Ahead of her gig at The Ashtead Jazz Club, we catch up with Brit Award nominee Beth Rowley to discuss what makes music so special to her and what we can expect from her night.
1. Hi, Beth! Are you looking forward to playing at The Ashtead Jazz Club?
Yes, very much. I've heard great things about the venue!
2. Some of The AJC's audience may not have heard you sing before. What can you promise them on 20th May 2016?
Something one off. We have some of the UK's most exceptional musicians on board so you'll leave feeling happier than when you arrived I'm sure! And good wine too I've heard.
3. Can we expect to hear any of your own tunes at The AJC?
Yes of course! And also some old spirituals/gospel and blues tunes.
4. Will you be bringing your trusty Harmonica?
Always! I went to Nashville recently and met legendary Blues harp player Jelly Roll, I sat in with him at a gig at The Station Inn which was incredible. I'm feeling inspired!
5. You were brought up on, amongst so many others, Led Belly, Mahalia Jackson and The Beatles. Who do you feel has really influenced you, both as a writer and as a musician?
Definitely Mahalia for the spirit and purpose behind why I do music, she makes me think about what I'm saying to an audience and what I want to leave them with.
6. Who are you really enjoying listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to a lot of Nick Cave at the moment. Again, he always inspires my writing. Lots of my songs start out as prayers where I'm asking questions or confused or thanking God for stuff, then I think, 'that could be a song idea' so I give it a go and see where it goes. I also like Alabamma Shakes a lot, they're great! I love their sounds and energy and Brittany is awesoooommme!
7. You have worked with some incredible artists, such as Burt Bacharach and David Arnold, as well as performing at events with Jamie Cullum and Adele. Has anyone really stood out for you, both as a person and as a musician?
All of those mentioned above are pretty off the scale talented artists, and it was amazing to work along side them. Especially Angelo Badalamenti, I was a big fan of Twin Peaks and watched it obsessively for years so getting to work with him was incredible. Thinking about stand out people, I worked with a guy last month in Nashville called Pat Alger who is a brilliant writer. He's written loads of tunes for very successful artists over the years, and we wrote a bunch of new songs together. He is a real stand out person for me, both musically and personally. He is incredibly talented and experienced and challenged me and taught me loads, but so humble and very kind too. Nashville was inspiring and I left feeling very excited
and energized to make my next album.
8. When not performing your own material, you regularly sing with Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. How is it being a part of such a famous musical institution?
It's very fun! The band have been playing together for 25 years so it was pretty daunting being the new girl, but everyone was very welcoming. Jools is very generous and gives everyone their own spot in the gig to do their thing. I do 2/3 songs on my own with the whole band which is great. Singing with such world class musicians is such a treat and keeps me striving to be as good as I can be.
9. Your incredible voice has found you in some fascinating places, none more so than on the big screen, as you appeared in the Oscar nominated film ‘An Education’, as well as writing the theme song, ‘You Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger’, with Ben Castle. That must have been an incredible experience?
It was fun! I had a beautiful purple sequin fish tail dress made and had to be lifted upon to the stage by the crew because I couldn't walk in it! I loved being on a film set. It's pretty manic with lots of waiting around, but the band and I were well taken care of. I could definitely get used to it! My partner Liam is an actor so I'm leaving that to him...for the time being at least ;)
10. When not making music, what other passions take up your time?
I've worked for the last 3 years for a small creative, grass roots human rights organization called Amos Trust. I performed at a music festival in Bethlehem that they support and I was really moved by the experience and the culture. I was inspired by the work they do and how they do it and offered to help with a few of the music projects. I also support a new female youth record label in Bristol called Saffron Records. In August we're taking some of the artists to the same music festival in Bethlehem to perform and also to meet and work with a women's co-op there. This takes up the rest of my time and I love it.
11. You have performed in some of the world's most iconic venues. Does any one venue stand out in particular? What made it so special?