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Interview: GRACE KNIGHT

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The Eurogliders are back! And singer Grace Knight is excited about getting back into the ‘groove’ (pardon the pun) and taking those familiar pop tunes of the eighties back on the road again. I spoke to Grace recently about her upcoming shows with Eurogliders and her own jazz shows, which she has been doing for twenty years.  “I’ll be doing my jazz shows in July and August,” she tells me from her home in Victoria and then I’ll be hooking up with Eurogliders and changing into my 1980s gear for that.”

The idea for the reformation happened a few months ago when Grace was approached to see if Eurogliders might be interested in doing a support for another eighties band, U.K.’s Boomtown Rats who were planning to tour Australia. “I spoke to Bernie Lynch about it and said would you be interested? Should we get a band together and get back out on the road again? And he was absolutely thrilled and said ‘Yes, fantastic!’ So we got a band together and then of course the Boomtown Rats tour fell over but we’d already done the hard work, put a band together, chose the songs and booked rehearsal studios and once the word got out that we were getting together for the Boomtown Rats, people started calling and we were taking bookings to do Eurogliders gigs again which is fantastic. We’re really thrilled and happy to get into that.”

While Grace agrees that it is a shame that the tour was cancelled, she also admits that, in the long run, it’s probably worked out for the best for Eurogliders as their fans can now see the band perform a full show rather than a condensed set as a support act for another artist. “Now,” she says, “we get to do our own concerts and we can pull out years’ worth of Eurogliders hits. We’re absolutely looking forward to that.”

The band will be doing the old stuff as well as some new material, which they are really looking forward to. “Of course, it’s great to perform the old stuff but, as artists, we like doing new stuff and moving forward so it’s a good opportunity to let our old fans hear the new stuff we’ve been working on.”

While the shows will initially be in Victoria, they have also had requests to perform in other states and are currently looking at the logistics involved in travelling eight people around the country. “So we will be putting that together,” she explains. “But we are starting off in Victoria. It’s up to the public. We need people to come to our gigs because it’s a very expensive undertaking to travel so many people around the country and you can imagine the cost so we really need the public to come to our gigs and support us so we can continue to tour and hopefully get into the studio and record more Eurogliders songs. Eurogliders, for the last four or five years of its existence, was Bernie Lynch and myself and then we would employ musicians depending on the sound that we wanted to achieve.  If we needed a double bass sound, then we would employ a double bass player to come in and record for us. It really depended on the sort of music Bernie was writing at the time; a bit like The Eurythmics.”

Grace has been performing jazz for twenty years now and has recently released her thirteenth album called ‘Keep Cool Fool’. In Grace’s solo shows, she will be playing songs from her latest album as well as songs from ‘Come In Spinner’ and ‘Stormy Weather’ and all the jazz albums that she has recorded over the last twenty years.

“Eurogliders is a much higher octane and I’m out walking seriously to make sure that I’ve got the energy. I’m not sure that I can still do backflips on stage but I am practising with a baby bouncer in my doorway,” she laughs.

The singer enjoys the challenge of the shift from playing eighties pop one night to singing jazz the next. But Grace doesn’t have any preference for a particular musical style. “I’ve always imagined myself as a storyteller and that’s really stood me in good stead, because it means that I don’t feel constrained by any genre of music. What I’m interested in is the story I’m telling as a singer and so as long as I have a good story to tell, that’s really where my interest lies so I don’t have a preference for the genre but I do have a preference for a good story. That’s what I believe my job is, as a three minute story teller.”

Grace came from a very musical family. “My father was an opera singer,” she explains, “and his father was recording for ex pat Scots people in Canada. My nanna was a singer in theatre and so it was in my blood. Having said that, I got chucked out of every single music lesson I ever did. I had a deep rooted fear of maths and I think the whole maths side of reading or trying to learn about music overwhelmed me and I just got chucked out and unable to read music but whatever I did, I had to listen very carefully and use my ears. So the fact is that, even though all of my family can play musical instruments, I’m the only one that can’t but I was the one that made a career out of music and I find that really funny.”

