Downton Abbey actress McGovern looks forward to Maverick Festival gig
Cora, Countess of Grantham, playing and singing Americana music on a farm, I doubt her mother-in-law the dowager would approve. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to Downton Abbey actress Elizabeth McGovern about introducing Maverick Festival-goers to her musical alter ego Sadie.
McGovern’s sat in her dressing room, relaxing between shooting scenes for the next series of Downton. Well, I say relaxing.
“I’m in full corset, trying to pretend I can breathe,” laughs the Oscar nominated American actress, star of such movies as Ordinary People, Ragtime and Once Upon A Time In America to name a few.
Makes it hard for her to enjoy a mood lifting sing-song between takes then?
“Every time I can get Michelle [Dockery] who plays my daughter into my dressing room because she’s such a good singer, I make her sing with me and keep me in tune,” laughs the self effacing McGovern.
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“I’m going to ask her if she can come to Maverick, but I don’t know if she can because she’s a very busy, hot young actress.”
I love the image of the director yelling cut and…
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“We just hike up our skirts and loosen our corsets,” she interrupts, “and burst into song; funny.”
Sadie and the Hot Heads were born about eight years ago.
McGovern - who comes from a family of talented musicians but doesn’t claim to be one herself despite her successful sideline with the band - has loved writing songs and playing the guitar since strumming Joni Mitchell songs as a teenager.
When her acting career took off in her late teens, it took all her energy. Things changed when she got married.
“I don’t think I could have ever sat round and written songs when I was running around doing a lot of acting work; I really had every anticipation of continuing on the ride I was on back in America until I dropped dead.
“I never really expected to get married, have children and move to England. There I was, sitting at home with babies and not that much to do when they first went to school and it was sort of… it was a thing that popped up because of that empty time I had really so that’s kind of where my energies went.”
Never considering herself blessed as musically as her family, the distance between them and her old image of herself back in in the States freed her to think what had she to lose by trying it.
It was while taking lessons that she met Steve and Simon Nelson. As time passed the trio and a changing roster of other musicians began recording songs and getting together to share their soft rock, folksy, bluegrass sound with audiences; sadly not as often as McGovern would like.
“I wish we could play a lot more than we do but you know everybody has to make livings other places. Right now we kind of get together whenever we can and hope for the best,” she laughs.
A rare treat for Maverick-goers then.
Confidence is a recurring theme during our chat and is behind the band’s name.
“When we were all starting to play together it soon became apparent we needed to call ourselves something and because I have so little confidence as a singer, for good reason, I thought I’m going to create a sort of alter ego. Then I can be that person and it will give me confidence.
“I wanted to do the same for the band and they’re all just the sweetest nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet so I thought I’ll call them the Hot Heads because that’s their alter ego opposite.”
McGovern admits it’s a still a scary walk from chair to microphone.
“Anyone who’s heard me sing will understand why,” she laughs. “I don’t think of myself as a natural singer at all, I don’t know what I think of myself as but I love the art of the song. It’s worth it because it keeps me young and happy.
“I feel a sort of abandonment about everything; it is quite relaxing. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing or what I look like, at least it doesn’t to me for some reason in that context. Just to be up on stage with the band is the greatest thrill in the world.”
I can’t let her go without getting her view on the recent The Only Way is Essex beats Downton Abbey to Bafta hu-hah.
“It would have been fun to get an award but it’s their choice,” she laughs. “We haven’t really gotten caught up in all of that. We had fun at the Bafta awards and all the kids danced the night away; we didn’t have a bad time.”
Not to Sadie and The Hotheads?
“No,” she laughs. “Maybe next year.”
For more on Maverick visit Americana and roots music festival Maverick at Easton Farm Park