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Stacey Kent: Take what you do very seriously, not yourself
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Stacey Kent: Take what you do very seriously, not yourself

Her style might remind an elegant actress who can do a lot with very little gesture, inflection or tone of voice. It is hard to categorize Stacey Kent’s soft, light voice. An American who speaks fluent French as well as Portuguese, Italian and German, she is able to transcend genre and national boundaries with an ease that few other artists can. The American musician opens up on latest new partner-in crime, “bossa nova” legend Roberto Menescal, the idea of happiness, and the key to fulfilling life.

Where did the idea for your last album, Tenderly, come from?

– I met Roberto Menescal in 2011 in Rio De Janeiro. I was a big fan of his and was surprised and honoured to learn that he was a fan of mine, too! He had all of my records! We became good friends and shared our thoughts and ideas on music. Roberto is a big fan of the records of Julie London and Barney Kessel like, Cry Me A River. He said that it would be a dream come true for him to make a record like that with me. He has performed with so many great Brazilian artists but had never made an album of jazz standards before and so it seemed like a great idea. He is so passionate about that music and it was a lot of fun to choose the repertoire with him and put this album together. It’s like showing a friend around your home town. You get to see everyday things through the eyes of someone who is seeing them for the first time. I think this gave the music a fresh feeling. It’s also very intimate. I’d never made an album that was based entirely around the relationship of the voice and guitar. In that way, it’s a very “bossa nova” way of playing jazz.

Almost every Stacey Kent song sounds like a heartwarming romance movie; a key to have a happy day. What makes you inspired most in life to create such feel-good songs?

– I have always been drawn to soothing music. When I was a kid and I was sad, I would sing to comfort myself or my friends. That’s just who I am and so as an adult, it makes sense to me that I would be drawn to performing that kind of intimate and soothing music.

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Kent, began her musical career as an interpreter of American standards, bringing her own unmistakable, intimate and emotionally intelligent style to a vast repertoire.

How have your efforts to make yourself happy developed and changed?

– I am much more secure about who I am as a person and as an artist these days. I think that comes with maturity. I think it’s essential to feel relaxed about who you are in order to be happy. I know this sounds contradictory for a performer to say, but I’m not trying to impress anyone. I do, however, take my singing very seriously and practice all the time which sounds odd because my style is very natural. You need to put in a lot of effort to sound effortless. I guess you could sum it up like this. Take what you do very seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.

What are some key beliefs you hold about living a fulfilling life?

– Be truthful. Be loving. Never be afraid to say you were wrong. Respect yourself and others and remember, life isn’t a rehearsal!

What is something seemingly insignificant in your life that actually contributes greatly to your happiness?

– Ping pong! Jim [Tomlinson, her husband/music partner] and I play every day that we can. Walks! Jim and I walk whenever, wherever we can. And spicy food!

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Which musicians working today do you admire most?

– Of course, I admire the musicians in my band because I know better than anyone how talented and dedicated they are.

A key to happiness? Ping pong! Long walks! and spicy food! Jim and I play ping pong every day that we can. We, also take a long walk whenever, wherever we can.

What albums, or songs, did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?

– It’s funny. It would be much easier to answer this question about movies. I don’t like much modern pop music. There are some great singers for sure but so much of what I hear sounds fake and doesn’t live up to the hype. I do like to trawl the internet looking for recordings of classical piano repertoire by old masters. It’s fascinating to hear how different pianists’ personalities come through in the way they perform the same pieces. – [Revised, and re-edited from an interview by Ali Tufan Koc]

Cover Photo: Courtesy of  Stacey Kent


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