Valentine’s Day is upon us once again and if you’re sick of the usual box of chocolates, Whitsome singer June James invites you to indulge in a feast of romantic music.
June is the star of The Maltings’ candlelight Valentine Cabaret tomorrow night and she and her band – Kenny Ellis (double bass), Roger Cull (piano) and John Donohue (drums) are aiming to fill the air with love, thanks to some standards from The Great American Songbook.
Musical equivalents of Cupid’s arrow will include The Look of Love, Til’ There Was You and Blue Moon, as well as June’s self-penned track Here’s My Heart.
Being centre stage singing songs she absolutely adores isn’t something June takes for granted.
As with many people’s passions, June’s love for singing was put on the backburner as she focused on her career, so she’s now embracing every opportunity presented to her.
“My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t make more of a go of my singing at a younger age,” she confessed.
“I was brought up drenched in music; the family home was a real party house.
“My dad was a big fan of people like Fats Domino and the whole 1920s/30s era; he’d always play the piano and we were all sent to music lessons.”
At that time June was living in Bath and, like many aspiring singers, was channelled in the classical direction.
But she and her straight-laced singing teacher realised that her voice lent itself to a different style of singing.
“She described my voice as ‘very rhythmic’ and by chance I was listening to the radio when an advert for a different vocal coach came on.
“I enquired and went along for classes and it was a completely different experience to my other singing lessons. He told me to relax and enjoy the music; I felt my voice was able to flourish and I developed a real passion for swing music.”
From there, June went on to join a school of music as the only singer amongst hoards of musicians.
“I remember an American guy – Pee Wee Ellis I think his name was. He looked like Mohammad Ali.
“Anyway, he was asking everyone what instrument they played and when he came to me I said “my voice”.
June’s confidence in her ability and her ever-growing penchant for great jazz and swing music led to her starting a band called Black Coffee, but just as she was getting into her stride, work took over.
“I had a job in medical sales and as things progressed it led to me travelling all over the world,” she explained.
“This meant I never really had the time for music.
“It was only when I moved to Scotland that I started to really explore what my voice could do.
“If you can embrace something you really love then nothing’s an effort.”
June’s return to music has so far led to gigs in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but now she’s looking forward to giving a performance a bit closer to home.
“I know the area has got some fantastic musicians, but I’m not really in any of the cliques so I find it quite hard to get gigs.
“I’d love to do some more and The Maltings show should be a really good night.
“I’m really excited about the songs in the setlist.”
z June’s ‘Valentine Cabaret’ is being offered as show only, or as part of a Valentine’s Supper and show deal. Supper is at 6pm and the show at 8pm.