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Interview conducted in person in London, May 25, 2011

With a 2011 CD, "Soul UK" paying tribute to British soul music, Beverley Knight has often been called 'The Queen Of British Soul.' After seeing her at a recent London show, David Nathan - who knows a thing or two about soul singers! - couldn't wait to catch up with the lady who was honored by the (real) Queen of England with a medal (an MBE), has recorded seven albums in seventeen years and still hasn't had a single release in the USA! Read on...

David Nathan: Well, I want to welcome today to Soul a lady who I think is justifiably known as the Queen of British Soul—she’s smiling—and I’m particularly pleased that we’re doing the interview, because this is the first time we’ve met. And I’m referring to Miss Beverley Knight, who has a great new album coming out in June, which is actually a collection of covers of British soul standards, I guess you could say. And so we’re going to be talking about that amongst other things. So firstly, welcome, Miss Beverley Knight.

Beverley Knight: Thank you very much. Thank you.

DN: Well, let’s just jump right into it. This album’s called Soul UK.

BK: That’s right.

DN: And can you tell me how the concept came about? When did you first think of doing an album like this?

BK: Well, it was one of those conversations that was had—you know, one of those where you put the world to rights. And we were talking about music: me, my manager and some of my band, talking about music and saying how this area of British music so rarely, if ever, gets the spotlight shone on it. We’d start naming people, saying, “Yeah, this person should be much bigger than they are. And Omar! And what happened to Soul II Soul?” And you go through like this. Then my management were like, “You know what? This would be a great idea for an album.” And because I’ve never done a cover album or anything like that before, I did think to myself, “I love the idea, but me doing covers?” But then they came back with, “But who else? Who else is that bridge between what was done then—was there the first time growing up listening to it—and who is still doing her thing now?” And that was the clincher. That sold it.

DN: So when did you actually start having those conversations?

BK: This has to be about a year and a half, as long ago as that now. But pretty much right after I’d finished my 100% album, and kind of reflecting on all of that—that was when we were starting to have those conversations. It just felt like loads of people were having it, so I thought, “Yeah, why not?”

DN: And did you already have in mind who you wanted to have produce it, or was the next thing you started working on was actually choosing the songs? Which came first?

BK: The next thing was definitely the song choice because, of course, this area, as you know, is so vast, it’s so wide; there is so much, most of it undiscovered. And it was like, okay, where do we even start? So the point was like, let’s start from my own perspective rather than trying to give some kind of definitive volume of soul standards. It’s not going to happen, because it’s subjective, and British soul goes back way further than even I can remember. So I thought, if I do it from my own soundtrack to my life… it just felt as though if I do this album as a soundtrack of my own years it would make more sense: you’d understand my song choices and where I’m going on what directly influenced me and my own career.

DN: And what was actually—we will talk about some of the songs—but what was actually the very first one you chose that you knew absolutely, “This one I must do”? Do you remember what that was?

BK: I think my first choice was “Fairplay”, the Soul II Soul club track, because I always remember that song as one that I loved that used to make me really wish I was old enough to go into the clubs—and that if I was old enough, Mum and Dad would let me at least go out of the house. But it was so brilliant, and that was always my favourite—next to of course “Keep On Moving” and “Back to Life” of the songs on the Club Classics Volume I album. So that for me was like, “Well, whatever else I do, I’ve gotta do that.”: And anything from there in.

DN: Right. And let’s talk about some of your choices: some of them, I have to be honest with you, I am completely familiar with, and some I’m not, and probably I’m not going to be the only one who says that. So let’s start with a couple which I actually do know. I see you covered my good friend Junior, “Mama Used to Say”. I’ll just give you a ten-second history of me and Junior. I met Junior in probably about 1978 or ’79, when I was visiting London from my home at that time in New York. And he went to school with a friend of mine, so my friend said, “I’m going with this guy Junior with his band, we’re going up to Birmingham. You want to come?” I thought, well, I’d never done anything like that, traveling with a band in the van. So I went up just to really hang out. So that was my first time. Then a couple of years later he called me and told me, “I’m in New York, and I’ve been trying to get a record deal. I’ve got this cassette.” So he came over and played it to me, and it was “Mama Used to Say”. And I said, “Well, let me see what I can do, I don’t know if I can really help you but I’ll see what I can.” And in-between times he actually did connect with somebody, and the next thing I knew, the record was out. So we go back a long way. He’s a great human being.

