Suzanne Noble’s comeback gigs at The Green Note

Suzanne Noble

Suzanne Noble - Credit: Archant

The West Hampstead singer recently returned to the stage after a 30 year break with a string of bawdy blues gigs

West Hampstead resident Suzanne Noble 57, has recently returned to the stage after a 30 year break from singing with a string of 'bawdy blues' gigs at Camden Town's Green Note.

We asked her some questions.

Q Who were your earliest musical influences?

A I come from a musical family. My uncle was the drummer in Big Brother & the Holding Company and a distant cousin was Stan Getz.

My mother sang on the radio as a child. Growing up, I listened to a lot of jazz and have inherited some of my parent's old record collection. Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald but also early blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and Ethel Waters.

Q You sang when you were younger?

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A I went to the American School in the 70s and was part of a group of students called The Madrigals. It was there I met Laurie Stras with whom I teamed up after University to form a three-part harmony group called The Dirty Blondes. Laurie had recently graduated from The Royal College of Music and really enjoyed writing incredibly complicated arrangements for us. We sang Andrew Sisters numbers, some Rogers & Hammerstein and regularly performed around London in the early 80s. I also did some session singing at that time, backing vocals, jingles. Someone told me that a jingle on which I sang for a Nigerian beer thirty years ago was one of the most popular commercial on TVs in that country in the mid 80s.

Q You had a period when you didn't sing at all..

A I stopped singing after I had my two sons who are now in their twenties.

I didn't have the time and the piano player I was working with moved to the US. When I hit my menopause my voice changed and became much lower (it's a thing) and I couldn't even sing along to the radio.

I found that very upsetting and honestly thought my singing days were over. I only returned just over a year ago after taking singing lessons with (Nikki Lamborn) a famous vocal coach and performer who has been helping me to stretch my vocal chords and work with my lower range. I come out of every lesson feeling like I've had a really good workout!

Q Your Green Note gig involves singing 'Dirty Blues' what is that?

A It's a style of music that was popular in the 1920s and 30s.

The songs are sexy and witty and were traditionally performed in vaudeville theatres, brothels and speakeasies. They were massively popular. There are lots of references to hot dogs and jelly rolls, lots of sexual innuendoes. They're cheeky, not crude. I first discovered them on a record called Copulatin' Blues that I found in a record shop back in my youth. It's a genre of music that is relatively unknown but it suits my vocal style and my personality.

Q What can audiences expect from your gigs?

A Filthy blues and jazz standards, along with some history on the music which the audience really appreciate. I may even tell a few old Sophie Tucker jokes too. I perform with a talented young pianist, George Webster, who has gone full into learning about the pianists from this era. Normally he can be found accompanying ballet classes or opera singers so he loves it when we perform together as he can really let rip.

Returning to performing in my fifties has been a revelation and I love every minute of it. Getting older is about acceptance and celebrating that transition. It's been hard getting used to not being able to sing like I used to, but I have a new voice and I can still make a room go quiet. That is something to relish.

Suzanne Noble is the co-founder of Advantages of Age, a social enterprise and active Facebook group.

She performs at The Green Note 106 Parkway, Camden Town on June 27 and October 3.