Interview: Soul legend on coming to Harrogate

Soul singing legend Ruby Turner.
Soul singing legend Ruby Turner.

She may be one of the UK’s greatest-ever soul singers – and recipient in 2016 of the MBE - but the legend that is Ruby Turner is telling me that she’s actually very “shy.”

Later as we talk on the phone, our conversation will be interrupted by what sounds like a fire alarm, set off, perhaps, by the sheer size of personality of this long-time singer with Jools Holland’s R N B Orchestra.

As honest as she is big-hearted, the audience at Harrogate Theatre will see a larger-than-life talent whose career twists and turns have taken her everywhere from Buckingham Palace to Glastonbury when her Bookmark tour rolls into town this Friday, July 6.

Ruby said: "I'm usually on tour with Jools Holland. Not many people get the chance to see me on my own.

"The new EP which is coming out in the autumn is a jazz EP. I found one of my tapes recently from the early days and it sounded gently jazzy.

"I can sing in various styles. I like to refresh the whole thing.

"It keeps me interested and still vibrant. It's only now after all these years I understand the true meaning in the entertainment industry of having more than one string to your bow."

Turner’s lengthy career has ranged from solo hits (she hit number one in the US’s r’n’b charts in 1990 with It’s Gonna Be Alright) to singing on Bryan Ferry’s Slave to Love and Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the Doorway album.

It’s all happened by happy accident or, rather, this fabulous vocalist’s natural passion for her craft.

“It’s been very exciting and a privilege to work with the likes of Steve Winwood or Jools.

“I’ve never been blasé about it. These people are my heroes.

“I love music. I’ve never stopped loving music. I love working with other people. I’m not all about me.

"Whenever I feel fed up with the way things are going, it's thanks to Jools I carry on

"He's an amazing man to work with. He's an inspiration. I'm never gonna call it a day."

Ruby’s new show will span her whole career from when she joined Culture Club in the 1980s to her latest release, a jazz-flavoured EP which see this versatile singer returning to her earliest roots.

Despite the depth of her passion for music, the one thing fans are unlikely to find Ruby doing is touring the USA.

“Before It’s Gonna Be Alright was released in America, I went on tour there. I thought that’s what you had to do.

“And it worked. After three weeks on the road, it went to number one.

“But it was exhausting. I was totally worn out. It taught me a lesson."

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After being born in Jamaica and growing up in Montego Bay, Ruby moved to England when she was nine-years-old.

Her major break came in the mid 1980s when she was asked to join Boy George and Culture Club at the height of their stardom.

From the way she's talking on the phone - after the mystery alarm stops ringing - it seems she's never been one to pursue success in the calculated manner of many of today's social media-savvy stars.

Ruby said: “The music industry these days is full of people pushing and shoving. People feel the need to network the whole time. They network themselves into the ground.

“I never did that. I’m too shy. People feel the need to be ‘connected’. Connected to what?”

Ruby Turner’s Bookmark Show is at Harrogate Theatre on Friday, July 6.