Wednesday, April 02, 2003

A Knight To Remember

First published in The Badger, February 2003

We catch up with the million-selling Wolverhampton wonderwoman

It’s a pity Tim Wheeler from Ash isn’t a regular Badger reader. It would probably interest the Nicest Bloke In Pop to know that we’ve found his female counterpart – triple MOBO winner, crown princess of celebrity humanity, and best thing to come out of the Midlands since Ozzy Osbourne, Miss Beverley Knight.

“Bloody hell!” hollers Beverley, aghast. “Did you see it? My God!”. Yes, the inescapable aftermath of the Michael Jackson documentary has managed to infiltrate the entire British population, fellow musicians no exception. “My overwhelming thought was that this is a genius, desperately flawed, a lot closer to madness than any of us probably even realised. I just think he is utterly and hopelessly lost.” Anyone with ears cannot fail to form an opinion on the topic, but does something like this affect someone in the public eye in a different way?

“More than the Jacko model, which is so removed from any of us, I look at Victoria and David Beckham – who are really nice people, don’t believe the hype – and I think about how some nutter tries to snatch their children away from them. It makes me think ‘I just wanna make music, thanks’, and if people come up to me in the street and yell ‘YEAH BEV!! Y’alright?’, that’ll do me!”

However, it seems solely making music is a more challenging task lately, given the influx of TV-produced fly-by-nights, something which Beverley feels strongly about. “I think it’s shocking. It has really damaged the music industry. The industry is so busy chasing that dollar sign that it’s neglected people that they’d pick and nurture and develop who’ll go on to be the superstars of tomorrow. It’s like building a house and forgetting to dig your foundations. It’s gonna fall down eventually.” An interesting comment from a woman who’s just duetted with Fame Academy’s Lemar – was Beverley a secret fan of the show?

“Oh, bollocks to the show! The show was an absolute pile of shit!” she cackles. “I saw the saw the show twice and I saw Lemar, and I thought ‘I don’t know who he is but he’s really good’. He just happened to be on a God-awful hell-hole of a TV show.”

The ongoing crossovers from music into other fields have not evaded Beverley Knight, whose recent foray outside the charts saw her presenting a Brits preview show. “Oh my God, don’t remind me!” groans Beverley in genuine embarrassment. “I’m not a presenter. I’d prefer to be on TV with a microphone and my band behind me. Cat Deeley I ain’t!” Being nominated for two Brits must be exciting though – how does Beverley fancy her chances?

“Oh, remote!” she laughs, clearly not bothered. “It’s been a great year for Ms Dynamite, and The Streets and The Coral. But I didn’t build my career on accolades. They certainly have helped, but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all. I’m just gonna go along, put on a frock and enjoy the show.”

Discussing awards and promotion is all well and good, but there is another side to Beverley Knight. Last year, Beverley travelled to Brazil to undertake some charity work, something which underlines her sheer determination and compassion. “It came about with Christian Aid asking me to be an ambassador for them abroad, looking at the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Central and South America. They hadn’t realised that my dearest, closest, best friend is HIV positive so they hadn’t realised how deep it ran with me until I came on board.”

“Brazil was absolutely awesome, but heartbreaking at the same time,” says Beverley. “We don’t have the same sense of community over here. And these are places you and I have never dreamt about, about how awful they could be. We sit in our houses watching reality TV, when these people are the ones making a difference.” So how has seeing life in Brazil altered Beverley’s own life?

“Dramatically. Every day those faces come into my dreams. It’s really made me think about the lives of those who are affected. It’s made me think a lot about how my friend is feeling. I don’t have Elton John’s money so I can’t set up a charity, but I can do something within that charity.”

This month, however, it’s back to the comparative 9 to 5 as Beverley releases the fourth single from Who I Am, the Wyclef-produced Shape Of You, before returning to the studio to write and record the next LP, which will differ greatly from the last.
“The album won’t be chirpy. It’s rawer. Some not-great things have happened, and it’s given me a lot to draw on.” Her trip to Brazil will undoubtedly provide a part of this, but her best friend’s illness plays an even larger role, something which Beverley is quick to emphasise.
“He’s given me so much. He’s inspired me so much and if it wasn’t for him I’d never have seen the other side of using the fame thing in a positive way. That eternal optimism will always be running through me.”

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