© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Azarenka 4

How music gets you in the mood for tennis


Jonathan Overend, tennis correspondent for BBC Radio Five Live, on how he prepares for big matches by listening to music at at an “unhealthy” volume:

Players aren’t alone in pumping themselves up for big matches by listening to music.  Ask any of my colleagues in the 5 Live commentary box. We may immerse ourselves in stats, facts and head-to-heads before a broadcast, but my music collection is just as important. Before the studio headphones go on, I wire myself to my IPod, choose the necessary mood, and crank the volume up to unhealthy levels. Then I’m lost for a good hour or so.

Wake me up when Carlos Ramos appears. It’s not a ritual as such, just a part of my preparation which has stuck over the years.

I’ve been into music all my life and it’s always served as a companion through many highs, lows, times and moods.  Some people get annoyed when players like Victoria Azarenka stride onto court listening to tunes, but I completely understand it.  She looks like she’s in a silent disco, and i’m not really into her taste in R&B, but that focus provided by the music is so important. Well, it works for me. When I’m getting ready for a commentary I’m normally after something upbeat and electronic – SBTRK, Ben Westbeech, Rasmus Faber, Sunburst Band, TEED – or something with a good vibe to it like D’Angelo, The Roots or John Legend.  Nothing slow or sombre!

The US Open will be no different.  I’ve got some good new stuff on my IPod ready for action and I’m often sweeping sites such as soundcloud and bandcamp to listen to tracks direct from the producers and writers.  For me, it’s all about new music, pushing boundaries and taking risks.  That’s why so many of my favourite artists (including some of the above) are quite obscure and detached from the mainstream.

Part of the reason I’m so into music is that I’m actually a composer and producer myself!  It’s my hobby, a nice distraction at the end of the day, and recently it has become a serious second life as I prepare to release my first album.  I’ve been in many bands before, playing in top London venues, writing and producing for various singers, but for the past four years I’ve been constructing an album with the band “Natura Cinematica”, a group of immensely talented musical friends of mine, and we’re releasing it on 24th September through the bandcamp website. 

It’s been a painstaking, part-time process, to write, record, mix and produce the tracks, but we’ve finally arrived with a collection of cinematic jazz which we’re immensely proud of.  It’s hard to pigeon hole the music, mainly because much of it was improvised in the recording process, but we’re getting early interest from Internet radio stations concentrating on jazz/electronica/hip-hop styles. It was originally designed as a soundtrack for a movie and while it’s moved on from that, It is full of mood swings, emotional journeys and cinematic references.  And, one thing’s for sure, I’ll be listening to it once or twice in New York as I get ready for the day job – those big match radio commentaries from our lofty perch on Arthur Ashe stadium.

* “The Man Who Knew Too Much” by Natura Cinematica is available now for pre-order at www.naturacinematica.bandcamp.com. The single “No Direction” is out now.