IT’S not every day that Clint Eastwood asks you to sing at his 70th birthday party. But for multi-award winning jazz star Stacey Kent, every day is a whirlwind ‘dream come true’.
Having performed in major venues and festivals all over the world, the American singer already boasts celebrity fans including Michael Parkinson, Sir David Frost and ‘text buddy’ Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler – and it’s not hard to see why.
Listening to Stacey’s heart melting and seemingly effortless vocals is a lifting yet emotional experience, making her the worthy winner of the British Jazz Award and BBC Jazz Award for Best Vocalist and Album of the Year.
But despite her awards and famous followers, Stacey is still as humble as ever and is now on a limited tour of the UK, coming to the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch and giving fans a rare opportunity to hear tracks from her new album The Changing Lights live in concert.
“This tour has been pretty nuts!” she says in her friendly American accent. “I think we worked out that I’ve visited five continents in the last few weeks. But the UK is one of the first places I’ve played and the Queen’s Theatre is wonderful with such beautiful people. I’ve played there a bunch of times – maybe five?
“Unfortunately, I don’t get to go to the same places every year,” she adds. “My last album was released in 38 countries so we have a lot of ground to cover on tour. But I remember that there’s always a really warm feeling in the Queen’s Theatre.
“I’ll be performing music from my new album as well as some classics and of course, Brazil is in my heart at the moment so I’ll be bringing a bit of Brazil with me.”
Indeed, her tenth album places Stacey’s love for Brazilian music centre stage, featuring Boss Nova classics alongside originals by her husband Jim Tomlinson and acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. And after a visit to Brazil in 2010, Stacey got to return to her ‘home away from home’ last month.
“Brazil was amazing, it was like a dream come true down there,” she enthuses. “It’s particularly special to me because it’s where I first felt inspired to sing. I was 14 years old and I feel that it’s just a place that’s nourished me through life.”
Known for singing not just in English but also French and Portuguese, her platinum album Breakfast On The Morning Tram was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Vocal Jazz Album, while her follow up albums Raconte-Moi and Dreamer in Concert have been released in nearly 40 countries worldwide.
“There is so much poetry and so many beautiful songs out there in French,” she says. “My grandfather was Russian but he immigrated to France so I grew up as French being a second language in my house. For me, the language is a poetry in itself, it’s so beautiful.”
And although French was a part of Stacey’s life from a young age, she admits that jazz will always hold a place in her heart.
“It’s a big world and there is such a magical mixture of music,” says the 46-year-old. “As a kid, before I discovered I wanted to be a musician I connected with jazz because the soft melody was so beautifully juxtaposed with the rhythm that propels the song forwards.
“And although it’s pleasing to listen to, there’s also an element of sadness in there. It’s very human and that’s why I think people really connect to it. Music is just poetry, it’s how you feel. It’s so personal, and so nostalgic yet with so much joy and so much sadness.”
Preparing for her performance in Hornchurch on Sunday, 22 June, Stacey is promising an evening of ‘lilting jazz’.
“It’s going to be an intimate night of romance, joy and a breeze from Brazil,” she says.
Stacey Kent comes to the Queen’s Theatre on 22 June at 7.30pm. To book tickets, call 01708 443333 or visit queens-theatre.co.uk. To make song requests before the show visit Stacey’s Facebook page at facebook.com/StaceyKent.