Host Spotlight: Claire Umney

Host Spotlight: an opportunity to shine a light on our wonderful radio hosts and wider community, be it a new music release, a brand new music residency or simply to champion them as an individual. This week we chat with Jazz FM Producer, Jazz Up North Trustee, Painter and ‘Gratitude Journal’ host, Claire Umney! We find out more about her experience in radio, how to protect your mental health in the music industry and much more…

Hey Claire! We love your residency ‘Gratitude Journal’. Can you tell us a bit more about the ideas behind it?

I appreciate that. Thank you! ‘Gratitude Journal’ is all about music that makes me feel centred. Tracks from across the years that have brought joy, contentment, peace and wonderful moments into my life. I love coming into Melodic once a month to share all my favourite music! It’s freeing, heart warming and a really positive influence on my mental health.

How did you first get into music? 

Some of my earliest music memories include arguing with my parents about why I’d spent all my allowance on the 2 for £10 deal at HMV, or trying to justify my Spotify account as an essential monthly expense. From around the age of 11, I started to become obsessed with finding new artists and being knowledgeable about a range of genres. I had the radio on constantly! I started off with Capital, then moved onto Radio 1… then XFM (now Radio X)… and then BBC 6 Music. As my taste in radio changed, my music interests developed too. From then on I’ve been very lucky to have a life with music flowing around me all the time. From hosting gigs in my parents’ garden, to becoming friends with talented musicians and producers, I consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by wonderful sounds.

As well as presenting, you’re also busy behind the radio scenes! Can you tell us a bit more about your work with Jazz FM and Jazz North?

Well, my current full-time job is Producer at Jazz FM. I’ve been with the station for over 5 years now (and interned for a couple before that). I’ve done nearly every job that you could do during my time there. Presenting. Producing. Scheduling. Event Management. Budgets. Studio training. Managing client contracts. Station assisting. Editing. Programme development. It’s where I’ve grown. Through my time with Jazz FM I’ve been lucky enough to work with countless talented artists, prestigious venues and inspiring youth education programmes. After gaining this experience within the industry, and moving to the North-West of England in 2021, I was invited to join the Jazz North Board of Trustees. Our goal is to nurture the music scene in the North of the UK and bring equal opportunity and support to players who are based here. Most of my career has been based in London. I’m excited to connect the two worlds and bring the success of the capital city’s jazz community to our musicians, venues and promoters up North.

Can you share some contemporary jazz artists who you’re excited about? 

Ooo, now this is a challenge… there continues to be a wealth of INCREDIBLE players coming through. Here are just a few:

COLECTIVA – a powerhouse ensemble that continues to demonstrate the importance of sisterhood through impeccable playing and live performance.

Matters Unknown – Jonathan Enser (Nubyian Twist) has released some beautifully spiritual tracks this year, all leading to his debut release as Matters Unknown.

TC & the Groove Family – Jazz North supported Afrobeat ensemble repping Leeds! Their fiery debut album dropped this summer and I don’t see them slowing down.

Ni Maxine – also supported by Jazz North! Liverpool based vocalist and occasionally blessing us with her vocals on the Melodic airwaves. Disclaimer! I’m Ni’s manager so of course I’m excited about her… 

Jelly Cleaver – Ivors nominated composer, vocalist, and guitarist Jelly Cleaver, not only produces beautiful solo work, but is also an intrinsic part of the London scene. Catch her as part of All Day Breakfast Café and Queen Colobus too. 

Elena Pinderhughes. – Not based in the UK, but someone who’s work I’ve admired for years. She’s played and recorded with Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah for a while now amongst other jazz heavyweights, and I’ve been WAITING for her solo projects. I think they’re in the works… 

You’re also open about your own journey with mental health, which is really refreshing in today’s society. Why do you think this is important particularly as a creative? 

As creatives, we tend to throw all of ourselves into our work. Our jobs are linked to who we are as a person and require a lot of ‘social time’. We’re passionate and want to share those passions constantly and don’t often have traditional work hours like in other careers. It’s super hard to set boundaries and stick to them. I know that I’ve struggled with finding a balance between my day job, personal projects, social life and my own health. And often they’re blending into each other and there’s not a lot of routine. The creative industries also have a lot of freelancers/solo workers, which at times can be isolating – and you’re carrying stress on your own shoulders, instead of sharing them with a team of colleagues.

For all of these reasons, it’s vital that we regularly check in with ourselves and talk to others in our networks. More often than not, there’s someone who’s experiencing the same thing as you and is processing similar feelings. Recently, I’ve found that taking anxious/overwhelming thoughts and putting them on paper to be the most effective method of calming myself. When I can see the tasks/problems in front of me, it means they’re taking up less room in my brain. This can be in the form of a conventional ‘to do list’ – or you can get creative! Get a pack of colourful pens and a big sheet of paper and splurge! But most importantly, do what works for you and what makes you feel your best.

When you’re having a particularly uninspiring day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?

First, I check in with myself and try to understand why I’m feeling that way. Has something triggered that emotion? Have I not been outside for a couple of days? Maybe I haven’t spoken to anyone that isn’t through typing on a screen. If I’ve worked it out – I usually know what I need to do. Some of the things that help me are cooking while listening to music, binge watching some of my favourite telly, getting a coffee with a friend, doing a little tidy around the house or washing my hair. I always think the best close to a ‘bad day’ is washing all of the negative emotions away by having a shower. However, sometimes it’s important to let yourself feel those less inspiring, or ‘down’, feelings. We don’t need to ‘fix’ everything. Allowing ourselves to rest, process and recharge is as important as the days where we are super productive. 

What was the last record/tune you bought?

I think it was ‘Agua de Jamaica’ by Sly5thAve and Roberto Verástegui. I picked up the LP from Phase One/Jacaranda Records on Seel Street. It’s an album we were heavily featuring on Jazz FM around its release and when I saw it, I knew I had to take it home.

What else do you have planned for the next year?

Gosh there’s an endless list of things I want to achieve, create and develop! But here are a couple of key ones…

Over the next year I’m planning to develop my skills as a painter and artist (including an exciting project at the Melodic Bar…) And I want to open up an online store and sell my work more regularly. I’ve also just started managing the incomparable neo-jazz artist Ni Maxine! We’ve got some very exciting gigs and festivals coming up, and we’re planning to get her into the studio to record. But, the most important thing is continuing to focus on my mental and physical health.

Join Claire for the next episode of ‘Gratitude Journal’ on and in the meantime, check out October’s edition below!