Why some people achieve so much and some linger without finding satisfaction in what they do?
Passion, energy and... an awkward interest can take you a long way. Teenager Tina Edwards, now a famous radio presenter, back then a not-so-popular school girl, found herself listening to jazz instead of good old pop music. Perhaps not having a collection of in reflection rather horrible 90's music didn't help her with making friends, yet we now admire a twenty something Tina who calls TV and Radio her second home.
So far we’ve seen her on Balcony TV and London Live. She’s also hosting Jazz Standard on Hoxton Radio. Recognised for her kooky story-telling and witty presenting style, Tina’s passionate about making jazz more accessible and less intimidating. There’s no sign of fuddy-duddy jazz clichés there!
She’s a lecturer, which is pretty badass for her age. Tina’s also a freelancer, who sticks to her goal list (which to be honest is also pretty badass) and if that’s not enough, she finds time to travel, take mornings off and work on side projects. Jealous? We investigate.
If you were to describe life in a few paragraphs, what would you say?
My childhood was moulded in South Harrow, North West London. At eleven years old, my family decided to move to the Isle Of Wight following a holiday there. And so, with my (then) cockney accent, long school socks and a bizarre sense of humour that my London friends had grown accustomed to, I moved to Ryde (yes, I get a ‘ticket to Ryde’ every six weeks when I visit my parents). Cue some terrible Elvis Presley impressions and (I must stress) terrible jokes to my fellow Year 8ers, and I initiated myself into a new school. I didn’t settle easily, but after a couple of years, I found a way to warm to my new seaside surroundings and still manage to be myself. Although unlike at my first school, my fringe ponytail was never to be seen on the Island.
I had a puppy called Sandy that I adored. She was a tatty little thing that looked and acted loopy. Her jaw was broken when she was given birth to and it set awkwardly, so her bottom jaw and tiny teeth were always protruding. My Mum was so desperate for us to return her to the RSPCA that she told me she’d buy me a drum kit if we did… she must have been desperate - I’d been begging my parents for a kit for as long as I can remember.
I was a real nerd at school, but that changed slightly during Sixth Form. My A level choices included biology, psychology and music; although it was vocals that I took forward, my new love for playing drums at this time distracted me away from that path. Next came two years at music college, and three years at UCA gaining what could be one of the most niche BA degrees available; Music Journalism. I now lecture the broadcast unit!
Can you describe your studio and your desk?
My working space can be anywhere as long as I have my laptop and ideally my wireless headphones - I’m far too clumsy for wires. I’ll normally work at my kitchen table with a chai latte, and then when I’ve made too many of those myself, I’ll head to Starbucks or the Hospital Club. But normally, my office is wherever the camera or microphone is!
What’s on your playlist when you’re on the way to work?
Right now it’s Anderson .Paak. His new album Malibu is a fantastic collision of soul, hiphop and jazz, with a vocal style not a hundred miles away from Kendrick Lamar’s. I have a growing obsession with Christian Scott’s music, too, especially his latest album Stretch Music. He’s a really cool trumpet player from New Orleans who makes his own instruments, and plays with a super talented 20-year-old flautist called Elena Pinderhughes who I’m predicting a big future for - she’s re-writing how young music fans see jazz flute (thanks, Anchorman, you hilarious hinderance, you). Favourites I always go back to include Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Bjork and Little Simz.
What was the funniest and happiest project you did so far?
In 2015 I was jammy enough to spend 6 weeks in the Caribbean presenting videos for various travel boards; I rode a horse through the waves in Tobago, made chocolate at the Hotel Chocolat base in St Lucia, and climbed the River Dunn Waterfall in Jamaica. I returned with sore thighs and an extra six pounds around my hips.
I have a fear of falling if I’m high up but can’t hold on to something (like a stair railing), and this job unexpectedly helped me to tackle that. Climbing the 55 metres of the River Dunn Waterfall definitely had my adrenaline going; I was presenting to camera and had to be careful not to slip as the water was pushing me down. I found my inner Lara Croft and after the initial fear, I loved every second. But just hours later, it was tackling a children’s rope course 3 metres high on a cruise ship - where I had to depend on just my feet to balance myself - that had me trembling. I made it round in an hour with hysterical laughter and tears flowing. A kid barely out of his nappies impatiently pushed past me and said, “why are you crying?”. Thankfully despite the tight schedule, the Director James found the whole thing absolutely hilarious.
Oh, and what do you think are the biggest fears when starting a freelance career and what do you think are the best ways to overcome it?
I’m freelance and always have been; perhaps it’s because my Dad, a retired Kitchen fitter, has always worked hard for himself and his own business. To make it work, you have to know your skill set and think creatively about how it can bring in different revenues. Don’t be shy of networking, making decisions, and outlining the value of what you can bring to the table.
And then I can’t wait to ask, how did you get into radio?
