WOMAN To Woman, the all-female fusion of singer-songwriter best of friends Beverley Craven, Judie Tzuke and Julia Fordham and new addition Rumer, play York Barbican on night two of their 20-date tour tomorrow.
BRIT Award-nominated Rumer joins after gelling with Craven at a charity event, looking to build on the trio’s success with their 2018 album Woman To Woman and 2018-2019 tour that drew 35,000 people, then last November’s post-lockdown single, a cover of Andrew Gold’s Thank You For Being A Friend twinned with an original vocal piece, Juniper Tree.
A 23-track live album by Craven, Tzuke and Fordham, Woman To Woman – The Live Concert, followed in January, and now comes this autumn’s tour itinerary when York will be the only Yorkshire date for the new fab four.
Londoner Judie and her sisters in song began vocal rehearsals on October 8, followed by rehearsals sessions with their band. “Very scary, but very exciting,” she said, as she contemplated her latest return to the concert platform. “I go into a complete panic, thinking, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming’.”
It was ever thus for Judie, 66, who has always experienced stage nerves from Stay With Me Till Dawn days onwards and is most at home writing songs. “Absolutely. I always have been and I still am. I’ve always loved writing. It’s who I am. It’s my emotional release,” she says.
“I do have quite extreme feelings, and if I write songs, it gets them out of the system, so it’s therapeutic, though I’m quite scared as I’ve had cancer twice and it’s attacked muscles in my throat.
“I’ve never had a vocal coaching before, but now I’m doing it every day, and doing something called Airofit [a respiratory muscle training system], where you put this breathing apparatus in your mouth and you breathe against the resistance to build up the strength of your breathing. More than anything with Covid, I lost power in my breathing.”
How is Judie feeling? “Well, my vocal coach is sure I’ll be fine, but she’s not the one singing. I get terrified on stage, and the thing that keeps me going is my voice, which is now at 90 per cent, but I want to get it back to 100 per cent,” she says.
Confidence in her voice is vital, given her stage butterflies. “I love writing, but I don’t like being centre stage, as I’m chronically shy, but it’s a joy to have people interested in what I do,” she says.
Judie opens up further about her cancer experiences. “I had cancer nine years ago, and when I came back from that, I went back on stage too soon,” she says. “I always had this feeling that people were coming to see me fail, and I did this gig at the Union Chapel where my voice just wouldn’t recover as I sang.
“I thought adrenaline would kick in, but literally everything I’d feared kicked in, but my daughters [Bailey and Tallula, both singers] were with me and I got through it, getting so many standing ovations. That was a game changer.
“It made me less nervous to go out and do a show called Songs And Stories, where Bailey and Tallula did the backing vocals, and I could really get to know my audience, and how they know me through my songs because they’re lucky that I write lyrics that are very honest and are about people like me.
“That was the wonderful thing for me, to grow to understand my audience, where they could ask me questions, rather than feeling they were judging me.”
How did Judie, Julia and Beverley come together for Woman To Woman? “I’d met Julia very briefly at a writing retreat, and I met Beverley just before I had cancer, when I was asked to a ‘coat walk’, a charity do, a fashion show, parading up and down with mothers and daughters. But the day I got asked was the day just after I found out I had cancer and I said I’d do it if I was well enough.”
Judie’s treatment was confined to radiotherapy. “I was very lucky I didn’t have to have chemo,” she says.
Beverley later came up with the idea of performing together with a band. “She brought Julia on board too, and how we performed the shows came together naturally. Originally I thought we’d do our songs in rotation but it ended up with us doing backing vocals on each other’s songs,” says Judie. “I think for this new tour we’ll again alternate songs through each night.”
She is delighted that Rumer has come on board too, again at Beverley’s initiation. “I love singing with Rumer. Hers and my voice work well together, and we’ve been writing songs together for a couple of months.
“We don’t know what will happen next. We’ll put that on hold for now, but next year I hope we do a lot of songs for her next album. Right now Woman To Woman is what we’re concentrating on.”
Judie may be best known for her early albums, and particularly for the single Stay With Me Till Dawn, a number 16 hit in 1979, but as she looks back over 43 years in the limelight, she says: “I wish more people knew more of my albums. My favourite albums are my later ones because hopefully I got better as a songwriter.
“I listened to Wonderland the other day [her ninth album, from 1992], and I thought, ‘this is good’! All my songs are a diary of my life and I’m not ashamed of any of the music I’ve made. It all tells a story.
“I make the records for myself, but I also make them to connect with other people, and I kind of wish they did, because when they listen to the newer albums, they fall in love with the songs.
“Like Humankind [from the 2011 album One Tree Less]. I gave that one to Beverley and Julia when we were looking for songs we could do together, and it made me feel so good they loved it and wanted to do it with me.”
Judie continues: “It means I can keep singing, as I have a lot to say, a lot of feelings I want to share, like the way that other people’s music helped me through dark days when I was younger. Jackson Browne. Joni Mitchell. Free, for all sorts of reasons, especially Paul Rodgers’ voice. Marvin Gaye. Tammi Terrell. But the songs that really helped were by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Neil Young, John Martyn too.”
Songs that stay with you till dawn, like that beauteous ballad by Judie Tzuke (born Judie Myers), whose stage name has so often been misspelt or mispronounced. “What I like is when people spell my first name right, ‘Judie’, not ‘Judy’!” she says. “For the surname, I say it like ‘Zook’, because it’s much easier, but it should be more like ‘Zhooka’.”
Woman To Woman, Beverley Craven, Judie Tzuke, Julia Fordham and Rumer, York Barbican, tomorrow (22/10/2022), 7.30pm; doors, 6.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.