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The musical legacy of David Bowie stretches out across genre. Singer/composer Fini Bearman has been feeling its pull, as she tells Peter Bacon.
“Always go a little further into the water than you think you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel like your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
So said David Bowie in an interview in the 1990s and singer Fini Bearman is taking it as her credo of sorts for a trio gig she is doing next Wednesday 28 February at the 606 Club in Chelsea.
Her new project is called This Is Not America and together with Calum Gourlay on bass and Tom Cawley on piano she will be exploring the songs of Bowie.
Fini told me:
“I first started really listening to Bowie a couple of years ago, when I was completely enamoured by Life on Mars? – to me it seemed (and still does) like the perfect song; the melodic development of the verse, the gradual lift and trajectory of the melody which takes you through modulations, twists and turns, as it builds majestically to surely one of the greatest choruses of all time.
“There is not a fibre of my body that does not sigh in satisfaction when the lyric “Sailors, fighting in the dance hall” arrives… And the marrying of this delicious, melodic writing with harmony – gosh! – I could wax on for hours. This attention to detail both in music and lyrics, pervades his back catalogue: Quicksand and Changes (Hunky Dory), The Man Who Sold the World (“ “), All The Young Dudes (originally written for the rock band Mott the Hoople), Where Are We Now (The Next Day), Lazarus (Blackstar)… I could go on. That’s genius songwriting for you.”
So what does the trio hope to do with these brilliant raw materials?
“It is a challenge to reinterpret this music; on the one side making sure to keep the essence of the songs and the message present/intact, whilst on the other hand trying to shine a light on something new, or previously hidden. I chose to work with the smaller line-up of voice, bass and piano so that without a drummer I would be forced to find new ways through the songs, whilst trying to hold onto what was the essence and message of the music.
“Sharing this music with Tom Cawley and Calum Gourlay seemed right because they are both melodically sensitive players who can leave space or just s.p.e.l.l. out the time, and they share such a virtuosity that if and when the music diverges and takes a new path, everyone’s holding on.”
Who is the music aimed at – what does Fini hope will be its appeal?
“I hope that this project will appeal to both Bowie fans and perhaps also those who haven’t yet connected with his music. The nature of such an exposing line-up is that it invites listeners into the music, and with that, into the story. These songs speak both of the numinous and prosaic, soul-searching, star-gazing, the every day conversation and also the fantastical, and I think that even on the most basic level, there is an appeal to everyone.
“I suppose at the root of it, this project has rather humble aspirations – to explore and rejoice in the music of David Bowie, and connect with listeners old and new to celebrate a genius of our time.”