We had a chat with Stella in advance of her show at the Civic Theatre this week.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up?
Absolutely yes. I actually grew up not too far from here, in Templeogue, and went to school in Terenure, so it’s only a stone’s throw from the Civic to my family home!
Who were your earliest musical influences?
In my teens, I listened to musical theatre divas like Barbra Streisand, Elaine Paige, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone much more than jazz, and I also loved rock singers such as Pat Benatar, Linda Ronstadt and Ann Wilson of Heart. Indeed, I was in a rock band long before I was in a jazz band! I did a lot of musicals when I was younger, and I still have so much love for that genre. I had an inspirational music teacher in school, and spent lots of my secondary school days in his choirs and school musicals – at which time I also started studying singing and listening to some of the great classical voices. Renee Fleming still warms my heart; her voice is velvety and honey-toned…for me, the classical equivalent to Ella, I guess!
How did you get into the music business?
I took the circuitous route into it. Having completed a Science degree in UCD (a ‘sensible’ career option), I worked in industry for over ten years. All the while, I was performing on the side – in concerts, gigs, theatre productions. So when the offer came to me of a dream job promotion, it was make or break and I decided to hand in my notice and try to build on the side career I had been toying with. It was tough for a while, but I believe that the skillsets I learnt in the 9-5 world helped me develop a career as I made myself think of it as a business rather than just art, if you like. It’s been a few years since all that happened, and thankfully things are going from strength to strength!
What do you enjoy most about touring?
Apart from it giving me the opportunity to bring the gorgeous music and tell the story of the iconic Ella Fitzgerald to audiences all over Ireland, I also find it interesting to notice how different songs in the show resonate with different audiences as we tour around. Although the show is the same, audiences’ reactions differ at different moments in the concert.
What music is on your playlist now?
I must confess, I’m not a great listener of music! So much of my day revolves around music and learning new material, it’s nice to switch off from it when say, I’m driving to a gig, when I’ll either have talk radio on or Lyric FM – Lyric Notes or Movies & Musicals are two of my favourite programmes there.
What is next for you?
Well, we’re busy touring the show nationwide (and indeed just returned from performing in London) throughout 2017 as the year coincides with the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, but in the meantime I’m trying to get my head into the books as I’m doing a Master’s degree in Music this year. So, it’s a mix of concerts and studying at the moment!
Stella Bass performs at the Civic Theatre on Thursday 20th April. Book Tickets here.