BLACKBURN’S charming songstress Bethany Evans has emerged as a captivating musical presence.
While her early path led her through the rock and reggae undeground, her new sound has become layered with elements of modern jazz, soul and blues, a point made on her stunning debut solo album, 2012’s Black as White.
“My influences are so far-flung, from Bon Jovi and AC/DC to classical and pop, and one of the great fascinations of music is to see it evolve and change,” said Bethany, from Pleasington.
“The first singer I wanted to copy was Skin, the girl vocalist from metal band Skunk Anansie, who I really loved.
“I listened to her music when I was a child, and it made a deep impression on me. I would sing their songs over and over again.
“What she did convinced me to try and become a professional singer.”
Beth’s style is powerful and melodic, and given the uncanny maturity of her songs and bold, velvety voice, you could be listening to Alison Moyet or Nina Simone.
“There was always song and music in our house,” said the former Westholme student.
“Oswald Evans, my late grandfather, won the Welsh Eisteddfod with his classical singing.
“My dad bought me a karaoke machine when I was five and after that it was sing, sing, sing, every day.
“I was in a hard rock band when I played my first pro gig at a club in Nelson.”
ABOVE: Bethany performs a song from the album
Her album Black As White, produced by Martin Coogan, brother of comedian Steve, roared into the top ten of the Los Angeles Radio networks charts last month after non-stop airplay in America.
She had fuelled her musical ambitions earlier, though, while studying History at Lancaster University.
Beth was the principal vocalist for the university’s big band for three years, as well as leading a seven-piece group, Full Fat Funk, who have supported Pendulum, The Sugababes and Alesha Dixon.
But landing the best vocal performance prize at the Great Northern Jazz Festival with her rendition of the 1947 T-Bone Walker classic Call it Stormy Monday provided another giant stepping stone for the classically trained 24-year-old.
“It was a massive turning point to be recognised by the BBC Jazz Band judges — it made me feel like I was capable of achieving what I wanted to do in my career,” she said.
“It gave me a lot of strength, but it nearly didn’t happen.
“I was rushed to hospital four days earlier to have my appendix removed.
“When I woke up from the operation I said to the surgeon, ‘Will I be able to make it?’ I didn’t want to let anybody down.
“I was in agony. I ended up on a chair with the big band behind me, so I had to sing very loudly.”
Now there are plans for a nationwide tour and a second album is pencilled in on her Mega Monster Music label.
“It’s funny, I just got carried away with the experience of enjoying it and doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
“I’d never even considered the idea that to be successful I need other people to like what I do, but I’m very proud of the album and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback.
“It is all about passion, and loving what you do.
“I’ve had knockbacks and it can really difficult when you do. But you have to have belief in yourself and pursue your dream.”
Black as White is available as a download from iTunes
VIDEO: Blackburn's versatile singer has struck a chord
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