Suffolk singer recording new music with Queen’s Brian May
- Credit: Geoff Ford
Suffolk-born West End star Kerry Ellis has had a close working relationship with the guitar legend for nearly two decades. Now she’s recording a new album and heading out on the road with a full orchestral Queen experience.
Stowmarket-born Kerry Ellis is busy. Not only does she manage to balance a theatrical and musical career,but she's also back into the studio with her pal Queen guitarist Brian May and is about to hit the road singing with leading European Queen tribute band, Queen Machine.
And if that wasn't enough, she is planning a few solo dates and has a new solo album out as well. It's enough to make your head spin. But, when I caught up with Kerry, she seemed calm, having just dropped her two boys off at school, and was happy to take everything in her stride.
Can you tell us something about the forthcoming Queen Machine Symphonic tour. Will it be strange singing Queen songs without Brian by your side?
"This is something quite unique, something which I have never done before. Queen Machine tour all over Europe and they sell out wherever they go and they wanted to bring a show to the UK and they wanted to make it a little special because this the home of Queen.
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"I met Brian May a long time ago - even before I auditioned for We Will Rock You. I was in My Fair Lady with Trevor Nunn at the National and Brian asked me to audition for their new show. I met him and Roger Taylor and worked with them closely, developing the musical.
"Since then I have gone on to work with Brian for almost 15 years now, touring the UK and Europe, writing songs, putting albums together. I feel comfortable, grateful and special to be singing those songs in that environment, and that I have Brian's blessing to do it.
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How does Brian May feel about bands paying tribute to Queen's music? Have you spoken to him about this show?
"When the Queen Machine Symphonic opportunity came up, I let Brian know about it and asked what he thought. The Queen Machine guys have played for one of the Freddie celebrations and are very much welcomed in the Queen family.
Brian enjoys that people play their music still today and embraces that tribute bands are able to take it out there around the world. And that's another reason why the music is so timeless - that so many people are still performing it and honouring Queen.
You've been singing Queen's songs for many years now. do you have a favourite?
The song that is very close to my heart is No One But You. I sang that in We Will Rock You way back when and have recorded it and performed it with Brian around the world. We did it on our tour and at one point he said to me 'It's your song now, love it and enjoy it'. I've just got so many connections with it now - and it works brilliantly with an orchestra, so I'm sure we'll be creating new memories with it in this show and tour.
Speaking of Brian, how's the new recording coming along? Do you have a date for the new album yet?
"Yes, we're back in the studio, doing odd sessions here and there when our busy schedules allow. We've got a couple of new tracks under our belts and we're working on a couple of other new songs but Brian's busy. He's touring with Adam (Lambert) and Roger (Taylor), I'm busy as well as, and Brian's at the stage of his career where something's done when its done. When we're both happy with it. I expect we'll have it ready by the end of the year or certainly by the start of 2021.
So were you a fan of Queen's music before We Will Rock You came along?
"I grew up with it; my dad was a huge fan and played a lot of rock music, and I listened to bands and acts like Meat Loaf, Status Quo, Bon Jovi, but also artists like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion. I was brought up with it but it became such a part of my life.
Everybody knows Queen's music. The interesting thing today, is there's a new generation of people interested in the music, because of the Bohemian Rhapsody film, with Queen touring with Adam Lambert, and the music is always used in films and adverts - you're always hearing it.
I'm very proud that have a very deep connection with the music and the band and I'm very grateful for that. I always feel honoured and privileged to be doing their music with their blessing.
It's been a big thing for me too; I always had a music career alongside musical theatre, but it probably wouldn't have happened in the same way without that connection with Brian. He has influenced me in so many ways. Performing together on tour, and in the studio, he has educated me on putting an album together, something I had never done before. He's been a kind of mentor to me and has helped me use the tools to make my own music."
You are well known for playing Elphaba in Wicked, both in the West End and on Broadway. Would you like to be involved in the forthcoming film?
"Wicked was a huge show for my career. It took me to Broadway - that was on my bucket list but I never thought I would actually get to do it. And to be the first British girl to play Elphaba, amazing. It has been a big part of my life, and it's a show and role which resonates with fans all over the world, who go on supporting you for years after too; it's a worldwide phenomenon. I'll always be grateful to Stephen Schwartz and to director Joe Mantello for that opportunity.
I would love to get involved with the film. I'm sure it will be cast in America, and, of course, they are supposed to be young girls at school - and I've just had a big birthday, so maybe it's not going to happen, but maybe a little cameo would be wonderful.