American Jazz singer Stacey Kent is back touring the UK in April and May with husband Jim Tomlinson, and we got the opportunity to catch up with the singer to find out all about her music, what it is she loves about visiting London and much more. Read on to find out what she had to say...
For those who may not yet have heard your music, how best would you describe yourself as an artist?
I'm a singer of love songs and a teller of stories. I'm drawn to emotion and expressing the human condition in all its forms, and I'm fortunate to have a repertoire that allows me to do this. These are beautiful love songs and universal stories, so no matter where in the world we share these songs, the listeners can relate.
However, even when people can't understand word for word (as we're not always playing to an audience who speaks English), it's human on so many other levels, it's not simply the words that tell the stories.
For the most recent album, we chose the title 'TENDERLY', because it really captures the mood of the album. It is a collection of love songs where the passion, joy and pain of love are expressed in quietly intense ways. It really is a kind of chamber music, where the mood is very intimate. We recorded it that way, more like we were making music for one another, as opposed to making a record. In that sense, yes, the music is delicate. It was a moment of musical intimacy that we were lucky to be able to record and share.
Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process you go through when you're in the music studio?
When we get to the studio, we have already done so much of the prep work; we already know the repertoire, we'll have rehearsed the arrangements. However, great dialgue happens inside the studio and we're all open to it. Jim Tomlinson, my producer and husband, songwriter and musician in my band, is a fantastic communicator. It's great to have somebody driving the sessions who has beautiful musical ideas but who is also such a good listener. As we start to play, new ideas come up and we play around with them. Fresh things happen, there's a lot of excitement, it's always a great atmosphere, I do love recording.
How important is it for you to maintain creative control over the work you produce?
This is important to us, yes. We have always held conversations with the label about our ideas and we have been fortunate that they've been receptive.
In 2006, when I wanted to take some time off to work and experiment with Jim and Kazuo Ishiguro (my now-established songwriting team), my then-label, Blue Note, was extremely open and receptive to this idea. I was supposed to put an album out that year, and of course, a label runs to a fiscal schedule but they also want to do what is right artistically. They let me have the space to do what I wanted and we ended up recording 'Breakfast on the Morning Tram', which was nominated for a Grammy and became a Platinum seller. It's right to let us have the time and space we need and I was lucky my then-label knew that.
You'll be performing in London mid-April and return for an annual residency at Ronnie Scott's famous jazz club in September - what should fans coming to those dates expect?
We will play a mixture of the new songs plus the songs people love and request on my Facebook page. I love how involved the fans get. People write and say things like, 'Stacey! I love this recording of yours but I've never heard it live, please try and include it!' So, we do try.
We love playing in London! The atmosphere is always fantastic and Ronnie Scott's, where we play every year, is one of our favourite weeks of the year. The best part about Ronnie's is the mix of people. So many fans from outside of London but who also love London will use our week as an anchor, an excuse to make the trip and base their visit around our dates. We love this! The atmosphere is so warm and so good, with this mixture of Londoners and out of towners. And Ronnie Scott's know how much people love their club and they're proud of that, too and are very welcoming for it. There's always great excitement around that week and something special about doing it in the autumn, too. The days are crisp, the night air fresh and cool and then you enter into this fantastic club, full of history! Yes, one of our fave weeks of the year.
What have been some of your favourite experiences to-date?
The invitation to perform in Rio for the 80th birthday celebration of Cristo Redentor, statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado. I've done some pretty exciting shows in my career but this has to be the best. For the celebration, the Brazilians put on a huge show on an outdoor stage beneath the great statue. Jim and I were the only non-Brazilians invited to come perform. To be embraced back by a country that has inspired us and fuelled our music is indescribably wonderful. The night was magical. We performed 'SO NICE' with the great Marcos Valle, who wrote the song in 1965. So many of our musical heroes were onstage that night, it was amazing to be part of it. I got to sing 'SO NICE' with Marcos and several hundred thousand people who joined in the singing.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced in the industry?
My career is international and requires a lot of travelling, and travel gets tougher and tougher. It's not easy to do long tours and constantly getting on planes for several weeks at a time. We are happy for the levels of security we see out there but the need for security can make a travel day draining. However, that's how we want it, so we can feel safe out there. The band and I love travelling the world, there is nothing more beautiful than sharing music.
What's it like to be with your partner Jim 24/7, as I know you both work together and are with one another all the time?
Jim inspires me, onstage and offstage. I feel incredibly lucky to have this relationship in my life and that we get to work together. Being on the road together is fantastic because not only do we love to play music together, there is a lot of time in between, just spent travelling. This tour we just began this week for example, is a 12-week tour. To be able to go out on the road with my best friend, instead of waving goodbye for 12 weeks... I love what I do but I would feel such a loss leaving my family for that amount of time. We finish a show and go back to the hotel together and we both understand what the other has just been through, so there is much understanding and empathy.
If you could collaborate with anybody going forward, who would you choose and why?
I have a list of people I'd love to work with. Where to start? I have done some great collaborations: I was invited to sing with Quatuor Ebene, a French string quartet who wanted me to sing 'Bossa Nova' on an album they recorded called 'Brazil'. I also toured and recorded with Marcos Valle, and one of the Brazilian greats and a father of 'Bossa Nova', Roberto Menescal. Working with Roberto was magical!
Do you have definitive aims or goals for your career going forward?
I have been very fortunate in my career. We travel the world and share music, have played in over 50 countries... What a privilege to be able to travel around the world and share music. I have done so many great things so far. I don't think in terms of what else I can do career-wise. It's all about the music, what I can do next, etc. My goal is simply to keep working and to sing as well as I possibly can.
Keep up-to-date with Stacey at www.staceykent.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/staceykent and for a full list of her tour dates, visit http://bandsintown.com/StaceyKent?came_from=234
New album 'Tenderly' is out now on OKeh/Sony Music.