My night-out with West End star and singer Cassidy Janson

A few days ago on my birthday I was invited to one of the last performances of the West End show The Man of La Mancha starring iconic stars such as Fraser / Cheers TV front man Kelsey Grammer and Only Fools and Horses Nicholas Lyndhurst. I went backstage to celebrate with London-born Classical BRIT nominated singer, actress and star of London’s West End Cassidy Janson whose debut album Cassidy will be released on 14thJune 2019. Not only I was surprised with a special champagne and a birthday song but also with a big hug from Dr Crane aka Kelsey Grammer. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday finale. Cassidy’s album features 14 new songs, 12 co-written by Cassidy Janson herself, and a new song written for her by legend and friend and iconic sing/song Carole King. Here is our lovely chat with some insights into her music making and her West End plans.

Monica: Your album voice is very different from your West End voice and reminds me of a merge between Barbra Streisand and Nora Jones…. What’s your favourite song from the debut solo album and why? 

Cassidy Janson (CJ):   I have a very, very soft spot for a song that I wrote with a great songwriter called Anna Krantz, and it’s the song Fairytale. I really, really love it and we, the writing session was very magical and she’s a wonderful singer/songwriter, and we just sort of came up with this beautiful idea and I love sort of fantasy/adventure movie, something that I have close to my heart.

Monica:  That’s good, okay. I’ll take that. And what’s the song that Carole King wrote for you?

CJ:          It’s “You Beat Me to Goodbye.”

Speaker 2:      Ahhh. So she wrote it especially for you.

CJ:          No, no, no. She just had some unreleased songs. 

CJ:          So, I wrote to her just after she had come to see me in Beautiful. I said, “I don’t suppose that I might, in my debut album, I don’t suppose you have any unreleased songs.” And she sent me five tracks, straight away, which I was astonished at.

Monica:  Oh wow.

CJ:          We worked out which one would sort of suit the album, and we worked and we produced that.

Monica:  Special.

CJ:          I’m very honoured, very honoured that she gave me her songs, you know. That was a massive complement.

Monica:  I suppose if you don’t ask, you don’t get. (laugh)

CJ:          Well, that’s part of my main, my life philosophy you know.

Monica:  Yeah, mine too. Don’t worry. I think it’s the best way.

CJ:          Yeah.

Monica:  You did a musical about her, so why shouldn’t she give it to you? You were special to her.

CJ:          Well she said some very, very, very lovely things publicly about my performances that I will cherish ‘til the day I die.

Monica:  It’s incredible, isn’t it? It is an iconic sing/song writer like Carole King. Where do you get the inspiration for your music? Is it not easy to write music and you must feel sort of in a special state of mine to be able to write, I suppose.

CJ:          Yeah. It’s often late at night I come up with lyrics.

Monica:  Ooh!

CJ:          Or a situation might be happening in my life I’m frustrated with. I think of a really poetic line and like “Oh gosh, I think this is a song” and I’ll just have a list and list and list of lyrics in my phone of potential songs. And I find it quite cathartic to just make a poetic version of a frustrating situation or a happy situation or whatever and that’s sort of, I find very cathartic, and then what I quite like doing is then writing a top playing with someone else or someone else playing on the piano or guitar and then riffing around some top lines together and then working out a melody and that seems to be a way that works very well for me. But sometimes I write the melody myself and, yeah. Or sometimes someone has a melody and they want me to write lyrics to it, it’s really, I’m very fluid. I don’t have a set way I like to work. I’m just kinda like, “I got this thing, what do you think?” Or someone else comes to me and I finish a song, or, it’s very fluid and I enjoy the randomity. But I suppose the music, well the creative process in any sort of creative art is very fluid. It has to be. It has to be spontaneous.

Monica: To be reading good and, yeah. It has to be that way. Random, as you say. Randomity. Otherwise it would be like a process, like an engineering process would work, right?

CJ:          Yeah, and it gets a bit formulaic. And, you know, sometimes songs happen quickly and sometimes they take a few sessions. And, um, they’re all like unique little babies.

Monica:  Yeah. Um, I mean, last night’s performance, The Man of La Mancha, was a very, very nice theatrical musical. Also, I thought it was a little bit like an Italian operetta. I don’t know if you know operetta but it felt a bit like that.

CJ:          Yeah. Just a bit.

