One of Canada’s most respected and celebrated female blues singers, Angel Forrest, is gearing up to tour the UK for the very first time next month. Kicking off in Sheffield on 15th March and closing in Glasgow on 30th, the tour also takes in Manchester, Bristol, Aberdeen, Stoke, London’s Half Moon and Edinburgh.
With a career spanning almost three decades, 10 albums and the prestigious Canadian Maple Blues Award for Female Vocalist Of The Year for five consecutive years from 2013, the Montreal blues diva has rocked the stage at most of the major festivals across North America and many in Europe – France, Switzerland and Italy – but this will her debut in the UK.
Angel has been compared to the likes of the iconic Janis Joplin, and music critics say her voice and dynamic stage presence is a cross between Etta James and Robert Plant. She began her musical career with debut album “Secondhand Blues”, which featured several blues classics. But it was her stunning tribute show to Janis Joplin, that brought Angel Forrest to the public’s attention nationally in Canada.
But Angel’s own original material and unique take on the powerful and soulful end of the blues, more than established her own credentials as an internationally respected artist and performer – who is about to unleash her energy and talents on a UK audience for the first time. But most definitely not the last…
Her new album, “Electric Love”, is released to dovetail with the UK shows – an exciting double-album live recording of her original songs from previous albums, along with some of Angel’s personal favourite covers. Those sparkling interpretations include gems from Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and some vintage blues classics. Angel’s gifted guitarists Denis Columbe from Montreal and Ricky Paquette from Gatineau, both feature extensively on the album and will be touring the UK with her in a trio format.
Music Republic Magazine caught up with Angel via the wonders of modern communications technology, for an insight into her life and career, and how she is feeling about her first UK tour.
“I’m super excited to meet the people and indulge in the culture”. Of Irish, Welsh and Italian descent – Her mother was Irish/Welsh (where she inherits the fiery red hair from), and her father was Italian. Angel admits she is “strongly influenced by the music that has come out of the UK”.
She aims to go exploring and soaking up the British culture on her travels across the country during the tour, on days off, and has some ambitious and quirky desires on her bucket list while she is here! “I look forward to experiencing the culture, sharing my music and some pub talk with the locals”.
She adds: “I am also really looking forward to having a picnic on either Robert Plant or Jimmy Page’s front lawn, visiting Stonehenge (with a measuring tape), taking the famous ‘rock tour’ in London and of course, driving on the wrong side of the road!”.
“The acoustic trio we are touring often leaves people very surprised, they can’t believe the sound and energy that comes from two acoustic guitars and of course the three vocals. We like to shake the foundation. ”
As regards the difference between a UK audience and those in Canada and the USA? “I have no idea what to expect, but I do know some of the greatest music has come out of the UK, and I’m hoping to win some hearts”. But having performed in Europe before, how did she find the European audience differed from those back home? “I didn’t find much of a difference. We play full-heartedly (sic) so there’s always a big connection made”.
Benny Hill, James Bond and Princess Di!
Angel made many new friends last summer, when she gave a storming performance at the prestigious Cahors Blues Festival in France, last July. She has never set foot on UK soil before, even as a tourist, but it has been a life-long “dream” to come here. “Always dreamt of it, but life always got in the way. I could say it’s all about timing, I know at this point in my life, I will be able to appreciate everything it has to offer”.
So, when asked to name three things she automatically associates the UK with – and three people, Angel fires out: “Fish’n’chips, bangers & mash and music. (I love food and Led Zeppelin). Benny Hill, James Bond and Princess Diana”. Fair enough.
A trio format, this tour. Angel and two (fantastic) acoustic guitarists, and all three sing. Is that a tricky thing for her to adapt to, when she is used to a full band behind her? And in the the case of her last studio album, 11 guitarists played behind her on that and subsequent live appearance. “It’s a welcome change sometimes to be able to interact more closely with a more acoustic instrument. We play off each other more intimately and it puts the vocals more upfront”.
The material on this tour will dip into all of her 11 albums, and some of her favourite covers. Angel always includes a tribute to one of her main influences, as she explains. “All my original songs have a personal backstory, either about me, someone I love or a situation that affected me in one way or another. As for covers, I always like to do some Janis (Joplin) because I enjoy it and I’ve often been compared to her…something about the interpretation I believe. I’ll do some classic Zeppelin, The Animals and Robert Johnson. (The original King of rock ’n’ roll)”.
