Tony Andrews is the interviewer
Q: How, When and Where did you realise you had an amazing Voice and the talent to use it to great effect.
A: I honestly don’t think of myself that way. When I was in my early teens, people who knew me would ask me to sing, rather than try to shut me up. At that time, it was the combination of my sister Wendy and I singing in intuitive harmony that surprised listeners. My sister is more musical than me but doesn’t have the lungs for it! I ruined my voice in the first year of singing with Affinity because the P.A. we had was so inadequate. I had to have surgery and then two years of classical training. I never wrecked it again.
Q: Do you believe in Fate? It is well documented how you met the musicians of what became Affinity. In your opinion was this Fate and Destiny.
A: I believe in luck. I think that keeping your eyes open for chances can be part of what we call luck. As I get older I am less inclined to take the risks that ‘luck’ might offer. On my recent album, The Fetch. there is a track called Fortuna, which takes the rather Roman notion of Lady Luck and looks at the inevitable wheel – it goes ‘I will be king, I am king, I used to be king, I have no kingdom’. Mo Foster’s lovely version of this uses a typical musical trajectory, describing a recording executive’s demands: “Whose Mo Foster? Get me Mo Foster! Get me a young Mo Foster! Whose Mo Foster?” The wheel turns.
Q: Who chose such an inspired selection of songs for The Affinity Album, was it a collective decision.
A: I think it was less inspiration than necessity. Most of these were songs we did live anyway. The Everly Brothers ‘I Wonder If I Care As Much’ was, I think the choice of Gerry Bron who made Eli’s Coming with us. Looking at it now it seems so varied. As a band, Affinity was able to play in many styles. Lynton Naiff, who really was the leader, had an incisive critical evaluation of musical ability. What we did never lived up to what he wanted. He was a highly gifted, clever musician. It was tough on the rest of us. It is interesting that he is now so hard to locate. However, we did manage to make joint decisions about things, though the struggle took its toll.
Q: Which track is your favourite on Affinity? My favourites are Coconut Grove and Mr Joy.
A: Both of those were a pleasure to record because I didn’t have to focus on a big push of volume. They allowed for my propensity for jazz singing. Mr. Joy is my favourite. I was able to use my range, some drama and improvisation. It came out differently every time. It must be the first song of praise for a vibrator ever written!
Q: How difficult was it to end The Affinity era and did you always have Pieces of Me in mind to continue your career?
A: Lynton and I had been together for three years. We broke up. Remaining with the band was going to be too uncomfortable, so I chose to go. On top of that, I was fairly burnt out from the hardships of life on the road and lack of money to make it comfortable. The band slowly came apart after I left – Mo has since told me that I was clearly the glue that held them together. They were such a great band, and I loved working with them. After I left, Ronnie Scott’s, who were my managers, teamed me with Karl Jenkins to make an album. Nucleus was part of their stable, so it made sense. I think they had in mind that I might go on to be a singer independent of a specific band. My time making Pieces of Me was a delight. I just concentrated on writing the songs with Karl, thinking about what music gave me a thrill and getting on with it.
Q: Who decided on the line up for Pieces of Me, this certainly included the cream of musicianship at the time.
A; Karl decided on most of the line-up. It is in retrospect that I realize what wonderful musicians I had on that album. And they were the cream. I did drive Karl a bit squirrely with one request: I really wanted to do Barrelhouse Blues, and that required the work of a dying breed – the stride pianist. Kart brought in Colin Purbrook, who was great, but a bit startled about what was expected. We also had classical musicians – string players mostly, that Karl conducted. It was a taste of things to come for him.
Q: Who decided on the material for Pieces of Me. Was it fun to record, it sounds as if it was and the recording captures a real atmosphere of joy.
A: Both Karl and I. We wrote most the pieces, so that was a no brainer. The other things were really my choice. I was fascinated with Laura Nyro; I thought her work was very strange and nothing like anyone else. I performed ‘Lonely Women’ last April at The Fetch concert. It’s wonderful to sing when you have a sensitive pianist accompanist. I loved doing Backlash Blues. Now I think about it, I loved it all.
Q: Do you remember the recording sessions in detail? As in my review I mentioned Jeff Clyne was a friend and a wonderful musician, did you enjoy his input?
A: Jeff was terrific. They were all top of the heap. And I do remember the recording sessions, partly I think because I was asked for my input, and respected for it. I miss that feeling of being a musician among musicians. To an extent this seems to eliminate the male/female tension. I was part of a unit that was working together to produce a common goal. It felt that way when working on The Fetch.
Q: How difficult was it to give up music in a formal way and move so far away? Was there a specific reason to move to the new location.
A: I married Morty Mole. This was a song written for my husband, who is a Prof. of Philosophy and History of Science. He got a good job at University here in Canada, and I was in love. He had been the bass player in the original Sussex Jazz Trio, with Lynton and Mo, so I had known him all through my time with the band. He had just come back from Pittsburgh, where he had been doing his PhD, while I was making Pieces of Me. We went for a drink. Now I live in Canada. Luck and opportunity!
Q: From what is widely documented, your move to your new home was very successful and your new role in life also very fulfilling. Did this compensate for music being such an important aspect in your life
A: I’m not sure I needed to compensate for the music. I dove straight into a psychology degree and did the whole thing in two years instead of four. It was hard work. Before I left for Canada I had lived with a group of people who were hard into R.D. Laing and anti-psychiatry. I became fascinated with how language affected relationships. There’s a big story here which I won’t go into now, involving working with what Ronnie Scott used to call their ‘house’ psychiatrist, Sydney Gottlieb. My work as a psychotherapist has occasionally been mind-blowing. And I was lucky enough to continue singing in a smaller way, all jazz and to my liking.
Q: How often do you return to your musical and family roots back in The UK?
A: I come back at least once a year. I always see Mo, who is a firm friend, and have occasionally seen Mike Jopp (played at his 60th) and Grant Serpell. I often feel that I have a foot in each country.
Q: What inspired you to record the Fetch after 44 years? Was there so much music left in you that it had to be let out?
A: Angel Air, the company that re-issued my albums, suggested to Mo that they would like a new album from me. Anything I wanted to do. Mind you, it’s different than it used to be. Nothing is provided, you have to do it all yourself and somehow dredge up the costs. I kind of left that suggestion hanging for a year or two, then Mo wrote me an email giving me the business end of the spear. Basically, ‘sh**, or get off the pot’. I got off the pot. Once I did that, and was back on the horse, I was rather hard to stop. The result was that I burnt out and took about five months to recover.
Q: Does it give you personal satisfaction to know that your three recordings have given so much pleasure to people who really appreciate music in its purist form.
A: I am continually amazed by this. Sometimes I think to myself “one day, they’re going to find out that they were wrong”. As I say in ‘Acknowledgements’ on The Fetch, “…. a music footnote I’ll remain.”
Q: I understand that recording The Fetch drained you to such an extent, are you still pleased to have made such a personal sacrifice in the name of musical perfection.
A: I don’t see it as a sacrifice, but it was certainly a strain. I’m not sure if I would do it again. The musical perfection, if there is such a moment on the album, is due to Mo’s persistence and dedication. At one point, as we were firing many versions of the same track over to him to work on in his studio, he wrote and said “Please don’t send so much. I am losing the will to live”.
Q: What is next, when are you planning a concert in the UK?
A: Ah! A concert in the UK. Well, I already pulled out of a few due to burnout, so setting more up makes people jittery. However, I would very much like to perform a jazz gig. For me, there is definitely a ‘water off a duck’s back’ feel to that. And pleasure, much pleasure.
Please click HERE for part #1
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