BK: He really is, isn’t he?

DN: And I’m really thrilled that you’re reviving a song which probably a whole generation has never heard.

BK: That’s the point of this record. It’s for people like you and me to say, “Oh my God, remember that, and how brilliant was that song? A complete gem.” And then for people who don’t know these songs, the younger generation, to say, “Oh, wow, we were doing it like that even in 1985. Wow! Okay, then.” And that was how I went through the choices, really. And yeah, Junior was another eally obvious—

DN: Now was he someone you already knew or had any acquaintance with before you recorded the song?

BK: No. I knew of Junior just like everybody else knew of him; I’d absolutely loved “Mama Used to Say”, but only really connected with him once I’d done my version of the track. And we found him—it’s very easy to find him, he’s always working— wonderful man that he is. So we found him and said, “Hey, I’ve done this version of ‘Mama Used to Say’.” Thankfully he loved it, and we’ve just been in touch ever since.

DN: Fantastic, fantastic. Well, the next one—and I don’t want to go through every one or it would be a very long interview, but I do want to pick out a few. “Say I’m Your Number One”, which of course I know from Princess, and of course that’s the original recording artist on that. I am correct on that?

BK: Yes, you are.

DN: Now is she also someone you knew or you only became aware of when you did the song?

BK: I have never yet met her.

DN: You still haven’t met her?

BK: I’ve still never met her. This is someone who, through management and that, we’ve connected with. Because she lives out in the States, so I haven’t been able to see her. But she was someone that I absolutely remembered from back then, loved, and just thought she looked the part—looked like a pop star, sounded like a pop star—and the song was so cool. I’d love to meet her.

DN: Well, you never know. Maybe she’ll hear the interview and she’ll figure out how to get in touch with you.

BK: Exactly. I know she’s managed by someone here in the UK but lives in the States, so there is that connection. I know she’s heard the track, I know she’s thrilled, but I want to meet her. I want to see her face to face.

DN: Before we go further into talking about the songs, I do have to ask you: of course one of the challenges for anybody when they do covers is, how do I bring something different to it so it’s not just simply someone singing it the same way that it was originally sung? So how did you—and I’m talking about the whole album—how did you approach it in regard to that?

BK: First thing was, vocally I sound like no one else on this record, so that was in my favour. My way of singing, my phrasing, everything like that was always going to be just the way I know how to do it.

DN: You were just doing Beverley.

BK: Yes, I was just going to do me on these amazing songs. So that was like a tick in the right direction. The second thing was the recording process. Now almost every single song on here… ten of the thirteen were recorded utterly live and three of them were recorded with live elements, so that made the difference almost immediately. It was hearing the song and then getting musicians to interpret what they were hearing, as opposed to “Listen to this live and copy it.” It was all about interpretation. So with my own interpretation, with their live interpretation, every song was beginning to sound different anyway. And then the things that kind of gave it the Bev seal, if you like, was the way I approached a lot of the background vocals. That’s part of what I do and what I know, and people who are familiar with my music know that is part of my style. So in some cases I was creating background vocals that weren’t there in the first place—in George Michael’s “One More Try” for example—and in other songs I was embellishing what was already there: “Fairplay”, “Say I’m Your Number One”. So yeah, that’s how I did it.

DN: And it sounds like, from what you’re describing, it was very organic—which is a great… now I’m going to digress slightly, we will come back to it, but is that generally how you’ve recorded or is that a departure?

BK: That is generally my way of going into a recording. At the very, very beginning of my career with my very first album back in ’94, ’95, the first producers that I was working with, they were players, so they weren’t just your usual… they’d create a beat and see what happens. You’re talking about people who were playing, and I guess that informed my approach to making music in the first place. And I come from the long line of tradition of gospel singers, so I was used to having a band around me in church and that. So that’s what I understood. It was the programmed side of it and the more sampled side and all those kind of things that I had to get to grips with and get my head around very quickly, which of course I did. So the organic approach is very much me and the heart of me.

