Interviews

GRAMMY-WINNING SONGWRITER AND LEONARD COHEN'S MUSE, SHARON ROBINSON, TALKS TO SJF

Thursday, 02 April 2015 08:54 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Sharon_R

Her songs have been recorded by Aaron Neville, The Temptations, Roberta Flack, Diana Ross, Brenda Russell, The Pointer Sisters and Patti LaBelle but now Los Angeles-based SHARON ROBINSON is stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight to launch her career as a singer with her self-produced second album 'Caffeine.' As well as being a name familiar to discerning soul and R&B aficionados, Sharon is well-known to rock and pop fans around the world due to her long association with legendary Canadian singer/songwriter/poet, Leonard Cohen, with whom she's collaborated on several songs and albums (she's also been described as Cohen's muse).

Conjuring up a haunting nocturnal atmosphere, 'Caffeine' is a mellow and contemplative affair but one that while soothing is never ever anodyne or soporific. It features nine carefully-crafted Robinson originals plus 'Lucky,' a song that she co-wrote with Leonard Cohen, and though stylistically it evades easy classification, the music is soulful and R&B-tinged, inviting comparison, perhaps, with the work of Brenda Russell, Linda Tillery, Oleta Adams and even Joni Mitchell. With its themes of love, life, reflection and redemption, it can unequivocally be defined as music that has been made for adult listeners and rather refreshingly there's a notable absence of gimmicky beats, samples, nursery rhyme melodies and all the latest accoutrements of contemporary R&B.

Currently in the middle of a European tour that brings her to UK next week for dates in London, Glasgow and Dublin, Sharon took time to talk to SJF's Charles Waring about her new album and, of course, her special relationship with a certain Mr. Cohen...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:56

 

BAD BENSON’S BACK WITH A VENGEANCE - THE GEORGE BENSON INTERVIEW

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 09:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

GB_coverGeorge Benson has just celebrated his 72nd birthday but he has no intention of hanging up his trusty guitar just yet. "I don't believe in going against the flow," he explained when I asked him during a recent face-to-face interview - conducted in a secluded corner of a bar in a swanky London hotel - what continues to drive him. "If things are moving in a positive direction I'll let it flow and try and stay with the wave. Things are going well and I wouldn't like to disrupt what's happening in my career because it's been so beautiful. Everything has worked out in my favour so far. I think that if I never cut another record I'd still live well for the rest of my life off of what I have done."

Thankfully, the Pittsburgh-born musician whose career began when he was ten years old in 1953 when he recorded under the name 'Little Georgie' isn't content to rest on his laurels. Despite having accrued a staggering ten Grammy awards and selling millions of records around the world, his thirst for making music isn't sated. Just recently it's been like old times for the affable singer/guitarist who is currently riding high in the UK albums chart with a new career retrospective, 'The Ultimate Collection,' on Rhino. As well as this, he contributes a striking cameo on Van Morrison's new critically-acclaimed album, 'Duets.'

In a revealing interview with SJF's Charles Waring, the groundbreaking musician who blurred the boundaries between jazz, soul and pop talks frankly about his life and career...

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 10:04

 

SINGING FOR OLD SOULS: The Joe Stilgoe Interview.

Thursday, 26 March 2015 11:04 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

JoeStilgoe_10_11_2014-124_ST2JOE STILGOE is a UK-based jazz pianist, singer and songwriter and 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for him. Joe, son of entertainer Richard Stilgoe, is all set to release his latest album – a swinging 12 tracker intriguingly called 'New Songs For Old Souls' . Then at the end of April he stars in the Old Vic's revival of Cole Porter's evergreen musical 'High Society'. Between rehearsals and preparations for the album launch, Joe managed to find a little time to talk to SJF about the new LP, the show and things musical. First though, it made sense to find out something about Joe's background and musical influences.....

I've been performing in jazz clubs for nearly 10 years now since moving to London. I was born in Sevenoaks, Kent, where I also went to school, studying classically on piano and singing. In my other life I was a drummer in dubious rock bands and then in an acid jazz outfit that didn't really survive its only gig. Dad and Mum, both musicians, played a huge role in being great supporters and sometimes practice-enforcers, as well as giving me a great musical education across the board, from Buddy Holly and the Beatles to Bach, Bill Evans , Billie Holliday and Bacharach. No, I don't know why I chose people whose names start with B!

So music was the obvious career path?

