31 October 2014

Stacey Kent Interview

You do a lot of touring and travelling. What have been your favourite places so far?

    “I don't know if I have a favourite place, I love to tour the world. In this last year, we’ve been to 30 countries so far on The Changing Lights tour, including some places we’ve never been to before. For instance, although we often play in Asia, we’ve never performed in Shanghai and we'll be heading there in late November.” 

     “I love Brazil, Portugal, touring in Scandinavia, Poland, Canada, Taiwan, my own country (USA), you see, it's impossible for me to choose!” 


Is there anywhere that you haven’t been, that you would like to go to?

    “I’d love to return to Australia but next time to include Sydney, where we have not yet played, and then to go on to New Zealand. I'd also like to go to Greenland.”


You’ve worked quite a bit with novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. How did that collaboration come about?

     “Kazuo chose a record of mine when he appeared on Desert Island Discs. I was already a huge fan of his work and so I was shocked and flattered to learn he was a fan of mine. He wrote the liner note for my album, In Love Again and his comments were so insightful that Jim (my husband, saxophonist, songwriter and producer) and I started to think about the possibility of us collaborating with him. Our first work together was in 2006 when we started writing for the album, Breakfast On The Morning Tram. That featured four of Kazuo and Jim’s songs and has really come to define our sound.”


What do you think is the most important thing for a vocalist to do when they interpret a song?

     “The most important thing is to tell the story as if it’s your own. If the lyric doesn’t mean something to you and you can’t imagine yourself in the song, you won’t be able to sing it to its fullest. It doesn't need to be your song or story literally, of course. Poetry is a wonderful transporter. Metaphorically, it has to connect.”


What advice do you give to up and coming vocalists? 

    “First, don’t be in a rush. Overnight fame is no substitute for paying your dues. Second, remember that your own voice is as unique to you as your fingerprint. Learn from your heroes but have the confidence to embrace your own sound.”


What do you want audiences to take away from your performances?

     “I want audiences to feel as if they have been on an emotional journey, to travel to those joyful and sad places that I want to go. Singing is about communicating and so I want audiences to feel part of the show.”


How is your on-stage persona different to your off-stage persona, or are they the same?

     “I am pretty much the same person on and off stage.”


You’ve performed (and recorded) a lot of Brazilian music. What draws you towards it?

     “Brazilian music, samba and bossa nova in particular, are musics that transform sadness and pain into beauty.”

     “The great Brazilian poet, songwriter and diplomat, Vinicius de Moraes said:


Porque o samba é a tristeza que balança

E a tristeza tem sempre uma esperança

A tristeza tem sempre uma esperança

De um dia não ser mais triste não….


(This is a quote from Samba de Benção, or Samba Saravah, when it was translated into French for the film, A Man and A Woman.) More or less, Vinicius says in that quote…Because samba is a sadness that balances, a sadness always hold the hope of one day no longer being sad…."

     “Brazilian music expresses an aspect of the human condition to which we connect so completely, and that is hope! That is that sometimes, even under the most difficult circumstances, we tend to look for good, for something optimistic. We gravitate towards sayings in our daily lives such as , ‘everything happens for a reason' or 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' . People look for ways of making the challenging and even the painful into a kind of nourishment or fuel to move forward to towards something better. This is pretty much universal but the Brazilians have such a beautiful way of expressing it. Vinicius de Moraes is one of my favourite poets.” 

     “It is the propulsion of that Brazilian 'batida' (beat) that literally makes you feel as though you are moving forward. Those rhythms mixed with the often sweet melancholy of the lyric, makes a sublime song. As an example, I love Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes' song, Estrada Branca, which is translated into This Happy Madness, a song a recorded on The Changing Lights. I love a sad song, (or a song full of longing) in a major key – so playful.”


What plans do you have for the future and what would you like to achieve?

     “I have various recording projects in the pipeline but I’m still madly in love with the songs from The Changing Lights. In the meantime, however, I recorded a live album with Marcos Valle (the Brazilian composer and singer, most famous for his song, So Nice) on which I sing 15 of his songs and which celebrates 50 years of his career. That is being released worldwide after its initial Brazilian release, so, hopefully we’ll get to do some more touring with that. It is beautiful working with Marcos. From an artistic standpoint, I am constantly striving to improve. I practice every day and want to continue growing as an artist and to be performing for as long as people want to hear me sing.”


Stacey Kent answered questions put to her by Sussex Jazz Mag editor Charlie Anderson.

Stacey performs at The Pavilion Theatre in Worthing on Saturday 8th November.

For more information on Stacey Kent: www.staceykent.com


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