How did you come to work with Enrico Mellozzi on the album?
“We worked together on the Italian film and TV awards.
I was to sing Blue Valentine, the Tom Watts song, and he did a very nice arrangement for me. He said he’d always wanted to work with me and was quite insistent. We were both keen, but we needed to finance it ourselves. We used his studio in Rome and made some beautiful songs for an orchestra of cellos. We’d work on it every now and again, I’d get the train down if I was over in Italy.”
And Boy George also wrote a song for you for Cello Songs?
“Yes, it’s a brilliant song. It’s not at all what you’d expect him to write. He dedicated it to his mother, he felt she was an early feminist. He’s always been a friend.”
How have the live performances been received and how will they evolve?
“It’s gone down very well.
I did the launch over here and I’ve performed it many times in Italy. That’s where most of my work is, I’m big in Italy.
We’ve performed with a varying number of cellos and it’s fantastic. We’re hoping to involve youth orchestras, encouraging young people to consider cello as an instrument. I love it as it’s very beautiful and doesn’t clash with the register of the voice like some instruments.
My father played cello and I’ve always loved it.”
I believe the date in Southampton is somewhat of a homecoming for you?
“Yes, I was born in Southampton, as were most of my six brothers. We were living in Alton at the time and my mother believed in natural child birth. There was a nursing home that provided that as she didn’t want anything unnatural being put into her body. I think she’s regretted it ever since – one of my brothers was 13lbs.
She was a very forward thinking lady, though.”
Where do your musical genes come from?
“When I was 17 my Dad went to prison and I bought him a violin so he could learn to play and he also taught himself the cello. I presumed that must be where my musicality came from. But my mother has leukaemia and I’ve been talking to her a lot lately and it turns out she and my grandmother used to go to all the posh houses and provide the entertainment.
“They do have beautiful voices in my family, but nobody except me actually does it professionally. One of my brothers is a photographer and another a filmmaker, there’s a garden designer and a carer, so right across the board. One of the songs from the album is something I wrote about my childhood.
I’ve dedicated it to my mother, myself and my brothers. She’s one of those unassuming people, but she’s mother to these 6ft 5in boys. She’s the person who kept us all together. I’ve told her the lyrics and she wants me to read them at her funeral.”
You most famously collaborated with The Communards among others. Are there any others you would love to collaborate with?
“I’d love to work with Tom Watts. I really love singing with other people, there’s lots I’d like to work with. I’d just like to meet Stevie Wonder, such an inspirational person.
I’d also love to work with Joni Mitchell. Tom Watts is the main one, though.”
Which other projects are you involved in?
“I’ve recorded two new albums. One is Africaninfluenced and sounds lovely.
In January, I have a small part in a film called The Hound by Chris Ward. It’s about a poet who is an opium addict and lives on the streets. I play a street singer. There’s lots of different things in the pipeline.
I run my own label now and am in charge of my own career. I have to keep musicians employed and coming up with new ideas, not like the record labels.
They short-change people.
“If Adele is popular, they come up with a dozen Adeles.
They don’t credit the audience with any intelligence and I think that’s appalling.
It’s all nonsense. That’s why I gave up on TV three years ago.
“It was harder keeping up with the US election on the radio, though. I’m so glad we got the right result.”
u Sarah Jane is at The Turner Sims tomorrow night.