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Beverley Knight on why Wolverhampton is similar to Norwich

PUBLISHED: 10:53 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:59 24 April 2019

Beverley Knight Credit: Uli Weber

Beverley Knight Credit: Uli Weber

Archant

Louisa Baldwin spoke to the queen of British soul and musical theatre star Beverley Knight ahead of her performance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Beverley Knight Credit: Uli WeberBeverley Knight Credit: Uli Weber

Beverley Knight celebrates 25 years in the industry this year and will perform at Norwich Theatre Royal as one of the headline acts at the N&N Festival which celebrates music, literature and art from across the world.

Beverley is the child of Jamaican immigrants and grew up in Wolverhampton where she honed her talent through performing at church and at school where staff supported her ambitions.

The 46-year-old has sold over a million albums, won three MOBO Awards and has also become a star of London's West End in productions including Memphis The Musical and The Bodyguard.

Her hits include Come as You Are, Shoulda Woulda Coulda and Gold and her Norwich concert will celebrate her old classics and new material too.

Ahead of the show, Beverley Knight discusses how keeping grounded has helped her succeed in the industry, why she is a regular visitor to Norwich and why the city reminds her of Wolverhampton.

What can people expect from your Norwich concert?

It will be really upbeat and will celebrate 25 years of doing what I do and will very much have a joyous feel.

I will play a mix of old and new, reflecting on songs from the past and also singing more current ones and I will also perform some of my musical theatre stuff including Memphis the Musical and The Bodyguard.

Have you been to the region before?

My husband is from Norwich and has lived all over the city and went to Sprowston School and I've been there now a million times to see his family.

He used to be a gaffer doing the lighting and electrics on films and commercials and I met him on set.

Now that road from Thetford has opened up it is much easier as before you would get stuck behind a tractor.

It is a really pretty down by the waterfront which has been developed nicely and the Broads are gorgeous.

I now have family in Dereham, Swaffham and that whole area and Norfolk is a really good looking place.

My husband and lots of family and friends will be coming along to the show.

How did you first get into music and did you play any instruments as a child?

I went to an evangelical church where music was the linchpin of all the services and you are expected to be involved in it from an early age.

From an early age the church utilised my musical prowess and then when I went to school they also supported me and helped develop my musical mind.

I was discovered when I was opening for soul and R&B singer Sinclair and he was accompanied by his record label who heard me sing and wanted to offer me a deal.

I was just about to head to university so they waited until I got to the other end and I signed in my final year of my theology and performing arts degree.

I played piano as a child and so did my brother and sister and it was all self-taught.

Music is in the blood on my mum's side and goes back generations and my dad was also very musical with a strong baritone voice.

Who are your biggest idols in the music industry?

My idol is Prince and always has been, I connected with his music aged nine when I saw him on TV and my uncle introduced me to his stuff.

Prince really resonated with me and I loved Raspberry Beret which is a great pop song.

Singing with Prince in LA at his Oscar party in his rented home with the great and good of Hollywood is something I will never forget - when your hero endorses you it is something else.

To top it all off Stevie Wonder jumped on the stage too.

How much is music part of the Jamaican culture?

It is massive, the world knows us for our music and athletics.

For a tiny island in the Caribbean in the heart of the West Indies it has given the world so much, including the entirely new genre of reggae, a third world superstar in Bob Marley and people like myself and Mica Paris keep giving the world music.

How did Wolverhampton influence you?

I say that whilst it was Jamaica that conceived me it was Wolverhampton that made me and I had so much encouragement with church and at school to do what I did with music and drama.

In Wolverhampton, people get behind you if you show promise and it is not dissimilar to Norwich as everyone knows everyone and you are always connected by a couple of people.

I felt very early on the backing of my hometown and as the child of an immigrant I feel like my career and success are not just mine but the story of my family and a whole generation.

How do you get inspiration for your lyrics?

I live as much as I can in the real world and not a showbiz world and when I get off stage I am back to being just Bev and live amongst normal people.

I live in a lovely area of London with all walks of life around me and I only have to look around me to find life and inspiration.

What is your favourite song of yours and why?

A fan favourite is Gold and I wrote it when I was particularly low and down on men and I go back to it my self to lift me out of the doldrems which thankfully is rare as I am a happy-go-lucky person.

What has been your favourite musical theatre role?

I've loved playing all of them but Emmeline Pankhurst in Sylvia at the Old Vic was especially good as she was such a strong, powerful and iconic figure in history who turned the world on its head.

It required a lot more than just singing as I had to play a woman who wasn't a straightforward person as for all she gave the world she had her problems too.

I love acting and it is something I did all the way through school and did the extra curricular production twice a year.

How does it feel to have had such a long career?

It is difficult to find the words for how joyful it makes me feel after 25 years that people want to hear me sing or see me on the stage and I love what I do.

You have always been a strong Labour supporter, what are your thoughts on the political situation at the moment?

What a mess, my politics always been centre left but as moment feel like a floating person as I wanted to remain.

I am a Wolverhampton woman and also proud woman of Britain and European.

I don't understand why we want our sovereignty back as we didn't lose it anyway, we shouldn't put up barriers when we need to be building bridges.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am about to go into the musical Sweet Charity as Daddy Brubeck for a week as an alternating role and then after my Norwich show I am performing my big 25 year celebration concert at the Royal Festival Hall.

Why should people get tickets to see you in Norwich if they haven't already?

When it comes to being on stage I know exactly how to do it and there is no trickery or smoke and mirrors.

To purchase tickets to Beverley Knight on May 18 at Norwich Theatre Royal visit nnfestival.org.uk

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