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JAKI GRAHAM INTERVIEW [2013]

I GUESS THAT 'FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS' KIND OF SUMS UP THE THINKING BEHIND THE NEW ALBUM, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR REASONS FOR DOING IT, AND FOR CHOOSING THE SONGS YOU'VE INCLUDED?

It's something I've always wanted to do but when I got a call to do a Gershwin & Soul concert with the BBC Big Band for Radio 2 in 2010, that helped to set the ball rolling. It's only then that I realised I knew a lot more Gershwin songs than what I originally thought, and after getting called back 6 months later to do an evening of Duke Ellington classics, I said, do you know what, I like singing this style of music. I felt it brought out another side to me and also exposed my vocals to a whole new audience. I also grew up on a lot of this music as my dad used to listen to songs from this era. He loved Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, so it felt right on so many levels.

WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF CHOOSING TRACKS TO INCLUDE ON THE ALBUM LIKE? DID YOU HAVE VERY DEFINITE IDEAS ABOUT THE SONGS YOU WANTED TO INCLUDE OR WAS IT JUST A COMPLETE NIGHTMARE TRYING TO DECIDE?

Again coming back to the BBC Big Band concerts, a lot of the songs came from those. I'd performed them, they worked, so it made perfect sense. There were a few extras to choose but somehow it all seemed fairly organic. Plus the first film my husband of 36 years, Tony, ever took me to see, was Lady Sings The Blues. A lot of the songs that I chose are very significant to certain scenarios throughout my life and were all picked for sentimental reasons, hence the album title!

ARE THERE ANY SONGS THAT YOU WOULD HAVE PARTICULARLY LIKED TO INCLUDE ON THE RECORD BUT, FOR WHATEVER REASON, JUST DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT?

I recorded ‘Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me' which was the only record that didn't make the cut as the publishers wouldn't give clearance. Sadly we had to shelve it. It's still there in the archives though so you never know, if they decide to release a deluxe edition of the album which they're thinking of doing later next year, it would be great to go back and get the go ahead on this track too.

YOU'VE TAKEN SOME VERY WELL-KNOWN SONGS AND INTERPRETED THEM VERY DIFFERENTLY TO THE VERSIONS MOST PEOPLE KNOW, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU THAT YOU GIVE THE SONGS A NEW TWIST AND MAKE THEM 'YOURS'?

Very! I'm intimidated by all those great artists and original versions. I had to try and interpret the songs in a way that would introduce my fans to another genre of music that they may not normally listen to or expect to hear me sing. The original songs mainly consisted of the lead vocal so I also wanted to put my own spin on them with the backing vocal arrangements and as for Wayne Pollock who did all the new arrangements, it was he who made me feel comfortable, as his treatments were very me but also being respectful to the original versions. Plus for those who are jazz fans but may not be familiar with me or my earlier hits, it will hopefully open me up to a new audience.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITES ON THE ALBUM? IF SO, WHY ARE THEY YOUR FAVOURITES? IS IT BECAUSE OF YOUR PERFORMANCE, THE INTERPRETATION OF THEM, YOUR OWN CONNECTION WITH THE SONG?

Lover Man and What A Little Moonlight Can Do I really like as both came from Lady Sings The Blues, yet both have such different treatments to that of the originals. My Funny Valentine is a stand out track for me also as it's been brought much more up to date musically yet still manages to keep the vocal essence and overall mood that the song is known for. Finally God Bless The Child because my daughter Natalie who is also my manager and Executive Producer of the album, forced me to do this one! I have to say, I'll give it to her, it was a great choice, and she's sure to remind me every time I perform it!

IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOUR LAST STUDIO ALBUM (WHICH I THINK WAS 'MY LIFE' BACK IN 1998 BUT CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG!). DID YOU DELIBERATELY CHOOSE TO TAKE A BREAK FROM RECORDING, OR WAS IT JUST CIRCUMSTANCE?

Circumstance, in particular, no longer being signed to a label! My energies went on live performances, which I've never stopped doing. If I'm honest I never imagined I'd record another album. It's only for the fact that Natalie keeps us so driven and basically said one day ‘if no-one else is going to make your album mum, then I'll do it myself!' And so she did!

