All-round good girl Beverley Knight talks about her ‘glorious’ new stage career, why she nearly didn’t accept her MBE and how the wonderful people of Wolverhampton deserve better Interview by Shelley Carter
Wolverhampton lovely and soul singer Beverley Knight is immensely proud of her roots. Despite a gruelling schedule in the West End, she’s back in the Midlands as often as possible and in fact chose her current house in North London because it’s easy for her to get home. “By home I mean Wolverhampton. Always,” she coos. Aged just 40, Beverley’s CV is immense. She’s sold more than a million albums, one platinum and four gold, scooped three MOBOs and an outstanding achievement gong at the Urban Music Awards, has sung with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince and Chaka Khan to name just a few and collected an MBE along the way. She’s now turning her hand to the theatre with great success as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard at London’s Adelphi Theatre.
BAPTISM OF FIRE
The Bodyguard is a bit of a departure for Beverley and took her by surprise. “I hit 40,” she says, “and was itching to get stuck into something new. I hadn’t done any acting since I was a child, but this came up and I thought why not. I’ll go for it and thankfully I got the part.” Beverley is relishing the opportunity and is enjoying positive reviews, but it has been challenging too. “This is really in at the deep end stuff, but it’s an absolutely glorious feeling. It’s intense too. I’m performing six nights a week and my character sings all but one of the numbers, but it’s tremendous.” Beverley’s enthusiasm is infectious. She is smothered in a cold and sounds pretty ill when we speak, but on her way to the theatre she is as chipper as ever. “The adrenaline will kick in when I go on stage and it won’t bother me at all.”
There have been many moments in Beverley’s career when she must have had to pinch herself. “I’ve done so many amazing things, but I have to say working with Prince has to be one of the best. He’s extraordinarily sexy and devastatingly charismatic.” Beverley won Celebrity Mastermind with Prince as her specialist subject, so she’s a proper fan too. Beverley’s MBE was also a highlight, but in a totally different way. “I ummed and aahed about whether or not to accept the MBE at all. I was only in my thirties and it felt a bit ridiculous, but then I thought about my parents and their journey and how they’d managed to carve out a new life here. I realised any success I’d managed to accrue was down to them and on that basis I accepted it. I went to the Palace with mum and dad. It’s the only time I ever saw my dad cry. He was a conservative man, you know a man’s man and I’d never seen him show such emotion. It was overwhelming for me.”
As a child Beverley was constantly singing in church and at school. Her mum used to lead the singing in church with her ‘sweet, melodic voice’ and all of the women on her mother’s side of the family have either been singers or musicians, so it came naturally to Beverley. “I did as much singing as I could as a youngster and when I left school I started doing local community things which eventually led to me being spotted in a club. I’ve always had a good sense of melody and understood that a song needs a great big hook (a rousing chorus). I play the piano, so I just started to write my own little things. Admittedly they were rubbish, but thankfully they’ve got better!” Inspired by everyday life as well as personal experiences, Beverley points out that it could be as simple as the lady walking by on her telephone that triggers her next hit. “I might imagine who she’s talking to and what about and an idea could just spark from there.” Having achieved so much already what’s next for Beverley? “I’d do more stage if it was right. Also people keep trying to steer me towards the silver screen which appeals, but I’m not an actress you know, however I am a perfectionist so I’d have to do it right. Lots of people have made the leap from music to screen and it hasn’t worked. I watch Justin Timberlake with interest though. He’s a fabulous actor.”
GIRL NEXT DOOR
Beverley’s conversation is natural and warm and it’s like having a natter with a friend. There is no hint of diva behaviour which would be forgivable given she’s such a star. She stops the taxi at one point and asks the driver to drop her off at Tesco because she needs some supplies for her dressing room and then carries on chatting in the rain until the interview’s natural conclusion. It’s very refreshing. With mixed feelings about the changes back home over the past decade, Beverley says: “Birmingham is thriving. When I was young the Bullring was a shithole, but look at it now! It’s amazing. My little Selfridges is fab. The thing that has always been amazing is the people. They are just gorgeous.” She adds: “The downside of Birmingham’s growth is the rest of the Midlands including Wolverhampton is woeful. We need to spread the success around. The beautiful people of Wolverhampton deserve it. They are magnificent.” With that, our natter is over and Beverley is off to wow another packed theatre. Glorious. .