DN: Well, I want to talk to you about a couple more songs: “There’s Nothing Like This”, which of course I know from Omar. Tell us a little bit about why you made that choice.

BK: That had to be on there. That was probably second to “Fairplay”, because I thought, well, “Fairplay” represents the club/urban side of what was going on; Omar, “There’s Nothing Like This” represents classic, pure, British soul—just sublime. However, that was the song that I was the most nervous about doing, because to me, it is this perfect gem of a song. Omar’s voice is so distinctive. And I thought, “You know what? To step up and do a song like this, you better do it right.” Again, my way of thinking was, I’m a female, he’s a male, so it’s a completely different dynamic vocally. And I created, again, backgrounds that were not there in the first place. I’m kind of known as a full-on singer, but this song, that’s not what you want. You want it to be sublime, ethereal, beautiful. So I thought, let’s not change the key. If I sing in a really high register, an octave to what—getting technical now—to what Omar is doing, then it will encourage me to sing in that really soft, almost Minnie Riperton-esque kind of way. That was the key, and that’s why it worked. So I think any other approach would have been a disaster.

DN: Right, because it would almost be like replicating what he did, just in your own voice. I was very fortunate, because I was invited to see your live show at Porchester Hall. I didn’t get there at the very beginning, so I missed the first couple of songs, but it was an outstanding, brilliant performance.

BK: Thank you very much.

DN: I loved it, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a moment. But I do want to talk about one song you did, because you mentioned a singer—I’ve only heard his name, I’ve never really listened to his music—and I believe his name is Lewis Taylor?

BK: That’s right, yes.

DN: So which was that song?

BK: Lewis Taylor’s was the song “Damn”. Now a lot of people might think, “This guy, who is he? Where does he come from? What the hell?” I met Lewis right at the beginning of his career. The way I discovered him was I was in the studio with the guy who was mixing my second album, the Prodigal Sista album, and on the desk was Lewis Taylor’s album. And the engineer played me a bit of it and said, “You’ve just got to hear this guy.” I heard maybe forty seconds and I was absolutely stunned. Knocked out. Amazed. I said this at the Porchester Hall show: it was like hearing Prince, Marvin and the Beach Boys all blended into one person. And it was just some little skinny dude from North Camden.

I was so shocked, because I knew what I was listening to was not just mere talent; it was someone who was actually touched with genius. And as often happens with people who are touched with genius they end up destroying themselves—they kind of self-destruct. Sadly, part of Lewis’ repertoire is that he walked away from music and had personal issues going on and all of that. But what he did was leave us with three, maybe four albums that are just absolutely incredible. The song “Damn” is taken from his first album, which is eponymously titled Lewis Taylor. And I thought, I don’t care that people may not know who he is. He has a massive cult following from those who do. People need to hear this guy, this song. So I’m just channeling him. I’m trying to educate people to understand what we have.

DN: So he doesn’t record anymore?

BK: Not as far as I know. He was the only artist on this collection that I never got to actually reconnect with and say, “Lewis, do you like this? What are you doing now? What the hell’s going on with you?” He’s kind of disappeared. It’s a shame.

DN: Yes, it is. All right, I’m going to, for a moment, not really jump away from it, but I mentioned, of course, your performance, and I do want to talk to you about that. That was actually the second time I saw you live; the first time was at an open-air gig about two years ago in Regent’s Park, I think it was. The Pride…?

BK: Yes, that’s right.

DN: But obviously that was only a few songs.

BK: Yes, yes. That was a PA, yes.

DN: Exactly. And I have to say that for the benefit of those listening, to remind everybody I’ve only been back in the UK for two years after thirty years in the United States, so there’s really no way I would have seen you.

And I have to say I was like, “This is what she does?” I was completely blown away by the power and the pure soulfulness of what you do. I just walked away from there like, “How come I didn’t know what you do?” And I don’t usually say that to people because I don’t like to sound gushing, but I have to tell you it was absolutely brilliant.

