Connie Lush is widely regarded as one of the finest blues singers in the UK, five-time winner of best UK vocalist and twice European Blues vocalist of the year.
The North West based blues chanteuse has performed at some of Europe’s most prestigious festivals, wowed audiences from Moscow to LA and toured the UK with the late, great BB King culminating in an unforgettable night at the Royal Albert Hall. After over 20 years of her award-winning career, entertaining audiences in 30 countries throughout the world, Connie Lush has arrived at a new beginning.
Connie is getting ready to join forces with her esteemed touring compatriots – the Finnish queen of the slide guitar Erja Lyytinen and British blues singer Kyla Brox for an extensive UK theatre run. National Rock Review recently caught up with Connie Lush to talk about the forthcoming Ladies of the Blues Tour, her experiences on tour with BB King as well as her plans for 2018.
NRR: I understand that music has always been in your life ever since you were a young child, from the age of 5 you were singing in church and in your school choir. I just wondered what was your first introduction to the blues in particular.
Connie: I was actually in another band, and one of the roadies said to me, he had just started working for us and he said you would be amazing doing blues, you’ve got a great blues voice. I was like oh yeah, yeah, yeah; because I’ve done punk and stuff, I love everything. Then I went more into it and realised oh yeah, basically that was the start of it. I had not looked at it at all, and I didn’t realise that I was listening to so much blues as well at the time because I listen to everything. It was really quite weird how it happened, I just fell into it and it was quite late on for me, I had been doing other things in music, it was a really weird thing that happened and I just went for it. I still did other odd little things, different types of music – I still do, but that became the main thing for me, so it was a bit weird.
NRR: I understand you love jazz and you’ve done a bit of pop music.
Connie: Yeah, everything.
NRR: Is blues where you feel you’re most comfortable and you are happy?
Connie: Comfortable, yeah – it just felt natural, no worries if you know what I mean. I just felt comfortable and at home with it. The more I got into it the more I felt I was expressing myself really, that was what it was all about and it really gave me more oomph. Well it sort of breaks your heart and then puts it back together again doesn’t it and that’s what blues did for me. I just loved it, it’s still there, I can’t shake it off.
NRR: You’ve had a great career in the blues world. You got to tour with BB King, I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like, and you also got to play at the Royal Albert Hall with him. What was that experience like being out on the road with BB King?
Connie: Well he was so laid back, it was unbelievable because he would have a little kip before he went on stage and I’m so the opposite, I can’t keep still. So he would be asleep in the dressing room and he had all of his family working for him, so everyone had a little job. He had one brother who just wiped down his suit and his lapels before he went onstage, and he had someone who came and woke him up, another brother and all those types of people, they just loved him. He was just so laid back, and all my life since I toured with him I’ve tried to be that way, but I’m the exact opposite, I’m just like a boiling kettle and he was just like steam. He was just so on it, oozing, it was unbelievable really and so available to people. He didn’t think twice about talking to anybody for any length of time.
NRR: I understand that when he was talking about you he said ‘That woman makes my heart sing’; that’s quite some accolade to get from BB King.
Connie: The first gig was at the Royal Albert Hall with him, which was one we would expect to be at the end of the tour, but it was the first one – we went there and I don’t think we realised how wonderful it was and it was that night, because he didn’t know about me obviously and he was in the dressing room listening and that’s when he asked me to come in and say hello, and that’s when he said it. I don’t think it really sank in for a couple of years (laughing). I had an amazing time with him, but he’s just one of my idols, his personality as much as his music you know.
NRR: You are going to be hitting the road in March with The Ladies of Blues Tour, which is a great bill with yourself, Kyla Brox and Erja Lyytinen. As part of the tour, you are going to be playing at the Gala Theatre in Durham on 25th March. Have you worked with the other ladies on the tour before?
Connie: Kyla I know really, really well because she’s just around the corner in Manchester and I’m Liverpool. We’ve known Kyla for donkey’s years because me and Kyla have met on the road loads of times and have sung together, in Europe as well. So we really know each other, and I know her mum and dad and stuff. So we were over the moon when we were approached, I said oh Kyla! I’ve played with Erja just the once at a festival down south and we didn’t have much time to speak because we were just passing; you know what festivals are like, it’s madness. But we just said a quick hi and I went out and watched her and then she got off. I was really impressed because I love guitar as well as voice. I just couldn’t believe it when they put the three of us together, I went that will be great – it will really work. I don’t know what we will be like backstage – it’s my lipstick no it’s yours (laughing). I will have to be good I suppose and not drink too much Gin, but yeah I can’t wait, because I’m always with the guys anyway so any excuse. .. I just love getting together with the girls when I can, but it never happens much.
