Kerry Ellis announces new album with Brian May and Apex gig with Matt Cardle
For West End star Kerry Ellis the past six months have been something of a blur. For the last six months of 2016 she starred in the London premiere of the off-Broadway musical Murder Ballad before going straight into rehearsals for an eight month UK tour of Wonderland, a new take on Lewis Carroll’s tales of Alice and her adventures down the rabbit hole.
In between these major commitments the Stowmarket-born songstress has found time to record her second studio album with long-time collaborator and Queen guitarist Brian May. The pair have been good friends since Brian cast her in the original production of We Will Rock You in 2002 and the new album Golden Days continues their fusion of powerful rock anthems with reworkings of favourite showtunes and timeless classics.
We meet for a quick catch-up backstage at the Bury Theatre Royal where Kerry is appearing as Ruthie Henshall’s special guest at a fund-raising gig for the Georgian playhouse.
“It’s madness but I love it,” laughs Kerry, as I mention that I find it remarkable that she has found the time to come back to Suffolk as she is mid-way through a UK tour of Wonderland, playing writer Alice Cornwinkle in this new contemporary take of the Alice in Wonderland story.
“Sunday’s are precious so I wouldn’t do it for everyone but Ruthie is a good friend and something of a hero, so I’m delighted to come along and I love any excuse to come back to my old stomping grounds.”
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Speaking of heroes how excited is she about the release of her new album with Brian May? “It’s finally out – or will be in April,” she whoops. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve spent the best part of a year recording it in bits and pieces but we are both very happy with it and it is an accurate reflection of where we are. It’s got some new stuff, some old favourites and some songs we have been doing live but haven’t recorded until now, so it’s a real mixture of everything that we love and what excites us.”
It turns out that the recording itself is only part of the reason for Kerry’s excitement. The new album has five newly written songs and three of them co-authored by Kerry. “It’s the first time I have really sat down and written anything and I do that with Brian May who has written so many hits with Queen – it’s crazy.
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“Basically it’s taken me 15 years to pluck up the courage to write something. I am so proud with what we have produced and it did happen very organically. Brian was very encouraging and allowed me to develop the songs.
“The way we work is very collaborative. He comes up with a riff or part of a melody and has an idea for a lyric and from there we develop it together, ironing out the melody and writing the finished lyrics. Brian actually told me there’s bits of me in the songs I didn’t contribute to. He would pick up phrases I use and insert them into the songs. The whole experience has been so much fun and as a result the album has a good feel to it.”
The album features a rocked-up version of their formally acoustic classic Born Free, a driving new rock song from Brian, It’s Gonna Be Alright, a cover of Shirley Bassey’s I Who Have Nothing, a slice of psychedelia in Love In A Rainbow as well as a contribution from Abba’s Benny and Björn who supplied The Story of a Heart.
Kerry says that although nothing is planned yet she would love to perform the new songs live. “I am in Wonderland until August and Brian will be involved in an American tour with Queen over the summer, but maybe we can set something up for the autumn or towards Christmas. Brian and I keep talking about playing Cargenie Hall so maybe we can arrange a tour that takes in London and New York.
“I would love to play these songs live as they take on a life of their own in front of an audience and we can all share that experience together.”
Golden Days, the new album by Brian May and Kerry Ellis, is out on April 7 and is available to pre-order online.
Kerry Ellis and Matt Cardle announce joint gig
Kerry is used to playing big theatres not only in the West End and on Broadway but also on tour in arenas like The Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham NEC, The London Palladium and The O2.
But, for Kerry the joy of performing isn’t confined to playing big venues. She loves the intimacy of playing small venues where she can form a close bond with her audience. She plays regular gigs at The Hippodrome and The Pheasantry in London and loves returning to Suffolk to The Apex in Bury St Edmunds.
She has played there on three occasions in recent years and is about to return there again this summer with fellow East Anglian Matt Cardle.
The pair found themselves performing at the same concert at the London Palladium and at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff last year. “We’d not worked together before, we got talking and realised that we were both Suffolk people and I said: ‘We should do something’ and thought it would be great to do something local to us. I love The Apex, it has such a great feel to it. The sound is wonderful and it has the advantage of all our friends and family can come and see us without driving all the way to London.”
She says that the show will be designed as a one-off event with them each singing their own material plus a range of duets. “It will be created for The Apex – it will be something special. I don’t know what yet but it’ll be something different.”
Kerry Ellis and Matt Cardle will be performing at The Apex, Bury St Edmunds on August 23 and booking opens tomorrow.