No, my ambitions early on were fairly non-existent, I just enjoyed music, but as it became my career my first ambition was to make a living, which eventually happened through cruise ships and then playing in piano bars and accompanying everyone from drag acts to comedians. Only later did I have ambitions to be a solo artist, and I started to take this seriously when I was signed to Candid records in 2008. Since then I've worked on my sound, and who I am on stage.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 March 2015 11:24

 

NORTHERN SOUL GIRL - LEVANNA MCLEAN, the new face of Northern Soul, talks!

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 13:07 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Lev_cover_picNorthern Soul? That's for old folks, isn't it? Well, not any more - and certainly not if 18-year-old LEVANNA MCLEAN has anything to do with it. She's young, bright, pretty and talented and there's nothing she likes doing more than moving around on the dance floor with spins and kicks to a pounding '60s soul groove. "There are so many young people into it now," declares the enthusiastic Bristol-based student-turned-dancer-and-DJ whose videos depicting her dancing in various locations to Northern Soul tracks has achieved a phenomenal 1.5 million YouTube hits. "I've got loads of young friends who are into it," she reveals. "People don't think of it as young people's music but there's a whole new generation on the scene at the moment."

It's a common misconception, though, that the UK's Northern Soul scene - which has experienced several moments of crossover resurgence during the last thirty years and steadfastly refuses to die - is comprised of middle-aged soul fanatics for whom the 1970s never ended. While some commentators will argue that there's more than a grain of truth to that particular perspective, LEVANNA MCLEAN - aka 'Northern Soul Girl' - conclusively demonstrates that the Northern Soul Scene is not the sole preserve of those approaching bus pass status.

In addition to her YouTube fame, Lev - as she likes to be called - also found herself in the spotlight last year when she performed a Northern Soul dance routine alongside US R&B superstar Pharrell Williams to his hit 'Happy' during his performance at the Brit Awards. Given her popularity, then, and the fact that Northern Soul's crossover appeal is in the ascendancy (evidenced by Elaine Constantine's recent movie, 'Northern Soul,' and the appearance of Northern Soul-associated songs on several recent TV adverts), it's no surprise that a record company is aiming to capitalise on 'Northern Soul Girl's potential to promote the music that she loves and attract younger listeners. In fact, the personable teenager has just signed a deal with Universal Music and the first fruit of their liaison is that the dancer's picture adorns the company's forthcoming compilation 'Move On Up - The Very Best Of Northern Soul,' which is released 16th March.

Comprising a whopping 75 tracks that include hits from familiar soul stars such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield alongside rarities from more esoteric acts like The Vel Vets, Tony Galla, and Rita & The Tiaras, the compilation offers a vivid sonic snapshot that captures the essence of the Northern Soul scene.

In a recent interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Lev talks about her passion for Northern Soul, the impact it's had on her life and her ambitions for the future...

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 March 2015 09:50

 

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH - THE FAITH EVANS INTERVIEW

Friday, 27 February 2015 14:23 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Faith-Evans-that-grape-juice-Given the fact that she's a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter, a best-selling author (she wrote 'Keep The Faith: A Memoir' in 2008), a sometime actress (she appeared in 'The Fighting Temptations' alongside Beyonce in 2003) and a TV programme creator/producer (of the 2012 reality series 'R&B Divas: Miami') as well as a mother, 'Incomparable' is a word that's an apposite descriptor for the multi-talented, forever multitasking FAITH EVANS. It's also the title of the 41-year-old Florida-born vocalist's new album, her eighth long player in a storied career that has now spanned twenty years.

The 'First Lady of Hip-hop Soul' - as she's been dubbed - rose to fame on Sean 'Puffy' Combs' Bad Boy imprint in the mid-'90s, where she scored a slew of big US R&B hits. The death of her ex-husband rapper Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls born Christopher Wallace) in 1997 led to the Grammy-grabbing tribute record a year later called 'I'll Be Missing You,' which became a monumental global smash in 1998. Faith left Bad Boy in 2004 and signed to Capitol.  'Incomparable' is her first solo album since 2010's indie release, 'Something About Faith.' Featuring cameos from Missy Elliott and Keke Wyatt, it is arguably the chanteuse's most potent long player of her career.

At the time of writing, Faith is present in the UK to perform two eagerly-anticipated concerts scheduled for tonight (February 27th in Birmingham at The Institute) and tomorrow (Saturday 28th in London at IndigO2). SJF's Charles Waring managed to grab a few minutes with the songstress, where she talked about her life, music and career...

 

Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2015 15:04

 

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