Express & Star

Beverley Knight: A new dawn for soul queen

The older she gets, the better she becomes. Beverley Knight, Wolverhampton’s home-grown superstar, is maturing with age.

2-3 beverley knight | 31 Jul 2023 AR 20230219_Beverley_Knight_imeworldwide_Shot_5_022 Photos: Julian Broad

Crowning her 50th birthday celebrations in style, the undoubted Queen of British Soul Beverley Knight releases a new studio album, The Fifth Chapter – September 29 on Tag8/BMG.

No stranger to the spotlight, Beverley can do it all. An Olivier award-winning star of the West End stage, Saturday night TV regular on the latest series of Starstruck, and an astounding singer with a prolific music career. She finds herself aged 50, bigger than ever.

Partnering with a wealth of songwriting talent including Diane Warren, Seb Coe, Ollie Green and Andrew Roachford, as well as being co-produced with the likes of Jimmy Hogarth, AC Burrell, Mitch Allen & Josh Cohen/DJ Waldie, Beverley’s first collection of new music in seven years is a spectacular journey through the inspirations that have defined her incredible career.

Beverley explains: “My new album covers the kaleidoscope of my soul influences from disco, R&B, funk, gospel through to northern soul and big ballads. Maintaining a dual career in acting meant that for the first time, I stepped back from my usual songwriting to allow some of the world’s greatest songwriters to scribe my thoughts. This album is a true team effort of incredible talents for which I am truly grateful.”

The album’s first offering, ‘Last One On My Mind’ is a slice of stunning contemporary soul-pop. “Last One On My Mind is a sassy no-nonsense but joyous sounding song with a big nod to modern disco,” Beverley notes. “It’s about taking your power back from a former lover and striding into the future. It gets in you and stays there.”

Beverley will take on her biggest-ever UK tour to date, which has almost sold out already, performing twenty very special headline dates across the UK throughout October and November, to over 30,000 people.

Back together with her live band, expect fun-filled nights where she will perform all of her classic hits, fan favourites along with brand new songs. It reaches the West Midlands on November 4, when she headlines Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, before wrapping up at the iconic London Palladium, on November 14.

Beverley has had several Top 10 albums and sold over a million albums in the UK, with four gold-certified. Her most recent studio album Soulsville went straight into the UK Top 10.

In recent years, Knight has forged a formidable parallel career in theatre. Her West End debut was the starring role in The Bodyguard followed by leading the Tony winning Memphis The Musical. At the request of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber she joined the cast of Cats, playing the iconic role of Grizabella. 2021 saw Beverley lead The Drifters Girl at the Garrick Theatre as the formidable manager of soul group The Drifters, which was Olivier nominated Best New Musical, and Beverley for Best Actress.

Starring to huge acclaim as Emmeline Pankhurst in Sylvia at The Old Vic, Beverley won Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical at the Olivier Awards in April. The show also received nominations for Best New Musical and Best Choreographer.

“The Oliver was such a massive deal. I’ve crossed from music into theatre. Even though I knew I had the background from school in Wolverhampton, and Wolverhampton Youth Theatre, most people didn’t. I knew I had to prove myself and really work hard. it’s so rare for anybody to come from the world of music to cross into acting and then to go into acting – that’s incredibly rare either here or in the USA. That’s happened to me. I still can’t believe it. it’s a dream come true. Now as a result, I have so many film scripts and TV scripts as I’m in a very good place.

“I feel as though with time everything as opened out for me. I’ve had to change as well. I’ve had to look at myself hard in the mirror and say you want to get to the top, be a global artist, be a global name. What changes could I make first in order to get there? I had to go through that process. Just before the pandemic kicked in, I changed my team and in so doing it was almost instantaneous. It was like the universe saw I was ready and opportunities came along. I had to change first though, that’s what’s driven everything in the past few years.”

