Q&A with Pauline Henry

Wednesday, 21 December 2016
As we countdown to Groove Odyssey at Ministry of Sound on New Year's Day, we caught up with world renowned soulful singer Pauline Henry.
From her work with the Chimes, to starting up her own artist workshops and seminars, Pauline Henry is a force to be reckoned with. Known for her soulful and enriching tones, she harnesses the innate ability to light up a room, anywhere. Now promoting the re-release of her winning album, The Chimes, managing her own label, and running professional master classes, Pauline is busier than ever. Ahead of her set for Groove Odyssey on New Year's Day, we caught up with her to find out what she's been up to.

So taking it back, you grew up in Jamaica, before moving over here when you were 8/9. What were you music influences when you were growing up?

I arrived in the UK from Jamaica in the 70s, up until then I had no concept of music as I come from religious upbringing. The 70s was probably the best era to discover music. There was a plethora of giants, some of whom are sill alive. I discovered The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire also Jimi Hendrix to name a few.

How old were you when you started writing songs and making music?

According to my siblings I was creating songs from the age of 5 or 6 years old. My first recollection; I was about 10 years old, cooking with my Mum and always singing when she asked, "did I learn all those songs from the radio?", to which I replied "I made them up”. I also remember writing lyrics to the football theme song that came on every Saturday. It goes a little something like this..


It sounds like something constructed by a child, which I was at the time, but that one line works right across the music perfectly. To this day I still sing it in my head, still imagine all the fans singing cheering to the song. It works because that is exactly what they all do. Cheer and say Hooray when their team gets a goal. So in answer to your question, the creative process started early, the artiste bug was in the gene.

So before your work with Mike Peden and James Locke [The Chimes] you had extensive vocal training; you said in a previous interview that whilst over in America you received training from a Columbian opera singer (!!), what is the best piece of advice you were given during that period?

The best thing an Artiste needs to do to become a professional singer is to train your voice and learn to sing from the diaphragm. This, to date, is the best bit of advice that I could give anyone. It is a loaded statement as it involves an intricate and precise way of breathing. The benefits of learning to breathe from the diaphragm properly have paid dividends in the long run. It has enabled me to protect my and train my voice as well as coaching others.

And how important do you think that training’s been throughout your career?

In all honesty, this is a professional requirement not my personal opinion. The first thing Columbia music did with me was send me to vocal trainer. Her name was Tona Da Brette. In later years I when I started coaching, I was asked by major labels to coach Keith Flint (Prodigy), Ms Dynamite and All Saints. Please note that these are all established artistes, but you still need refreshers courses. Like the body keeping fit with regular exercise and workouts, the voice muscle are the same. They too need regular exercise and training. For anyone interested in my Vocal Master Classes, you can go to my website www.paulinehenry.com. Subscribe for upcoming seminars and works shops.

When you first auditioned to be part of The Chimes, did you have any idea that things would blow up like they did?

Absolutely NOT at all! Firstly, I had no dreams of being in Scotland, far away from home, where I knew no one and felt so out of place and alone. Secondly, I had no dream to spend any time with two very arrogant young men at the time calling all the shots. Thirdly, I had no desire to stay in the UK, I was heading to the US to continue training myself up to the standard set by the giants of the 70s. When I got signed with the Chimes, I was shocked, even somewhat disappointed that my plans to move to the States was thwarted. The guys kept saying ‘We are going to get a record deal”. By that time, I had heard that statement so many times. I was already a lead singer in at least three other outfits, prior to meeting Mike and James, and they all said the same thing. So to say any of the success that was to come had any preconceived notions could not be further from the truth. I now owe eternal “gratitude” to both Mike and James. We were a good team while it lasted.

How did it feel being asked to record your version of U2’s "I still haven’t found what I’m looking for?"?

When things happen naturally there is often no thought process behind it. To be honest, I was not even that clued up about U2 until after the fact. I heard the song, which featured the harlem gospel choir. It might be naughty to say this, but it was their rendition that drew my attention to the U2 song. I would practice to their powerful vocal ranges and Gospel interpretations. Recording the song was an aftermath. Mike herd me practicing, we had a TV show coming up, they asked us to do a cover, Mike remembered me practicing and asked me what it was,
I told him the name of the song ” ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2, We all agreed, and it really was as simple as that. It changed the course of our lives forever.

So it’s been over 25 years since the album ‘The Chimes’ was released, and BBR have just reissued it, is that right? Can we look forward to anything new on the album?

Yes absolutely. It is a double CD for starters. On both you will find “unreleased” tracks and mixes. It has been a joy to revisit some of the tracks. I forgot recording so many of them. I can’t believe that they laid dormant in the archives. In addition to that, Disc 2 includes new mixes of HEAVEN by GRAMMY nominated StoneBridge, Robin S classic "Show Me Love", who has many Billboard chart toppers to date, and renowned US re-mixer DJ Spen (& Reelsoul Rodriquez) who's worked with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Everything but the Girl, and Basement Boys. Looking forward to preforming the Soulful House with DJ Spen at Groove Odyssey’s Ministry Of Sound event.

You can grab a copy Chimes re-mastered double CD here. HARD COPIES ONLY. Signed copies on my website http://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/the-chimes-deluxe-edition/

You’ve said in the past that family is very important – you even took quite a lot of time out of your career to start a family (as well as going ahead and bagging a Masters in intellectual property law!), would you ever want your kids to follow in your footsteps musically?

My daughter Venus has an amazing voice, very unique and different to mine. She works with me as part of my vocal back-up team for live shows. If she has a God given talent, what ever she is good at, go for it, I say. She is perusing it, but it is also important for her to have a good education in whatever she wants to do. That is her focus right now, and currently she is at university.

What is the last record you bought...

Gregory Porter "Liquid Spirit"

... and the first record you ever bought?

Jackson 5

Now you’re kicking-off 2017 for us with a performance alongside the legendary Basement Boys on New Year’s Day. What’s the best thing to have happened to you in 2016?

WOW - truth is, it has all been a “wow” year from start to finish, but some downers too. I run a label and that is tough. The old adage you “can't get the staff” has been a long game. So I would say that the best aspect of 2016 has been having a solid team of people around me both professionally and personally that I feel “Got My Back” in good times and bad. With my daughter away from home now, I have more time to venture out into others things I enjoy like my workshops and seminars to help other Artiste. To end the year working with Groove Odyssey and the opportunity to perform at Ministry of Sound with DJ Spen on the HEAVEN mix has ended it on a real HIGH. Look out for new DIGITSL mixes coming soon with Groove Odyssey.

Finally, can you give us a run down of your top ten favourite tracks?

1. Pharrell Williams "Happy"

2. The Notorious B.I.G. "One More Chance"

3. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith "Omen"

4. Crystal Waters "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)"

5. MNEK & Zara Larrson "Never Forget You"

6. Earth, Wind & Fire "Can't Hide Love"

7. Al Green "Simply Beautiful"

8. Jimi Hendrix "Voodoo Child" (Slight Return)

9. James Brown "Super Bad" (parts 1 & 2)

10. Shabba Ranks "Ting-A-ling"