Talking To...Clare Teal

Fatea's Peter Cowley was fortunate enough to get to chat with Clare Teal before her recent gig at the Royal Northern College Of Music. We hope you enjoy reading this insight into one of Britain's best loved jazz artists as much as we enjoyed doing it.

Peter: Hello Clare, you are going to perform tonight with the RNCM Big Band, just starting from that point , on your current tour, is this the only gig you've got with a big band or are there more?

Clare: There are a few with big bands, all with different big bands, this is the first one and I love doing these because it's an opportunity to work with students and I have been blown away by this bunch actually, they have a fantastic tone and they are all at different stages of their degrees and they all want to do different stuff and this is actually a classical course so they are not naturally drawn to jazz. I've been really heartened and I really have had a fun time in the last few days and I'm looking forward to the concert tonight, and then the next big band date is with Jay Phelps who's a young trumpet player and very exciting and then after that I think it's with the Cadogan Hall Big Band in London and the BBC Big Band later.

Peter: And you do gigs with your own band?

Clare: The majority of them are with my gorgeous trio who are just fabulous, Mr. Grant Windsor on the piano is our Musical Director and arranger. With Ben Reynolds on drums and Simon Liffle on the double bass and yes they are absolutely on fire at the moment.

Peter: I am going to start at the beginning. You were raised in Kildwick- in -Craven, Nr. Skipton I believe.

Clare: That's right yes.

Peter: So is it a rural area, Kildwick?

Clare: It's a very rural area, well it certainly was when I was growing up there. There wasn't very much distraction I kind of think in a lot of ways that really helped with my early grounding in music because, genuinely all I used to do was to listen to records in the attic, these old 78s and from there kind of got into jazz, but I did a lot of work just hours and hours of listening, listening and honing and imitating without ever thinking I would use it, without ever thinking I would be a singer but it all went in at probably a really good time because you're like a little sponge when you're a kid aren't you?

Peter: Were your parents musical ?

Clare: Not really, not really, I mean my dad loved music, mum also loved to sing, she was in the choir at Church and such. But nobody in the family played an instrument ,so it was just the records that started it.

Peter: Who were the artists?

Clare: They were my grandmother's records, they were things like Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Geraldo, Joe Loss, Harry Roy ,you know, The Squadronaires that kind of thing and a bit of Nat King Cole and Doris Day and Peggy Lee and from there I started listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, so it really was a fantastic base.

Peter: Yes, when did you start singing yourself?

Clare: Well I'd always sung but nobody knew, it was a very private thing, something that I very much enjoyed doing but I never thought I would ever sing in front anybody. I sang for years and years and years on my own ,so it was quite by chance. I started really singing at University and then tried to get into the business just after university but kind of failed abysmally and retired at 23 or something, and then I moved to Bath and I met Mud and I started singing through encouragement. I didn't want to do what I was doing, which was selling advertising. I'd sort of had enough of doing that and I couldn't keep away from music and so I started building a business from there really.I made a record and then sent it to Alan Bates at Candid records and we also sent one to Sony but jazz was very unfashionable at the time so they had no budget for signing so I went to Candid for 3 records and I had a wonderful time there , by which time we introduced Jamie Cullum to Candid Records and got him signed. He of course exploded into the global stratosphere but very kindly left a big window open for a lot of people like myself and I was very lucky to get my Sony deal.

Peter: I believe your instrument was clarinet ,was that right?

Clare: Yes, I tortured many things but the clarinet was my main instrument.

Peter: And you, I think you started off singing jingles, writing jingles.

Clare: Yeh, writing and singing jingles. Just as I was leaving University, there was a wonderful singer called Thea Gilmore and Nigel Stonier is her producer and I met Nigel through a friend at University, he got me started on jingles, he taught me an awful lot and gave me my first kind of work in singing.

Peter: So we've got to the stage where you have actually made some records now. Was Michael Parkinson a big help in your career?

Clare: Saint Michael, yes. He was the saviour of the entire British jazz scene, him and his brilliant producer Anthony Cherry, he started playing my records and picked up on California Dreaming, the version that we had done of that and Michael really liked it and so they started playing the records pretty much every week, and then Michael invited me on to his T.V. show and then I got signed to Sony and then I went on again and, you know, that support, that was when mainstream jazz in this country it really did have a window of opportunity, which was wonderful and it really, really, helped me make my breakthrough, definitely.

Peter: I think he helped Jamie Cullum quite a bit as well?

Clare: Absolutely, and Katie Melua, lots and lots of people, you know he was a big supporter of K.D. Lang and Tony Bennett is one of his all time favourites ,of course, and a lot of young singers like Peter Grant, who's a young singer from Yorkshire he helps a lot, he helps us all. But the thing about Michael is he genuinely loves the music.


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1995: Nice Work
2000: Messin with Fire
2001: That's the Way It Is
2002: Orsino's Songs
2003: The Road Less Travelled
2004: Don't Talk
2007: Paradisi Carousel
2008: Get Happy
2009: Clare Teal - Live at the Ebenezer Chapel
2011: Hey Ho

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