As a singer and songwriter Lisa Hunt has enjoyed amazing success across the globe with her powerful voice belting out the best of Motown and Rhythm & Blues. Her deep soulful voice has been labelled ‘an experience not to be missed’. Lisa will be here on the Mid-North Coast to perform live at the Riverview Hotel and we catch up with the talented musician to see what we can expect.
> How did you get into music and singing from the beginning?
I started singing, like most African American kids, in the Gospel church. The New life Baptist Church in Brooklyn New York. I started singing and playing piano when I was around five years old. My brothers, sister and I had a group called The Hunt Singers; I was the reluctant lead singer, unlike little Michael Jackson I was shy back then. I sang in the youth choir, the elementary school choir and the local community choir. I guess I knew pretty early on that singing just might be my destiny.
> How would you describe your singing style?
I like to “give it all”; put my heart and soul and drama. I choose songs that let me do that. My idols would be the easiest clue to my style. I was honed on Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and the likes. Motown & Stax are my all time favourites, because they are the kind of songs (beautiful melodies and lush arrangements) that appeal the most to me. There are some nice high notes to show off that’s even better. I love how they get people on the dance floor as well, even those who haven’t had a boogie in a decade. Hahaha.
I also love the power Disco Diva songs too, for the sheer force required to sing them properly. I mean you can’t exactly wimp out while saying ‘ I Will Survive’ or ‘It’s Raining Men Hallelujah’!
> You’ve shared the stage with some amazing musicians over the years including Eric Clapton, James Brown, Miles Davis and Joe Cocker. What is your most memorable experience to date?
One of my favourites was backstage at the Pavarotti concert in Italy. I was doing my vocal warm up when someone knocked on my dressing room door. It was Michael Bolton. I was speechless. You have to realise I just love his voice and had a little crush on him as well and there he was! “He said something like “where did you get that incredible voice from?”. I just whimpered something like…”look who’s talking” and went all girlie goo goo.
At the Pavarotti and Friends concert, there was a human police chain guarding the walkway for Pavs, Princess Diana and Bono.The day before during rehearsal Bono and I had spoken briefly. He was so humane and effortlessly charming. So back to show day – Bono broke though the police barricade and gave me kiss on the cheek. The looks on the faces of the other members of my band was priceless! they had no idea I had ever spoken to him and their jaws dropped. Of course that was another girlie gaga episode.
I guess the question was really about singing with these folk, but I mean no-one needs me to tell ya how good any of them are. So it’s those personal moments that are extra special to me; when you can connect to another human being who happens to be a musician you admire and a celebrity to boot. Such a buzz. I’d tell you my Miles Davis story, but it’s a family publication, hahaha.
> What other artists have you worked with over the years?
I did lots of work with Barnsey. He’s a real live wire and was probably the most fun to tour and record with. We’d have these big voice showdowns on our duets. Lots of energy and passion. Another fave was Algerian singer Cheb Mumi. He’s the guy from Sting’s Dessert Rose CD. He has this incredibly exotic Arab singing style and it was a real cultural merger when we sang at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I really ‘dug’ doing some back-up singing for Tina Arena and Macy Gray too – They both have magical, unique voices.
> You had the pleasure of working with Pavarotti and Ray Charles. What was that like?
I also really ‘dug’ meeting and having the chance to share a stage with Pavarotti. Pavarotti is legendary and for a ghetto child from Brooklyn being on the same stage singing together. It’s pretty hard to fathom even. It still trips me out to think of it. Even the idea of our voices together – Power Classical mixed with Power Soul. Revolutionary!! The Ray Charles concert was fabulous as well, held in the Historic Arena in Verona. There must have been 50,000 people all holding flickering lights. It’s one of those moments in time I will never forget. He himself was simply mesmerising, a true professional and what needs to be said about that voice! Oh an epilogue of the Pavarotti story; We did the same song ‘Miserere’ at a more recent event but this time, Andrea Bocelli sang as well! *scream*!!
> This is your second time here on the Mid-North Coast. What do you remember from your last trip?
But of course, who could forget South West Rocks. So picturesque. We went to Trial Bay Gaol, had a swim and a look around. It is a beautiful part of Australia. One of the great things about touring, is finding these spots. I mean, it would’ve been quite easy to pass-by on the highway, cause you wouldn’t know to look into the nooks and crannies.
I’ve actually gone back just on holiday. If you want to tell me the secret spots that only locals know about…I promise not to tell.
> You’re playing locally at the Riverview Hotel in Smithtown. What can we expect from your show this time around?
Expect to hear some classic Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Funk, Disco. Expect to sing along and get sentimental on a trip down memory lane. What’s so cool is that I find even the young audience knows this stuff. I’ve often wondered how could they know all the words to ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, ‘Sugar Pie Honey Bunch’ or ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ but they do!! I’ve had three generations at my shows sometimes, I love that. As well some budding Diva will be chosen to be one of The Supremes. I’ve seen a few tears while performing Aretha’s ‘Natural Woman’. Overall though it will be a fun night with great tunes.
> Will you have any free time while you are here to explore the area?
We always manage to do at least some sightseeing during the day. That’s another good thing about working at night. I repeat, any special recommendations are welcomed.
> Together as a singer and a songwriter you’ve sold over 1 million records which is a great achievement!
Yes, in particular for someone you’ve probably never heard of before. Ya gotta love showbiz. I’ve been making records for over a decade and living wherever the wind blows. Europe (Italy and England), Australia and the USA. I’ve done all sorts of music including, Movie soundtracks, Dance music, Pop and Musical Theatre. So once you add them all up I think -hey! that’s a lotta records, even though I’m no celebrity, It’s been a good life so far and if God’s willing there will be lots more music and discoveries to come.
> Apart from your upcoming tour, What does the future hold for Lisa Hunt?
Check this out. This northern summer I will be performing for six weeks in Beirut Lebanon. I did a brief trip just before coming to Oz this year and will go back in July and August. It’s an amazing place, with Arabs and Christians living side by side. Its society is just really ready to leave the past behind and have a good time. I love exploring the world and seeing for myself what’s going on. I’ll be doing a mini tour down under in September, then heading back to The USA. I’m also doing a new original Album this winter, we begin recording late August. It will be an international effort, with songs from writers in both the US and Australia ( Don Walker will be writing some stuff) as well as my own compositions. I want to go for an earthy, bluesy sound, but with crisp and lush arrangement. So I’ll be a busy bee and that is just how I like it.
> Thanks Lisa