Every night African daisies close up, a gesture interpreted as being protective of their vulnerably beautiful pedal display. In the morning, these flowers burst open and share with the world their bold essence. Multi-award-winning jazz-tinged neo-soul artist Lo Marie will release a song called “African Daisy” as part of a series of singles to eventually be bundled together as the album Le Rêve. The African daisy phenomenon is emblematic of a profound shift in her personal and creative continuums.
Lo Marie has blossomed as a confident artist with a focused vision. In this spirit, she opted to self-produce. “I feel ready to speak up for myself as an artist. I know who I am, and I’ve been fortunate to make a name for myself in my hometown. Stepping into the producer’s role has been the biggest thing for me this year, but, thankfully, I had the resources and a support system to make this all happen,” the Madison, Wisconsin-based artist shares.
Lo Marie’s aesthetic encompasses jazz harmonic constructs, urban grooves, soulful guitar passages, and the expressivity of the jazz and neo-soul vocal traditions. Her debut EP, Beyond the Age of Reason(2012), produced by ace Nashville session man Jerry Kimbrough, earned Lo Marie an international following, enabling her to tour the US from New York to Los Angeles. Her follow-up, Solid Ground(2015), also produced by Kimbrough, won the “Jazz Album of the Year at the 2015 MAMA Awards (Madison Area Music Association Awards). In 2018, Lo Marie won MAMA awards for “Best Female Vocalist,” “Best Jazz Performer,” and “Cover Song of the Year” for her duet, "I've Got A Crush On You," with the legendary guitar player Cliff Frederiksen.
Outside of her solo career, Lo Marie keeps active with the charitable arts events organization the Lo Marie Foundation, and performing with the salsa/soul fusion band Orquesta Salsoul del Mad and playing in a Frank Zappa tribute ensemble, The Furious Bongos.
Lo Marie’s story began with her singing in the church youth choir. From there, it was voice lessons at age 7, piano lessons at age 8, and guitar lessons at age 15. “I started playing guitar to impress a boy,” she confesses, laughing.
At first, Lo Marie aspired to become an opera singer, but soon found she craved more open artistic expression. Lo Marie discovered a satisfying creative outlet in jazz, eventually studying with well-known guitarist Jerry Kimbrough while formally studying music at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Music in Voice and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. While at Vanderbilt, Lo Marie also studied under the great Billy Adair, the university’s director of jazz studies, and played in his professional big band, The Establishment.
Throughout her path, Lo Marie’s work ethic has been her biggest strength. “I am a firm believer in hard work over natural talent. We all are born with abilities we just need to train and put the time in to bring our gifts forward,” she shares.
Lo Marie’s latest, the seven-song collection, Le Rêve, is edgier and more urban-slanted than her previous releases. The basslines are more crafted to fit the songs, supporting Lo Marie’s soulfully sophisticated jazz guitar playing, and providing counterpoint to the her sensually emotive vocals. This low-end prominence also fosters more of a neo-soul groove pocket.
Lyrically, this body of work is Lo Marie’s strongest. “This album is a celebration of freedom of creativity and expression. The themes here are more mature, and the feeling is confident, hopeful, and empowering,” she shares. This spirit is powerfully captured by a stunningly intimate version of “Someday We’ll Be Free” as made popular by Donny Hathaway.
Le Rêve will be issued as a series of seven singles and later packaged as an album. Select highlights in this body of work include “All The Love,” “Imperfect Goddess,” and “African Daisy.” The track “All The Love” features honeyed low-register vocals, airy harmony vocals, and lush orchestral acoustic flourishes. The song is purposeful and poignant. “That song is about giving someone who is hurting love, and the transformative power this can have on someone in need,” says Lo Marie. The sweet soul-jazz of “Imperfect Goddess” evokes Roberta Flack. And the empowering “African Daisy” features gorgeous gospel-inflected organ, jazz horn splashes, and breezily seductive vocals that whisk you away.
Album basics were recorded in Nashville at Randy Poole’s beloved studio, The Poole Room, where Lo Marie recorded her previous two records. From there, the tracks went on a journey to New York, New Hampshire, and Maryland. Central to the record was bassist and mix engineer Conrad St. Clair who worked closely with Lo Marie, crafting parts and helping shape the music. Also joining the team was Lo Marie’s longtime musical partner, Melanie Alvey, who arranged strings and played first violin, and Melanie’s husband, John Alvey, who played drums on a majority of the tracks.
Looking ahead, Lo Marie says: “One of the most meaningful things about playing live is making connections and new friends through music. I want to share with people light-hearted, intimate, and uplifting moments in performance.”
"If there was ever any doubt that the Madison music scene oozes not only with talent but also with class, one need look no further than Lo Marie. Her tasteful blend of jazz and soul comes alive on Le Reve, a seven-song album that is nothing short of world-class.
-Rick Tvedt, Local Sounds Magazine