Hailed by pianist Fred Hersch as “a real discovery—a first-rate musician in every way,” British vocalist, composer and arranger Joanna Wallfisch has built a name for herself within the jazz world since moving to New York in 2012.

Joanna has had the opportunity to tour with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and has also appeared with the Lee Konitz Quartet. She has toured her own projects internationally, including in Europe, Australia, Japan and throughout the US. She is also a regular collaborator within the dance, circus and theatre worlds.

Her recent single, Gardens in my Mind, features pianist Dan Tepfer and the award-winning British string ensemble The Sacconi Quartet.

We spoke to her ahead of her performance at The Forge in Camden on Saturday (Nov 19) as part of London Jazz Festival.

Tell me a bit about yourself

I'm a singer-songwriter, who loves to swim in the ocean (the colder, the better), climb mountains and ride my bike thousands of miles if given the chance. I grew up in London, Crystal Palace to be precise, in a very musical family. Both parents are professional classical musicians, and music has been part of my life since birth. 

Where did you go to school?

I went to posh school - Alleyn's, in Dulwich- same school as Florence as the Machine, Jude Law, and other famous folk. 

Were you always musical?

I guess I have always been musical. I am the youngest of three kids, and my two older brothers were always very dedicated to studying music and went along a pretty steady path from their childhoods to their careers in music. I, being the typical youngest child, had other ideas growing up.

As much as I loved to sing, especially jazz, I also wanted to paint, and travel, and explore the world through other means besides music. I did a Fine Art degree at Central Saint Martins, during which time I studied in Paris for a semester, where I met and sang with a jazz band on the bridges of the Seine. This was the moment I realised that I had to pursue a life in music.

Having seen my whole family do it, I knew it was an all or nothing decision, which perhaps is why it took me a little longer to commit to it. But now I would say that I'm in deep, and I sleep, eat, and drink music, songwriting and performing. But I love it, and I am lucky to live what I love, and love what I do... even when it's tough as all hell, it's still the path I need to tread.

Do you play instruments?

Aside from the voice, I play the ukulele - baritone and concert, piano, flute and loop pedal. I call the loop pedal an instrument, rather than just an effect, as it has become an extension of my voice and an essential part of my band and sound-world. 

With it I create choral and percussive soundscapes to accompany my songs, and it's also become quite a great compositional tool for me. 

Describe your music. 

Once I was playing a show in Hawaii and a guy in the front row put his hand up after a song and asked: "do you play mermaid music". This question - what is your music like - is one of the hardest to answer, because at the end of the day ascribing adjectives to something that is ultimately subjective and fluid is, well, almost impossible. But I'll try. 

I grew up in a family of classical musicians, but as a teenager I listened to and sang mostly all old jazz standards. I have always been a poet, lyrics and storytelling are a big part of my music.

Now I just call myself a singer-songwriter, though even that has connotations that are perhaps inaccurate. My sound has essences of folk, jazz and classical, but also something more raw and gritty. I aim to be as honest as I can within my songwriting, and my arrangements can expand from anything from accapella vocal looping to string quartet, to my full band, when things can really start to rock out. The long and short of it is, I'm an independant musician trying to forge a unique path, and the sound world I inhabit has a way of crossing boarders...

What inspires you?

This life inspires me. Children inspire me - witnessing pure imagination and energy is always a reminder to look out at this life we live and dig deeper for the magic within. Powerful human endeavour inspires me, whether it is athletic or humanitarian... we live such privileged lives and it's easy to get stuck head down in our 'first world problems', it's so important to look around and see what we can do for others, and actually take inspiration from giving what we can, with what we can. 

Tell me about Gardens in my Mind.

Gardens In My Mind is a song, and also the title of my latest album on Sunnyside Records. The project first came about in May 2015 when the Salisbury Festival commissioned me to arrange and perform the songs from my first album, The Origin of Adjustable Things, with string quartet. I'd never written for strings before, and it felt like the perfect opportunity to stretch my musical abilities.

The collaboration was such a dream that I decided we must record it. I hadn't anticipated it becoming my next album necessarily, but as these things do, it gained a life of its own, and is now even sitting in the Grammy Ballot for Best Folk album, 2016. The song itself was inspired by the view out of my old apartment window - a brick wall. Living in a big city like New York, one needs to find escape, even if it is in one's own mind... I just happened to find a garden in my mind. 

Where you live now?

I am currently based in Brooklyn, New York, though I travel to Europe and UK as much as my music and touring will allow. I hope to be there much more in the coming years. 

The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden, NW1 7NL, Saturday, November 19. Details: 020 7383 7808