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Mari Wilson on Dusty Springfield

Mari Wilson talks Dusty Springfield, her show at Crazy Coqs and her dreams of dueting with Pharrell Williams.


Gay Times: How was growing up in your hometown of Neasden?
I had a happy childhood really, strict Scottish Dad, but that’s the way it was then, you know what i mean, women were kind of subservient compared to the men.

So how were you introduced into the music sphere?
Everyone in the family was quite musical, my brother’s a singer and songwriter as well. I just always wanted to sing really. It was something I always wanted to do. I think whatever you want to do in life you end up working your way into those circles, whether it’s music or arts or literature or any world you want to be in. The best thing is to try and infiltrate it really.

How was it playing Dusty Springfield in the nationwide tour?
Pretty amazing really, mainly because the songs are so good. I sang 23 songs a night which was kind of unheard of in musical theatre,and they are all quite big chest voiced songs.

How did your love for Dusty Springfield first come about?
My sister is eight years older than me. She used to wear a false hair piece and the eyelashes and everything. I shared a bedroom with her so I used to try to be like her. And then of course she was a big Dusty fan. So it was sort of through my sister i got into Dusty really.

What is your favourite Dusty Springfield song to preform?
Oh god, that’s so hard. Erm, I Close my Eyes and Count to Ten, Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself and Am I the Same Girl. Maybe those three, but there’s loads.

So what have you got lined up for your new show at Crazy Coqs?
Well it’s just me and my piano player but it will feature a selection of Dusty songs, as well as some of my own. Some are from my last album which was called Cover Stories. I’ll do Cry Me A River, because people want to hear that song, and sometimes i’ll do Just What I’ve Always Wanted [one of her hit 80’s songs], but I do a different version, a bit tongue in cheek.

What inspired you to put together a one woman musical in 2010?
I made an album in 2005 after I came out of a 18 year relationship which inspired the songs on the album The Love Thing which is the name of the musical. I gave a copy of the album to Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics, and he phoned and said ‘you should write a musical’. So I got together with a writer and friend, Pete Lawson and we wrote the script together. It’s a bit like Shirley Valentine but a musical.

How did the inspiration from your famous Beehive hair do come about?
It came form my sister really and a bit of Dusty and Sixty movies. I just loved big hair. When I was in my twenties having huge hair and wearing retro clothes, is kind of ironic and eye-catching, because you’re young.

Well thank you. That was the right thing to say [laughs].

So how was it when you were being spoken of as ‘The British Bette Midler’?
I can sort of see the similarities a bit. I’m very funny when i’m on stage, quick whited, quite camp and i also tell stories. So that comparison kind of makes sense really. I’m very happy about it. I don’t mind being compared to Bette Midler, that’s a good thing.

Who have you always wanted to duet with?
Oh Blimey. I wouldn’t mind doing one with Pharrell Williams, but that’s for different reasons.

What reasons?
Ahh, I just think he is so cute, he’s probably too young for me though! I would of loved to sing with John Lennon, or Paul McCartney. i was a big fan of John’s singing. And maybe Rufus Wainwright probably.

And of course Dusty?
Oh yes, i’ll be terrified though because she was so good. There’s so many others like Diana Ross, I love her, she’s got such a recognisable tone, and also Amy Winehouse, she was so good, she was the closest thing we’ve had I think to another Dusty Springfield.

So what are your future plans?
I’ve just started doing some Dusty concerts this year, and I am also preforming at St James theatre on the 5th July. Then I am planning to make an album of Dusty songs in spring, with a tour to go with it.

Mari Wilson plays The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel, Piccadilly, London W1 July 8-12. Tickets cost £20. Available online at the Crazy Coqs website or phone 020 7 734 4888

Words Ben Walker, @benjwalker94

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