BK: Thank you.

DN: And I loved it. So I guess that prompts me to ask you—it’s kind of a strange question—but are you one of Britain’s best-kept secrets?

BK: Well, I think if you were to ask some of the people who have followed my career for any number of years, they would possibly say yes. I’m trying not to be such a secret—I’ve been trying for many years to not be such a secret, but I guess my own career highlights exactly the ethos behind making this album. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve achieved a degree of success, but obviously I’m not a superstar like Alicia Keys or someone like that. And I’m someone who has really fought for it and worked hard for it. Equally, the people on this record are also in the shade and deserving of so much more than they have. So I’m often described—I read this everywhere: “criminally underrated” and things like that. But I guess it’s just the nature of this country, this climate: sometimes people don’t know what they have until it disappears, or something. Unless you shove it in their face [laughs].

DN: In a sense I understand what you mean when you say “shove it in their face”, but I think it’s an interesting topic. It’s a whole interesting topic because as I said, I was here in the mid-seventies and I went to live in America, but the point being that I’ve always been aware that there’s this whole movement. And even when I was around back in the mid-seventies, there were people just beginning to show up. I can remember a little later on groups like Central Line, Light of the World—David Grant… so many people that were really trying. And I get the impression that although there’s been occasional breakthroughs, you could say; occasional like Soul II Soul, occasional like… I would kind of include Sade, but that’s a little different.

But for the most part most black British—well, I wouldn’t say even black—just British soul artists have had a really tough time getting recognized. So why do you think that is? You’re here, you’ve been doing this, as you say, for a long time. What do you think it is? Is it the industry here? Is it the public? Is it that people think that only real soul music comes from America? What’s your theory about why that is?

BK: I think you were closest in your last statement. I think a lot of it hinges on the fact that—in fact, I’ll take it further—a lot of the British media say that this music is not British, it is solely the preserve of the Americans, it is not an organic British experience. And I would then argue, so The Rolling Stones, who practised R&B in their bedrooms till their fingers bled, they are however an organic British experience, even though everything they did was U.S. R&B-based. The Beatles were the same.

Sam Cooke—I read the story of Sam Cooke wanting to sign The Beatles way back in the day, before the British Invasion. But that seems to be the impression I get. I remember being interviewed by a certain local newspaper to London, and I remember this was when the MOBO Awards were getting off the ground. And this guy interviewed me and said, “Well, you strike me as a very erudite, articulate woman.” And I thought, “There’s a real hammer-blow of a ‘but’ coming up,” so I was waiting for it. And he said, “So why on earth do you do this kind of R&B music? It’s for guys with their jeans halfway down their legs, isn’t it?” I was so insulted and outraged by what he said that I proceeded to give him, frankly, a real history lesson on R&B. I thought, “You’re a music journalist, and you could say something so trite, incorrect and just wrong?” I was like, “You need to go back to music school, my dear.” But that has often been what you come up against. God knows, these guys whose music I’m covering in Soul UK… if this was me in the mid-nineties facing that, I can’t imagine what these guys were facing way back then. But leading on from that, because the British media… you know, “It’s not proper music, it’s not real British music.” And then of course that informs the opinions of record labels who then say, “It’s British. We don’t know how to market it, because they haven’t already created the formula in the States and sold it to us, so we don’t know what to do with it.” And then the third thing is that the public then never become aware of this stuff, so they don’t know half of it exists. The only reason I think they’re aware of me is because I have a big mouth [laughs].

DN: Well, obviously it’s helped. It’s interesting, because I was thinking after I saw your performance you could easily go up against, I would say, most of the black female singers in America that I’ve seen. You really have the energy, you have the soul, you have feeling, you have the interpretive skill. So I was like, “How come even people in the States have never heard of her?” I mean, they really don’t know you, and it’s kind of shocking to me. Now, I’m going to say this—you don’t have to say this, but I will: I also think that there is also a degree of racism that plays a part in regard to the British music industry. I just think that’s true, because I’ve seen very, very few British black performers really succeed at all. The only one I mentioned in passing was Sade, and that’s really an anomaly in a sense. That was a particular kind of music; it isn’t straight-up R&B, clearly. And it had whatever appeal it had, but I don’t think even she would say that she ever thought of herself as an R&B singer or a soul singer.