Embarking on her journey to Australia on board a cruise ship, Grace worked for her passage from Southampton to Fremantle by singing. “I thought singing would be a great way to travel around the world and I didn’t have any money but I could live and be fed on a cruise ship and then get off at all the ports and visit Egypt and all these wonderful places I couldn’t have dreamed of going to! By the time I arrived in Fremantle, I thought ‘Well, this is it. I’m going to be a singer!’ Then I was introduced to Bernie Lynch very soon after I arrived and he wanted me to front his band called Living Single which we then changed to Eurogliders and that was about thirty odd years ago.”

Ironically, singing was not Grace’s first choice for a career path in the arts. “I never actually wanted to be a singer,” she admits. “I always wanted to be an actress. I thought that singing would be a path to that but of course I stayed on that path.”

She did have a part in the ABC TV mini-series ‘Come in Spinner’, and recorded the album soundtrack for the series with Vince Jones.  ‘That’s really what set me on the jazz path,” she explains. “That album was such a huge success for the ABC and I very quickly followed it up with another album of jazz hits from the American songbook with an album called ‘Stormy Weather’. I was really lucky to work with a fantastic producer called Larry Muhoberac, and that was also a big hit for Sony Music as well and I began to really enjoy, for the first time, hearing my own voice when I was singing. In Eurogliders, I had to struggle to hear myself above the sound of wailing guitars and electronic drums and basses.”

Recently, Grace performed at a special tribute concert for the late Chrissy Amphlett, in Melbourne. “It was fantastic,” she tells me. “Just before I went on stage, I found out that Christine’s husband, Charlie, was there and I’ve just got to say that my whole performance was taken up with him in mind. It was lovely but it was just so sad. But the thing that I loved was that we all got together and did what we do and we were able to raise funds for MS and Little Pattie was saying that she just knew that Chrissy would be really, really happy about that. It was a terrible, terrible loss and it really affected me. I’m looking forward to putting on my Facebook page how much was raised that night and to thank everyone for getting involved.”

Being able to give something back is very important to the singer and she certainly didn’t need to think twice about lending a hand. “I can turn up to a Chrissy Amphlett Tribute and I can help raise funds for MS. I might not be able to dip into my own pocket and put much money up but just by singing with a group of other people, I can either help raise their awareness or funds and I’ve always felt that that was a fantastic part of my job and I have always taken it very, very seriously. Just by me doing so little, I can do so much and I’ll always be very, very willing to participate in charities and fundraisers just because I can.”

Grace feels very blessed that her career has given her some unique and memorable opportunities along the way. In particular, she recalls the time that Eurogliders performed on MTV’s New Year’s Eve show, in 1986. “One year Bernie and I were in our share house, watching MTV and eating pizza and the next year, we were performing on that show, to sixty five million people and we were performing live and that was definitely a turning point because we had something to measure it by. ‘My God! We were sitting in Fremantle, watching this in our living room last year and here we are, on stage. There’s Billy Idol. There’s Joan Jett.’ We were watching all these people that we’d seen and here we were in the mix and so that was really a turning point where, for a split second, we said ‘Well, we’ve made something.’ But with the benefit of hindsight, I can look back now and say we didn’t really spend a lot of time recognising our achievements because every time we reached a goal, we were already on the path to the next goal that we were aiming for so we never really spent time to take stock of where things got to because there was always somewhere else to go. I have performed to everyone from the President of the U.S.A., Princess Diana and the King of Thailand and Joe Bloggs and the electrician down the street. And none of it makes any difference because music kind of cuts through all that hierarchy but the thing that I’m most thrilled about, I guess, is the fact that thirty five years later, I’m still a singer and that’s what I do for a living and I’m still having interviews with you and I’m still turning up to my gigs. My job is to make people happy for an hour and a half in an evening and it’s a fantastic job. That’s what I do for a living. I make people happy or I touch them in an emotional way and it’s a bloody great job.”

 

 

 

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved

For full details of upcoming Eurogliders shows, click here

And for full details of Grace Knight’s upcoming shows, click here

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