I spotted on Twitter that a local radio station were looking to add new shows to their schedule. So with some editing software and an idea, I recorded a 15 minute demo of Jazz Standard. I was convinced there was a need for an accessible jazz show with a youthful tone, and thankfully they agreed! I was really thrown in the deep end; Having never done radio before, I was live on air presenting and producing my own show alone in the studio after a half hour of training, but learning the hard way really does pay off. Just don’t listen to the first few shows…
Other work bits...
My focus is Jazz Standard, an online radio show which began in 2014 and a year later moved to Mixcloud; I wanted to reach a wider audience and I’m chuffed to say it’s done just that - we have regular listeners across the world. The weekly show is all about introducing new audiences to jazz and its connected genres. You’ll find contemporary jazz alongside hip-hop, house, electronica, ambient, soul… basically, anything with a slick beat. Hitting ‘publish’ on a new show every Wednesday afternoon is always my favourite moment of the week. We’re launching the website and Youtube channel this month, which will be full of cool features and reviews.
I present music and travel content mainly. I worked at ITN doing 4music and Heat TV for a little while and have been hosting Balcony TV in London for five years, and have seen some incredible acts that we’ve had on break through. Most bizarre moment? Having Hanson perform in front of my eyes before an American tourist walked on to set and yelled “Oh my God, it’s the Jonas Brothers!”. We had our own TV series on London Live; We filmed it in the Winter of 2014 on the roof of Central Hall Westminster, and on one incredibly windy and rainy day (yes, we film outside all year round), we had a sound complaint from Westminster Abbey. Our gazebo then proceeded to throw itself over the balcony. Slightly surreal day of filming, that.
In the evenings you’ll normally find me at gigs; I’ll find my jam anywhere from Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho to The Ritzy in Brixton and KOKO in Camden.
I host my own gig series too, Tina Edwards Presents, which like Jazz Standard, centres itself around introducing new audiences to jazz. I love hosting these; we’ve had some incredible artists like trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire who’s been compared to Miles Davis. I’ll be starting a residency in September too that I’m bloody bursting at the seams to announce.
This is a cheeky one, but have you ever been in a situation when you didn't know where your next pay check will come from? What did you do?
I’m a trained vocal coach, so thankfully, I can depend on teaching one day a week to keep me afloat alongside freelance presenting and writing gigs. The closest I came to this fear was in early 2013; I was working as a voice over artist at ITN, and as with the nature of the industry, they decided that they were after a new voice. I took it pretty hard. But following incredible support and advice from the Exec Producer Jamie Scott and my fellow presenting buddy Ben Shires, I picked myself up and threw myself and my show reel out into the world again. It was around this time that I met Shan, an awesome singer-songwriter who also runs an agency called Plain Guilty. Three years later, I’m working with Plain Guilty on some big plans for Jazz Standard, with the website launch this February at the top of the list! Swings and roundabouts, hey.
Can you give us a self marketing trick?!
Get to know the audience interested in your niche.
Do you have a ritual before you start working on a big assignment, which will take a lot of creativity and time?
I don’t have any rituals per se, but I do keep a detailed strategy of my goals for each quarter on the wall next to my bed. It was an inspiring trip to New York in 2015 that inspired me to return not only with my usual determination, but a desire to write down my goals for the first time and keep track of my progress. Since then I’ve stuck to it religiously; it’s incredibly satisfying scribbling each bullet point out as it happens!
What do you do when you lose your MOJO and feel like watching Netflix all day?
Honestly? I can only think of one time this has happened. If anything, I could do with losing a tiny bit of mojo to help me switch off sometimes! If I was to find myself in that place, I would evaluate where I am in the bigger picture; work, social life, friends and family; I find motivation can sometimes be lacking if you’re too heavily involved in one and ignore the others.
Can you remember a piece of writing, a movie, TV show, a play that changed the way you think?
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being is one of the favourite books. A High School friend of mine called Stefan recommended I read it following my first break up when I was 18. It opened my eyes to the varied spectrum of love and just how many forms a connection, of any kind, can take. I never thought of relationships, in the broadest meaning of the word, in the same way again.
Where can we find you on Saturday brunch time?
I like a spot of brunch at Damson and Co on Brewer Street - they serve the best chai lattes - or at The Breakfast Club if I’m fancying something a bit naughtier. My favourite place ‘to brunch’ though would have to be at home with my best friend, Lottie. On a morning off, I’ll have two breakfasts and skip lunch, all with a big pot of coconut coffee. Crumpets, avocado, poached eggs and homemade sweet chilli sauce is currently my favourite breakfast to cook up. Although saying that, since filming in Tobago last year, I am starting to experiment with curry-based breakfasts… I’ll get back to you on that.
If that's not enough, Tina has recently signed a badass deal with Soho Jazz Club and will be presenting there too - follow her on social, but rumours say you can already book tickets to see her live. Not bad for a twenty something is it?