Badu and she wants to, one day, emulate a similar career to the formidable singer. ” I would like to have a career like Erykah insofar as I want to be able to continuously explore my music and expand my style. She has a loyal following too but she’s expanded her market because she has that digital sound, and she’s still able to pull big crowds after 20 years, that’s where I want to be,” says Flo. Even though she ‘rinsed’ Erykah’s debut album as a child because ‘her sound and style spoke to me even though I didn’t overstand the content’, Flo is also influenced by other artists from Buju Banton (she’s a big reggae fan) to Billie Holiday via Ella Fitzgerald.

The love of reggae came in handy when Flo got the unique opportunity to record her last album, For Lovers Of… at the legendary Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica. Flo remembers, “My last project was recorded at Tuff Gong, I ended up there through a promoter and was asked to go out and work on an EP with a live band. Some of the engineers said they had heard my music, which I was shocked by, so we changed it to an album. Jamaica is my fathers country but I’ve never had a chance to go until doing that project, and I loved seeing my people indulging in the fruits of the island, seeing the cultural side of them, I even got to meet legends like Taurus Riley, Dean Fraser and I Octane. Going to the sound systems on the beach at night and meeting artists was really cool but it was a lot of pressure living up to such musical history when I was recording. The studio is plastered with platinum discs and awards and I was like ‘argh!’ But it was inspiring and I felt privileged to record somewhere that Bob Marley has been. I wanted to allow that energy to propel me into releasing my talent, and not feel threatened because massive studios like that don’t really play! You gotta do your ting and not be shy so I had to focus and record.”

In fact, recording is the part of the musical process that gives Flo the most trouble because she prefers playing to an audience, she says ” I can be shy in the studio because it’s completely different to live performances where you work off the crowd and band and work off their energy. In the studio there’s nobody to perform to, no energy to connect with. I find it stifling sometimes even when I know I have more to give. I’m more of a live artist and I don’t think I’ve captured my live sound properly but i think that will come with age.”

Despite the awesome experience in Jamaica, Flo cites a performance in Thailand as her most memorable musical performance to date, she says, ” The best place I’ve played is in a saxophone bar in Bangkok. I had a set before one of Thailands top saxophonists but after hearing me perform, he kept me on stage and we vibed. It was beautiful because race and language didn’t matter, just the joy of music.”

All this from a girl who was kicked out of school, grew up in care and by her own admission, was ‘never expected to prosper’, Flo is also passionate about her youth work. She shares her experiences of schooling and the care system and helps young people to adjust to independent living and uses her talent to connect with them. She says, “I want to make the young people powerful through music”. Flo is a shining example of how far talent can take you if nurtured in the right way, she performs internationally on a regular basis and is even representing England at the International Hip Hop and Afro-Urban Festival in Senegal at the end of the month. She has a couple of  EP’s on the way  – one is a house/drum n bass/techno take on her signature sound-  and her Naturally Divine skincare, jewellery and gift basket range is launching in July. So what are you waiting for? Make sure to check out this dynamic, talented and inspirational young woman right away, truly a rose that grew from concrete.

If you want to catch Flo live shes performing tonight at the Late @ Tate event ( Akala is also on the bill) or you can find out more about Flo and download her latest EP right here.


Monica Rahman