STACEY Kent never expected to become a musician, let alone a platinum selling jazz singer.
As an American language student working towards a Masters degree in comparative literature, Stacey moved to Europe. In Oxford she met Jim Tomlinson - the man who would become her husband, and who sparked in her a desire to make music.
“I don’t come from a family of artists or musicians — it’s more academic and it was more expected for me to go down that path,” says Stacey.
“I feel like as a lover of words, everything I did led me here and prepared me. When I was a kid I listened to everything, I was a voracious lover of music, so it felt like I was inadvertently learning all along.”
Although she had never previously considered it as a career, music had always been a large part of Stacey’s life.
“It’s funny, I started singing when I graduated college, but I was always known in the house and at school as a singer,” she says. “It wasn’t big showstopping singing, I didn’t want to stand on tables and belt them out, it was quite the reverse — my friends would ask me to sing into their ears, use me for a lullaby.”
Early on she was attracted to Ella Fitzgerald as well as music by Brazilian artists.A bilingual upbringing under the influence of her grandfather, who lived in France for a long time, also made its mark, and Stacey now sings in both English and French.
“That was the only language he and I spoke together,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful language, there’s poetry in the sound of the words.“ Stacey’s “accidental” career has not only led to e record deal, eight best-selling albums and a Grammy nomination, but also a role in the film version of Richard III, opposite Sir Ian McKellen, and an invitation to play at the birthday party of Hollywood royalty, Clint Eastwood.
“His people called and said they wanted me to come sing at it, it was amazing — it was so much fun,” she says. “I loved it, he’s definitely someone who has been part of me being who I am because I am influenced by his films, his music. He’s one of those directors who’s so musically inclined, it made it extra special.”
She has also worked regularly with the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro on lyrics, after he chose her album Let Yourself Go as one of his Desert Island Discs. After her latest album was recorded live at la Cigale, in Paris, Stacey is planning on making a new album next year with Jim, who also works as her producer.
“We’re totally in sync musically,” she says. “I have such respect for him, he has amazing ears, amazing ideas. It’s an incredibly privileged position to work with someone who knows you and loves you.”
• Stacey Kent plays The Met, in Market Street, Bury, on Saturday, May 26. Tickets cost £17.50, to book visit themet.biz or ring 0161 761 2216.