How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?
Well, eOne Music, the label/distributor with which I’m in business, wanted me to make a totally different album - much more minimal, with just me and my jazz trio. I had basically gone along with that plan, but when it came down to actually sitting there with John Daversa and putting the song-list together, I got a little crazy. I wanted strings on this, woodwinds on that, horns on this, all three on that. Not machines. There are no machines anywhere on this album. If you hear it, somebody played it.
At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?
I don't think I ever really made that decision. More like it was made for me. The teacher who hated me the most in elementary school also asked me to sing a Beatles song (“We Can Work It Out”) for the entire school at assembly. As early as 10 years old I was being put in leading roles in BBC music plays in England.
Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?
I remember a classical piece called "On Hearing The First Cuckoo In Spring" by Fredrick Delius that my dad always played on the piano in the house...it is literally my earliest musical memory from when I was two or three. Delius was a genius - way ahead of his time. Then there were amazing concerts I saw growing up, my dad with George Shearing, Mulligan, Carmen McRae, Ella, June Christy - all these people have had a major influence on me. And then there was hearing Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" on local radio in Los Angeles and torturing my mother until she bought me the tape and an Emerson cassette-corder to play it on. Or the early Walkman my old man sent me with a tape of Earth Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” already inside.
What would be the most important piece of advice you’d impart to a young musician just starting out in the jazz/smooth jazz arena?
To singers, I'd say don’t be an impression of anybody else. Don’t be a Sinatra or Chet Baker or Billy Holliday impersonator. There are already plenty of those. Find your own true voice and work from there. Listen to the slightly lesser known greats. Bobby Troup, Matt Dennis, Jeri Southern, Carmen McRae, June Christy…my old man of course. And mean every word you sing. From Mel Tormé to Michael Jackson, all of my singing heroes did that every time.
What are you most proud of at this point in your life and career?
Winning the John Lennon Award, playing the Greek Theater, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and with famous orchestras in other cities, pulling off complicated musical works in front of thousands of fans - who give you standing ovations – it's all great stuff. Great stuff. And I've enjoyed it. But ultimately, what I think I’m most proud of is this debut album.
What would you define as the most life-changing event so far in your musical career?
My dad’s death in 1999 was almost certainly the most life-changing event - (and the life before it) especially in terms of how it affected my music career. It’s the inspiration behind the level of focus, care and ambition that I’ve put into my own music. And obviously I have surrounded myself with quite a lot of his music – partly to keep him close to me – so to speak – meanwhile I find myself striving for new musical places and levels he would be happy with.