Kent-born singer Mark Kingswood reveals how he went from banging out dance tracks to being touted as Britain’s Michael Bublé.
Mark Kingswood’s singing career got off to a flying start at the tender age of 14 when he was scouted and signed by a major label and whisked off to make dance records.
For many spotty teens this would have been a dream scenario but for Kingswood, who adored Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson and David Foster, it was a nightmare.
“I hated it,” he says. “It didn’t feel right. Often I would come home in tears because I really didn’t want to do it.”
When the deal ended, a disheartened Kingswood turned his back on singing and moved into production and songwriting. He enjoyed his time behind the glass but something was missing.
“There was always a part of me that felt I should be out there performing,” he says.
“Jazz and swing made my heart beat. I loved everything from the complexity of the arrangements to the elegance of the lyrics but there didn’t seem to be a place in the industry for it.”
But in his mid-20s Kingswood he noticed a change in mood, with artists such as Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Matt Dusk making their mark.
“It proved to me that there was an audience out there who liked my style of music. I decided to go out and fight for my own space.”
Kingswood reinvented himself as a swing singer, putting together a repertoire of Big Band hits and reaching out to venues.
As his confidence grew, Kingswood started including his own compositions – modern takes on Big Band jazz – in his performances. Over time the venues got bigger, and invitations to tour the US and Canada followed.
It was while performing in Montreal (a city where he feels very much at home) that Kingswood’s career took another turn when a businessman with an interest in music approached him.
“He felt very positive about what I was doing and was keen to support my work,” Kingswood explains.
The tycoon became something of a mentor, advising Kingswood on the commercial side of the industry (“it’s easy for an artist to get caught up in the creative stuff and forget this is a business”).
Buoyed by this support Kingswood recorded his debut album Strong, an offering with plenty of Sinatra swoon and Bublé-style crooning. Stand out singles include Shine On and Got A Thing for Swing. There are also covers of REM’s Losing My Religion and George Michael’s One More Try.
The album shows off Kingswood’s range as a vocalist, writer, arranger and producer, an impressive feat for someone with no formal musical training and who only discovered he could sing when he performed in a talent show while on holiday when he was 10.
“No one in my family is in the music business. It’s just in my DNA. I sometimes wonder what I’d be doing if I hadn’t entered that talent contest back then.”
Doors are now well and truly opening for Kingswood. This week he’s supporting Jools Holland on tour. (He’s in Buxton tonight, Scarborough Spa tomorrow, Perth Town Hall on 17 May and Middleborough 18 May.)
He’ll also perform a special gig at the Hideaway in London on 7 June to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Frank Sinatra’s album My Way. Plenty of Cranky Franky hits will be on the setlist along with some of Kingswood’s original material.
After that Kingswood heads back to Canada to put the finishing touches on his second album, due out later this year.
The showman says his success proves patience is key to succeeding in the industry. “Five years ago I never thought I would be in this position. But then one day, things started to move, it was a domino effect. If you’re doing something you love, grab hold of it and don’t let go of the opportunity. Use it to open doors.”