NYJO Presents… Helena Debono

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We caught up with singer/songwriter Helena Debono before her upcoming 'NYJO Presents...' livestream from Ronnie Scott's on 14 MAR 21.

Ronnie Scott’s will open its virtual doors three nights a week for the next three months with a strong programme of emerging and established UK jazz names. Performances will be livestreamed at 8pm every Sunday, Monday and Thursday from mid-February onward.

Among the many highlights are a whole host of leading UK names including award-winners Xhosa ColeAlice Zawadzki and Emilia Mårtensson. Within this series, ‘NYJO Presents..‘ will bring you a curated list of young artists that we’re really excited to hear right now.

First up it’s singer/songwriter and ex-NYJO vocalist, Helena Debono, who we had the pleasure of talking to earlier this week.

NYJO Presents… Helena Debono

How are you feeling? 

I’d say on a whole Im okay. I have good days and bad days, I hate zoom now and I’ve reorganised my room more times that I’d like to admit.  I think like all musicians, we just miss gigs and performing and hanging out with our friends everyday making music (and of course going to the Ronnie Scott’s Late Show whenever we want!).  I am very lucky that I have had my album to focus on. Completing that with my producer and working on the release etc has taken up a lot of my time. Having this gig to prepare for has really given me the motivation to get back into a practice routine. 

That segue’s nicely into our next question! You will be kickstarting the NYJO Presents series at Ronnie Scott’s on the 14th of March. How does it feel to have a gig in the diary?

I am beyond excited to be back on a stage with my band. We were in the studio recording for my album a few days before lockdown 1. This is our first time back together performing this music again! Also, for my first gig back to be at Ronnie Scott’s is pretty amazing! 

NYJO Presents… Helena Debono
Helena Debono @ Ronnie Scott’s Event Details

When was the last time your performed live? Would you have done anything differently if you knew it was going to be this long before you did it again?

So my last big gig pre covid was a few days before lockdown at a private members club in London which has sadly had to close down permanently during the pandemic. I think if I had known that was going to be my last gig I would have belted, and riffed like it was nobody’s business as I wouldn’t have been worried about maintaining my voice for next days gig! Basically, I would have channelled Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and all the other divas!  

What should we expect from the gig? Do you have any idea of what the set list will be?  

My musical Director Nick Fitch and I have some amazing ideas for the set. I am releasing my debut single “Little Life” on Friday 12th so we will be celebrating this release. We will also be debuting new tracks from the album and also performing lots of old classics. Other than that, you’ll have to tune in to find out! 

From jazz standards to Billie Eilish covers – what would you say are the themes that most inspire you in music, what moves you? 

…  Lyrics. If the lyrics get me then I am sold. But also the voice. I love to listen to other vocalists!

Helena performs a lockdown cover of “My Future” by Billie Eilish with Saran Davies.

Do you think the way you express yourself musically has changed in any way during this crazy year? If so, how?

I think I am a lot more chilled out when it comes to expressing myself musically. I have been collaborating with a good friend and cellist Saran Davies and I think thats been so nice to push myself in a different direction other than with a guitarist or quartet or big band etc. Also, being able to create amazing music from our own homes, then putting the individual tracks together and creating split screen videos has been so much fun! 

Global pandemic aside, what will you remember this time in your life by?

I will remember this time in my life when I found out who I am and what my goals are for the future. I feel that during the pandemic I have been able to get used to spending time on my own (pre-Corona I was with people all the time!) and to not stress about the little things. I don’t miss the Piccadilly line!

Desert island discs, you know the drill: eight tracks, a book, and a luxury. What would you take to a desert island? 

OMG THIS IS MY FAV QUESTION! My 8 tracks are: Eloise – You Dear, Amy Winehouse – I’ve Heard Love is Blind, Ella Fitzgerald – Somethings Gotta Give, Yebba – Evergreen, Frank Sinatra – You Make Me Feel So Young, Nat King Cole – L-O-V-E, Whitney Houston – How Will I Know and Chet Baker’s “It Could Happen To You”.

Listen to Helena’s selections on our Spotify playlist!

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is my favourite book. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it and it also inspired by debut single. Finally, my luxury item would be a piano (so I can finally get really good at it).


Thanks Helena! Always lovely to catch-up. Please visit the NYJO Events page for the upcoming show and register your interest now. Remember to check in live on the 14 MAR 8PM!

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