one else in the UK r 'n b scene has the broad appeal that
Beverley Knight has. You are as likely to hear her on Radio
2, as you are 1Xtra. With her December 2002 tour looming
and a collaboration with Wyclef about to drop, we were lucky
enough to get to talk to her on the phone. I kicked things
off by asking Beverley about her recent work for Christian
"I was supposed to go to Jamaica but then we had to
cancel Jamaica because they announced their elections. Being
of Jamaican origin, I know how that can be. It becomes quite
a violent and unstable place. So, literally, I would have
put my life in danger, particularly the areas where I was
going to be working out there. I would have been in the heart
of where a lot of the problems would have been.
So, they sent me to Brazil instead, which I'm glad they
did because it was life-changing. Christian Aid have to partners
in Brazil, one's called CESE and the other's called GAPA.
CESE work with trying to eradicate poverty in the poorest
areas, you know - community problems and community issues.
GAPA work with raising self-esteem in local communities with
the intention of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. I'd done
a lot of that kind of work already. It was hard to see the
sort of conditions that people are forced to live in and
the prejudices that people living with HIV have to endure,
way worse than anything I've seen here. At the same time,
I met some people who are truly remarkable. It was great."
What have you been up to since then?
"I went to Dubai and did some gigs in the Middle East
and then I actually took a six day holiday. Wow! My first
proper holiday in six years. I don't mind, it's cool - but
I needed it!"
Your next single is 'Shape Of You' with Wyclef.
Has he remixes the song or have you two worked together?
"We recorded a whole new track and called it 'Shape
Of You'. It's just got the same title. There's a whole new
energy to the track. Melody, lyric, everything new. We'll
have both versions out there. It was great working with him."
He's worked with all sorts, hasn't he? There's been
Fugees, Brian Harvey, Steven Seagal, Bono, the list goes
"He is bizarre like that. He's worked with some out
there people, Tom Jones being the most recent example. His
new single, in fact. I think Wyclef produced it."
Why has the single 's release been put back to January?
"It was coming out before Christmas, but then as Christmas
singles go it's Popstars the Rivals competing with Popstars
the Rivals, Fame Academy or Will or Gareth or Darius or Cliff
Richard! It's all started so early that we were like 'Let's
not even get into this'."
On your last album, 'Who I Am' you worked with legendary
Philadelphia producer James Poyser, probably best known for
his work with Philadelphia acts like The Roots, Jill Scott
and Common. How did that come about?
"I know a friend of his, Che, who works with Lauren
Hill and also worked on my album. Che introduced the two
of us. We got talking and he was really into my music and
really wanted to work with me. I discovered that he was born
in Sheffield, left Sheffield when he was eight, comes back
home lots. He may be attached to the whole Philadelphia posse
but he's actually a Sheffield man. Like me, he's got Jamaican
background. So, it's really nice to discover that about him.
It made sense because his sounds actually very influenced
by Britain. It became very comfortable working with him."
You also worked with hot UK producer C-Swing
"I'm working with him now on a new album. I love working
with C-Swing, Colin as I call him. He's the greatest guy,
Did you hear the stuff he did with The Beta Band
on their last album?
"I was there when he was working on a lot of the demos.
We were on the phone to each other a hell of a lot because
he was working down near Brighton with the guys, and he played
me stuff down the phone. I was like 'God, this is out there!
This is great! It's great to work with someone like Colin
because he's so eclectic and so am I. It just makes sense."
So you're working towards the next album, any names
attached to it yet?
"It's kind of early days. What I usually do is get
songs written then look at people either to produce or collaborate
with. I will tell you, though, that the guys behind Outkast's
album, Stankonia - a guy called Earthtone 3, I'll be working
with at some point in the New Year. Also, Organised Noise,
I hope, who were behind TLC's 'Waterfall'."
What was it like meeting Nelson Mandela?
"Amazing experience. What a guy. His energy for somebody's
is in is eighties is amazing. I was invited by the South
African High Commission to meet him after a concert we did
last year to celebrate South Africa. It was to celebrate
7 years of freedom in South Africa and I got to meet him
there. Last Saturday, I also met him again when I attended,
and once again sang in his honour, a charity dinner for the
Nelson Mandela children fund was doing with the Princess
Diana memorial fund. That was really special."
You also got to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Mohamed
"Yes I did! That was last year, as well. He came over
to promote a computer game and his people had organised a
surprise birthday party for him. They asked me if I'd sing
and I did! It was great to meet the man himself."
Tell me about your website
"I've got a lot of stuff on the website. We've got
'Meet The Band' as well which is one of the things I love.
It's not all about me and what I'm doing, I want people to
get into my band because they're fantastic. The message board,
as well, where people write to each other and to me, I love
all that. They've got all kinds of things, like my hairstyles.
David Bowie's got a great website, one of the best ones out
there and the Prince one's great."
Did you catch Prince on his recent tour?
"I was in New York shooting a video. I tried to move
the whole video shoot just to go see the concert, that's
how major a fan I am of Prince. I couldn't, so I went to
Paris and saw him there. We met twice about three years ago.
To me, he was very chatty and we talked a long time. He really
studies you when he looks at you. His eyes are as big as
mine and I've got some big old eyes. He really looks at you,
so we were both looking at each other. We talked about music
and he talked about the people he loves and he's really into
my album. I adore him."
Do you think the two of you would ever work together?
"That would be my dream."
What did you listen to when you were growing up?
"I listened to Sam Cooke, he was the first voice that
made me think 'Oh my God, I want to be like that.'. I also
loved Aretha Franklin. Most of voices that stayed with me
were gospel-base, powerful, emotive voices. As I got older,
radio took its toll. So it became Wham and Duran Duran to
Annie Lennox (solo and with Eurythmics), Chaka Khan, Marvin,
right across the board. I started to get into Sly Stone,
the rockier kind of soul music, Funkadelic, Parliment."
Who do you like from today's artists?
"I particularly like Jill Scott, who I think's great.
India Arie. From over here, I really like The Streets - I
really think what he's doing is just so original and funky.
I also have a lot of time for Ms.Dynamite, she's exploded
onto the mainstream this year and that's good. The list goes
on! The new Red Hot Chilli Peppers album is great."
What's the oddest thing in your record collection?
Any Status Quo?
"Worse than that, I have Paul McCartney's 'The Frog
Chorus'. I've still got it somewhere, I don't know where
but I've still got it. I was only young, that's my excuse!"
Interview by Simon Netherwood
Big thanks to Warren at Infected.