Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Liane Carroll

Photo courtesy Liane Carroll:

All that jazz…

HOT columnist Sean O’Shea talks with Liane Carroll about her life as a singer and musician, her experience of working with other musicians, the demise of the pub piano and the future of jazz. He asks how her continuing success has affected her musically and personally, and also enquires about her life outside music.

Sean O’Shea (SOS): Though you were born in London you were raised in Hastings so you are almost a Hastonian. What do you think is Hastings’ main appeal for musicians and artists?

Liane Carroll (LC): I was ‘made’ in Hastings in my grandparents’ seafront bed and breakfast. Mum took ill and spent her pregnancy in King’s College Hospital in London, where I was born. We moved back to Hastings a few years later. I consider myself totally a Hastonian. I love it here and, apart from when I was 18 and moved to York to get married, have my baby Abby, (get unmarried), and moved back down two years later, I have been in Hastings ever since and it is my home. I will never leave this remarkable town.

I think a lot of musicians, artists, etc. love the complete raw honesty, warts and all of Hastings. It is a very cultural melting pot, and that has always been the case, without it trying in the least. Hastings is ancient, complete and growing, which makes me feel very lucky to be part of it.

SOS: You started playing the piano at the age of three being tutored by Phyllis Catling. What was your experience of learning the piano so young?

LC: We couldn’t afford a piano when I was very young so I used to go and practice at my Auntie Ada and Uncle Bill’s house, down the road. Luckily they were both hard of hearing! Phyllis Catling was an old school dragon of a concert pianist, who taught to supplement her income and she had two pianos in her lounge. I was terrified of her as she used to have a pair of scissors at the end of the piano and would threaten to take an inch off my hair for each mistake. I was five years old then. I used to tuck my hair into a beret for my lessons, and never told my mum till I was much older. Not the best way to teach, I reckon. I think I received all my real tuition from listening to records and being encouraged to make a noise at home.

SOS: You’ve been described as a jazz pianist and soul diva. How would you describe yourself musically?

LC: I wouldn’t dream of describing myself musically, as I am not in the least bit eloquent. All I know is I love doing this, I do it for a living, and I count my blessings every day. I’m not one for pigeon-holeing. Music is music, as far as I am concerned, and as long as the noise you make comes from an authentic place in your body/soul/heart, and you carry on trying to get better, then that will do.

Pub piano RIP

SOS: You normally play the electronic keyboard. Have you ever played the old pub piano at Porters – now part of an art work by local artist Lee Dyer – and have you any views on the demise of the pub piano?

LC: I have played at Porters for 24 years now and, yes, I knew the old piano very well. I played it until it died last year. I remember saying in an interview that you could probably drop it from a second storey window, and it would still sound the same!  It now forms the most beautiful wall sculpture by Lee Dyer, which is stunning. I enjoy playing my keyboard there because now I can see the audience, rather than turning round in between songs to have some form of connection!

SOS: You have become increasingly successful as a performer and been in receipt of many accolades, not least of which is being the winner of two BBC Jazz Awards in the same year for ‘Best Vocalist’ and ‘Best of Jazz’, and your album Up and Down won in the Jazz Album of the Year category at the 2012 Parliamentary Jazz Awards in May 2012. In what ways has this success affected your life musically and personally?

LC: The awards have been quite surreal for me. It wasn’t, and isn’t, why I do this. It’s been flattering to be recognized in such a way musically, but it certainly hasn’t affected my personal life. I have a beautiful family; I strive to be a better daughter, wife, mother and grandmother. The work I get has improved undoubtedly because of the awards, I’m sure, but I am very happy to say it hasn’t intruded on my personal life.


Liane Carroll live at Porters

Liane playing live at Porters wine bar, Hastings. (Courtesy Liane Carroll)

: You have worked with some very famous people including Gerry Rafferty, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Trevor Watts and Paul McCartney. What have you enjoyed about working with such stars?

LC: Working with so many musicians over the years has been totally exhilarating and fulfilling, as each one has brought different experiences, mostly joyful, sometimes difficult, but unique each time. Yes, there have been ‘names’ that I have played with, but there are so many other amazing musicians and friends that I am lucky enough to share this journey with. I hope that side of it doesn’t stop.

SOS: What is it like to journey from the ambience of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London back to play in your home town of Hastings and what are some of your favourite venues?

LC: It’s a really interesting and exciting aspect of my job playing in different venues around the world. Ask any musician and they will tell you that each venue has its own spirit, some more memorable than others. I get equally excited and nervous playing at a local gig that my mum comes to as I am playing in some stadium, or Glastonbury, or Ronnie’s. Each experience is a one off and, whilst appreciating the musical credibility of such bigger venues, I don’t compare one against the other. For instance, I was in a live drum and bass band called London Elektricity, and we headlined to 65,000 people in Brazil. I wasn’t nervous because I couldn’t really see any individual faces, but loved the whole experience of singing to such a large audience, and getting them to sing along. There was a lot of love that night, and it is palpable, and affects you viscerally, but I don’t think I ‘feel’ any different playing down the road. I want people to enjoy their time and the connection between us all.

SOS: Some people say that that jazz is in decline but you keep pulling in the customers locally, nationally and internationally. How do you see the future of jazz as a genre?

LC: Jazz is so enormous for such a short word! It covers so many aspects of creativity, blues, dixieland, trad, bebop, swing, big band, avant-garde, etc. etc. Just because it doesn’t have the global accessibility of pop or commercial music doesn’t mean it’s in decline. Just put ‘jazz clubs’ in Google, and you will see it is vibrant and ever-evolving, thank God.

SOS: What are some of the things you enjoy doing outside of your music making?

LC: I enjoy luxuries, like the luxury of being with my granddaughters and pretending to be a cool Nana. I like walking with Roger along Rye Harbour, which we always say we are going to do more of but never do. I enjoy TV more than I suppose I should but, sod it, it helps me forget music for a while. I have managed to con Roger into thinking I can cook for the last 26 years, when most of it is literally smoke and mirrors. I love comedy from any source: a joke from a friend, or giggling when you’re not supposed to. The older I get the more I enjoy rebelling against sophistication. I remember my Nan telling me, when I was a kid, that “trying to be cool”, and “embarrassment” are two totally redundant exercises. I’m enjoying following her advice.

To book tickets for Liane Carroll concert contact:

James McMillan on 07973 416856, or

7 Pelham Crescent Hastings TN34 3AF

Pictures courtesy Liane Carroll:

[Stop press: on Friday 12 April James McMillan reported that the concert was sold out.]

SOS, 29 March 2013

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Posted 13:54 Friday, Mar 29, 2013 In: SOS

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