Struggled, that’s exactly what I did, for my art. I lived on old Marylebone road, London England, many moons ago. It was the hardest time, but I enjoyed it, and really know it shaped me. I had left Polydor records after a long stretch with them, I released a record called ‘Trouble’ a dance pop record, it was straight off the back of my dance years. I was about 20 something, and my shows were insane. Girls, Girls, Girls…I had them throwing panties on stage, screaming, it was just how I pictured it. I did a show at The Empire, London. I will never forget that. I looked out at a sea of people, the girls were going crazy, and one was pulling at her hair, shaking her head. This was my first performance. I god the front and back cover at Music Week, and was voted PA of the year by a DJ mag. I had great team with Polydor records at the helm. Then my record came out and nothing, tumble weed. I found out many years later why. I was told by my lawyer at the time, the label had neglected to put a bar stamp on the records, at first I was horrified, he said you were guaranteed a chart position, I thought it never made sense at the time, but I have a resilient process speed, so I just put it down to, Gods plan. When I completed my solo album ‘Life & Times’ I realised I was correct. Let go let God. I also would like to add, they were amazing in their support for me. David Munds the MD was a unique and fair man; he worked alongside my manager and father also the legendary David Walker (R.I.P). I worked with an A&R man called Paul Morgan, he was a good guy, told me some home truths that were a little sharp, done in that English way, a little cold but to the point. I took his words and advice right on the chin. When it gets tough, I lean into the test. I embrace the lesson. My dad told me, to listen to everybody, they all have experience in something, retain what resonates with you, and discard what does not. I translated that into ‘nothing is personal until you make it personal’.
Because Mr Morgan loved A&R so much and I felt that from him, I was ready to be guided by his love for music. I always felt with all of these early mentors, they played an important part in my early structure years. I had just come from the green valleys of Wales, so my ears were still bright green. We ended up as good friends over the years, and outside the business relationship he would come to my Marylebone apartment and share intimate details about his views and life. I was always a good listener and have always been blessed with a clear head, so people tend to share their thoughts; it’s the priest in me. I reached a point where I was lost musically, and was found Spiritually, that was the beginning of my journey with the church. I was going to mass regularly at this point. I sat in on a few behind the wall meetings, and was constantly talking to the priests. Father Francis, sister Teresa and Father Chris Webb, my first real adviser at the church.
I was struggling for my art; I would eat at the Malaysian restaurant every night. They would allow me to have rice and juice for a £1; sometimes they would treat me to a complimentary meat dish. They would give me free rose water and I lived in that restaurant for a year. One week I bought a sack of turnips and lived off them. I would fast every Monday that was one day less to worry about food. I fast on Sundays now, helps me to take nothing for gratitude, keeps life in perspective. I used to go to clubs or bars and borrow the toilet rolls. I would work buying and selling second hand goods, a trade I learnt again from my father. When I was living in London and the record contract option was finally terminated. My father’s lessons in survival prevented me from starving and returning to my hometown in Wales.
It really does take a whole community to bring up a star. I have great friends, my friend Aziz would sing in a local Arabic club, some Friday nights he would call by my apartment after his work at about three a.m. and give me cash. Another friend
Spider would leave money in drawers for me when he visited, so when he left I would look around my apartment for his much-appreciated offering. My friends would occasionally drop a bag off with cash in it, a lot of cash, and they would say, one day you will be a star, you can pay me back then. Kinder would over look rent at his apartment I stayed in. Studios would give me free studio time, including Jill St Claire at Sarm West. I had friend girls who would cook and bring me food over, others who worked, as stylists would bring me clothes. Then there were times when I would sing for my super, I would sing on Japanese import records, on buy out deals. I would write the song in about ten minutes and get some cash to continue my blessed journey. I even sang at the Malaysian restraunt to a packed audience. I sang at the Arab belly dance club on Edgware road for food and drink. It was all so much fun. Of course I had my patrons, mum and dad, also my two brothers, aunts, it felt like the whole country helped me through those harder times. I would get up about 4am and walk London streets looking for wood and stuff to fix my flat. It got very desperate. It was not one way either, I shared all I had with my friends, I would gave my last many times to people and friends I thought needed money more than I needed it. I remember emptying a bottle of coins to a friend who was struggling, and he said what about you? I just always knew God would provide. My music is very similar, I don’t make music for financial gain, I make music because it’s in me. I don’t help people for a place in heaven, I don’t give anything to receive, it’s just who I am. I saw mice, roaches, I didn’t see a way out for a while, but I always knew I was being looked out for. One night when Sony records came to the apartment to consider signing me I had a dilemma. I had an electric key that would feed my metre. Problem was, it was about to run out at 9:30pm and I had no money to top up the key. So I just waited for the inevitable. The guys sat in my living room where I played them a few songs, as they enjoyed the music my
electric metre decided it was time to show me up, I told them I was a struggling musician, and lit a candle. That I would be back in five minutes. It was at this moment faith led the way. I left my house, the rain was slashing down, and I headed for the Edgware roads bright lights were I new a lot of people. As I walked through the rain, in an Elton John promo jacket, given to me by another friend girl who worked at his office, along with a case full of CD’s, that I would sell at the Notting hill exchange and mart. Elton was one of my patron saints.
I felt something say, look onto the road now, and as I did, there on that dark rainy road, sat a bundle of wet money. I picked it up; it was about three hundred pounds. I remember just taking the moment in my stride. I returned to my flat and put in the electric key. Then God said, let there be light. I also brought back wine & crisps, all very natural to them, but to me one of life’s highlights.
I got the deal; I loved that day, going to the cash point, tapping in my security code, where there used to be cobwebs and shrapnel, ping…Thousands.
As did Polydor records, Sony treated me right.
Fame is a bit like the game at the party, spin the bottle. Whoever the bottle points to wins the game. I started with Polydor records, I called that my apprenticeship years. Then we parted. I joined Sony that was my theory years. Now I’m with ADA Warner records, my practical years.
The bottle at the party is still spinning, where it will stop no one knows.
I just watched 12 years a slave, I chose to struggle for my art. A slave had no choice but to struggle to survive.
A must see…