Curtis Stigers is the American jazz vocalist, saxophonist, guitarist and songwriter whose smooth blend of soul and rock threw him into the limelight with hits including ‘I Wonder Why’.
Before the American star swings into town with his repertoire dubbed the perfect soundtrack for the Mad Men generation, the nice people at the Harrogate International Festival asked him some questions in an attempt to flirt and discuss his Mad Men style, only to be put straight about Baywatch.
Let’s go out tonight. I’m sure you have lots of people queuing up after hearing your new album – what would you say to those who have yet to hear it to tempt them on a date with Mr Stigers when you play at Harrogate?
Well, I’m not sure what to say, except that I’m proud of “Let’s Go Out Tonight” and that it’s really been a joy performing songs from it this year. People have responded wonderfully. It’s an emotional and very personal album, filled with great songs by great songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Neil Finn, Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper, Steve Earle, Jeff Tweedy, and Paul Buchanan.
You’ve got a selection of songs that are rather alluring – Crowded House Into Temptation for instance is such a beautiful song. They’re a classic band but not really in vogue at the moment, why Crowded House?
I don’t really think of songs in terms of whether they’re in vogue or not. I think about a song as a work unto itself, as a story or a piece of music. I have a great affinity for the story that “Into Temptation” tells and I wanted to find a way to tell that story from my point of view, in my own musical way. Neil Finn is a great songwriter and his work has a life far beyond the current charts and record sales.
A Guardian review compared you to the kind of music to which ‘1960s ad executives sipped martinis. He comes across like an amalgam of Mad Men characters Roger Sterling and Jimmy Barrett. ’ Do you style yourself at all or is this Mad Men cool vibe all instinctive?
I’ve actually never seen an episode of Mad Men, but I do love the look of men’s fashion from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. John and Bobby Kennedy wore those great fitted suits with narrow lapels and ties. So did Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and Miles Davis, and many of the jazz men of that era. It’s a good look, especially on stage.
America seems to have a knack for jazzy-blues voices, from Bob Dylan to Tom Waits – is it an antidote to all that sunshine and Have a Good Day vibe?
I’m not sure you can say that a nation as geographically large and culturally and economically varied as the U.S. is represented by one sound or one type of singer, anymore than you can say that about the UK. Yes, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are Americans, but Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker and Adele and Paolo Nutini are from the UK, aren’t they? I’m also not so sure that the U.S. is all sunshine and “Have a good day”… Perhaps you’ve been watching too many Baywatch re-runs? (By the way that show was not documentary, but fictional. Pamela Anderson’s breasts were fictional as well, or so I’m told.)
Blue Nile is one of my favourite bands, the sounds are so melancholic and heartbreaking – why do you think you’re drawn to the sound of heartbreak?
I’ve always been moved by sad songs. There’s something lovely about hearing a song that makes me cry, and I’m drawn to the same kind of songs when I’m looking for songs to sing, especially for my new album, Let’s Go Out Tonight. The album is named for a song by Paul Buchanan from The Blue Nile, and it’s just a perfect piece of songwriting. It tells a heartbreaking story, in the simplest, most poetic way possible. Perfect. That’s not to say I don’t love a happy song now and then!
Have you been to Harrogate before? We can’t promise Mad Men vibes, but we can provide a good pint of beer, or cup of tea, and a leisurely walk in the Valley Gardens…
I’ve never been to Harrogate, but I’m certainly looking forward to it. I’m already looking forward to a lovely pint of ale. Perhaps a Daleside Bitter?
Anything you’d like to add?
My band and I will be performing tunes from my new album as well as some old faves, including “I Wonder Why” and “You’re All That Matters To Me.” We know there’d be a riot in the audience if we didn’t some of the older material. See you there!
Don’t miss your date with the swoonsome Curtis Stigers on Friday 6 July, 8pm, the Royal Hall, tickets from £15 up to £60 for boxes.
Book online: www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com or call 01423 502 116.