New York-based singer-songwriter Martina Fišerová gears up for Prague Proms Festival

Martina Fišerová, photo: Jan Šroubek

Martina Fišerová, a singer, songwriter and musician steeped in jazz, and known for her innovative compositions and harmonies, comes from a family of musicians. Her father was a prominent figure on the Czechoslovak jazz fusion scene in the 1980s, thanks to which already from childhood she was exposed to a wide range of musical styles.

Martina Fišerová with her band, photo: Edwin Chavez

Not long after studying at the prestigious Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory and College, she moved to New York, where over the past seven years she has built up a dedicated following. We caught up with her in Prague and had a chance to hear some of the stories behind the compositions on her album Shift, which she recorded with musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Martina Fišerová will perform a selection of songs from Shift and other original compositions at the Prague Proms Festival on September 22, at The Loop Jazz Club in the capital’s Hostivař neighborhood. Below are a few highlights from early on in the interview:

‘Silver Streams’

Source: Blue Season Art Agency

“What I’m really happy about is that the song, and the record as well, open with the actual sound of a stream, of a little spring in the mountains, by that name. And it is a coincidence in a way because when I was writing the song, it was not about the nature in this area of the countryside at all.

“But later on, as I was working on the recording, I remembered this stream and tried to capture the sound of it and open the title with it. So, that’s really exciting for me. It’s in a part of the country in the northeast that’s super close to my heart – Adršpašské-Teplické skály [a striking set of sandstone formations covering some 17 square kilometres].”

“That area has a huge meaning in my life because I spent part of every summer there with my mom in my childhood. But when I was writing the song, I was also thinking about my brother, so I usually like to dedicate this song to him. It’s very mysterious in a way!”

‘Song for Brian’ [Charette]

Martina Fišerová, photo: Mick Cantarella

“It’s a very long story that I’ll do my best to keep brief! So, I guess I first met [Grammy-nominated] keyboardist] Brian Charette when I was about nine years old. He was touring with [Slovak-American jazz trumpeter and composer] Laco Déczi, as his keyboard player.

“He returned here when I was about fifteen and we got to hang out a bit more because my dad used to play in Laco’s original jazz band Celula in the 1980s [now based in New York]. When they came to tour here, all the musicians would stay in our house – and that was very exciting for a young girl like me!

“Then again there was a huge time gap and I heard that Brian was going to join Laco on his next tour and remembered some of our chats back when I was a teenager and came up with this song – because some things he said way back then I took very deeply to heart. He probably wasn’t even aware of it. And that’s basically the idea of the whole song.”

“Later on, he got sort of stuck in Prague and we ended up spending a lot of time together, then playing together in regular gigs – I wasn’t doing Jazz back then and he sort of inspired me to return to it. And the song took on a whole new meaning for me, singing with someone who was from [the U.S.] and who had a more direct connection not just to the music but to the lyrics, who could understand when I was trying to be playful and stuff like that.”

Martina Fišerová, photo: Jan Šroubek

I’m starting to get the sense that you are a bit nostalgic and sentimental…

“It could be! It could be… And just to put it in the current context, Brian really supported me in going to the United States and made it possible for me to get my start. … He helped me with the whole record, features on it.

“This record [Shift] also came together in an unplanned, unexpected way. We were on tour together with Dano Šoltis, who’s an excellent drummer originally from Slovakia. And I think two of our gigs got cancelled, and Dano suggested, ‘Okay, let’s not waste the days – let’s go to the studio and record this. And I was completely shocked! I was like, ‘With you two?’ Because they were on a very high pedestal for me – and still are today.”