Monica:  Quite unique, you know? Out of all the roles you’ve played in the West End so far in all the shows, um, which one is your favourite and closest to your heart? You know, like the one you feel really strong about and like –

CJ:          It is, without a doubt, it is playing Carole King. I found playing her really soothing. She’s a very, very warm, loving human being. And embodying someone

Monica:  Like you.

CJ:          (laughter) yeah. Yeah like me. But she’s particularly special and gentle, and to portray someone that – and also I’d never played someone that existed. Everyone, every character I played was either fictional or dead. I’ve never played anyone that is still a living, breathing human being so there’s a sense of honouring that person a lot more than your own interpretation may be of a part. You kinda have to honour her, and I found it a really fascinating process. And also vocally, my voice sits very, very much naturally in Carole King’s range -I have a very low voice naturally, so it was one of the most comfortable fits vocally and physically for me ever in a show. So I was gonna do another year in the production, but sadly we closed. Because I just, I couldn’t, I never got bored of playing that part. I loved singing every single song. It was a great fit. And, um, it will remain, I think, it’s gonna be a hard one to beat, I think.

Monica:  Well, there are videos like of the concert that you, you know, you went to together. That was quite nice to go back to just a reminder of that connection between the two of you. And what or who are your musical idols, your sort of iconic, you know, singers or musicians that you aspire to apart from probably Carole King?

CJ:          Well, I’m a massive Barba Streisand fan.

Monica:  You know, I am too. She’s gonna be at BST British Summer Time festival this Summer. You should come and sing with her.

CJ:          I know, I really want to. Who knows… Maybe.

Cassidy Janson celebrating my birthday! What a honour!

Monica:  Ask her. Ask her. And who else?

CJ:          I love Lady Gaga. Especially the movie she just did, A Star is Born. I didn’t know much about her before the movie and I really came around to her. Her vocals are very special and I think she’s a very important icon in the modern age. I think she’s a really strong influence and I respect her a lot. But, but back to my roots, really, my roots, I love jazz. My first Idol was Peggy Lee. I stole my dad’s Lee compilation tape, and he’s never got it back. I just, you know, I wonder if in a past life I was a jazz singer in night clubs around Harlem. I don’t know. But, you know, I was a very young kid listening to very old jazz and I just loved Peggy Lee’s voice. She was a strong influence on me vocally from a young age. So she was a big, I still pop her on. I find her voice very unique. And I know a lot of people, Ella Fitzgerald found, and of course Ella had the most extraordinary voice, but for me, the big lady is Peggy Lee.

Monica:  (laughter) Excellent. This is a new, I mean, it’s rare to find you know, like people so attached to this genre. That is actually, if you saw LaLa Land, the message said that Jazz is kinda disappearing a bit, and it’s really sad because I love Jazz too.

CJ:          Oh me too. Me too.

Kelsey Grammer and monica costa

In the very pleasant company of Kelsey Grammer

Monica:  But LaLa Land brought it maybe back, the attention back to the fact that jazz is disappearing o people started listening to jazz a bit more after that film became so successful. Which, you know, will hopefully never die. You know. And um, last night’s musical, I loved it. I really loved it. And um, tell me a little bit – Kelsey Grammer is surely a very charming man. I mean, his role was a bit rough and sweet and both, but yesterday when we saw him passing by and we stopped him, he’s such a charmer, isn’t he?

CJ:          Oh he’s a wonderful man! Very charming. Very well mannered. Very genuine as well.

Monica:  That’s it. I had that impression straight away.

CJ:          Yeah, and that’s exactly what he’s like. He’s just, he’s one of those people I think is just like, very comfortable in his own skin. Which means he can grant a lot of respect to others, you know, because he’s got no qualms on himself. And he’s wonderful to be around. And I have to say it’s the most extraordinary experience acting opposite of him in these very heavyweight scenes and it’s wonderful. I remember talking to him about some scenes and he just lets me do my thing and he needs nothing from me so we just go in, roll up our sleeves and have these wonderful scenes.

Monica:  There was a lot of chemistry between you two on stage. You know, like, interesting because the age gap is quite significant. But still, like, there was really nice connection. You know, like, you can tell from the audience seats that it was really nice. A lovely, lovely play. Is there any fun anecdotes behind the scenes when you’re, you know, during your rehearsals or something fun – even like Nicholas Lyndhurst, he’s an iconic star in this country.

