Jade MacCrae on Renee Geyer
November 29, 2007 | Author: Lil’ Fi
Try getting Renee Geyer and Jade MacCrae in the same town, in the same room at the same time for a chat for a magazine. Effervescent Melbourne based roots singer Lil’ Fi attempted… several times. Such is the incredibly busy schedule of two fine vocalists plugging new albums (Renee’s is out, Jade’s will be in early 2008), that the moons never really intended on aligning. Lil Fi’ did however manage to track down Jade to talk about the incredible musical influence of Renee Geyer.
When asked to do an interview with two of the finest singers around I couldn’t help but jump at the challenge. The self confessed difficult woman Renee Geyer and the peaches and cream Jade MacRae. My first meeting with Renee after years of being on the same festival bills and always managing to avoid each other, was at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. They have a show called a round robin where all the women of different bands get on stage together and “Jam”. For a vocalist it’s a bit of a trick when you don’t play an instrument. I noticed that Renee didn’t have a guitarist and suggested that a little nervous gal called Mia Dyson wouldn’t do her sound any harm. So they met, Mia was beside herself and I offered to play drums and help out. Next thing you know we’re all on stage and that was the first time Renee had heard me sing. She said “Lil’ Fi … big price”, which I took as a compliment. The friendship between Mia and Renee has since blossomed into a beautiful thing. Renee seems to have embraced the youth, the next generation of singers and her enthusiasm to be interviewed sitting alongside Jade MacRae indicated it was something she really wanted to do. Schedules were moved and tweaked. Planes sat on tarmacs longer than they should have and meetings and rehearsals ran overtime. With all the commitments of touring and launching albums, it just wasn’t going to happen.
I did get to have some time with Jade and her graciousness was delightful. She comes from a musical family who are still gigging and it shows in her conversation. She has a wise head on her shoulders and will be in the industry for the long haul.
Ask anyone born before the 70s what R&B means, they’ll tell you it’s a concoction of jazz, blues and gospel music made famous by the likes of James Brown, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Aim the same question at a twenty-something today and they’ll more than likely say it’s an amalgam of funk, dance, and hip hop … performed by names such as Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Akon or Alicia Keys.
Australia’s own Queen of Soul, Renee Geyer is an R&B traditionalist in the true sense. She’s spent most of her recording career paying tribute to the styles and songs of the classic R&B legends. While Jade MacRae will also tip her hat to 60s R&B icons, her brand of pop, soul and rhythm and blues, is equally as inspired by the current crop of urban chart toppers … and of course Renee.
I put it to Jade that If you’re living in Australia and singing R&B, then it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by Renee.
“Particularly her stuff from the 70s,” said MacRae. “Like ‘Ready to Deal’ is such an amazing album to me. When I started, I was singing a lot of soul music and not doing any pop at all. I was doing those songs at all my gigs.”
As destiny would have it, Renee got to hear about Jade, needed a backing singer for an imminent gig and put in a call to the unsuspecting MacRae.
“When I got the call to do her gig, I think it was the 23rd of December and the gig was the next night, Christmas eve. It was like … ‘I need you to do my gig tomorrow darling and I have a tape here.’ I was like aaaggh! It was craziness. So I had to learn 20 songs in a day but it all worked out fine. Luckily I have a good memory.”
Prior to Renee’s call, Jade had just graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and begun playing around the pubs and clubs of Sydney. Around that time, she also teamed up with Mahalia Barnes. Renee must have liked what she heard, and Jade MacRae went on to perform more gigs with the Australian vocal legend. Her association with Mahalia also lead to some backing singing with local male vox legend Jimmy Barnes. However there were bigger occasions on the horizon. Merely a couple of years later, things all came full circle when Jade was asked to sing a medley of Geyer hits at Renee’s ARIA Hall of Fame induction.
“It was really special for me,” said Jade on reflection. “I was lucky to do some backing vocals for Renee way back when I was just starting to get some good gigs. It was my first gig with a really big artist. On top of that she was already a big influence. I loved her music and it was a real treat to do that with her. So they asked me to do it and I was just thrilled but so nervous. It was so fantastic and they were such iconic songs too. You don’t want to mess that up. So I was really nervous but it was a real honour to do it.”
Today, Jade is no less a fan of Renee Geyer but is now firmly entrenched as a successful performer in her own right, having graced the front cover of American music bible, Billboard magazine. Jade’s second album “Get Me Home” is scheduled for release in early 2008. Renee is currently enjoying some of the best press of her career for her latest album ‘Dedicated’, which features a reworked version of her signature tune ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. As for my acme adventures in the land of soul and r&b, I’m an Australian blues singer that has been blessed by the sounds of legendary artists like Renee, Aretha, Bonnie Raitt, and Irma Thomas… the soul sisters. I will be performing all over the great city of Melbourne over the festive season. From Williamstown RSL with the legendary Chicago harmonica man Corky Siegel to the famous Blues Train. It seems to me that this music, this soul and R&B has the longevity of time. It simply doesn’t date. It’s always relevant and you can call it what you like really, but it will out live us all.