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She may be a bona fide diva with more outfits than Beyonce, but it is singer Jane McDonald’s common touch that has won so many over.
The original reality TV star turned A-list celebrity in her own right made her name on fly-on-the-wall show The Cruise in the late 1990s, and quickly followed up with a self-titled No 1 album. A move into the dual career of TV presenter on Loose Women came naturally to the Yorkshire lass, who warmly combines the down-to-earth straight talking characteristic of her working class roots with the brand of high-maintenance, old-school glamour of a genuine diva.
There have been four more hit albums, most recently new offering The Singer of Your Song, which launched the tour that brings Jane to the county this weekend.
Jane, who turned 51 in April, told Jo Roberts what her Kent fans have in store and why we’ll never catch her complaining about the down sides of fame (even autograph hunters in Sainsbury’s).
What can the fans expect from your live show that they can’t get from listening to the album?
“It’s the personal touch. I tell them, ‘This is the time to get your hankies out!’ or ‘Now’s the time to put them away and dance!’ You can’t shut me up, I’m so used to talking about everything. I like to keep my private life that way, but I tend to be very much in touch with what’s going on in the real world. I watch Corrie and TV, so there’s lots of banter and interaction.
“Also the outfits, they’re one of the main expenditures! I have my own couturists. I have four costume changes in a night, and I’ve got a gown covered in Swarovski crystals. It’s an occasion, it’s proper showbiz – I’m living the dream! We open the second half with a James Bond set, it’s amazing.”
You grafted hard for years before fame came calling – did it alter your reality?
“I grafted but I was very lucky to be in a job that I loved – it’s not like work. I get a lot of letters asking for my advice but it’s not about fame and fortune, it’s about doing the job you love and being paid for it.
I thought I was a success when I was a cruise singer and so I could always go back to that. It’s still a safety net, and how many people have that? Performing is my passion, and it’s still the same job.”
Do you get recognised everywhere you go because of Loose Women?
“Yes it’s every day for me, but it’s if people are not recognising me that I’m in trouble! Every artist strives for recognition, and many get there and then think, ‘I don’t like this!’ You can’t get round Sainsbury’s and get your shopping done in five minutes, but I take real pleasure in talking to people.”
What’s your personal ritual ahead of a concert?
“I take a bottle of Drambuie with me! A little bit coats the vocal chords, just a nip, and that excitement’s building as I hear the intro.”
What’s your personal favourite number?
“It’s Dance Yourself Dizzy, it was my partner’s [Eddie Rothe, Jane’s childhood sweetheart and now fiancé, who was formerly of the band Liquid Gold] No 2 hit single when I first fell in love with him when he was 18. It takes us right back to where we were then.”
What’s the crowd’s favourite number?
“It’s still You’re My World, from the album I went to No 1 with all those years ago .”
Is it a thrill to perform new material?
“It is, especially The Hand That Leads Me, which I wrote myself for my mother. And The Singer of Your Song, which is one that I wrote for my fans to say thank you.”
Do you know Kent from your cruise days?
“Oh yeah, I’ve been travelling down south for many years. I’m becoming quite familiar with most places from touring. I’ve been lucky because a lot of people in the UK don’t know it, but I get to see our amazing country. I like to see where I’m staying. I treat it like a holiday, and that’s how I enjoy it so much.”
Jane McDonald is at the Woodville Theatre, Gravesend, on Friday, July 4, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £26. Call 01474 337774. The tour returns to Kent in September, when Jane will appear at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall Theatre on Friday, September 19, at 7.30pm. Tickets from £29.50. Call 01892 530613. Jane will also be at the Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone, on Sunday, September 28, at 7.30pm. Tickets from £23.40. Call 0844 8713015.
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