A British treasure, Beverley was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to British music and charity, has won three MOBO Awards, been nominated for Best Female at the Brit Awards 3 times, Best Actress at the Olivier Awards twice, and Best Female at the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

Beverley was also recently on screen Saturday nights as a panel judge in ITV’s talent series Starstruck. Broadcasting work beyond this hit show include presenting 4 series of Radio 2 show ‘Beverley’s Gospel Nights’ and two series of the BBC1 show Just the Two of Us. She recently appeared in the all star cast of Amazon’s new live action movie Cinderella (2021) with Camilla Cabello in the title role.

Her outstanding live performances have gained her a legion of famous fans over the years from David Bowie to Stevie Wonder, she has collaborated on stage and on record with the likes of Prince, Jamiroquai, Bocelli, Take That, Chaka Kahn, Joss Stone & Marvin Gaye. Her performance with Goldie of ‘Inner City Life’ at last year’s Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony in Birmingham a recent stand out.

“I feel as though I am about to step into a whole new level of wonder because I have come into my power”, concludes Beverley. “My career is not a big shiny billboard poster that gets replaced with the next star in waiting. Mine is a novel, and I just entered the Fifth and most exciting chapter of it.”

She credits her background with giving her the fortitude to cope with all that comes her way. Knight attended Woodfield Infant and Junior Schools, and Highfields School in Wolverhampton. She’d been born to Jamaican parents and grew up in a strict Pentecostal household where church attendance was an important element in the life of the family. It was here that she began her singing career. “The first time I heard music would have been in church. My mum was often called upon: ‘Come on sister Dolores. Lead us in song!’ Singing was the most natural thing in the world. I thought, doesn’t everybody’s mum lead the congregation at church in song?” Knight sang in her local church throughout her childhood, and her musical education was continued at home where she was often exposed to gospel music. Because of her parents’ religious beliefs, secular music was largely frowned upon, but artists such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin played a big part in her childhood.

Knight began writing her own songs at the age of 13; however, it was not until she turned 17 that she began to take it seriously. She began performing the songs she had written on stage in local clubs in her hometown. At the age of 19, she performed on the demo songs of Wolverhampton songwriter Westley Jones, who was signed to Dome Publishing in London. She was adamant that her education should come first and that she should have something to fall back on, and so went to Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education to study theology and philosophy.

“Wolverhampton, without a shadow of a doubt, is a big part of why I have the career I have. People are proud of me but don’t treat me like I’m on a pedestal. If I went to the market on a Saturday with mom and the lads who sold fruit and veg saw me showing all these airs and graces, they’d knock me straight back down. You need that because every day people are telling you you’ve got a great voice. In the States, that’s even more magnified. You need to go back and touch the ground from whence you came to remind yourself of the journey.

“There are too many people lost in show business. The minute that happens, it’s the road to danger. Some people don’t make it back. I’m 50 and I’m acutely away that there are a lot of utterly brilliant people who should still be with us and are not because of showbusiness. We have lost a lot of people because of having not great people around her. No one wants that for themselves abd that’s never going to be me. I’m determined to keep myself grounded and earthy and I’m grateful for my upbringing because of that.”

She’s also glad to be moving into the peak of her powers at 50, rather than in her younger years.

“Thank god it’s happening now and not 20 years ago or 25 years ago. I don’t think I’d have coped as well as I’m coping now. The magnification of my career is totally different but I’m much better equipped to handle it now. In my mid-20s, that would have finished me off. It comes when it’s supposed to come. If it come 25 years ago ‘d have been an absolute brat of a woman.

“I can handle it now and going forward. I will continue to handle it and I have the people around me to keep me grounded.

“I can tell you now, my USA agents are all over it. They’re like Beverley ‘when can you come back we need you over here’. It’s coming and I’m so ready for it. It’s coming. One day there’s going to be a Grammy in my hand and I will be able to say ‘Thank you, Wolverhampton’. And an emmy. That’s the plan. That’s the plan. I want to be on a global stage and show people what I’ve done and what they can do. That Grammy is coming to come, real soon. Everything else will follow.”

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