June 14, 2024


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Interview with Beverley Beirne: All art feeds the soul doesn’t it? Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Beverley Beirne. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Beverley Beirne: – I grew up in Yorkshire, in the UK.  I was always surrounded by music, so I think I absorbed a lot just by being around it.  As a child, I just remember feeling this deep joy at both listening to music and singing, way before I ever really thought about doing this for a career.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

BB: – I was always drawn to great singers, be it Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen Mcrae or even Barbara Streisand and even the Abba girls?  All had these amazing instruments and when I was very young I sang along trying to see if I could get my voice to do what there’s was!  I’ve had some amazing teachers along the way.  My first singing teacher Giselle Finney, taught me a lot about classical singing, which I loved, but I found it too constraining and something in me just felt that this (for me at least) was an artificial sound and I wanted to sound like me.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

BB: – It was definitely something that evolved.  I had a pretty good instrument but there was something definitely missing for me with classical singing.  I loved the strength and the power of it, but for me this has always been about self-expression, so I sort of always gravitated to a more authentic sound that felt really comfortable and much more me!

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

BB: – I start any practice with my vocal training exercises that I’ve honed over the years that are specifically for me and then I’ll play around with some tunes that I’m really familiar with.  Then I’ll move to anything new I’m working on.  I actually like to feel the rhythm in my body before I sing, that’s a must for me.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

BB: – I definitely resonate with the bass when I sing.  I can’t say why exactly, I just always have, so sometimes I’ll find myself harmonizing with the bass, or singing a discord to what they’re playing.  I do love a good melody, but I also love a good crunchy chord.  I am very much influenced by the lyrics and the meaning of the song too.  I like to really make sure I connect with them and tell the story, this then definitely leads to how I’m going to interpret the song musically.  Saying that, it’s good to be surprised and one of the things I love is when you sing live and one of the musicians will do something that will really resonate with you and you end up going down a different route, telling an entirely different story.  But that’s what makes what we do really special isn’t it?

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

BB: – Well, I think it’s good to be diverse, it’s part of the creative process to try different things.  I think we are living in a great period of growth for the genre and that always brings change, some good, some bad! I suppose it’s a matter of personal choice what you think is incongruous or incompatible with the genre, or what you think actually I love this.  I think it comes back to personal artistic expression again.  Maybe if you feel you want create it, do it and just see what happens.

There’s so much diverse music under the heading of jazz these days it’s hard to keep up, but for the most part I think most of it is all beautiful and very valid.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

BB: – Crikey! I need about a year to answer this one!  For a start I’d say there’s no set blueprint here.  What’s right for me wouldn’t be right for someone else and vice versa.  What do I think is the balance in music between the intellect and the soul? Gut instinct! If it feels right, then it probably is, for whatever reason.  All art feeds the soul doesn’t it?  It’s a very personal thing.  Musically, we’ve all heard someone so phenomenally skillful yet we’re unmoved and then there’s the one who has many imperfections we could pick out but we resonate to this much more!

I think we strive towards perfection in what we do and that’s important, who ever heard of striving to be average after all!  But, if we’re not careful this can take over from our souls purpose, which is that nub of feeling deep inside us and the very reason we began this in the first place.  Maybe we all have to check in occasionally and make sure we’re on the right path, for us!

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

BB: – Ideally I’d like to think that the two are one and the same? If not then perhaps I’ve got some things wrong.  I can’t perform to my best ability if I’m performing things I don’t enjoy, which thankfully never happens.

I see it as my job to win audiences over with what I do that is authentic to me.  If I’m happy and doing what I love then they can see that and enjoy it.

It’s always important to remember that the audience have bought their ticket and are coming for a night out though and I always give them my utmost attention and I like to chat to my audience, after all, I’m pretty thrilled they’ve come out to see me! That’s pretty great!

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

BB: – There are just so many.  Working with the legend saxophonist Duncan Lamont has been special, a project that London Singer Esther Bennett invited me to work on called The Duncan Lamont Songbook. Duncan also guests on 2 of his own songs on my next album Dream Dancer too.

Working on The Ilkley Suite that was composed by Jamil Sheriff to celebrate Ilkley Jazz Festivals 5th year (I run the festival with my husband Mark).   It’s the most incredibly beautiful music and Jamil got deep into the spirit of the town. I perform on the album and I found it deeply moving to sing these beautiful songs about the town I love.  It’s very special. I also got to sing in Irish and do a little Avant Garde Jazz, so this was a fantastic experience for me. (This will be released next year).

Of course, working with the amazing producer Jason Miles on JJWTHF has been amazing and we’re working on the second album we did Dream Dancer at the moment.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

BB: – I think people young and old are drawn to beautiful music.  Just keep drawing them in.  There’s a lot of really cool young guys on the UK scene who are writing some fantastic fusion material and I really think this is something that resonates with a lot of the younger crowd.  But saying that, don’t underestimate the power of the standards.  These are great songs written by some of the best song writers we’ve ever had.  All they need is a new look, a new feel, a new take and all of a sudden they’re new again.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

BB: – That part of myself that buzzes and feels alive when I’m immersed in something I love doing, singing, creating music, but also writing, reading a great novel, walking on the moor and breathing in the scent of heather in the spring, watching the early morning light bounce on a gentle summers sea, making great food, drinking great wine with loved ones and feeling alive and full of love for everything.  That’s the best place to be isn’t it? Full of the light of life and I think if you follow that pure joy then surely  it can only bring the highest good for all!

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

BB: – More support and funding for music art forms that are not mainstream.  They open a world of thought and meaning and feeling that is just not accessible in a lot of the mainstream.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

BB: – Too many to mention! I’m a big fan of Nneena Freelon, always have been.  I love the new young singer Aubrey Logan.  I get sent a lot of fantastic music to be considered for the Ilkley Jazz Festival, which is fantastic.  Recently I’ve been enjoying UK Saxophonist Tony Kofi’s new album ‘Tony Kofi and The Organisation’, but I get sent a lot of fantastic music.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

BB: – Way too many places! But let’s go for the 1920’s for a start. Then I’d like to visit London, Paris and New York and Berlin working as a jazz singer of course.  I think Paris especially during this period must have been an amazing place, so the Hemmingway’s set haunts for instance, Les Deux Magots and St. Germain-des-Pres Café to chat with Picasso and Simone de Beauvoir.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

BB: – Where is one place you’d love to gig at?

Too many answers, but I saw some musician friends of mine on fb post a picture of a gig in front of the Pyramids and I thought that was so cool.

America one day and sing in some of the great jazz clubs there.  But also New Orleans I’d love to soak up the jazz history here and it seems like such a vibrant place.

One day I’d love to do one of those amazing top jazz cruises.  All those amazing jazz artists on one big ship! Imagine the tales to tell after that…?

JBN.S: – Thank you for answers.

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

BB: – I really enjoyed your questions, thank you!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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