Mark Kingswood To Support Gladys Knight On UK Tour
by Geoff Ford
CROONER HOPES TOUR WILL INTRODUCE HIM TO A NEW AUDIENCE
Supporting a Motown legend like Gladys Knight is a wonderful showcase for any up-and-coming artist and Mark Kingswood hopes this will re-ignite interest in his fledgling career.
The singer, who wants to redefine the art of crooning, was attracting a lot of attention, including from Radio 2, when the pandemic struck and everything ground to a halt.
“Yeah, it was a bit of a difficult time,” Mark told me. “We had Album Of The week (Brave Enough, 2020) on BBC Radio 2, just as we went into lockdown. That didn’t help but it’s been a tough time for everyone. It’s getting much better, now, but it could still take a while before things are fully back to normal, just can’t wait to get on the road.
“It will be good to get out and tour some of the songs from the first two albums, bring some attention to the music and start to get that fan base built up a little bit. If more people begin to know who I am, hopefully that will translate into being able to do more of my own shows around the country, so this is a great opportunity.”
Mark had a recording contract as a youngster but fell out of love with singing when his label wanted him to follow a contemporary path. He became an accomplished arranger and producer and used this experience to follow his true passion, singing in the big-band style of The Rat Pack and later artists such as Michael Bolton.
“My parents never listened to modern chart music,” he explained. “I’d be listening to Whitney Houston or Celine Dion, I was always around big voices, that was the norm for me. Then I went over to my grandparents and theirs was a very different type of collection. They had acts from the 50s and 60s, so they would introduce me to people like Andy Williams, Matt Munro and Frank Sinatra. I think it’s in the mixture between those two worlds that I really sit.”
Mark’s debut album Strong, released in 2019, was primarily new material with just two contemporary covers rather than the stereotypical Great American Songbook, so loved by others who sing in this style.
“Of course, Geoff, you know my passion is really delivering new material in the genre, that would always be my musical stamp. So, how do I fuse that with 2022 audiences? That’s the challenge.
“I always try to adhere to some sort of formula which gives me my own identity, I don’t go super-heavy on the covers, just a couple on which I try to put my own spin and I usually tend to borrow them from the nineties or 2000s when I grew up, as opposed to going back to the American Songbook.
“I’m always writing different things. The biggest thing for me, at the moment, is trying to find out where do you go in music? You don’t always want to stay the same. It’s a tough one because my audience expects a certain sound and it can be difficult to marry that sound into other genes, sometimes.
“The music industry is changing so much and even the adult contemporary stations are leaning towards more modern types of production that are related to beat and drums. It is often difficult to try and find a medium that works. I’m always up for experimenting to try and find where I might go but, for the moment, I’m just concentrating on trying re-establish myself after Covid, getting people to know my music. Then, once the fan belt has built up a little, I might have a clear idea of where I am musically and what people are wanting from me. Ultimately, I’m there to please the fans. So, it’s coming up with ideas that I might keep in the bank for a little while, until I know where I’m at.”
The British public’s first taste of Mark Kingswood in concert came in 2019 when he was invited to open for Jools Holland. In early 2020, Mark undertook his maiden headline tour and the first gig was at the Stoller Hall in Manchester.
“That was great, it was a really nice concert hall, the acoustics were great and the venue felt quite intimate, a show-vibe rather than a party venue. We had a lot of chat with Meet-and-greets afterwards. I spoke to a lot of people and we had a great night, really enjoyed it.”
Mark’s dates with Gladys Knight also kick-off in Manchester, this time at the O2 Apollo, a much bigger venue but Mark is hoping for another positive reaction.
“We’ve had a really good response from most places. All audiences are slightly different and each venue brings a different crowd as well. Some shows are tailored to the string and orchestral kind of music, nice and quiet, beautiful acoustics, and you might choose a few songs that would resonate beautifully in that kind of environment and then sometimes we go to places that are known for their crowds being lively and dancing, so you may adjust the set for that kind of venue as well.
“We’re also going to Leeds and Liverpool. I know that Leeds is a really good area where people want to go out and enjoy their night, so hopefully they’ll be up and having a dance and enjoying the set.”
Whilst Mark loves the big band numbers, he is equally adept at the quiet, sensitive ballads and, he added, the upcoming tour will give him the chance to show this side of his repertoire.
“For the Gladys Knight tour it’s just me and a pianist. Being a support, there are other constraints. Gladys Knight has a quite big band and it’s quite a quick turnaround on stage. So, it’s me and a pianist on stage and we’ll use some tracks for the more up-tempo numbers. Sometimes logistics take a lead over what you want but, hopefully, people will get to hear the songs and the voice with the orchestrations the way they were recorded, just not on stage.
“I’ve done that more and more in the live shows, incorporated a few songs where it’s just me and the piano to get that nice quiet intimate moment. It is really raw, really exposing with an opportunity for people to hear every note and concentrate on the vocal and the lyric and the story behind the song. There’s lots of opportunity there to do something different.”
Tamla Motown legend Gladys Knight is known for her collection of classic hits including Midnight Train To Georgia (honoured as one of The Greatest Songs Of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine), Help Me Make It Through The Night, (James Bond theme) Licence To Kill The Way We Were, Baby Don’t Change Your Mind and You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. Gladys Knight remains one of music’s icons and her contribution to pop culture unparalleled.
Mark Kingswood is supporting Gladys Knight on her 2022 UK tour which includes the following Northern dates:
Saturday 18 June, Manchester, O2 Apollo
Wednesday 22 June, Liverpool, M&S Bank Arena
Sunday 26 June, Leeds, First Direct Arena
For more information, please visit ticketmaster.co.uk