Angel’s main influences as a vocalist include two Englishmen: Robert Plant and Paul Rodgers. Plus Gregg Allman, Janis, Mavis Staples and Bonnie Raitt. All of whom she would dearly love, or have loved, to collaborate with. If you are reading this Robert and Paul, and will be in the UK in March, give me a shout and I’ll set it up…………………
The blues genre is perhaps male dominated and some say it is fading away, as the young kids coming in to music are more likely to be doing blues rock – with the emphasis on rock not blues, and wanting to be guitar ‘Gods’ like Joe Bonamassa and Gary Moore. Why blues for Angel, and does she think that the blues is in safe hands for the future or in danger of dying out?
There will always be a place for the blues…
“Blues is a style of music that allows you to free your soul and sing your heart. So, it was an easy choice for me. It kind of chose me actually. As for the future of the blues; it is a style of music that will always be, as long as humans think, feel and love. There will always be a place for the blues. There may be different interpretations of it as times change, but we all give what we have with the influence of what we know”.
With more than two decades of making music for a living, what is the best moment of her career so far? “I guess… would have to be the first time I saw a crowd of people in front of the stage, singing the words to the songs that I had written. It touched my heart, it made me feel like I was not alone in the world. It gave me the inspiration to keep writing original songs. It was quite a thrill! The worst moment was arriving in a city in time for a gig and realising that there were three cities of the same name… in the same province… we were a little late for our show!”
A British band was partly responsible for a young Angel, having the fire lit inside her, to want to be a singer and get up on stage for a job. As she explains….. “For my 10th birthday, my big sister gave me Led Zeppelin 4, and she also gave me Tapestry by Carol King. Those two albums changed my life, turned me on to Tommy by The Who and then Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
“Made me wanna sing and dance. In the end it was actually a video of Led Zeppelin live that made me feel so good, that I realized in my lifetime and in my career, that that was what I wanted to do. To make people feel the way I felt at that moment, watching that video… and here I am. Many, many, many, years later, I did a show on a flatbed truck with another singer, singing backup. It was quite the experience. I realised I didn’t wanna be in the background. I wanted to be upfront”.
She has some sound advice for young artists starting out in the music business. “My advice to anyone who wants to make a career in an art form which requires expressing yourself; be true to yourself, be honest. Enjoy what you do, love every moment…happiness is contagious”.
Canada is delivering some fabulously talented artists, bands and songwriters lately. A broad church of music genres too. Is it something in the water?
“I think it’s a sign of the times and a question of accessibility. I think there’s great music coming out of all four corners of the world, and we have some pretty great water here in Canada as well!”
Away from music and being on the road, Angel likes to get her hands dirty and stuck into restoring stuff. “I like to recycle and restore stuff. Like my tour bus, furniture in my house, in an artistic way. We’re actually in the process of restoring a 1975 Beetle”.
Get her name right, or else…
Angel on compliments she has been paid. “Somebody called me Roberta Plant once. Made me laugh, made me smile. But the best compliment I think, is when people come see me after a show…Sometimes with tears in their eyes, sometimes just wanna give me a hug and sometimes they say that was unbelievable, you are so generous. Thank you for getting me out of my shell. That goes a long way for me”.
Angel once again opts for a UK artist, when asked to name ‘the best singer who ever walked the earth’. Sir Tom Jones. The best ever UK artist? “Shall I say it again…Led Zeppelin!!!!”
Final question; sum up Angel Forrest in one sentence. But she only needs two words for that job. “Raw emotion”. A listen to her new double live album “Electric Love” and you can agree she has both attributes by the bucket load.
But, a wee word of advice…..if you are going to any of her UK tour dates and intend to mention the show on-line; make sure you spell her surname correctly. “The unfortunate thing that happens and happens quite often, is people spelling my name with one “R” instead of two… it just drives me crazy!!”
OK, let me just check through this copy and make quite sure that Forrest has those two Rs. With that red hair and those powerful lungs of hers, I’d not want to risk a verbal roasting and a Forrest fire (see what I did there?) from this particular Angel!
By Christopher Weston
Main Photo (at top): David McDonald
Angel Forrest Trio UK Tour – March 2018
Thursday 15th CORPORATION, Sheffield
Sunday 18th ACADEMY 3, Manchester
Thursday 22nd FLEECE, Bristol
Friday 23rd THE SHACK, Aberdeen
Sunday 25th ELEVEN CLUB, Stoke
Wednesday 28th HALF MOON, London
Thursday 29th VOODOO ROOMS, Edinburgh
Friday 30th ORAN MOR, Glasgow