BK: Not at all—not in the slightest.

DN: So I think you can’t really include her. But for the most part, I think part of it is the ceiling that the industry—you mentioned the media, but I also include the music industry in that.

BK: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, there is that whole thing. That’s what I was talking about when I was saying the whole marketing idea… I often think the record labels here think that what, particularly, black artists—and there is that distinction, sadly—is singles-led. It’s trend-driven. This is the thing for now and it’s being led by this group of people. We’ll jump on it, we’ll blow this up, but we know it will move on so let’s not even nurture it. Let’s not develop it. And I know that certainly with my former label, they pretty much saw me in the same vein until I showed them that that’s not what I’m about at all. I forced their hand to see me as being a long-term albums artist, but even then they were like, “Oh, but how do we do it? How do we market her?” blah-blah-blah, which resulted in me never, ever having a record commercially released in the States. Everybody I tell that to looks at me like I am insane.

DN: You never had a record released?

BK: Never. Not once, not ever in seventeen years.

DN: I am completely shocked. I didn’t know that. And the reason I tell you I’m shocked is because one of our chief contributors to Soul—which is kind of Anglo-American, since I’m here but most of the other people are in the States—when I told him I was interviewing you he said, “Oh, I love her!” So somehow people have heard you.

BK: Absolutely. Do you know what? The strange thing is, whilst there has been certain people who I would call the gatekeepers who have somehow denied entry, it does seep out into the public consciousness. And a lot of the people who I’m most grateful to from the States are fellow artists. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have been able to work with a litany of brilliant American acts when they have come over here, I don’t know how the word would have got out there. The digital age has certainly helped me in that respect.

DN: The one question that really is probably an overarching, overriding question that comes out of everything you’ve just said is how on earth have you managed to stay in this with that as the backdrop: the fact that you know that this industry in this country doesn’t really know how to market a Beverley Knight—doesn’t really get it, in a sense? What’s kept you going? Here you are on album number…

BK: Seven.

DN: Seven. Most people would have—well, I won’t say most people. Some people would have given up and said, “You know what? This is too hard. I’m not going to keep going.” So tell me and tell us what’s kept you going here?

BK: The love of what I do. There is no power either here on earth or in the stratosphere that could stop me—apart from God Himself taking my breath away from my body—there is nothing that could stop me from making music. I have such a love for it, I have such a respect for it; it makes me happy to be alive. How could I not make music? As difficult as it is I have to keep doing it—and it’s not, “I have to keep doing it with this millstone around my neck.” I do it because it’s just a joy—it’s a real joy. And also, in the makeup of my personality, I’m very much a salmon. I’ve always been that. I will swim upstream and I will go against the tide, and whatever: I don’t care what’s coming back. If the force of the water’s coming back this way I will just keep swimming upstream.

DN: Now did you get that from your family, or that’s just who you are? Are your family like that too?

BK: Just thinking about it, certainly for my mum and dad to have left Jamaica and come all the way over here—and faced very, very difficult and challenging opposition to their being here—and yet toughed it out, stayed and created the family—and in my father’s case, passed away here; my mum’s still with us—I think I must have that tenacity from them. I have to have inherited it.

DN: I get it. Well, obviously we don’t have two hours, although I’m sure we could probably talk for two hours— But I wanted to ask you, I know that you referenced there your former label, EMI.

BK: That’s right.

DN: And now this is the second album on your own label, am I correct?

BK: Yes, that’s right.

DN: Now that in itself, beyond anything else, that’s an achievement. So what prompted you—I think I already know the answer—but really, what prompted you to say, “All right, I’m just going to do this myself”?

