Curtis Stigers talks about Sinatra and all that jazz ahead of his show in Birmingham
Back in the day, Curtis Stigers was the man with the flowing locks and the pin-up looks. The singer enjoyed a string of chart successes in the early 1990s, including the international smash hits I Wonder Why and You’re All That Matters To Me.
And yet becoming part of the international jet set was something that didn’t sit well. He was more interested in playing the music close to his heart – jazz and swing – than he was making a dent in the charts.
And so he began an alternative career. Curtis exited the arenas and stadiums into which he’d briefly been placed and started doing the rounds at jazz clubs and bars. That was 17 years ago and his jazzy versions of pop songs have made him ever-popular in the USA and Europe. These days, his records don’t make the chart – and that’s exactly how he likes it.
He’s back on the road with a show that pays homage to the greatest of them all – Frank Sinatra – and will headline Birmingham’s Town Hall on July 13 with a show called Sinatra At The Sands, in which he’ll perform with The Ronnie Scott’s Big Band.
Curtis will channel the hip, swinging chemistry of Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Orchestra in celebration of the classic album Sinatra at the Sands. It follows the release last year of his latest album, One More For The Road, with the Danish Radio Big Band.
Not that Stigers will party like Ol’ Blue Eyes after the show. “I’m old enough to know that I shouldn’t have a drink of whisky to end the night. That’s always been a downfall for me. The next day is a very bad day if I do that. If I’m going to have something strong, I’m going to start with it. Once I’m done with it, I’m a big fan of a nice glass of red wine, so I’d switch to that. It’d have to be red wine only because I’m too smart to hurt myself as badly as I did when I was young.
“Listen to me, children! Do not mix drinks at the end of the night. It seems like a great idea when they bring out a bottle of nice Scotch whisky but once they do that, you’re in trouble.”
Curtis is one of rock‘n’roll’s more cultured performers. A delightful raconteur and outspoken politico, his Twitter feed is one of the more entertaining that there is.
He frequently rails against the ‘poison’ of USA President Donald Trump and also tackles such commentators as Katie Hopkins in no-punches-pulled discourse.
“He’s just a nightmare for everyone. I think in the long-run, even the people who support him will rue the day that they decided to vote for him. He doesn’t care about anybody except himself. He’s not about the country. He’s not about the people he supposedly represents. He’s about making money and getting attention. I don’t think he’s mentally stable either. We could probably talk about him for hours!”
Curtis’s new Sinatra project is close to his heart. He is a huge fan of Sinatra at the Sands, which inspired his album with the Danish Radio Big Band.
“I flew over to rehearse with them for a day, drank a couple of Danish beers and I sang a bunch of great material that I have known since I was a kid but hadn’t sung as it never occurred to me to sing Sinatra. I’ve always kind of done my own thing. I had a ball, though. It was a riot.
“A few weeks later someone sent me an email with a link to the recordings for Danish radio, as it had gone out as a broadcast.
“And to be honest, I didn’t even listen to it. It took me a couple of weeks to rediscover it. I threw it on when doing some work and I was really surprised by how fresh it sounded and how cool it sounded to hear me singing these songs and arrangements that Sinatra made so famous.”
Curtis has led a remarkable life – coming face-to-face with rock excess and meeting his heroes along the way.
“It was wonderful at the time – but you can’t spend your life like that. It’s very easy to lose track of reality. They were great times and I got to perform in front of huge numbers of people and meet a lot of my heroes like Eric Clapton, Elton John and Prince. But I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the back of a tour bus now – these days I like to keep it low key, it’s better to connect to people in each of the place I travel to.
“Different things are important to me now I guess. I’ve seen plenty of people in my industry lose sight of what’s real and what’s not. I’d like to think that I have never been like that, I’ve always tried to keep a grip on what’s important.”