SINGER SARAH Jane Morris is one of this country’s most exciting live performers.
Embracing jazz, blues, soul and rock (and more besides), she brings a rich personal touch to her performances.
With a career that took off in the 1980s with The Republic and The Communards (where she sang with Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles), she is busier than ever – and enjoying herself immensely. Her last two albums – Bloody Rain and Compared to What – have been widely acclaimed.
Ahead of her concert on Saturday at the Bulls Head in Barnes, London (8.30pm, click here for info), Jeff Prestridge of PrestridgeSquared.com caught up with the force of nature that is Sarah Jane Morris.
Q: Are you working on a new album?
A: I AM working on two projects. One is with guitarist Tony Rémy, the wonderful Italian violinist Alessandro Quarta and the award winning filmmaker Mark Cousins. It is a multi-media project involving Greek mythology, music and film – to be launched in 2019. A collection of songs and film for the strange times we live in.
The second is an album of Soul, Rock and Blues. All original songs – some written by me and some written for me by wonderful songwriters.
Q: Are you pleased with the acclaim that recent albums Compared to What and Bloody Rain have received?
A: BLOODY Rain and Compared to What have had great press and acknowledgment but there are still many territories that have yet to discover them.
Both are albums that are timeless and contain songs about what is happening in the world today. When you write in this way, doors are opened and doors are closed.
Q: You seem to be enjoying your music more than ever. Is that right?
A: I AM indeed. My voice is at its best and there is so much to write about. I write about my own life but I also write human stories. In these strange times there are many peoples’ stories to tell. I work with wonderful musicians whom I love as human beings and my audiences give me so much love back.
Q: Your voice is an extraordinary one. Do you have to look after it these days or does it look after itself?
A: I HAVE never had singing lessons or any musical training and I am afraid to say I do no vocal warm ups.
I am forever a victim of colds as I am on flights every week (sometimes as many as four) and picking up bugs via the air conditioning. I take echinacea daily and when a cold threatens I gargle on warm salt water and a mix of garlic, ginger, turmeric, honey and lemon. It does the trick.
Q: You are spending a lot of time in Italy. Is that the Antonio Forcione effect? What is he like to work with?
A: IF it was not for Italy who knows what would have happened to me.
The Italians have always shown much love and respect and allow me to forever change musically. I have been given the freedom of the city of Verona, performed in the Venice Opera house ( before it was burnt down), the Verona Arena, Taormina in Sicily and Pompeii.
I am on an airplane to Italy nearly every week and perform there more than any other international artist. I know how lucky I am.
Antonio moved to London more than 30 years ago and has enjoyed far more success here in the UK. Our album together has helped to remind the Italian public that he is out there and is quite brilliant.
Q: Who are your musical heroes? Past and present?
A: THEY are many. Nina Simone as a singer songwriter and activist. Bob Dylan as a songwriter.
Sly and The Family Stone and The Metres and Little Feet for groove.
Stevie Wonder as a singer and songwriter – he has always acknowledged what is going on.
Same goes for Marvin Gaye. Gil Scot Heron, Joni Mitchell, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and so many others.
I grew up with a musical backdrop of the 70s which was an amazing period for music.
Stax, Motown, Joplin, Dylan, Cohen, Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones and so many more
Q: Your concerts are magnificent passionate events. You also use them to raise issues close to your heart. Is it important to you that you do so? And do you enjoy singing live?
A: I LOVE to sing live and am fortunate that I get many opportunities to do so.
Because I write about the human experience there are obviously many related charities that need greater profile and money to be raised by artists like myself.
Through my good friend Ian Shaw I have recently affiliated myself to ‘Side by Side by Refugees’ and do many benefit concerts for them and raise money by collections at the end of my concerts in the UK and abroad. Antonio and my band of wonderful musicians are united with me in this.
Through my album Bloody Rain I got to meet the wonderful human rights QC Dexter Dias and in turn Leila Hussein. Through them we became involved in the Female Genital Mutilation campaign and wrote the campaign song.
I am currently working on another project for Dexter and recording a song to help raise money and awareness about child trafficking issues in Ghana. I have for a longtime been involved with Terence Higgins Trust and wrote a song with Tim Cansfield called ‘Men Just Wanna Have Fun’ about sex and protection.
Q: Your son often sings with you. Is a musical career beckoning for this talented man?
A: YES, my son Otis Coulter has now finished his music degree at Goldsmiths in London and is living in Hastings with his partner and working hard to finance being a singer songwriter.
Otis has a beautiful voice and possesses a wider range than me. His voice is the equivalent of combining mine and Jimmy Somerville’s.
We sing together as much as we are able to. I am extremely proud of him, not only as a singer songwriter but as a human being.
Q: You have had a colourful life. Has that helped you when it comes to writing music? A lot of songs are deeply personal.
A: YES, my life has been colourful and eventful. A songwriter often draws from their own life and mine has provided me with a great deal to write about.
I do not look back with regret, I look back and think: ‘Now, there’s a song’. My dysfunctional childhood has taught me to make everywhere my home.
Q: Any thoughts on Reverend Cole’s swift exit from Strictly? Would you like to follow in his footsteps?
A: I DO not have a TV and have been touring all through this period so I have not had chance to see any of Strictly. I found out through Facebook that Richard was no longer a contestant. I am sure he had a lot of fun. Richard is one of the wittiest individuals I know.
Q: What is your favourite venue?
A: I HAVE always loved singing at Ronnie Scotts as it feels like home. I have been singing there every year for 23 years. There are many great intimate venues in London and 606 in Chelsea is one of them.
I met my husband there eight years ago and we had a humanist wedding at the venue four and a half years later with many wonderful friends performing to us all.
Q: Remy and Cansfield are talented individuals. Any thoughts on them? You seem to have great fun on stage.
A: TONY Rémy and Tim Cansfield are constant travelling musical companions of mine. I write a great deal with Tony and have known both of them for more than 20 years.
I have been fortunate in my career to have recorded and performed with some of the world’s finest guitarists. They include Marc Ribot, Dominic Miller, Antonio Forcione, Tony Rémy, Tim Cansfield and Matt Backer. They are different from each other in personality and sound.
With Tony and Tim I travel the world and spend more time with them than my own husband. I love them as musical brothers and the very best of friends.
Like I said I know how lucky I am.
Sarah Jane Morris is performing at Saturday October 14 at the Bulls Head in Barnes, London (8.30pm). Tickets cost £22.50 in advance – click here for info
They can also be purchased on the door – £25