BK: There were some of the things that we discussed earlier—those difficulties, those challenges. And I don’t want to be disparaging to them because after all, they set me up to be someone who, at least in the UK, is quite well-known. But it was always a challenge, it was always a fight. Everything was always questioned. The creativity, which was what I found the hardest thing to deal with, was questioned a lot. So it came to a point where I was like, “I don’t think this will be my home forever.” But the real clincher was watching from a distance the house of cards which is the modern music industry, and the modern model of a record label, collapse in on itself. And sadly, EMI was really the one that was in the most trouble out of all of them.

The writing was on the wall. I could see that they were going to be asking for ridiculous things, really, to do with income. For those who don’t get how it works, obviously you sign a record deal, you get an advance. That is like a bank loan—you’ve got to back it back the minute you start earning,

And then once that happens, then you go into profits and everyone’s happy. And of course because the music industry’s been losing money hand over fist for a long time, what they tried to do was solicit external income from other things, not just the recording costs: touring, merchandise; if I put my name to a lipstick, can we have twenty percent of it? My answer was “No.” So I left.

DN: So it was really the circumstances of how the industry’s gone?

BK: Absolutely.

DN: But in terms of creating your own label, that’s also a big venture. Was that an easy thing to do?

BK: No, not really. In order to create a label you need—

DN: Money.

BK: Yeah, some money. So it was like, going around saying, “Please, would you invest in me? I’m really good!” So luckily there were people who were fans and who were willing to give me that start and give me that financial break I needed. Once I got over that point, and the legal stuff and all of that, then actually just putting the label together and deciding what to call it and all of that, that was pretty straightforward.

DN: Now you just said “fans”. Are you telling me that some of your fans actually helped fund this?

BK: Yeah. I mean, these guys are like big, City [types]—

DN: I assumed they weren’t the people at Porchester Hall, necessarily.

BK: No, no, no. When you realise that you have people who are quietly fans who are multimillionaire types working in the City… wow, that’s a blessing. That is a blessing. So they helped to put forward the money to enable me to do this.

DN: That’s brilliant—that’s truly brilliant.

BK: Truly, truly amazing.

DN: Since we’ve made reference to the fact that you’ve never had a record out in the United States, will you now have a record out in the United States?

BK: That of course is the master plan, so that’s what I’m working towards. I absolutely am determined to make that happen—absolutely. At the moment I know all the statistics and that maybe don’t stack up brilliantly, but what I do have on my side is the love, I believe the talent, and I believe the right kind of record; and the live thing is a massive, massive amount of arsenal.

DN: Have you done a lot of touring in Britain?

BK: Yes, a hell of a lot of touring.

DN: So that’s really what sustains you, I would imagine.

BK: Yes, completely. People came again and again and again, bought the albums, came back to the shows again and again and again. And for that I am eternally grateful, because that has sustained my career.

DN: Well, let’s bring us back, in our last few minutes, to the album; we kind of went full-circle. And thank you for all you just shared. I think your… tenacity is the word you used, and I think it’s really a credit to you that you have hung in there.

BK: Thank you.

DN: I can imagine that someone less tenacious would have surely said, “Forget it.” But clearly, and what comes across most evidently, is your passion. So using that, let’s talk about a few more songs. You referenced earlier on George Michael’s song “One More Try”, and I have to be honest with you, I am not familiar with the song. That’s not in any way a dis to George Michael; I’m just not as familiar with his work as I am with other people’s, maybe.

BK: Well, he’s not a soul artist.

DN: Not really. He’s soulful.

BK: Exactly. He’s soulful, but he’s not a soul artist—this is not his genre. What his genre is is pop—he’s a singer-songwriter.

DN: So what prompted you to choose that particular song?

BK: This song for me was the one where George opened up and bared his soul to us all. This was George—not vocally, but musically and in the structure of the song—this was George channeling Aretha Franklin. When I heard this song—it’s off the Faith album, which of course was a huge, huge, huge album—

DN: The song “One More Try”, just in case you didn’t mention it.

BK: That’s right; the song “One More Try”. When I first heard this I was like, “Oh, really? Is that how you get down, George? Okay, now I get you. I understood the other stuff but now this is closer to where I’m at.” When I heard this song, what I heard in my head was what I have actually produced on this record.

