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Interview: Ruby Turner on carving out a career ahead of her gig at Cheltenham's Bacon Theatre

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: March 31, 2014


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IF you ever sat down to make a list of the most powerful female singers of all-time, Ruby Turner would almost certainly make the cut.

Born in Jamaica, she moved to Birmingham with her family at the age of nine, paving the way for a chance to hone her talent and carve out a career with her soulful voice.

Perhaps best-known for her performances alongside Jools Holland, it’s almost easy to forget that Ruby is very much an artist in her own right with a gig at Cheltenham’s Bacon Theatre next week set to showcase her solo talents with the backing of her own band.

She’ll be performing material both new and old with hits including I’d Rather Go Blind and Stay With Me Baby set to feature.

Even at a young age Ruby – who is a larger-than-life personality – says she’s enjoyed somewhat of a diverse musical taste.

“At 16 I was listening to some of the greats, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles,” she says, bristling with energy.

“It was a whole plethora of musical fabulousness or at least I thought so. How can you go wrong?

“This morning I was sat watching BBC breakfast listening to Dr Hook, who I love so much, and then there was Van Morrison, Eric Clapton. I’ve got a very eclectic taste.”

More often than not, Ruby says, in light of heritage people place her musical tastes into a certain box.

“People think because I’m of Jamaican origin all I listen to is reggae music,” she says.

“I think that happens a lot with people of colour. “It’s a stereotype and you have to remind people you have eyes and ears and you are broad-minded.”

The 55-year-old’s big break came in the mid-1980s when she was asked to join Culture Club and a solo record deal soon followed.

“There were some real gimmicky acts that were signed to the same label and they were cleaning up the charts,” she says.

“Now there’s no way for these gimmick acts to go, so they go on reality TV shows.

“Lots of people use them as a stepping stone. They go into other areas like presenting and they use it as a gateway to something else and you can’t blame them, that’s the nature of the industry.

“They go on a TV show and they are involved in Hollywood and have a big house at 19. But whether they’re like that at 29, 39, 49, only time will tell.”

Throughout her career she has sung alongside music legends including Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry with her longevity perhaps her greatest asset.

“I remember looking at Tina Turner who was 45 years old and I was still very young and I really looked up to her,” Ruby says.

“The true test of an artist, the only test these days, is longevity.”

Ruby is both friendly and forthright with her opinions throughout, particularly when it comes to assessing the impact of reality TV shows such as The Voice and The X Factor.

“All these vocal high gymnastics and athleticism is to impress,” she says.

“It’s all really affected. The thrills and shrills which is quite sad.

“It’s like a circus act where the star attraction is the trapeze.

“It’s all about a new take on singing and re-inventing yourself. “What’s all that about mate?”

For Ruby it’s all about putting in the hard work and remaining true to herself and it’s clear that she places a huge emphasis on the power of the individual.

When I ask her who has had the biggest impact on her career she says it’s more about what you can do for yourself.

“It’s about the individual and whether you have something yourself so you can take yourself from performing in the toilets to bigger rooms where people dress up to come and see you,” she says.

For your chance to do exactly that in aid of cancer charity Maggie’s, snap up tickets, priced £22, by calling 01242 258002.

If you can’t make this concert, you can also see her at Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May.

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