Curtis Stigers is the American jazz vocalist, saxophonist, guitarist and songwriter whose smooth blend of soul and rock threw him into the limelight with hits including I Wonder Why.
Before the American star swings into town for Harrogate International Festival with his repertoire dubbed the perfect soundtrack for the Mad Men generation, we talkd to him in an attempt to flirt and discuss his Mad Men style, only to be put straight about, erm, Baywatch.
I’m sure you have lots of people queuing up after hearing your new album – what would you say to those who have yet to hear it to tempt them on a date with Mr Stigers when you play at Harrogate?
“Well, I’m not sure what to say, except that I’m proud of Let’s Go Out Tonight and that it’s really been a joy performing songs from it this year. People have responded wonderfully. It’s an emotional and very personal album, filled with great songs by great songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Neil Finn, Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper, Steve Earle, Jeff Tweedy, and Paul Buchanan.”
A Guardian review compared you to the kind of music to which 1960s ad executives sipped martinis. He comes across like an amalgam of Mad Men characters Roger Sterling and Jimmy Barrett. Do you style yourself at all or is this Mad Men cool vibe all instinctive?
“I’ve actually never seen an episode of Mad Men, but I do love the look of men’s fashion from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. John and Bobby Kennedy wore those great fitted suits with narrow lapels and ties. So did Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and Miles Davis, and many of the jazz men of that era. It’s a good look, especially on stage.”
You’ve got a selection of songs that are rather alluring – Crowded House Into Temptation for instance is such a beautiful song. They’re a classic band but not really in vogue at the moment. Why Crowded House?
“I don’t really think of songs in those terms. Neil Finn is a great songwriter and his work has a life far beyond the current charts. “
America seems to have a knack for jazzy-blues voices, from Bob Dylan to Tom Waits – is it an antidote to all that sunshine and ‘Have a Good Day’ vibe?
“I’m not sure you can say that. Yes, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are Americans, but Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker and Adele and Paolo Nutini are from the UK, aren’t they? I’m also not so sure that the U.S. is all sunshine and Have a good day. Perhaps you’ve been watching too many Baywatch re-runs? “
Blue Nile is one of my favourite bands, the sounds are so melancholic and heartbreaking – why do you think you’re drawn to the sound of heartbreak?
“There’s something lovely about hearing a song that makes me cry. The new album Let’s Go Out Tonight is named for a song by Paul Buchanan from The Blue Nile, and it’s just a perfect piece of songwriting. That’s not to say I don’t love a happy song now and then!
Have you been to Harrogate before? We can’t promise Mad Men vibes, but we can provide a good pint of beer, or cup of tea, and a leisurely walk in the Valley Gardens…
“I’ve never been to Harrogate, but I’m certainly looking forward to performing some old faves as well as tunes from my new album. I’m also looking forward to a lovely pint of ale!”
Curtis Stigers plays the Royal Hall on on Friday, July 6 at 8pm.
Tickets are available online at www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com or call 01423 502 116.