Nicki French is known worldwide for her #1 dance rendition of Jim Steinman's classic, "Total Eclipse of the Heart". She is also noted for her musical theatre performances in "Annie", "Sleeping Beauty", and "Menopause the Musical". Nicki has raised over £13,000 for cancer research by winning "The Weakest Link" Eurovision Special. Nicki kindly joined Artist Spotlight to discuss her career and her support for cancer research, organic gardening, and animal welfare.
Can you describe your experience working with legendary songwriter Jim Steinman?
It was surreal actually - I worked in the studio with one of his producers, Steve, and Jim kept in touch by telephone. He was sent the tracks and vocals by some sort of satellite procedure, so was right up to date with what was going on, and gave some really good help and advice. He also sent me a bottle of VERY special wine, which I still haven't opened....
What is the greatest inspiration for your songs?
It depends on the situation - whether I've written the song myself, or if I'm singing someone else's composition - but always, I try to put myself into the position of what the song is about. I'm a big fan of emotion!!!
Do you have a favorite song you have recorded or a song that is particularly dear to your heart?
Oh easy - 'Did you Ever Really Love Me?', from the first album, 'Secrets', is a stunning song, and I think it's the best thing I ever had the honour of recording. It's the most popular song of mine in Brazil too - and I always get an amazing thrill when I perform it there.
What is your all-time favorite song (by another artist)?
Gosh - I have so many, I couldn't choose just one. I love ballads though, so it would probably end up being something sad and meaningful. I also love songs from the old musicals.
Is there any artist you dream of performing with someday?
There are a few I'd love to perform with. Back in 1995, when 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' was huge for me, I was asked in many interviews who I would like to record with, and I kept saying Curtis Stigers. I then turned up to record a tv show in New York - and he was there! I was so embarrassed I couldn't chat to him - but my husband told me he was lovely!!
I think Michael Buble would definitely be one to work with too - I'd love to sing a duet with him.
What message would you like your music to convey to the listener?
Oh my music isn't trying to make a statement about World Peace or anything - it is just down to earth, hopefully enjoyable music to listen and sing along to. Then again, it is wonderful when you receive a message from someone who tells you that one of your songs got them through a turbulent or testing time in their life - or even, on a happier note, that it was important to a relationship because it was 'their' song! I know that in the Great Scheme of things, my music isn't going to change the world - but if I can bring even a little enjoyment and light relief to someone, then that's good.
Name five adjectives that describe you as a person.
Hmmm - well I suppose really you should ask people that know me well on that one! I would say I would LIKE to be known as dedicated, optimistic, impatient, generous - um, and energetic!
Name five adjectives that describe your music.
Oh goodness - well I suppose we can still use energetic and optimistic! Add to that hopefully heartfelt/emotional/enjoyable - and tuneful! Oh no - that's six! I'll stop there then.
Name five performers who have influenced you most as an artist.
Well when I was a little girl, the singer that made me think I wanted to be a singer was actually Lulu. Since then though, I would say Gloria Estefan was inspirational - the way she dealt with her accident and would not give up, even when she was told she may never walk again - defying the odds is a BIG inspiration to me. I was brought up listening to artists like Frank Sinatra, and LOVE performing all the old big band numbers - with the full orchestra behind me.
The wonderful Dame Julie Andrews is a huge heroine, and The Sound of Music is still one of my all-time favourite films! When I was at college, my dream was to work in Musical Theatre - I never planned the pop career really!
Not quite 'performers as such, but because of my love of musicals, I would say Rodgers & Hammerstein have always been heroes too - they wrote some amazing shows and songs.
Can you tell us more about the charities and causes you support?
Well since losing my wonderful father to cancer, back in 1997, I have supported various Cancer charities, and still pay a monthly amount to Cancer Research. I was also sponsored to do the equivalent of swimming the English Channel in my local pool a few years ago, and roped my brother into a team I put together for a sponsored swim another year, for the Marie Curie fund.
I also support the Henry Doubleday Research Foundation, an organisation that promotes organic and natural gardening methods, something I am passionate about. I eat organic food where possible, and prepare everything myself - no packet sauces for me!
I am a big animal lover too, and try to help where possibly with any fundraising for organisations like 'Guide Dogs for the Blind' or the PDSA.
Which performance do you consider the highlight of your career, thus far?
Well I was SO excited the first time I ever appeared on Top of the Pops - it's every performer's dream, isn't it? I also had some wonderful shows over in both the USA, in football stadiums with 30,000+ people - and Brazil, where I ALWAYS get the most amazing response from the fans. But I would have to say, representing my country at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000 was just THE most amazing feeling (although the result wasn't so enjoyable)!!!
What projects will you be working on this year? Any plans to tour this year?
Well I will be touring the country from August with the theatre run of the musical 'Annie' for six months. This year has so far been taken up more with theatre shows than gigs really (I'm currently over in Ireland performing in 'Menopause the Musical', a very funny piece about THAT time of a woman's life!), but I did manage to get into the studio early in the year, and have recorded a couple of new tracks. I have some gigs organised for June and July - so all in all, it's a pretty busy year now!
-I hope people will continue to support the efforts made by the various cancer research organisations to find a cure for this awful disease - and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my answers!
Thanks to Nicki for sharing her time and talent. Check out Nicki's latest single "Ain't No Smoke (Without Fire)" and her Special Edition album version of French Revolution.
Visit www.myspace.com/nickifrench and www.nickifrench.com
For more information about Marie Curie Cancer Care, please visit: http://www.mariecurie.org.uk/
For more information about Henry Doubleday Research Association, please visit: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/
For more information about Guide Dogs for the Blind, please visit: http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer
For more information about PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals), please visit: http://www.pdsa.org.uk/