been a testing time for Beverley Knight of late. Going through a long
term relationship break up, witnessing poverty and starvation at close
hand, and to top it all, being forced into recording a programme about
the bloody Brit Awards! Beverley was only too keen to enlighten me with
stories of all the above and more:
AD: First of all, how exactly does a girl from Wolverhampton go about
becoming an international megastar?
BK: Oh God! I dont see myself as that at all. Im just a
girl who has grafted solidly for nine years and now finally I am here.
My music is finally beginning to make sense to the public and to the
media. A lot of people who have come and gone were a lot more impatient
than me, and personally Im glad that its taken a while,
as I have learned and developed both musically and spiritually along
AD: One of your spiritual journeys took you to Brazil with Christian
Aid recently. What made you decide to embark upon what must have been
a fairly harrowing experience?
BK: Harrowing is right! Christian Aid asked me to be an ambassador for
them and highlight, through their sister companies, the work they are
doing in places like Salvadorto try to curb the rise in poverty and
to combat the frighteningly rapid spread of the HIV virus that is destroying
the community over there particularly the black community. I
was inspired by my closest and dearest friend, who lives with me and
is HIV positive himself. It was a way of helping me to understand my
own feelings. It was completely heart wrenching, but it was also inspirational,
you know. All these formidable characters that I met still had such
strength and vitality that it made me feel overwhelmed, but humble.
It was particularly harrowing meeting the children who had the disease,
and thats where mum stepped in Im so glad she was
there! Anyway, the experience completely changed my life.
AD: Will your time in Brazil shape much of your next album then?
BK: Definitely. You just cant go through something as profound
as that WITHOUT it shaping the music you create.
AD: Yeah and musics such a great way of expressing your message
and getting a message across. I got the impression that your excellent
Shoulda Woulda Coulda single was very much based on personal
experience. What can you tell me about it?
BK: I was just sitting there reflecting on my relationship, which
had fallen apart a couple of days before I got on my flight to Nashville.
My collaborator, Craig Wiseman told me to focus on my thoughts innermost
I was in pieces, I was a mess and somehow, this song made
sense of it all. It doesnt tell the entire story though; youd
have to listen to the album to get the entire picture. I started writing
Who I Am dealing with me and my relationship. I explored
my own mind, my sexuality, my politics all these things to try
to find an answer within this relationship that had broken up. Thats
where the title of the album came from.
AD: On the most recent single from that album, you collaborated with
Wyclef Jean. How did the two of you get on?
BK: We got on fine. I think I had an advantage, because he had no idea
that with me, the madness is just blooming beneath the surface, whereas
I knew he was off his rocker already! We had a really good laugh and
it was good working with Wyclefs new prodigy too, a rapper calledHollywood.
AD: Going back to the beginning of your career, Flavour Of
The Old School reached theUKTop 40 pretty much by word of mouth,
rather than the excessive promotional ploys undertaken by other artists
to realise their own material dreams. You seem to have kept that Do-It-Yourself
ethic to this very day. How important is something like that to you?
BK: I think its really important that people FIND your music,
rather than have them buy it because its been rammed down your
throat every hour of the day. I mean, yes, marketing is so great when
you can get it, but I just think if something takes a bit of time and
people gradually pick up on it, its so much better. Id be
happier for my music to take a hugely long time to sell than to have
it force fed to people while they waited for their kettle to boil.
AD: Admirable ethics indeed, which is more than can be said for the
governments reaction to the shootings of Charlene Ellis and Latisha
Shakespeare inBirminghamrecently. You recently performed a concert for
the two murdered teenagers at Aston Villa Leisure Centre and very publicly
condemned Mr.Blair and co in the process. What upset you the most about
the way the government tried to handle the problem?
BK: The fact that they didnt handle it at all! I mean, first of
all, where the hell were they? If they felt so vehemently about this
issue, then where were they on the 18th of January? Watching Daytime
TV? Or planning their next inane strategy for dragging us into war?
Secondly, the comments made by the Home Secretary were so hopelessly
misjudged and misguided that it makes me despair. Theyre telling
ME that all these people, these amazing artists from twenty years ago
mainly hip hop which incidentally was all about people
spreading love and not war are to blame for a rise in gun crime?
I mean, come on!! The one thing I have always said in situations
like this is Music reflects the society we live in; it doesnt
incite it. If music really was as potent a force as the government reckon
it is, we wouldnt right now be marching off to war.
AD: Couldnt agree more, and an enormous amount of our readers
will fully support what youre saying there. Now then, when I recently
interviewedLeee Johnof Imagination, he said the highlight of his entire
career was having dinner cooked for him by a certain Mrs. Winnie Mandela.
I gather youve been rather close to her other half lately
that must have been special
BK: There is no accolade, or title, or honour that anyone could give
to me that will ever compare with that moment and its happened
to me twice in my career now! I cant begin to tell you how inspirational
that man has been to me. I mean, who was I? Im just that girl
fromWolverhamptonyou mentioned earlier on, and here was a man standing
right in front of me who has changed history! He will still be talked
about in 600 years time as somebody who made an indelible mark
on the world and changed it for the better. No matter what anyone says
about him in the future, it will make no difference to things he has
AD: So youve sung to Mandela and Ali, received three Mobo
awards, been nominated for several Brits
incidentally, is it true
that youre presenting the Brits this year?
BK: No Im not presenting it, but I did do a trailer to get people
to watch the Brits that I really, really didnt want to do. Then
they cajoled me and begged me to present this show called The
Brits Are Coming so much that eventually I just gave in, threw
my arms up in the air and said OK, ok Ill do it! Now leave
AD: Okay, so youve achieved all the above, sold in excess of
20,000 copies of Who I Am, received further nominations
for the Mercury Music Prize and can count Michael Stipe, David Bowie,
Jay Kay and Prince amongst your biggest fans. What is there left for
Beverley Knight to achieve?
BK: Id like to sell a few records in America. The ones who do
know about me over there REALLY know about me, and I have to thank David
Bowie quite a lot for that, as hes promoted me so much over there
and always spreads the word whenever he goes. So Id eventually
like to release something over there. So many people have told me Ill
do really well in the U.S. I hope theyre right!
And I, for one, would be very surprised if they werent. One
things for sure Beverley Knight deserves all the success
she has had and more. A heart of gold, a voice to die for, intelligent
songs and a wonderful personality. The girl will go far. And Im
saying that as a Leicester fan even after Wolves stuffed us in the FA
Cup (and she supports the buggers too!) you can still get hold
of Beverleys recent Shape Of You featuring Wyclef
Jean and Hollywood, in all good record stores now.
Interview and transcript by Tone E