ALTHOUGH YOU'VE NOT RECORDED AN ALBUM FOR A WHILE YOU HAVE STILL BEEN DOING ALL SORTS OF MUSICAL PROJECTS, MOSTLY LIVE ONES, BUT YOU'VE NEVER REALLY GOT INVOLVED IN THE WHOLE 80S NOSTALGIA THING HAVE YOU? THE HERE & NOW TOURS AND THAT SORT OF THING… IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'VE DELIBERATELY CHOSEN TO STAY AWAY FROM?

No not at all! I'd love to do the revival tours but the long and short of it is, nobody's asked me! All my friends and counterparts who do the tours are always asking why aren't I included? It seems a shame as a lot of not only my fans but general 80's music fans often ask when I'll be on one. If the opportunity were to arise I'd love to be a part of it as it's the era that helped to put me on the map.

TALKING OF THE 80S, IT'S BEEN ALMOST THIRTY YEARS SINCE THE RELEASE OF YOUR FIRST ALBUM 'HEAVEN KNOWS', WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT THAT JAKI GRAHAM, AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HER NOW?

As I say to youngsters coming through nowadays, I'd have to tell myself just go out and enjoy your time! Take everything with a pinch of salt as not everyone who says they're your friends truly are! But always believe in yourself and your talent. I thought I'd be a one hit wonder but 30+ years later I'm fortunate to still be doing what I love. It's a glorified hobby for me really and I appreciate every day I get to do it!

YOU'VE RETURNED TO 'HEAVEN KNOWS' AS THE TITLE FOR YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY WHICH IS DUE OUT EARLY NEXT YEAR. WAS THE PROCESS OF WRITING YOUR STORY AN EASY ONE FOR YOU? I IMAGINE THAT FOR ALL THE UPS THERE ARE ALSO SOME DOWNS AND GOING THROUGH THIS SORT OF PROCESS MUST SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON THEM ALL OVER AGAIN…

Not really because there's a lot of things I'd forgotten. It's only thanks to Tony (who I've been with since I was 14/15), between him and Natalie who documented everything, that they've helped to resurrect memories. It's a very emotional experience too, especially when looking back over my personal life in terms of family but also the ups and downs I've gone through during the years within the industry. It's been a great tool for reflection however, something I hadn't really done. It's put things into perspective and being older and wiser I can see a lot of things that happened, even during my childhood, and look at them very differently now. You could almost call it a cleansing experience.

YOU'RE GOING TO BE TOURING 'FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS' NEXT YEAR I BELIEVE, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT PLANED FOR THOSE SHOWS?

It's going to include the old and new! You can't do a tour purely with new material as the fans come to hear the hits. I perform live across the country all the time and with other international artists, from the Legends Arena tour with Michael McDonald and Al Green, to the Soulicious tour with Sir Cliff Richard alongside many greats, Freda Payne, Lamont Dozier, Percy Sledge, James Ingram and Billy Davis Jr and Marilyn McCoo. Because it's so long since I toured the UK as a solo artist, I forget just how much material I have so I'd like to think with the 2013 tour, people are really going to get a great show and value for money! It will include the 80's hits, as well as some from the 90's hits and recordings with Avex that a lot of my fans here may not even have heard, as those albums were released everywhere bar the UK. I'm also officially a Motown artist which many people don't know so there has to be a couple of those classics thrown in. It's also a great opportunity to showcase the new album. It may seem like a mish mash, but it will actually be taking people through the various decades, with a little something for everyone whether they know me or not, so hopefully everyone will enjoy!

AND WHAT ELSE IS IN THE PIPELINE FOR YOU?

There's so much I can't keep up! Just as I thought I was slowing down, I'm about to get busier than ever. As well as the UK, I'll be touring internationally including Australia, Japan, Malaysia & South East Asia to begin with. Obviously there's ‘Heaven Knows – The Autobiography' to look out for too and I believe there'll be a book tour thrown in amongst all of this. I have my own special edition range of ‘Heaven Knows Indulgence' chocolates coming out to tie in with the release of the book, alongside world leading chocolatier Paul Wayne Gregory. Off the back of the tour we've also recently started discussions for a live DVD to come out hopefully in time for Autumn if not Christmas 2013. There's going to be a remix album which is one I'm quite excited about and while all this is going on, plans are already being made to get back in the studio to record the next album. I intend to do a lot more songwriting as well so it would be great to collaborate with other artists to work on new and original material.

JAKI GRAHAM - For Sentimental Reasons (2012)

JANUARY 2013

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