Claire Martin

In by Alison Stewart

Summer 2014

You have visited Jersey before.  Did you get a chance to have a look around the island and if so, what did you love about Jersey?  If you didn’t, what would you like to explore or take advantage of the most on a second trip? 

I have never had a proper look around, but have loved the island on the few occasions that I’ve been here.  I really would like a guided tour!  It seems full of very relaxed people that love art and music.  That’s a nice combination.

When, where and why did you start singing? 

I started singing as a baby in a big blue pram outside of our house in south London, apparently my first ‘real’ song was the Tom Jones hit ‘Delilah’ which was my favourite.  Then I’d sing along with my mum who loved Barbra Striesand and our big number was ‘People’.  This was the late 60s.

Do you play any other musical instruments? 

Very basic piano, something I must get better at.  It’s always my new year’s resolution to practice more.  I have a lovely piano at home so there is really no excuse for only knowing one inversion of most chords.  Shameful. 

Is your family musical? 

My parents love music.  They go to lots of concerts and events.  They are forever bursting into song, which is lovely but it sometimes drives me nuts.  My mum has a good voice I think and my dad is just loud with lots of south London swagger.  They met on Wimbledon Palais dance floor dancing to the Ted Heath big band.

Describe for us where you are in your career journey. 

I’ve been a professional singer now for 27 years so I’m in the middle years that’s for sure!  It’s a time where you have to keep yourself interested and be interesting.  My current project with a cello quartet has kept me busy for the last couple of years and it’s been a really exciting musical adventure.  Because people know you, it’s important to keep what you’re presenting fresh.

What has been the most exciting thing to happen in your musical career in the past 12 months?

Recording the cello quartet with Joe Stilgoe as my special guest on vocals and piano was a wonderful experience.  We recorded at British Grove Studios which is owned by rock star Mark Knopfler and it’s an amazing studio.  Of course coming to Jersey to sing with a fabulous orchestra is up there too!  I love singing the Ella songs and haven’t done it for a while, so I’m very much looking forward to it.

What are the highlights and low-points of the life of a musician travelling around the country and the rest of the world?

Highlights are hearing the great musicians around the festival scene, seeing wonderful countries and experiencing different cultures.  New York never ever fails to give me a huge boost. Low points can be a mixture of things ranging from not enough work in the diary to exhaustion from travelling on Britain’s motorways!!  You have to have extraordinary stamina to be a musician and unwavering self belief: both of which can sometimes desert you.

What or who inspires you to keep pursuing your musical career?

I love music.  I love singing and I can’t imagine what else I could possibly do that could bring me such happiness.  I listen to the great singers:  Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn, Betty Carter, Ella, Sarah and Billie and I’m always inspired to be a better singer and musician when I hear their great voices and musicianship.  It’s an honour and a privilege to be a musician and I never forget that.

I do also have a HUGE mortgage and school fees to find every month – that keeps me motivated!!!

Why should young people sing?

Because it’s GREAT FUN!  Like a good laugh or a good cry, to let your voice sing out is a very liberating experience and brings well being to your soul!

It doesn’t matter if you can sing or not, It’s a joyful act.  The human voice is incredibly special and each and every one of us has our own sound to be proud of.

What would be your advice to the many young people who would like to have singing as their career? 

I’d say, listen to the great singers and keep listening!  Practice every day and keep yourself healthy.  Find a good voice teacher who you can trust and if you can live like a nun and not smoke, drink and stay out late, that’s a very good thing too!!  Most of all keep focused and motivated.  A good pianist or guitarist that you can work with during the early years to get your pad of songs together is invaluable.

Tell us a little about the music you’ll be performing with the JSO and about what place Ella Fitzgerald holds in your musical experience.

I’m singing the Great American Songbook that Ella so brilliantly made her own during the 40s and 50s.  We will perform well known and much loved standards that I’m hoping I can channel a little Ella magic into!  Ella is rightfully called ‘The First Lady of Jazz’ and it’s really her that inspired me to be a jazz singer in the first place.  I’m enchanted by her beautiful and effortless sound and wonderful sense of time and playfulness.  My mum played Ella’s music all the time when I was growing up.  Maybe it just sunk in without me knowing it.

If you could visit any musical period or see/meet/hear or play with any artist or band  – what would you choose? 

Great question!!  It would be during the Be Bop Era of the 1940s on 52nd street in NY.  I could hear Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella, and Billie Holiday.  Maybe see a young Miles Davis too.  HEAVEN!