Meet Down for the Count's Musicians: Lydia Bell
How/when did you first get involved with Down for the Count?
It was in 2017 and I was in my second year of my masters at Guildhall and I was sitting at home wanting to do fun gigs. I was looking around and I knew about Down for the Count already and I thought dare I send them an email? And I did, and Mike said that they were actually holding auditions that week for one of their line-ups. So, I auditioned for that and from there I started depping on function gigs and eventually worked my way into the theatre shows!
What was your first experience of jazz and swing music?
I had a CD given to me when I was around 14, which is late I think for discovering what jazz is. Someone gave me an Ella Fitzgerald "Best Of" CD, and I already obviously heard Frank Sinatra and stuff like that, but I don’t think I had ever heard Ella Fitzgerald and it sounds very cheesy but as soon as I heard her singing I thought ‘wow, this is for me’. So yeah, it was an Ella moment in my teens.
But it was silly really because my grandma only told me in my late twenties that she used to sing on the bandstand with jazz bands, and she’d go around singing with her friends and I had no idea until I was already into a jazz career! Also, my grandad was a jazz drummer and he used to play in Liverpool around the time The Beatles were young. He said that he told Paul McCartney that he didn’t think his guitar was any good.
Who are your musical influences?
In terms of jazz singing we’ve got the pinnacle, which is Ella Fitzgerald. Sarah Vaughn is a close second if not a joint first; she’s got this broad sweeping tone and her language is so unique and deep and soul stirring.
I also love Anita O’Day, who I think is really cheeky and takes risks!
What has been your favorite Down for the Count performance?
I’d probably say my first Cadogan Hall experience with an audience. Even though they were socially distanced, singing for the first time at Cadogan Hall with a full audience was just such an important moment for me in my career.
What is your favourite song to perform with Down for the Count?
I absolutely love singing On the Sunny Side of the Street, every time we do it I am filled with joy and I love singing in harmony with my fellow harmony singers.
If it were to be a solo moment, probably After You’ve Gone which is my big diva moment.
What is the best gig you have ever been to?
I saw Cecile Mclorent Salvant at The Barbican with her duet partner. Seeing her live is a spectacular thing because she is an incredible storyteller and her voice is just limitless. She takes songs to really unexpected places and she is just magnificent.
What is your favourite jazz album/song/recording?
One that I really love is Sarah Vaughn’s album Crazy and Mixed Up.
If I were to go more modern I’d go with Cecile McLorent Salvant’s album The Window.
There’s a bit of variety there - the Cecile album is a bit more wacky.
What other musical projects are you involved with outside of Down for the Count?
I am in an originals band called Wise Woman. We write songs about hidden women of history and unexpected perspectives of the women of today. We mix folk, jazz, blues and musical theatre to create these women focussed musical offerings and storytelling.
I am in London Vocal Project, which is a really fabulous community of musicians led by the absolute legend that is Pete Churchill. We meet every Monday to sing and we are recording a James Taylor inspired album in the autumn, and we will be the first people on the Pizza Express jazz label!
What are your hobbies when you are not performing?
I like painting - I go through phases of painting for a few months and then not for a while - so I guess oil painting is a hobby of mine. I am also a beginner swing dancer!
What is the best part of being involved with Down for the Count?
It would have to be the close family atmosphere of the band, and the love and friendship and camaraderie between us all.