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Australian pop-soul diva Jay Power came up north this week for some live shows at the Lowry and Sheffield City Hall. She told Big Issue North they were a slight improvement on the working men’s clubs she played early on in her career.

Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
I’ve been heavily influenced by styles of music with really strong rhythm and big voices. As I was growing up, I was obsessed with 1950s rockabilly and rock and roll and 1940s big band swing and R&B like Louis Jordan. I was also really into gospel, hip-hop and soul music. Once I heard Aretha Franklin in my teens, I felt like I’d found true north. She was so inspirational to me. She had musicality, passion and amazing rhythmic feel with serious vocal chops – heaven. The music I perform is a blend of all of these things, with the biggest focus placed on the rhythm.

How have you evolved as a band/musician over the years?
I’ve always had a dream to sound a certain way, inspired by the great vocalists I was passionate about -–Whitney Houston, Donny Hathaway, Mary J Blige – but I really had to work hard on my voice to grow it. I trained a lot in order to have at least a small percentage of their vocal ability! I think my musical evolution has also been about having the confidence to find my own voice and make the music that’s meaningful to me despite what’s trendy or what I think people want to hear. And I tried to avoid sounding just like sounding somebody else. The music that thrills me is music that feels good, where the rhythm is so good it makes you ache. I try to live there.

Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
I used to use my full name, Jayne-Anne Power, but it’s a mouthful and the spelling is prohibitive – no one could find me online because of the tricky spelling. Jane-ann, Jayne-ann, Joanann, Jinan, Janine, Jan-anne etc. Spinal Tarp.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I’m enjoying performing my new album and sharing it with audiences in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. I’m touring with fantastic musicians who really know how to make great music – my guitarist is Mikey Chan, a soulful dude from Melbourne Australia with chops and good musical taste, and the incredible Jack Baker who plays drums for Alice Russell, one of my idols. Lucky me! I’ve started writing a new album, but I’m in no hurry as I’ve only just released The Missing so I want to enjoy that while I can.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
I try not to think about this too much. If I focus on what others are doing it can be a distraction and leave me with a sense of FOMO. I find it’s important to stay focused on making music that gives me joy and is true to what I want to say as an artist. If you’re being your individual self then at least you have some chance of cutting through to those who are willing to listen. I want to lead with music, not marketing.

What’s on your rider?
I’m a healthy girl so my rider doesn’t make for a very exciting story. Water in all its forms – spring, tap, sparkling and hot from the kettle is the drink du jour pour moi. Wild, huh?

Tell us about your worst live show.
I think we have all played to empty rooms or venues where the sport is on above your head so all eyeballs are focused above you. But once I played in a working men’s front bar where the dress code was worker’s singlets and tracksuit pants and I could see into the gent’s urinal from where they had set us up. The occasion was perfected during my rendition of Blame It On The Boogie, when one of the tracksuited patrons decided Moonlight was the right moment to pull his pants down and show me his bum. The pinnacle of my career, I can assure you.

Antonia Charlesworth

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