Yorkshire-born Clare Teal is one of the most successful British jazz singers in decades with a string of albums behind her, winning the prestigious award of British Jazz singer of the year twice and scooping the title of BBC Jazz singer of the Year. This lass is a very busy lady who enjoys fronting her Big Band or her Hollywood Orchestra, or presenting her weekly show Radio 2 Sunday night show.
She revels in performing in more intimate venues and fans can look forward to her singing some of her favourite pieces from The Great American and British Songbooks to the music made popular by her heroes, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and Peggy Lee to more contemporary covers and original material. Clare creates a melting pot of styles and genres, all sung in her inimitable style.
Born and bred in Kildwick, Clare is looking forward to returning north with her trio when she headlines at Fallfest at the Glusburn Institute this September. I caught up with Clare to talk about her latest venture and ‘all that Jazz…’
When researching Clare I discovered that she had attended the same school at the same time as my husband Chris. Small world. However, when I ask him why he’s never mentioned he went to school with her, he looks rather vacant.
“Who?” he asks. “Clare Teal,” I answer. “Do you mean that Jazz singer?” he asks. “Yes,” “Nah, she never went to my school…”
When I ask Clare if she remembers Chris, I get the same answer. “No, I’m afraid not. I just kind of got through school. They’re not my happiest memories. I felt like an absolute geek, which I was.”
Clare wasn’t your typical teenager. While most teenagers were listening to Bros on their Walkmans at the bus stop, Clare could be found drawing her inspiration with a record player in her grandma’s attic, hardly sex, drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll… more like tea, records and Jazz…
“Being brought up in the small village of Kildwick, there was very little distraction, and not a great deal happening for youngsters which meant that I could focus on music more. I think that had I lived somewhere where there was a youth club or something, my life may have gone in another direction.
“Jazz chose me,” says Clare. “There’s always been a connection with me and it. My parents would never listen to that kind of music. My dad would play my grandmother’s jazz records almost taking the Mickey out of them, but I couldn’t get enough of it. I absolutely loved the music from 1935 through to 1946 that covers everything to me from Benny Goodman to Frank Sinatra.
“They did like music and could see that I was musical before I could! My dad bought a big electric organ! But he didn’t get on with it, so then mum had a go and she didn’t get on with it either, then my brother had a go, and he was very good. I was desperate at five years of age to have a go but I couldn’t even touch the pedals. My dad had played clarinet when he was younger, and then one day a clarinet just turned up and I had no idea what it was! I daren’t even unwrap it before I got to the teacher’s house! I remember picking up the mouthpiece and trying to blow down the top of the reed cap not realising that that was the bit that came off!”
Despite her school years not being the best, she did enjoy her music lessons there. To Clare, music is vital and something to be shared.
“The state of musical education is shocking and it’s not going to get any better. We’re in crisis; youngsters should be having access to instruments. I think computerised music is wonderful, and you can do amazing things with it, but I think if we carry on the way we are, we might lose a whole range of skill sets which would be devastating.
“My step-son went through a phase where he listened to things like Rage Against the Machine! I always try to see the good in all music but it actually physically made me cry.”
After graduating from Polytechnic, Clare began a career in tele-sales working for a local cinema magazine, so I wondered if she fancied leaving her jet-set lifestyle and moving back up north and selling on one of my publications…
“I’ve got very fond memories of doing that and I learnt an awful lot, because when you’re self-employed, you have to learn to be able to handle rejection. You’ve got to get past that and you have to convince them. It’s very important and useful to have those skills! But the thought of having to go back into telesales is what drives me forward.”
So, readers, I guess that’s a ‘no’. Looks like Clare prefers international stardom as opposed to selling, but who can blame her? This lass has performed with Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum, cuddled Liza Minelli and recently recorded a song with Van Morrison.
“I got an email out of the blue asking if I’d like to get involved with a project Van Morrison was doing. The day before I went into the studio, I discovered the song I was singing and I didn’t know it. The next day I ran through it a few times with the band and Van came in and said ‘Hi’ and ‘Let’s go!’ Because he sings differently every time you never know what he’s going to do, I did harmonise with him and I was thrilled with what we got! I was ready to go again and he said ‘Oh no, I’m not going again!’ The whole session was about ten minutes long. Just before I left he said ‘I really like your radio programme’ and now we meet up for coffee, and talk about music – he is so inspiring.”
Another of Clare’s inspirations is also one of my all-time favourites, the legendary Doris Day. “Doris Day has been a massive influence on me,” says Clare. “I’ve been doing the Doris Day show for the last couple of years.”
She goes on to tell me about the time she met a lady after one of her Doris Day concerts. “A funny thing happened once. I was in Clacton-on-Sea and met a lady called Annie. She’d bought my CD and asked if I would sign it as she was going to send it to Doris. I thought ‘Yes of course she is…’
“A few weeks later I received a Doris Day CD signed by the lady herself saying ‘With love from Doris’! It turned out Annie and Doris go back years and years! It’s my prized possession along with the sheet music for Secret Love.”
We all know that her voice is on a par with Doris’s, but how do her dancing skills compare?
“Funnily enough,” she replies, “I used to attend dance classes at Glusburn Institute. My teacher was called Roy. He once took my mum aside and said ‘I’m so sorry to say but she’s got no natural
rhythm!’ I’m also very clumsy, but I love to dance – depending on how much I’ve had to drink!”
Clare is hasn’t lost any of her northern warmth and when performing takes real pleasure in engaging and interacting with her audience. When I ask her if she enjoys a good natter, she replies: “What do you think?”, and before I have time to answer, she’s off again…
Clare’s Teal’s Dates
Duo show with piano
Friday 11th September
Holy Trinity Church, Ripon
Ripon International Festival
Quartet show, trio on piano, bass and drums
Saturday 12th September
Fallfest, Glusburn, North Yorkshire
7:30pm – Headlining Fallfest 2015
Tickets £22 – £33