Mari Wilson 

A singer’s singer, knowledgeable and melodic BUT with that jazzy feel that enables her to bring a freshness to her material. Just Listen To This had the chance to speak with Mari at her Cornbury Festival appearance. Her answers to our questions give a clue as to how she has sustained a career, thank you Ms Wilson…

Supplied By Artist

 

JLTT: I have a theory that in the past few years quite a few people can get by on just looks and not a lot of talent. But being an old swine I remember the Sandie Shaw’s and the Dusty’s. When you first heard music was it the songs or the performances that drew you into it?

MW: (Ponders) Well yeah. I mean the first person that I was impressed by when I was about five was Judy Garland. So she was my first inspiration and still is really because she was a genius really. She could sing a song and make you weep and sob and then she could sing something and make you laugh. I quite liked that so I was quite keen on sort of doing what she could do but dress up like Shirley Bassey at the Palladium.

JLTT: Showbiz was there early then!

MW: I always liked dressing up and it is part of my thing really.

JLTT: (Laughs) You’re responsible for Paloma Faith!

MW: (Laughs) I’m not saying anything!

JLTT: When I was a kid I listened to the radio and when my mother actually saw the Lovin’ Spoonful and she wouldn’t listen to them anymore because they were so scruffy! I think things changed when video came in.

MW: Yeah video changed a lot because I remember when I first heard Buddy Holly on the radio and then I saw a picture of him and apparently I said “He doesn’t sound like he wears glasses” whatever that means. What’s interesting is, that it didn’t really matter what they looked like it was what you heard. Which is still the case to a degree but I think video did change it. Also, video changed the way you listened to a lyric because if the video was literal then every time you heard it you would have THAT storyline and you might have your own storyline for that song. Do you know what I mean?

JLTT: Yes! Because your mind creates your own screenplay. I mean, I have a story for ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and it might not be yours.

MW: I love that song. And when you’re from London as well it is quite a significant song.

JLTT: As a quick aside, I went to go see an American act called Ray Campi and The Rockabilly Rebels and it was full of Teddyboys aged eighteen/nineteen with quiffs and I was a bit older. Then the support act came on and I heard one of them say to his mate “Is Bo Diddley black then?” because all they heard was the record.

MW: Yeah. That’s it, when the sound reached you first..ahead of the image

JLTT: But you made good use of video.

MW: Did I? I only made one video because we didn’t have that kind of a budget as I didn’t have the same kind of record deal say as The Eurhythmics or The Human League or whatever. I didn’t sell as many records so we didn’t have that kind of a budget. But I wasn’t really bothered about making videos and I’m still not really. I’d rather have the money to spend in the studio on musicians than on having to film something. I quite like the idea of my music being used with visual images you know?

JLTT: Most bands would love to be on more soundtracks. Do you feel in a way a bit lucky having been born in the wake of Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, Goffin/King because suddenly there are all these wonderful melodic, memorable songs which you can almost drive like a car into your style?

MW: Hmm. Well yeah, Cliff Richard was on something recently and he said something really interesting where when he started around 1958 and I was only four then, but when he started there wasn’t much reference point because rock and pop had only just begun. You had Bing Crosby and Sinatra, and then you had Little Richard and Fats Domino. So because there wasn’t a reference point they had to be really creative because they made it up as they went along. Young people now have seventy years’ worth of reference.

JLTT: My son is in his twenties and he’d say to me “Listen to this great Will Smith record” and I would tell him about the original artists that had been sampled like Stevie Wonder and Kool and the Gang. He loves the originals now.

MW: That’s a great thing. My daughter loves Lady Gaga but she also loves Billy Joel and Fleetwood Mac and Judy Garland funnily enough. Look at Amy Winehouse she was an old soul. I thought she was absolutely phenomenal. You only really get people like her and Dusty every twenty or thirty years. In my opinion, she was other-worldly.

JLTT: Your performances to me have kind of a bounce about them in that there’s an energy going on that is leading people in. How much of that is your personality or is it just your material choice?

MW: You probably can’t separate the two I don’t think. Whatever I choose to do I’m acting it out as me I suppose. But it is also because of the musicians I have onstage with me as well because I went into jazz for a long time and that’s really how I got my chops. I worked with some great musicians and now I’m still working with some great musicians and that’s what’s been great for me because they make me sound fantastic! So it is a mixture really of the personality on the stage, the choice of material and the arrangements. You might have heard my comment about Jane McDonald earlier onstage because I said that I’d made this album of Dusty songs, Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw but my interpretation is a modern slightly electronic album. As opposed to Jane McDonald’s album because I can’t see the point if you’re gonna do covers what is the point of doing them exactly the same way they were done in the first place?

JLTT: I hate the expression ‘covers’. I say ‘versions’.

MW: (Nods) Exactly!

JLTT: I do an acoustic waltz version of ‘No More Heroes’ by The Stranglers. An audience will stop but they know the song but they have never heard it turned on its head. What interests me is that some of the most enduring artists in my humble world are the ones with a streak cussedness about them; Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, Ian Shaw.

MW: Yeah I know Ian. We work together sometimes.

JLTT: He has got a vision doesn’t he? Working with people like that, do you find that it enthuses you?

MW: Yeah. I’ve learnt loads playing jazz at Ronnie Scotts and stuff like that. It was about the performers and not the product and that’s what jazz is really. It is about the moment and if I hadn’t learnt that I probably couldn’t perform the way I do today.

JLTT: What two things do you want to have achieved when you have stepped off the stage?

MW: I wanna see happy faces in the audience that they have a wonderful hour or two hours because you can’t get time back again. I’m not a fan of live albums really.

JLTT: ‘Donny Hathaway Live’?

MW: I’m just not mad about live albums as I just think you need to be there. I’d rather have a record that was crafted in a studio because I just think you create this atmosphere for that period of time and everyone that is there just feels it. I mean there are some exceptions like ‘Sinatra Live at The Sands’ or something. I wanna see smiling happy faces and people going “I just had a great time.” I want to have enjoyed it so those are the two things! I walk off and hear that my band had a good time.

JLTT: I want to have happy faces behind me from my band and I want them to help pick the songs. Final question please, how do you look after your voice?

MW: I don’t drink very much and if I’m working I don’t drink at all. It is weird because as you get older you seem to drink less anyway well I know I do. I think your physical make-up changes and you can’t really. I do yoga, I swim and I’ve been exercising since my early twenties and I got really into it. I also have Type 1 Diabetes which I’ve had for forty years so I’m on insulin. So it is very good for me to keep fit.

JLTT: Thank you for your time.

MW: Thanks Pete.

Pete Sargeant



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(Thanks to Sacha and Mari)

Feature Image and Additional Photography Supplied By Artist

For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2SxbASX

Mari Wilson will tour the UK in February 2019. The tour will stop at the following venues:

 

Friday 8th February 2019 – The Exchange Sturminster Newton, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2QIBply

Thursday 14th February 2019 – The Pheasantry, Chelsea, London, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2UpcuCJ

Friday 15th February 2019 – The Whitty Theatre, Wokingham, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2rp6c8T

Saturday 16th February 2019 – Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2Ur3ZqX

Thursday 28th February 2019 – Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-By-Sea, United Kingdom http://bit.ly/2Qjab5N