earless, that’s how Terri Walker feels. Sixteen years into her career, she has come full circle, having worked with some of the biggest players in the music industry, gaining unrivalled insight and traversing her way through some incredible highs and lows, but fearless or not, it was time to return to the blueprint and go it alone.
The news she was leaving Lady – the deftly executed foray into classic soul with Nicole Wray, which picked up critical acclaim on both sides of the pond - broke on Twitter and marked the return of Terri Walker the solo artist. The love and excitement is uncontainable, she is back and ready to join the independent world in control of her own destiny. This is the space where she thrives, without the claustrophobia of the majors, and it is now once more her home.
Terri dropped ‘Untitled’ her critically acclaimed debut album in 2003 – featuring a collaboration with Mos Def – and was nominated for the Mercury Prize and four MOBO awards. As the second album ‘LOVE’ approached, the label were keen to explore a different route – a direction she was uncomfortable with – and whilst reviews were positive, Mercury were unhappy with the commercial success and she departed the label aged 26. ‘I Am’ – Terri’s third album – won fans in The Guardian and BBC, with some claiming it crystallized her position as one of the UK’s leading artists. She toured the album extensively, but exhausted from her intensive work schedule, she took a hiatus from music, questioning the industry, its output and the perception of her as an artist.
A meeting with Queens NY born producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas, Miguel) sparked a working relationship that once ignited would endure. Whilst recording backing vocals for the likes of Nas, Cee-Lo and Jennifer Hudson, Salaam and Terri collaborated on ‘Hey Baby’ for the Sex & The City soundtrack and also started work on a side project, the concept album ‘Champagne Flutes.’
Four years later, she began work on what should have been her fourth studio album with US producer Ski Beatz (Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Jay Electronica). Slated for release via Damon Dash’s BluRoc, the material is still to see the light of day.
“The morning I woke up and I was out of my deal was confusing. I’d waited so long to be in this position but equally, I didn’t understand why I had to go through so much just to get back to the beginning, being free and able to make the choices I wanted to,” says Terri.
Any lesser artist would have taken their leave a long time ago, but if the music is your driving force, no amount of running will lead to solace. “It’s about the love of the music,” says Terri. This may sound cheesy coming from any number of recording artists, but with Terri, there is no subtext, the words hide no thirst for fame, it simply reiterates her position as an artist.
“I always thought, ‘I’m a singer, that’s all I want’, but I have stories to tell, people to inspire, people who feel like I once felt. I’m not just a singer. I’m an artist.”
From the artist whose voice had been quieted by the power of industry gods, Terri went to work to ensure she was heard no matter what deal she was tied into. Along with the likes of Paul McCartney, Rizzle Kicks and Spoek Mathambo, she was a passenger on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, which saw her and fellow Brit stars collaborate with African musicians for a train tour whose passengers would perform nightly shows whilst spending days visiting schools, hospitals and bandstands to play impromptu pop-up gigs. There have been collaborations with one time grime whizz kid turned house saviour T Williams, Rinse FM resident Brackles and Donaeo.
A recent EP with Joe Buhdha (Klashnekoff, Rodney P), which has seen support from Mistajam’s Radio 1Xtra show, and recent performances to intimate London crowds have been warming Terri up for her fourth studio album proper. She has also been collaborating with film-maker and photographer Kevin Morosky. “We met years ago and clicked instantly. He understands me. I’ve never had anyone capture me the way I see myself. He does that. He’s directing my visuals, videos, artwork, everything.” Terri is back in control, realizing her vision, her way.
“The album is pretty raw – hip-hop and a bit of rock with my soulful blend,” says Terri. “I’ve been working with a collective called Sticky Blood, made up of ex-Arctic Monkey bassist Andy Nicholson and Jamie Shield, plus Baby J who produced Skinny Man and remixed Amy Winehouse. And of course, Joe Buhdha.”
The album is all informed by Terri’s experiences. “There’s been self-doubt and feeling misunderstood, but also that moment of clarity. Celebrate the obstacles as much as the wins in life; that’s what makes us who we are.”
‘Feel It In The Water’ is the moment you realize the people around you are good people; they understand you, it’s a celebration. “‘Paranoia’ is one of the first songs I wrote with Joe,” says Terri. “I’d left Lady and was in a strange place, it took a while for me to learn to control my own destiny.” ‘Thunderdome’ focuses on Terri’s journey to maturing as a woman. ‘Skin I’m In’ documents the search for the sanctuary within, encouraging everybody to love who you are. Meanwhile, ‘Testify’ is an ode to those nights out that never end. ‘Open Your Mind’ explores the self-doubt we all have and addresses those moments when you stand in your own way. ‘Bad Boy’ reflects on those who feel they have no choice: “It’s easy to feel doomed by circumstance, but listen to yourself, be better, work at it.” ‘Loose Twice’ is inspired by a David Lynch quote which says that you loose twice when something fails and it wasn’t your idea. When you fail and it was on your terms it’s not a failure. Trust your instincts, you will never loose twice. ‘Already Told Ya’ sets out the parameters – “You know what my goals are, don’t be surprised when I go out and work for that.”
The album ‘Entitled’ was released in March 2015.