NRR: In terms of your set list for this Ladies of the Blues show, will you be looking to showcase your latest album Renaissance or can we expect a few surprises. What have you got in store?
Connie: Oh, I’ve got two new covers at the moment that I’ve been wanting to bring in for a few months, it was nothing to do with the tour thing. I’ve also written two, so we’ve got the covers sorted because obviously, they are the easiest to do, aren’t they? When you write something you either pour your heart out over it or it’s done in two minutes. So they haven’t been as quick as I would like. So there will definitely be one of the covers in and I’m hoping to get this new one that we’ve got frying in the pan at the moment. So that would be great. Because it’s only a 45-minute thing, so we all do 45 minutes each and then we will do something together at the end. It’s going to be really interesting actually, it’s going to be great you know, to just do 45 minutes of all of the songs that you love to do. So I’m not going to think about the audience at all – it’s all going to be about me (laughing). So yeah, I haven’t even looked at that yet, but I really want to put one of the covers in.
NRR: Do you have a favourite song to perform live and if so which song and why?
Connie: Well, I love singing “Lonely Boy”, which is one that I wrote because it is about somebody. The other one that I love is a Memphis song by Bobby Bland “Twenty-Four Hour Blues” and I’ve played that in the set, god it must have been for 15 years now. I keep trying to throw it out but I keep putting it back in and the lads keep going mad at me you know. But I do love the power ballads and stuff, but I think that’s normal isn’t it with singers to love that. I do love “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” because it’s so earthy and I can bang my feet around and jump up and down. There’s quite a few, it’s like having a bunch of friends really isn’t it, you go out with them all for different reasons.
NRR: I just wanted to ask you about your latest album Renaissance. There’s one song in particular that I wanted to ask you about which again is a cover, but “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. Obviously, that’s a Bonnie Raitt song. I just wondered what made you choose that particular song to cover on the album.
Connie: Well I haven’t done it for a long time because we used to have a piano player many years ago, so I would do it with piano. But Steve is so bloody good on the guitar and when I was telling him he said oh we can do that, I said no but it won’t have the same feel and it won’t be as emotional and he said no it will, I will make it that way. So we just tried it in the studio and I think that was the second take, and we just kept it because you can’t stop you see because you would just break the emotion of that one, you have to keep going. So it was the second one and I was just so happy because I had never recorded it, but I had played it on stage in the past and I wanted it to go on that album, so I was over the moon. I adore Bonnie Raitt of course.
NRR: I can’t express how good that cover is, I was just listening to it before we came on the phone here and I was blown away.
Connie: Thank you.
NRR: It’s the start of a brand new year, I just wondered what are your plans going into 2018?
Connie: Well I’m not really a planner in that way, I just take things as they come. What I’ve decided this year is we are going to write more – that’s the big thing. We’ve got so many ideas all of a sudden, Steve has been engineering, doing a couple of bands so we haven’t been able to get together. So we are hoping to go up and write and do more stuff together, we’ve got loads of ideas and things. We’ve had a few little goes you know, when we’ve been rehearsing together and we’ve put some stuff down. I’m just waiting to get a hold of Roy to do that. We’ve just got what I say is the usual things this year, which is the reason why I do it, is to be on stage live, because I’m not really a studio person. So for me, it’s all about where are we gigging, I need to show off onstage, so I’m just looking forward to that. We’ve got some nice things coming up and the festivals, the gigs, the tours and it’s just a normal year for me because I never make New Year’s resolutions or anything. I just want to have a good time and enjoy it all.
The Ladies of the Blues tour featuring Erja Lyytinen, Connie Lush and Kyla Brox will commence on Wednesday 21st March at Whitby Pavillion Theatre and will run through until Fri 30th March at The Atkinson in Southport. This incredibly talented trio will also be making a welcome return to the North East of England for a show the Gala Theatre in Durham on 25th March. For tickets and further details please visit: www.solidentertainments.com
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