Naming your debut album Memoirs seems quite a lofty proclamation — more so when you’re only 21 years old. But for London soul singer-songwriter Roxanne Tataei — known simply as Rox — Memoirs is the culmination of several years of hard work and soul searching.
“I named it Memoirs so people would know exactly what they were getting — my songs, memories and experiences,” she told Sydney Star Observer.
“Besides, I didn’t want to call it something naff like ‘Rox Box’ — I’ve heard enough bad Rox puns in my time!
“But it’s just the first chapter of my Memoirs, I’m sure there’ll be more to come as I get older.”
While sunny, retro melodies abound in songs like the infectious My Baby Left Me and the rockabilly-tinged I Don’t Believe, Rox’s lyrics are filled with a heartache that suggests she’s been through more than a few bad relationships in her 21 years.
“I hate to say it, but I think the best songs come from heartache and pain. When I’d finished all my demos and sat back and listened to them all, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually quite depressing.’
“I just find it hard to write songs when I’m happy — there’s less fuel to write with.”
On the reggae groove of album highlight Rocksteady, there’s even a nod to Rox’s mixed-race heritage: London-born, with Jamaican and Iranian parents.
“I’ve always wanted to get more in touch with my Persian, Iranian side. I feel very in touch with my Jamaican side, it’s in my blood, whereas the other side of my heritage is a bit foreign to me,” she said.
“But growing up in London is great if you’re from a few different cultures — there are so many different cultures integrated into this one big city.”
Rox has also found herself at the centre of that peculiarly British phenomenon in which rising female artists are hyped by critics and tastemakers to within an inch of their lives. Some (Florence Welch, La Roux) survive the hype, others (VV Brown, Little Boots) get crushed under the weight of expectation.
Rox admitted it was a tricky course to navigate.
“It’s great in one instance, getting recognised in things like the BBC Soundpoll. On the downside, it means people are watching you that much closer and if you don’t live up to their expectations, you can be slated for it. I try not to focus on it — I just want to focus on my music.”
info: Memoirs (Rough Trade) out now.