Kiki Dee looks forward to Biggar Little Festival return
One thing is crystal clear '“ depsite a hugely successful career, Kiki Dee has her feet firmly planted on the ground.
She calls and emails me herself – there’s no public relations guru to fight your way through.
And, as we talk on the phone, she’s waiting on the British Gas man coming to her home to fix the boiler.
“A rock star’s life – so glamorous,” she joked!
Down to earth and easy to talk to, we’re discussing her upcoming gig at Biggar Little Festival.
It’s her second time round at the festival with her long-term musical partner, Carmelo Luggeri.
They were introduced by none other than the man who first discovered Elton John and ran his Rocket Record label for several years, Steven Brown.
Kiki said: “Steven sadly died a few months ago – he was a really interesting man.
“He managed Billy Connolly for about 30 years. He left the music business several times but kept on coming back – he was so creative.
“It was actually Steven who said Carmelo and I should go out on the road together and do acoustic gigs.
“He introduced us and we’ve been working together for more than 18 years now.
“We discovered we worked really well together – I do most of the lyrics and Carmelo, who is a fantastic musician, writes the melodies.”
Indeed, the partnership has been such a hit that they’ve recently recorded a live album, So Here We Are, to sell at gigs which will soon be available online too.
Explaining how it came about, Kiki said: “Jane, a really good friend who sells our merchandising at shows, said people had been asking about a couple of songs we do in our live shows, such as the Everly Brothers Let it Be Me and Joni Mitchell’s How Do You Stop?
“They weren’t on any of our albums so we decided to do some live recordings as a way of giving something back to the fans who have been very loyal to us.”
And some of those fans will no doubt be in the audience for the duo’s second visit to Biggar on Thursday, October 25.
It’s part of a series of intimate gigs Kiki and Carmelo are undertaking here in Scotland.
They will showcase some of the old favourites, including a slowed down version of Kiki’s No 1 single with Elton, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, along with tracks from their new album, currently in the making.
Kiki said: “I’d had it with trying to be a pop star and decided to be a touring musician instead.
“But we didn’t want to be stuck in the 70s either – we wanted to be as creative as we could possibly be.
“So people coming along to the show can expect a great mix of my songs from way back, covers from people that we really like, such as Kate Bush and Frank Sinatra, as well as some of the new songs from our upcoming album.
“We call it our musical journey and like doing intimate gigs because you really build up a rapport with the audience – we always end up having a bit of a giggle!
“We did the Biggar Little Festival a few years ago and really enjoyed it so when we were asked back, we were more than happy to do so.”
Born in Bradford in 1947 as Pauline Matthews, Kiki was spotted by a record company scout in 1963 and signed to Fontana Records.
In an incredible career, Kiki became the first British artist to be signed by Tamla Motown in 1970, before signing with Elton John’s Rocket Record label in the early 1970s, scored her first UK Top 20 hit in 1973 with her version of Amoureuse and topped the UK chart for six weeks in 1976 with Elton John.
The duo performed their hit song at the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, where Kiki also sang backing vocals for Elton. The pair remain firm friends today.
Kiki said: “I was invited over to Detroit and spent three months doing an album. It wasn’t a huge commercial success but I’ve always been very proud of that work.
“Live Aid was a blast – I didn’t have the same pressure as other artists who performed full sets so I was just able to enjoy the day.
“I could sing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart in my sleep, I’ve done it with Elton so often, so I just tipped up and had a ball.
“I see Elton a couple of times a year and we always do birthday and Christmas cards. But his life is so much in demand – it’s completely crazy. I dip a toe into that world very occasionally but the rest of the time my life is pretty down to earth.”
One of Kiki’s favourite memories involves another soul superstar.
She said: “I was recording an album in London in 1981 and Marvin Gaye was in the studio next door.
“He invited me in to listen to his new song – Sexual Healing! He’s one of my favourite soul voices of all time so it was incredible.”
Despite an amazing career, Kiki remains self-effacing. And fans help to keep her feet on the ground.
“Carmelo is an amazing guitarist and always blows people away,” she added. “Fans often say to me, Kiki you were great but that guitarist – wow!”
Kiki and Carmelo will perform at the Municipal Hall in Biggar on Thursday, October 25, at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £18, are available at www.biggarlittlefestival.com.