Miss Kiddy tells us why 1940s jazz works so well in 2020

Monday 2nd March 2020 | Grace

From performing to a national audience on live television to playing the dark and exciting jazz clubs of Soho, Miss Kiddy and The Cads are bringing a bit of vintage to modern life with their brilliant jazz style covers of popular modern hits. The band have covered Bowie, Blur, Beyoncé and beyond and have recently released a new album, Vintage Dirtbag. The album is a collection of some of their favourite tracks and so Miss Kiddy herself tells us about the new album, how she got into such a unique genre and how they make the old feel so fresh and new.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Abi aka Miss Kiddy of Miss Kiddy and the Cads! I have always been a rather eclectic singer crossing all genres… You can hear me singing the theme tune of ‘Maddie’s Do you Know?’ every day on CBeebies and also on all the Monkey Music educational series CD’s. I also sing on a lot of adverts and film scores and sing with jazz and party bands for events around the country and Internationally. Aside from that, I founded and run UK Soul Choirs - a group of 7 community choir branches in SE London and Kent now celebrating its 10th Year Anniversary this year with over 250 members!

What was your first thought this morning?

Today is the day we get the first hard copy of our album ‘Vintage Dirtbag’ so that was my first, very excited thought of the day!

How did you all get together and start doing what you do?

We originally wanted to create a 3-piece jazz group that would play modern songs in a jazzy style for events. But in putting the first arrangements together and finding our amazing cads, we realised that we had hit upon something much more meaningful. For years, we had been performing the old standards, frustrated that audiences didn’t really know the tunes anymore. So, these modern jazz standards for a new generation felt really fresh and started to draw people in immediately. We knew the other Cads (Eric Guy - Undertaker on bass and Ben Cummings - Benny the Bug on trumpet) from doing all kinds of professional music jobs over the years and knew they would be ideal to come on board, both because of their incredible musical talent and skill but also as they would embrace their characters and the style of the band. From that point on it was easy and everything has slowly been crafted into the show and music it is today!

Why have you chosen to perform in a jazz/1940s style?

The idea of Miss Kiddy was always to be a vintage take on popular songs… So, jazz and swing were always going to be the main influence. Part of the band’s originality, however, is that its more than just the music, it’s a story and it’s a family, and so we had to get full back stories of all the characters and their lives. This fitted so well with the look and the vibe of the 1940’s but we really are quite broad covering styles from the 20’s to the 50’s, we often comment in shows that our more Etta James sounding stuff is very modern!

Who influenced you in your sound?

Everything and anything from the golden age of jazz! We echo lots of the classics, sometimes quoting them musically as intros to our modern standards, and using genres like The Charleston, Vegas Big Band or even your classic Rumba! But we also include other great vintage music elements in there - we reference the Cabaret sound (from the musical Cabaret!) in our version of Chandelier.

How do you pick which songs to cover?

Well, a song has to be classic enough to be really well known, and it has to be as far from ‘jazzy’ as possible. We tend to find rock and hip-hop songs are the best to cover as their transformation is so extreme it always makes for a great and really original cover. There has to be a really strong lyrical/melodical/hooky element that we can convert and reharmonises whilst still sounding recognisable.

Which is your favourite song to perform live?

For me its Believe by Cher. It’s probably one of my most tricky vocally but I just love our arrangement of this one and I love watching the audience when the penny drops. Plus, it involves a 3-person dance routine performed by Benny, Lil’ Missy and me!

What have been the best and worst parts of your career so far?

Wow that’s hard to answer…But I think the best and worst thing about my career is actually the same thing and that is how often you get knocked back and doors closed in your face, but then the joy and satisfaction when one of those doors is finally opened for you!

Finally cracking Ronnie Scott’s for our album launch has been the biggest journey and in terms of actual show highlights. Opening the main stage at Camp Bestival was pretty amazing as was our first ever show at Underbelly Festival - we had no idea if we would sell even a fraction of the 500 seater Spiegeltent, and it was practically sold out. We have really had some amazing support from our audiences – that’s the best thing about all of it.

I noticed that you have a tap dancer on stage with you. Tell us a bit more about her and why you chose to have her perform with you?

Yes, we do! Our secret weapon the wonderful Lil’ Missy (aka Leah Wise). I always knew I wanted a dance element in the show and so when we started writing the arrangements, we started looking for a dancer. Leah was recommended to me by a friend of a friend. She sent me a video and that was that - we knew instantly she was Lil’ Missy. She is a dancer of all styles but specialises in tap, and, most importantly, her style is naturally low to the ground - vintage American - not ‘show girl’ style and that fits exactly into her character as one of the Cads, edgy!

Your new album is called ‘Vintage Dirtbag’. But what would you change about the present?

Well first and foremost I would want to change what we’re doing to the planet. That has to be the number one priority, right? Nothing else will matter if we don’t have a planet to live on anymore!

What is the best song on the album, do you think?

Oh, its changing daily at the moment! Today it is Chandelier (Sia). But yesterday it was Wannabe (The Spice Girls) . Ross Power (The Boss) and the team that have produced it have done such an incredible job on all the songs and I keep hearing something new and exciting on each listen! It’s a very special album and it really shows our unique sound but in a diverse way. We’re very proud of it. The sound is both gloriously vintage and warm but also with an incredible modern clarity and honesty that showcases the amazing and talented performances.

What does 2020 hold for you?

Well, once the album is launched at our debut at Ronnie Scott’s on 1st March, (which sold out in 3 days!) we will be doing a 2nd launch at Toulouse Lautrec Jazz Club in Kennington on 2nd May. We then start the festivals including performing the launch show of the Brighton Fringe at The Warren venue on 30th April, at Vintage for Victory in Cardiff on 12th July and our London summer show back at Underbelly Festival, Southbank on 28th August. We’re really excited about this year’s Underbelly show as we are doing a ‘Vintage Takeover’ for the evening with a standing only 1920’s themed Miss Kiddy show followed by our resident master of the DJ decks Daddy Beats spinning some vintage classics ‘ til late. Definitely one to get dressed up and come and have a stomp at!

To find out more about the band and for a chance to see them live, check out their website and Facebook.