Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
My dad, who was an opera singer at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London was my greatest inspiration.
He’d sing at the piano to warm up every morning and before performances and the look of sheer joy and elation on his face told me that that as a place I wanted to get to.
And as luck and my DNA would have it, sitting in front of the piano exploring this instrument that would become an extension of me, finding inversions and melodies that gave me goose bumps or made me cry, brought me the exact same sense of release and relief. I know it chooses you and it’s something you do out of necessity not choice, I’m fortunate music chose me and gave me the ear and the passion to make it my life no matter what.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
The drama and theatricality of Opera, piano music from Bach to Chopin to Rachmaninov to Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. Mix that with a good dose of melancholy Welsh folk music (where we hail from), and throw in the confessional troubadours of Laurel Canyon.. James Taylor and most importantly Joni Mitchell and voila! You sort of have me…
What have been the greatest challenges and pleasures of your career so far?
The challenges have always been around finding acceptance for being exactly who am, for having a unique sound. I’m someone who blends all the styles that influenced me growing up. In our house we heard everything especially a healthy mix of jazz and classical piano. To me it was all part of the same language. Sadly the business is always looking to pigeonhole you, luckily not so the public. But I am who I am and luckily the world has come round to my way of thinking! (The upside of being stubborn!).
The greatest pleasure comes from being a living breathing artist. From playing live, connecting with and making an audience laugh and cry. It’s what I always wanted… to connect. I remember my father telling me that if I my job was the thing I loved most in life, I’d be the luckiest person alive….
Which performances/recordings are you most proud?
I’d say the last three, due to how beautiful they sound, thanks incredible Dave Bianco who recently and tragically passed away. He was a joy in the studio, a brilliant musician and an audiophile like no other. I’m bereft but enormously grateful I got to work with him. So yes, I’m proudest of “Ebb & Flow”, “Somebody’s Child” and “redisCOVERed”. They’re his legacy as much as mine…
Tell us more about your new album ‘redisCOVERed’ and the processes involved in adapting and reworking the songs featured on it for piano
Do you have a favorite concert venue to perform in and why?
I think my London “home from home” Ronnie Scott’s” and the legendary “Troubadour” in Hollywood are my favorites, purely because of the history that those rooms have created and are steeped in. Ronnie’s was the place I saw all the jazz greats and came to play myself and The Troubadour still fills me with excitement when I think of all the singer-songwriters from the 1970s who played there. From James Taylor, to Joni, to Elton…inspiration. I can make any size room intimate, but there’s something so special about the true intimacy of those rooms that makes the performance and connection between the artist and audience so magical!
Who are your favorite musicians?
The ones I’m working with now! I’ve spent a long time trying to find them. Speaking of The Troubadour, Leland Sklar my beloved bass player, was the guy playing with there with all my Laurel Canyon heroes, so you can only imagine how it feels to play with him and have him as my friend! My percussionist Pedro Segundo, like me, was nurtured by Ronnie’s, when he went to London from Lisbon, as an artist and jazz phenom, so we have much in common there too. Gabriella Swallow is my long time cellist and an absolute dream to work with. Lizzie Ball on violin is another Brit like Gabi and a fab player. Having Nicholas Payton on the album is also a thrill along with George Shelby on bari sax. Really from “Ebb & Flow” till now, I’ve been in musical heaven.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
My father once told me if your job is the thing you love most in life, then you’re the luckiest person on earth… he was right and that’s success to me
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Learn from the great and what has gone before…classical, jazz, pop. It’s all your building blocks. And decide who you want to be a star or an artist. Sometimes you can be both but it’s rare, and the road to each is very different. I think the question is, do you HAVE to do this, or just WANT to?
It’s the difference between choosing and being chosen and that tells you a lot about what path you have to take.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
In theaters doing my one-woman stage show, always touring, playing to as many people as I can, and always growing myself, musically and personally…enjoying it all as much as I am today.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Cuddling with my dog after months on the road, whilst my husband makes dinner…. heaven
Judith Owen’s latest album redisCOVERed is out now