Lleuwen Steffan

Lleuwen Steffan

Last updated: 19 November 2008

Singer/songwriter Lleuwen Steffan is forging a unique fusion of jazz and Welsh folk from her home at Penmon, Anglesey.

She spent her formative years at the award winning Glanaethwy performing arts school, with which she sang solo in Cardiff, London and Kiev.

Lleuwen's voice training has been essentially classical, but as a child she discovered Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald in her musician father's record collection. These early influences have taken deep root in her soul.

Read about Lleuwen Steffan on BBC Cymru (Welsh language)

She has also closely studied the songs of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor and this, combined with the ancient Welsh poetic tradition, gives Lleuwen a unique lyrical imagination.

In 1998, at the age of 17, Lleuwen released her first single, her own song, Draw Dros yr Afon, which had extensive airplay in Wales. Her love for music then took her to Central College, USA where she studied jazz.

She soon realized that she wanted more than a purely academic approach; she formed a band and spent all her nights singing at the Blues En Grand, Des Moines.

Returning home, Lleuwen helped found the Gwynedd-based band Acoustique, featuring a range of cool jazz tunes sung in Welsh, English, French, German and Portuguese.

She then won rave reviews in 2005 for her work with composer Huw Warren and saxophonist Mark Lockheart on Duw A Wyr/God Only Knows, an album of contemporary jazz interpretations of Welsh hymns.

Jazz writer Stuart Nicholson called it "the most unusual, strangely beatiful album that you're likely to hear not only this year but the next..." while John Lewis of Time Out said, "the real star in this collaboration is singer Lleuwen Steffan, whose bleak, folksy voice suggests an ECM-reared Sinead O'Connor".

After spending time on the London jazz circuit performing in Ronnie Scotts, the Vortex, and the 606 Club, Lleuwen returned once again to Wales to begin work on her debut solo album.

Penmon, named after her Anglesey home, marks a departure for Lleuwen, who is perhaps best known for her interpretations of other people's work.

A 'no nonsense' arrangement of 11 songs, Penmon reflects the natural ebb and flow of the Welsh landscape that inspires her. In addition to Lleuwen's own compositions, the album includes an arrangement of Y Darlun, by T Rowland Hughes, as well as a track, co-produced with Mr Phormula (Ed Holden), written to complement the words of historical Welsh poet, T Gwynn Jones.

Key works

  • Lleuwen, God Only Knows

    God Only Knows (2005)

    Hymns of the Welsh religious revival brought alive for the 21st century.
  • Lleuwen (with Acoustique), Cyfnos

    Cyfnos (with Acoustique) (2003)

    Gentle jazz-pop songs.
  • Lleuwen, Penmon

    Penmon (2007)

  • Lleuwen's first release of her own original compositions.

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