Nicole Henry sings the music of Aretha Franklin

Sensational New York-based jazz and soul singer, Nicole Henry, returns to the UK, the scene of her sell-out shows opening the 2017 London Jazz Festival, to perform the music of Aretha Franklin. Nicole’s potent combination of dynamic vocal abilities, impeccable phrasing and powerful emotional resonance has made her one of the world’s most acclaimed soul vocalists.

Welcome to the UK. Is this your first time performing here?
Thank you, delighted to be here. My first public performances here were in (Autumn) 2017, when we had four sell-out concerts. We opened the Cambridge Jazz Festival – I can never forget the beauty of Kings College Chapel – and then two nights launching the London Jazz Festival.

Tell us a little about yourself and your music. You are a very successful award-winner in the US; you’ve filled concert halls around the world, and recorded many top selling albums. Where did your musical life start?
Ha…Well, thank you for reminding me about the awards! It’s not what I really think about much. I’ve been a full-time musician since 2001, and released my first full-length, international album in 2004. I’ve since released a total of seven albums, including two live projects. My latest project was actually recorded in London, with a long-time songwriting partner, guitarist James Bryan.  

While I grew up on pop, soul, classic gospel and RnB, I had an all-in love affair with jazz, which started in 2002 and lasted about six years, releasing three pure jazz albums. Since 2008, I’ve been incorporating much more of everything into my sound. To me, good music has always been good music – whatever the genre – but I’ve always had a more pop/soul foundation in my vocal style.  

Like many vocalists, my musical life started in school and church choirs. My mother was classically trained as a child, and played a good amount of classical music on piano and from albums. This influenced me to play cello for six years, too. I hadn’t thought of a career in music until a DJ invited me to record house music during my college years. That’s when I discovered (at a rave) I wanted to sing professionally and just get better at my craft.  

Was Aretha Franklin an early influence? What is it about her music that resonates with so many people?
Indeed, Aretha was an early influence. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t know every word to her Amazing Grace album. How do you explain her gift that was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of talent?  

If you ever listen to gospel music, you know why Aretha resonates with so many people. They sing gospel music because they BELIEVE it, and the Gospel is truth to those who believe. Because of Aretha, I always knew singing to be like that. If you don’t believe what you’re singing, it will not resonate. When Aretha sings, it is TRUTH. Aside from having one of the best and most distinctive vocal instruments ever, through every word she sings, she is making you a believer.  

So, for me, believing in God, and growing up and learning how to relate to the love and power of God through Aretha’s voice…that set the bar for any vocal performance.  

Aretha was listed by Billboard magazine as the greatest singer of all time, and named the Queen of Soul. What can your audiences expect from your concerts?
No pressure, right? HA HA! They can expect a musical celebration of ‘ReRe’ through some of the best soul songs ever recorded. Come out if you want to feel something real…

Tell us something of the songs and music ofAretha Franklin you will be singing. Surely ithas to include RESPECT and Amazing Grace?
Well, yes, you can’t honour Aretha without giving her RESPECT. So, you can count on that. We will definitely hit at least one of her gospel tunes. We plan on spanning her repertoire, which included gospel, blues, jazz, soul and pop.  

And your musicians this time – led by ace guitarist, Nick Fitch – are young British soul and blues players. Sounds like you’ll all be cooking up a storm!
That’s the plan!! Yes, Nick is quite a talented, in-demand arranger and player. He’s been wonderfully creative and so easy to work with… And he is definitely steeped in the genre so… we’re going to have some fun! 

It’s great that you are returning to the UK and will conclude your tour in London at the wonderful St John’s Smith Square. So, on this tour you don’t just visit a wonderful church, you get to sing in one.
Yes, we’ll be sure to blow the roof off all the other venues, but we’ll try to keep that one intact 🙂

I’m really looking forward to it!

Nicole Henry, singing the music of Aretha

Franklin, will be performing in the UK:

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

PizzaExpress Live, Maidstone

Dereham Memorial Hall, Norwich

St John’s Smith Square, London 

All concerts are featured on our website in date order

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