Rebecca Poole, the “Forces’ Sweetheart”, has rebranded. Now a self-styled, Pop Noir diva under new name “Purdy”, she talks to Clarissa Land about touring with Jools Holland, posing for Jack Vettriano and dealing with her alter ego.
iSing: You reached out to Alan McGee, the founder of Creation Records (Oasis, Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine) on Facebook. What inspired you to contact him?
Purdy: I read an article about him and thought he’d be a great person to get advice from, given his success in the industry as a manager and label owner. I hadn’t banked on him getting back to me, but I sent him a song and he offered me a gig at the Notting Hill Arts Club. We got on really well and he is still at the end of the phone.
iSing: How do you define your sound?
P: I refer to my style as Pop Noir, as my last album Diamond in the Dust has dark undercurrents. I often visualise life in film scenes and people say that comes over in my lyrics and music. Before I became Purdy I was writing and singing a lot of jazz-crossover and swing – lighter stuff. It was Alan’s idea to create the alter ego and let the serious artist break through. Some days I’m Rebecca Poole, some days I’m Purdy. I’m a Gemini after all.
Diamond in the Dust: Purdy
iSing: How does your new image connect with your music?
P: I never used to think it mattered how I looked; I thought the music should just speak for itself. But my relationship with the romance of old Hollywood films and my favourite 1950s chanteuses has permeated my dress sense. I’m loving the Wild West damsel look at the moment. I think Brigitte Bardot has something to do with that.
iSing: Do you consider your rebranding to have been a success?
P: It wasn’t my wish to take on another name and at first I was uncertain, but I was encouraged to distinguish from “Rebecca Poole: The Forces’ Sweetheart” that was my previous 1940s style. For me, everything should fall under the same hat but people can’t resist finding a box to put you in. I’m still the same person. In some ways it is fun to have a nickname because you can step out of your comfort zone and push boundaries, but you must always be true to yourself or people will smell a rat. I can’t say whether changing my name has made me more successful, but I have done some amazing things since Purdy stole my heart.
This is the Song: Rebacca Poole
iSing: You are a painter as well as a musician. Is there any crossover between the two?
P: Songwriting is a very visual thing for me and painting is a really enjoyable further expression of my feelings. I was inspired by Jack Vettriano’s paintings so I went to his book signing and he asked me to pose for him, which inspired my writing further.
iSing: What is your relationship with your voice?
P: I have an intimate voice, not a big show voice, so I have to think a little outside the box when I’m writing. I’m told I have a unique tone and that my voice is unexpectedly deep for a woman. I like exploring different phrasing and deliveries. I had a couple of really inspiring vocal lessons with the famous David Grant before my Jools tour. He showed me some great tricks for projecting in big theatres, handling stage nerves and he showed me the circles of engagement.
iSing: You recently supported Jools Holland on his UK tour. How did this come about?
P: I met Jools two years ago and basically kept hassling his manager for a support until he said yes! It was incredible for all of us; Jools and his orchestra were so friendly and supportive. Playing at the Royal Albert Hall was the pinnacle of my career. I think I floated home.
iSing: And what about working with Andy Wright?
P: I was introduced to Andy Wright by my manager (Claire McDonald). He had just worked with Imelda May. He agreed to one songwriting session and it went so well he offered to help me make the whole album. When you work with the best in the business it really helps up your game.
iSing: What advice do you have for aspiring singers?
P: You have to really want to do it because it takes a lot of hard work. I’m not a fan of shows like X Factor and The Voice because I think they distract us from the David Bowies out there, but if you just want to sing and be famous then it’s a viable route. The most important thing is to keep your integrity and not be afraid to explore different musical avenues. Connect with other artists, musicians and producers. Share your work online and gauge the responses. If you have talent then it won’t be long until someone notices you.
iSing: What’s next for Purdy?
P: I’m writing with a brilliant producer called Ian Barter and am very excited to share the new songs. I’m also hoping to support Jools again, so keep your fingers crossed for me.
Next Time: Purdy