By Geoffrey Rowlands
Many people were surprised to learn her UK top ten hit album, Sheridan, is the debut release of Sheridan Smith. The 36-year-old English actress and singer has become renown for her numerous roles in stage and television musical productions. So much so that most of her admirers simply assumed she must also be a recording artist.
It was acting which proved to be Sheridan’s entry into the world of show business. But music provided her grounding and has always been at the heart of her life.
“My parents performed as a country music duo,” smiled Epworth, Lincolnshire-born Sheridan. “They called themselves The Daltons. They gave me my first taste of the business when I was six. I’d taken dance lessons from when I was very young but my parents were in a production of Annie at the Civic theatre in Doncaster and I played the title character.”
Pleasing her parents has always been Sheridan’s objective. Her attitude stemmed from a family tragedy.
“My eldest brother, Julian, died from cancer at the age of 18. I was only eight at the time. I remember how hard it hit me but I can only imagine what my mum must have felt. Could anything be more terrible than losing her child? From then on, I have always wanted to make my parents proud of me, to somehow distract them from losing Julian.”
Sheridan revisited these emotions while starring in the 2012 television drama, Mrs. Biggs. She played the wife of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. Their ten-year-old son, Nicholas, was killed in a car accident.
“I was a wreck when we were filming those scenes. It hit an awfully raw nerve. I thought of my mum and my own reaction to Julian’s death. It made me look at feelings which I thought I’d pushed away a long time ago.”
Sheridan won both the Best Actress BAFTA and the Women in Film & Television Best Performance award for her role in Mrs. Biggs. This recognition added to numerous other honours, most notably Laurence Olivier Awards for the musical, Legally Blonde, and drama, Flare Path, plus Whatsonstage.com Audience Awards for Legally Blonde and Henrik Ibsen’s acclaimed drama, Hedda Gabler.
She would later add TV Choice and National Television Awards for her starring role in Cilla, the three-part biopic of singer Cilla Black. Not bad for someone who never attended drama school.
“All my training has basically been on the job. People have said very kind things about my performances but I always wonder if I’m good enough whenever I’m offered a new role.”
Sheridan actually says she built her career on “playing chavs and slappers.” Many of her early roles could perhaps be described in this manner. But the quality of her work always kept Sheridan employed and persuaded casting directors to consider her for more challenging roles. These have now encompassed everything from soap operas to Shakespeare with Sheridan being acknowledged as one of the finest actresses of her generation.
Despite all her success in stage musicals, it was her television portrayal of Cilla Black which brought Sheridan’s vocal prowess to the attention of a wider public.
“I was terrified about meeting Cilla for the first time. She was show business royalty and such an icon. I went to dinner with her. Luckily, Paul O’Grady was a mutual friend and he came along. He was hilarious all night and Cilla was lovely. She was so supportive.
“I’m not an impressionist so I didn’t try to actually mimic Cilla. But I did do months of research to pick up her mannerisms and took singing lessons to try to capture her distinctive singing voice.”
Critics and viewers raved about her performance. Her rendition of Cilla’s smash hit, Anyone Who Had a Heart,” was arguably the vocal highlight. It was remarked that any listener would be hard pressed to distinguish between Sheridan and Cilla’s original recording.
Record deals were offered but she was too busy to accept. A second family tragedy stopped Sheridan in her tracks. Her much loved father, Colin, died from cancer.
“I was totally distraught. My life was falling apart and I didn’t tell anyone. I started drinking far too much. I was playing Fanny Brice in (the stage musical) Funny Girl and had to take a leave of absence from the role while I pulled myself together. I think I’ve actually become stronger from going through the whole experience.”
Her recovery also prompted the signing of a deal with East West Records and the creation of her album. The 12 cuts contain no original songs. The list of covers range in age from Noel Coward’s 1932 song, Mad About The Boy, to City of Stars, a song performed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the 2016 film, La La Land. The opening track is Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 smash, Crazy.
“That song is an acknowledgement of my meltdown. I love the song anyway but Crazy seemed like an appropriate number to include. All the tracks are favourites of mine which I love singing.”
The album was launched on a one-hour television special. Sheridan discussed her career with comedian / TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and performed a number of tracks. Although reviews were not universally positive, she was delighted with the show, her album and the response of her fans.
“I don’t regard myself as a good guest on chat shows. I’m far better at playing characters than being myself. But I really enjoyed doing the show and I’m so happy to have a top ten album. I just wish I was able to share everything with my dad.”
Sit Still, Look Pretty was the 2016 debut album from Grace Martine Tandon, better known as Daya.
The 19-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native enjoyed solid chart success in her own right peaking at number 36 with her album and having two singles enter the top 30 on Billboard’s Hot 100. She also earned a Grammy Award as featured vocalist on The Chainsmokers’ world-wide smash hit, Don’t Let Me Down.
Her previous work was issued on the independent label, Artbeatz. But Daya has now signed with major label, Inter scope Records. Her second studio album should soon be available. In the meantime, fans must be content with the single, New, as her first release on Interscope.
“It’s only been a year since my first album came out,” Daya reflected. “But it feels like it’s been such a long time because I’ve just grown so much emotionally and mentally. It’s crazy that all the changes have been made, all my new songs have been recorded and I’m signed to a major label. It feels like I’ve lived ten lives in the past year.”
The accompanying video for New is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yfMplVU0m0
For any doubters, Lady Gaga really does care about her Little Monsters.
The superstar singer / songwriter was hospitalised in September suffering from fibromyalgia. She was forced to cancel a number of dates on her world tour.
Having now got her own health in order, Gaga was concerned about a fan who was injured during her recent show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. One of her Little Monsters had somehow been struck in the face and was bleeding. Having noticed the injury, Gaga stopped her performance to make sure the fan received medical treatment.
Once the fan, whose name was Meredith, got medical help, Gaga resumed the concert. She dedicated Paparazzi to Meredith, gave the girl a backstage pass and met her after the show.
Getting in early on the Best Albums of 2017 list is the Rough Trade record store and label organisation.
They recently announced their top 20 albums of the year. These included Bjork’s Utopia, which has not yet been released. The Rough Trade people must have been given a sneak preview.
Topping the list is Party, the second studio album from New Zealand-born self-described gothic folk singer / songwriter Aldous Harding. Although both Party and her 2014 self-titled debut album were critically acclaimed, neither found a place among the top 100 on Britain’s albums chart.
This may now change if enough of those reading Rough Trade’s list decide to check out Aldous’ music. Rough Trade say of Party; “The lasting spell of this album will leave you enraptured. It is one you will go back to time and time again.”
Party is not posted in full on YouTube but a number of Aldous’ official song videos and live performances can be found on the website. Also here is every song on her Aldous Harding album.
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