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Q&A: LULU

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Given that Lulu’s preteen musical influences were American, and that her roots are in the blues, it would be safe to assume she has quite a few U.S. concerts to her credit.

Truth is, the singer best known for the 1967 smash “To Sir With Love” has only made “fairly quick trips” to America for performances. And on top of that, she’s never had a gig in New York City.
That will change Feb. 16, when Lulu takes the stage at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Manhattan. Backing her that night will be guitarist Jimmy Vivino, drummer Rich Pagano and bassist Will Lee, all members of The Fab Faux (the ace Beatles tribute band), as well as keyboardist Paul Shaffer (the Late Show With David Letterman bandleader).

In late January, Lulu checked in from England to talk about how her first-ever New York show came together and what she’s done to prepare for it.

Medleyville.us: How is it that you’ve never performed in New York before?
Lulu: “I don’t know — you’re asking the wrong person (laughs). I really haven’t done that many gigs in America at all. I never toured. When I had my initial success with ‘To Sir With Love,’ I was busy here [in England] on TV, so I would only make fairly quick trips to America.

“In fact, it’s a question that’s often been asked, ‘Why didn’t I take advantage and go to America?’ when you consider how I really was not a big fan of British music until The Beatles. In my formative years, until I reached 13, it was all about American music. British music was always dull, in my opinion. My influences were always American. So why didn’t I take advantage and just move to America and tour there? I suppose because I was very busy with a television career. So I did very few gigs in America — hopefully it’s not too late.”

How did this show come together? And did it take a long time to put all the elements together?
Lulu: “Well, it’s still not [totally] together. I’m rehearsing at the moment because I’m coming to do [this show] with some really talented musicians, and I’ve never worked with them before. I’m used to having my own band. When you have your own band, you don’t have a chart done, you don’t come in with the dots. You work things from the first rung on the ladder; you work from scratch.

“It came up through somebody in my office. You know, I have an office in Connecticut, and I have another business [Time Bomb, which specializes in beauty products and jewelry], and I’m going onto QVC. The fact that I’m going to be spending a lot time in America has precipitated [this]. And I’ve also had a desire for a long time to go back to my roots — to go back to singing more blues material than just commercial pop music. So it’s like changing my direction a bit, but it’s [also] like getting back on track.”

Did you have a hand in selecting the musicians, or did somebody else to that for you?
Lulu: “Actually, things come about when somebody knows somebody. It’s not one thing that happens, and it just came about. I don’t know if the club came up first or the band came up first, but when it came together, it seemed like a good idea. I’m up for it, they’re up for it and the club is up for it.

“It’s not that this is [going to be a big production]. It’s like I’m testing the waters, in a way. I’m making my first foray, and it sounds crazy at my age to be doing that. But I do like to challenge myself; I don’t like to be stuck.

“At the moment, I’m going over the material because there’s a lot of stuff I’ve never done before that I’m going to do. I’ve been going over it with my keyboard player and my guitarist. I’m really enjoying it because this is really where my heart and soul is.”

You’re part of the exclusive James Bond theme song club. What are your thoughts on Adele’s theme for Skyfall?
Lulu: “I think it’s brilliant that it’s been nominated [for an Academy Award]. She’s amazing, and I’m thrilled for the song and for her. She’s really on a roll.”

What else is ahead for you in 2013?
Lulu: “First of all, I’m coming to America for my other business. And there are all sorts of things in the pipeline, but I don’t want to talk about them until I’ve done the [New York] show. … I would obviously like to do more [shows in America]. We’ll see how this goes. I mean, if it’s horrible, and it’s not good at all, nobody will want to know (laughs). But I think I’m going to enjoy it, so I will make it happen.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior