From his home town in Boise, Idaho to the bright lights of a global super star, Curtis Stigers, on living the dream in his own words.
How old were you when you first had the desire to entertain?[Laughs] That’s a good question! I think pretty young – my grandfather used to play guitar and sing in his living room. I have a photograph of him holding his guitar and wearing a cool old hat and I’m sitting next to him holding a little plastic ukulele – I think I was two or three years old – and wearing a long blonde wig! The two of us are probably singing something.
Are any of your family members musically gifted?
My grandfather, as I said, used to play guitar and sing and my grandmother used to play piano. My mum is a singer, she did a lot of local musical theatre, like My Fair Lady. No one in my family was really a professional musician till me. My younger brother, Jake Stigers, followed in my footsteps and is a musician now.
What drove you to make it to the superstar heights you have achieved in the industry?
My motivation was always about playing good music. I never approached my music as a way to become famous. I think that’s one of the problems with modern day music, there are a lot of young people who want to go on a TV show and become famous as opposed to spending time learning how to be good at what they do. The idea of a 16 or 17-year-old superstar who made it big because they were discovered on a gladiator style singing show – I think it cheats the singer. They don’t get a chance to experiment and grow and learn their craft. I love a good song, that’s always been the motivation.
Do you have a favourite song/album from the past?
I have about a thousand! I was just talking to someone about one of my favourite Ray Charles records called Modern Sounds of Country and Western. It’s such an odd combination of soul and jazz and the blues and then Ray singing these country songs. I like crossing boundaries and mixing things up and that’s an album that really did that for me.
What or who inspired your last album?
My latest album is a live one that was recorded in Copenhagen with the Danish Radio Big Band and it was just one night. I never meant for it to be an album. It was a concert that was recorded live for a Danish radio broadcast and I flew to Denmark, rehearsed with the band and did a bunch of songs celebrating Frank Sinatra and the Count Basie Band. We did the concert, I drank some Danish beer, flew home and a couple of months later they sent me the mp3 and I thought, “Wow, this is better than I thought it was!” I sent it to my manager, who sent it to the record label and here we are several years later with an album!
I am indeed! I have been doing a lot of shows with Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra. They’re a fabulous band and I’m very proud of my partnership with them. I play at Ronnie’s twice a year, it’s like home for me in the UK. I’ve never played at Henley, but I’ve heard so much about how it’s an amazing festival. Getting to play these Sinatra songs with Ronnie Scott’s band in front of a bunch of people who are all very well dressed up and having a good time sounds like the perfect combination!
Have you done much in the way of festivals over the years?
I’ve done a lot of jazz festivals. I haven’t done that many outdoor festivals in the UK, this will be an anomaly for me.
What would be you’re ideal venue/audience?
As I said, Ronnie’s is a great place! I also like playing in small theatres, there’s a lot around the UK and Germany with about 700 seats. There’s something about having an audience that’s sitting in theatre seats, they have to listen, there’s no bartenders, no noise. You get more than a thousand seats and it becomes something else.
I’m a big fan of the jazz singer Diana Kroll. I’ve done shows with her, but we’ve never gotten the chance to sing together. I think that would be really fun! I’ve always wanted to sing with Elvis Costello as well… but I could name another 50 people!
Describe your perfect day off?
Well, after this I’m going to pack up my car, put my bikes on the top and drive to the mountains to a little cabin where I’m going to sit on my front porch and play guitar.
If you were to pick your favourite dinner Guest who would it be? and what would you eat?
Frankly, my favourite dinner guest is my 18-year-old daughter, Ruby. She is by far my favourite person to have dinner with. She’s getting ready to go off to college and I won’t get to have dinner with her as often as I’d like. We would probably order Vietnamese take-away and sit in front of the TV and watch some silly comedy and laugh our heads off.
Curtis is headlining at the Henley Festival on Saturday 14th July 2018 for tickets please contact henley-festival.co.uk