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Joe Stilgoe at Wiston Weekend

PUBLISHED: 10:00 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:00 16 November 2015

Archant

The internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter and pianist Joe Stilgoe is coming to Wiston Weekend this month (28-29 November). And although not a Sussex man originally, he tells Alice Cooke that he is fast succumbing to its’ charms

When we speak on a blustery autumnal morning, Joe Stilgoe is quick to tell me that despite the wind and the rain, he is considering a move to Sussex. Born in Kent and raised in Surrey (“but we were so close that we could see Sussex from the bedroom window!”) he’s currently living in London, but says that Sussex has everything that he needs for making music.

“The place itself is an inspiration, and my latest album New Songs for Old Souls was actually recorded in Hastings,” he says. It was his producer that encouraged him to record it in the seaside town, as he has studios there, “but it was a great place to make music – a real escape from London.”

This month he brings his handpicked big band to Wiston, where he hopes that people will be “dancing their socks off.” He describes Wiston House as “a truly beautiful place,” and says that “they wanted to start doing musical events, and approached me as they loved the idea of a big band night. I’ve cherry picked the guys I’m coming with from various prestigious places, including the world renowned John Wilson Orchestra, but I’ll also be appearing with special guests, such as Natalie Williams, who is a regular soul singer at Ronnie Scotts – it should be a fantastic weekend.”

Joe cites Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald as musical influences, but says that he “would never be so bold as to compare myself to them.” What he does want to do though, is raise awareness of the music of the Forties and Fifties. “You hear it sampled on dance tracks and sung occasionally by singers like Beyoncé, but I want more people to be aware of how great it is. I am obsessed with bringing this music to a younger audience – that’s what I do.”

Joe’s path into music wasn’t your typical one, as he remembers “being hit over the head and told to practice more by exasperated piano teachers.” But when he was in his twenties, he decided to swap a Philosophy degree for a more musical path, “and I’ve been learning as I go ever since.”

A stint on the cruise ships and some formal musical training followed, and now he performs to audiences across the world. “Not always with a big band though – this is a recent thing that I am completely delighted by,” he says. “It’s such a treat when a group of musicians can get together and make that much noise. Up until recently I’ve mostly performed with smaller bands, as big bands are hugely expensive and require a lot of space. But in larger venues like Wiston you can do it – and you really feel that this is how music should sound.”

www.etonplacemusic.co.uk/wiston-weekend | www.joestilgoe.com

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