We took it to church. That’s where I believe he was going with this song: just pure Aretha, Stax Records, Jerry Wexler, heavy church influence. So I put the background vocals on there; got some of my own background singers to come in so we sound like a mini-choir and just let rip on it.

DN: Great. Well, you mentioned Aretha, so I’m going to assume for a moment she’s one of your primary influences?

BK: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

DN: There’s a song on here I do not know called “Apparently Nothin”. So educate me about “Apparently Nothin”.

BK: “Apparently Nothin” was a Number One smash over here in ’91, which saw a resurgence of British soul under the umbrella of Acid Jazz, Gilles Peterson’s label. A few people came through on that; one of them was The Young Disciples, and at the helm was Carleen Anderson— from the famous singing Anderson family. And she fronted that band, and they had a Number One with “Apparently Nothin”, which lyrically is so relevant now it’s not even funny. It’s talking about the futility of war and conflict—brilliant lyrically, but set to what was a club track back then. So brilliant, it just exploded. And I always remembered that song but I don’t think I really appreciated it lyrically until I was a lot older. I just thought it was the coolest jam around at the time.

DN: Tell me, now the album’s complete and it’s about to hit the world. Do you feel that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do?

BK: Absolutely, in its entirety. The plan was to make an album that would educate, that would entertain, that would evoke memories, but that would also get the love shone on for these people. And I am sure that that’s what will happen.

DN: So you’re obviously proud of it.

BK: I’m so proud of it—so proud of it. It would be wonderful if it sold in large volumes, but even if it didn’t, I’m still proud of it.

DN: Now I know you’re about to go on a tour of the UK, is that correct?

BK: The tour will be later on in the year in the winter. I always tour in the winter! I’m trying to tour in the summer.

DN: Well, that would be nice.

BK: I always tour in the winter.

DN: And do you do much in Europe, or do you just really focus on the UK?

BK: A lot of it is Europe-based, again because of what we talked about before: the international—or lack of international—releases. However, I am going off to do some bits in Switzerland and I’m going to do a little thing in France as well. So fingers crossed, that will be a little trickle that develops into a river.

DN: Well, hopefully there will be some trickling over to the United States because I’m telling you, for all those of you who haven’t seen Beverley—which is most of the American public, obviously—

BK: Yes, of course.

DN: —you’re missing a complete treat. So hopefully with this record somebody will take a risk, take a chance and say, “Put it out.”

BK: I hope so. I hope so.

DN: And that will enable you to get over there so people can see that it isn’t just Americans who know how to do real soul music.

BK: Thank you.

DN: All right. Well, I’m going to thank you again. I’m sure we could talk for hours because we could talk about influences, people you love and people I love, and we could go on and on. I will ask you one final question and that’s going to be it.

BK: Yes.

DN: When you were growing up, how did you get introduced to soul music? Was it just your mum and dad playing it? What was it?

BK: It was actually the radio. Coming from a gospel background, what we heard at home was gospel. But a lot of the stuff that came through the radio came from the U.S. So at the time, Earth, Wind & Fire, unclear, Stevie; and it was Stevie at the height of his powers with Songs in the Key of Life; these were the things that informed me as a child. And then Rufus and Chaka Khan… these were the days when radio was really giving me that service. So that really influenced my love of secular music—I have to make the distinction—and then from there it grew and I discovered so much more. The only kind of soul I heard at home was Sam Cooke singing with The Soul Stirrers—and that was gospel—and Aretha Franklin’s 1972 “Amazing Grace” album.

DN: Well, that’s not a bad thing to have heard.

BK: Exactly—exactly. So between Sam and Aretha, they shaped little Bev, and radio did the rest.

DN: I want to thank you so much for a great interview.

BK: It’s a pleasure.

DN: And I really invite everybody who’s listening—those in the UK, because we do have people that come to Soul in the UK—go buy it. Those in the U.S., try to get to listen to it online. And some record company out there, please listen and pick it up for the U.S. But I just really want to thank you for a great interview, and I look forward to seeing your next show.

BK: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.

DN: Thank you.

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create Records as a leading reissue label.
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