Q&A with Beverley Knight

Are you looking forward to heading out on your UK tour in October?

I am massively looking forward to touring in October. It’s been a year and for health reasons I had to move the tour from June so the tour in October means even more to me than ever before. I’m very excited.

Tell us a bit about your new album Soulsville and the process of making this?

The album Soulsville was made in the neighbourhood of Soulsville, so named by the residences in Memphis, Tennessee. I went to Memphis to do a recce ahead of my leading role as Felicia Farrell in the musical Memphis. I fell in love with the place and have always wanted to go there- it’s like a Mecca for any musician. I was determined that I would return and record an album there which is exactly what I did and naturally the name of the album had to be “Soulsville’!

 You have had such huge success in The Bodyguard, Memphis and Cats - how do you feel your experience in musical theatre has affected your live shows?

I think that doing lots of musical theatre has strengthened my voice. Because you’re singing every single night on stage and sometimes twice a day, your vocal ability and stamina improves massively. I’ve learnt new tricks- I’m willing to move a bit more on stage in terms of more choreographed bits and pieces. I won’t be doing a full-on choreographed show any time soon, but I’m certainly more willing to have chorography in my own live show.

 If you had to describe your fans in three words, what would they be?

Loyal, energetic and fabulous.

What are you planning to bring to the shows on your tour?

As ever, I always bring the funk! It is all about the funk, beautiful showmanship and also bringing old songs, new songs and tributes.

 Have you ever been stars truck when meeting a fellow musician?

Hell yeah, and his name was Prince. And he was everything.

 What has been one of your most memorable performances?

I have had so many different great performances on tour, but two places that stand out is Manchester, which is always awesome. And I remember performing for the first time in The Sage in Newcastle which was pretty amazing because it was a newer building and it was a really special moment.

 What is your favourite song to perform live?

I think Gold is probably my favourite of my own songs to perform because the reaction from the crowd- before I have even sung a note and have only heard the piano introduction is always pretty awesome. It’s just a very special and powerful song that I’m very proud that I wrote.

 How do you decide on what to play when you have 8 albums of amazing songs to choose from?

I have to draft in a committee! It’s not always easy to know what songs will work at any given time and if it were up to me I’d have a set list of about 50 sings and the crowd would be there for quite a few hours.

So I always go to my trusted ears- my MD Paul Reid is great. I sit down and mostly work out the show with him. And then I’ll check my set list and usually have a mark 2, mark 3 with my manager Dave as well. It’s not always easy. Always I’m very mindful our current events, for example the passing of Prince last year meant that I had to do a tribute to him, equally the passing of Maurice White from Earth, Wing & Fire. So I will tailor the set list according to the current mood and feeling.

 If you could go back to 1995 when the B-Funk was released, is there any advice you would give yourself?

Why so serious man?! That’s what I’d say. I laugh and have a bigger laugh with people much more nowadays than when I started out. I was a very driven determined musician – at a time where soul and R’n’B was nowhere, it was all about Britpop and I was determined to be taken seriously as an artist and not just fluff. I wish I had known that I didn’t have to take myself quite so seriously, I would have relaxed a little bit and had a bit more of a laugh

 

Do you have any tour rituals?

Tea!! I always get together with the band – I will have a shot of water (because I’m so rock’n’roll!) and the band will have a shot of brandy, and we down it and we all put hands in a circle and we do what we call ‘the shout’. The shout depends on where we are, what our mood is- it could be happy birthday to someone or it could be ‘let’s tear up Manchester again, it could be anything. But that’s what we do.

Every time.

Michael Sweeney