Smooth, yet fiery jazz vocalist, Kristen Lee Sergeant, is making waves with her new single “Balm/Burn” featured on her new album aptly titledSmolder, which she does just that in the most delicate, yet sensational way. Since her album debut in 2016 with Inside Out, which critics and her growing fan base loved, marking it as a Downbeat Editor’s Pick, Sergeant has been well on her way drawing a crowd to her increasing fan base.
With her music video for “Balm/Burn,” director Katherine Horak, who’s a young filmmaker making her mark with her films “Home” and “What We Were,” joined forces with Sergeant in and with the premise of the music video, which focuses on the vocals and sultriness of Sergeant’s music.
Sergeant discusses her love of jazz music and wine, her new single “Balm/Burn” and it’s music video, including her sophomore album Smolder.
What are your earliest memories of singing and performing?
Kristen Lee Sargeant: I remember having a voice when I was young, but also being quite scared of it!
Have you always been drawn to jazz?
Kristen: My musical tastes as a child and teenager were eclectic – I was really into early rap, theater music, classical, a smattering of jazz (mostly Sinatra and some traditional big band), classic rock, oldies, and hip-hop. Looking back I notice that a lot of the groups I liked, such as US3 and Tribe Called Quest, were heavily jazz influenced. After high school I continued to perform in theater, study classical music, and then really fell for jazz once I moved to NYC after college and became more exposed to it.
I love your voice and your new single “Balm/Burn.” What was the inspiration behind this self-penned single?
Kristen: Thank you! I built the song around a gift of a lyrical idea that came to me (the first line) and then just continued to explore the polarities of passion from there. The words ended up creating some really interesting rhythms.
There’s a lot of intrigue and burning desire in your music video for “Balm/Burn.” What was the filming process like for it, and also working with Katherine Horak?
Kristen: I really enjoyed letting the song have a new story and new life through film – my imagination is more auditory and literary — visual creativity isn’t my area. Katherine, Joe Han (DP) and Themba Moyo (Producer) brought a flexibility and imagination to the whole process that took us in a direction I never thought the song would take go! Katherine was always emphatic about making sure I liked the direction things were going in and explaining her vision in terms of storytelling, which is very important to me. We shot it all in one very hot day in a warehouse in South Central LA, on a shoestring budget. I now know what a literal ton of sand looks like! (laughs)
Your latest album, Smolder, features an eclectic group of and some of the best musicians in the industry. What was the creative process like on this album?
Kristen: This album is the product of intense internal and external work, and inspiration was as generous with me as it was demanding. The collaborators on this album were more than just that — they really helped shape “Smolder” as a complete work with their individual contributions. We recorded the whole thing in one day — it was intense! Working with a talent level that high means you can have a strong concept and then let brilliant people do their brilliant thing.
I love your passion for wine and music; in your opinion, how do you think these two go hand-in-hand?
Kristen: Both wine and music can serve as entertainment or pleasure, but can also bring about a transcendent experience. Music does this far more often than wine, in my opinion, but often times wine can play a crucial role in facilitating that!
Who was your first concert, and do you have an overall favorite so far?
Kristen: My first concert was Billy Joel at the Boston Garden. Anytime I see Marilyn Maye it’s a masterclass. I saw Barbara Cook at the Carlyle, which was life changing. Ted Nash’s gig at Dizzy’s that was on his last live album was also an apex experience. I could go on!
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
Kristen: The first one I bought myself was Aerosmith’s Get a Grip. It made me feel like a badass.
Which five artists and/or albums would you not want to live without?
Kristen: I want to live no matter what, but my life would be poorer if I couldn’t listen to Carmen McRae, Mark Murphy, Nancy Wilson, Wayne Shorter, or Steely Dan.
Who amongst your female peers would you really like to collaborate with?
Kristen: Maria Schneider and Esperanza Spaulding come to mind right away.
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
Kristen: I don’t believe in feeling guilt over pleasure, but I do enjoy “Billions” despite thinking our wealth inequality problem in the US is really in need of remedy and regulation. I guess that’s a contradictory pleasure…