| Interview conducted by Cécile Faure | avril 2021 |
This red hair which overhangs a smiling face is not unknown to you! Just like that voice that has crisscrossed the airwaves and stages around the world, from opera to big concert halls and very famous clubs for the past 40 years. Sarah-Jane Morris is the one who was singing “Don’t leave me this way” with Jimmy Sommerville and The Communards in 1986. L’ECHO Magazine was lucky enough to exchange with the Dame on the struggle artists are facing due to Brexit and Covid19, and on her new releases… listen and support her tremendous work and talent at www.sarahjanemorris.co.uk
With Brexit and the end of free movement between the UK and the European Union, artists are left struggling with new administrative requirements. How has this impacted your work? Your ability to travel and organise concerts across Europe? Do you find any support from unions (Musicians’ Union) or the government?
I am a singer songwriter based in East Sussex, who, before Covid, performed on a regular basis in Europe. I do more concerts in Italy than any other European artist and 90% of my earnings come from abroad.
I usually travel to Europe with my four-piece band, and we travel by plane and train and minibus. With the free movement we have had between countries this has been relatively straight forward. Brexit brings most of this to a standstill. We now need permits/visas for each country we travel to. For a European tour, this could now add on at least £2,500 in extra costs, just for the permits. Each instrument we take will cost an extra £300, so for instance, if we took a sax player, paying all three saxes, that’s an extra £900. The carnets needed for the equipment will require huge paperwork and administrative costs and everyone must have their passports stamped at every border control.
I am an established artist with a loyal fanbase, playing decent sized venues, but my heart goes out to young musicians just starting out in this profession, playing small clubs.
We, the music business and industry of the UK, are currently in a perilous state. All of this during a pandemic that has crippled the music industry and put many out of work, permanently. We deserve better than this from our elected government.
To add insult to injury, with the current pandemic and the end of lockdown constantly pushed back, how do you reach your audience? Do you organise concerts “on demand”?
My Italian agency of 17 years standing, has announced that due to all the extra expense and complications involved with bringing UK based musicians to Italy, it is too much for them. I am now having to find a new agency in the time of Covid19 and Brexit. I am having to come to terms with the fact that I might not be able to afford to take my musicians abroad with me in future and may well have to employ musicians from whichever European country I am offered concerts in. It was hard enough to make the money go round without this but will now be virtually impossible.
I managed to get to Italy last July, September and October to do concerts in the open air with social distancing and everyone wearing masks. My son has been living with me through the last years lockdown and is a singer songwriter. He and I have done three at home ‘live streamed’ concerts through my YouTube channel. The first concert was to raise money for the local foodbank but the second and third concerts involved more people to film, do sound etc so we asked for donations on PayPal if the audience watching felt inclined. It is very strange doing these virtual concerts without a live audience. So much of performance is based on a relationship with the audience. I long for this to return. I have live-streamed from Ronnie Scott’s and the 606 club in London. So many of the venues that I was booked to perform in last year are now closed, never to reopen due to lack of financial support during lockdown.
Because we have to keep looking through the tunnel until we grasp a ray of light, what are your plans for the future? Are you working on a new album? What can you tell us about its content?
I have recorded two albums during this last lockdown by recording the vocals at home and the other musicians in their home studios. One is with ‘The Solis’ string quartet from Naples, with whom I am doing a theatre/music project for Italy, with the music of “The Beatles”. The other is with an Italian producer called “Papik” who I have worked with before. We have covered 80s songs and totally changed them. From ‘Prefab Sprout’, to “The Style Council”, to “Everything But the Girl”. Both these projects will hopefully lead to touring work later this year or next year if Covid and Brexit allow.
Interview conducted by Cécile Faure