CJ:          Oh my gosh, Nic is wonderful. Again another incredibly warm, kind, generous being. He’s really lovely and again, needs nothing from anybody. He just comes in and creates these beautiful mannerisms for his part. I find him extraordinary to watch. Um, and Peter Polycarpou as well.

Monica:  Is the Sancho Panza character, right?

CJ:          He’s Sancho, yeah. I um, you know, you’re in these scenes with these sort of sitcom legends, and it is wonderful working with these incredible artists of acting, of the stage. And, yeah, I feel very privileged to be sharing a stage with them all. Yeah. They, you know, there are so many all together, it was a bit of a honour to watch all of this talent.

Monica: You know what I noticed? That in the world of actors and, at least in the theatre world, in the West End, there is a lot of warmth in these people that kind of act and I wonder whether it’s a special world, isn’t it? I have the impression that it’s such a caring and gentle.

CJ:          Yeah, it can be. I mean, like in any profession, you can work with less great people. But more often than not, this is an industry that attracts people that are Sympathetic, empathic people, maybe. Generally, more often than not, the majority of the companies are really warm, enthusiastic, generous people, and you get this magical thing that happens. And it is a very, I think, a caring industry. Certainly, within actors and actresses and the cast. It can be a very tight knit group and, very strong social feel. It’s wonderful. I will miss this cast. It’s been a really, really supportive group of people and it’s been very special. Very, very special.

Monica:  And it was special in terms of like, for the audience as well, I think. There were actually people from all over Europe. I heard people speaking French, Spanish, Italian.

CJ:          Wow.

Speaker 2:      The subject is very European and international, so I guess it attracts that kind of audience. And talking about nice, lovely people, the lady who came last night, the one you will be performing in the new musical.

CJ:          Ah, Miriam-Teak Lee. And, um, she’s an extraordinary talent. She was in Hamilton. And, um, and this is her first big main role. She’s extraordinary. And again talking about lovely cast members, the cast of & Juliet are all supportive, generous, kind, enthusiastic, creative beings. And to have that en masse? We are all very aware that this is a particularly unique group of people and how special the show is. It’s gonna be a hell of a ride and I can’t wait to get back in the rehearsal room with everybody and rehearse with Miriam because she’s a gorgeous girl. She’s so gorgeous.

Having fun with new West End star Miriam-Teak Lee

Monica:  Yes. And good fun to be around.

CJ:          Oh she’s so amazing.

Monica:  Is it like, what is & Juliet all about?

Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson and Monica Costa

CJ:          So the story is, it’s um, I’m playing Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife, and William Shakespeare tells me the end of Romeo and Juliet and I say “That’s terrible!” I take the quill off him and I say, “We need to rewrite this.” And so Juliet wakes up after, and finds Romeo dead, but decides not to kill herself. She’s sad, but she decides not to kill herself, and then this whole adventure happens. And then, I won’t tell you any more of it.

Monica:  No, no, no. I want to see it. (laughter)

CJ:          Yeah. It’s very funny. Heart-warming. I mean, when I say funny, it is hysterical. I’ve watched every single rehearsal and I’ve never stopped laughing.

Monica:  Oh really? From the inside, basically. From the inside perspective, even, it’s funny.

CJ:          Oh God, it’s so funny. Like, it is proper. It is a comedy genius has written this show. But it’s not just gunny. It’s got heart. It’s clever. It’s – oh. It’s the mark of a genius.

Monica:  Great! I’m looking forward to this one! So it’s November time in the UK, right?

CJ:          Yeah. Yeah it opens in Manchester in September. And then it moves to the Shaftesbury Theatre in London in November.

Monica:  Brilliant. So before Christmas we all look forward to that.

CJ:          Yeah, yeah, yeah. Come down.

Monica:  We’ll definitely come around. It’s too too nice. Yeah. Good. Cassie, you’re having a show tonight?

CJ:          I have a show tonight, yes.

Monica:  My God, it’s intense, isn’t it? The last week. And then Sicily? You’ll go to Sicily on holiday…

CJ:          Sicily in July- well no. Then my album’s out.

Monica:  Yeah, yeah your album’s out. Yes, that’s right.

CJ:          Then my album’s out. So I’ve got about a month promoting that and some festivals and concerts, and then Sicily.

Monica: Thanks for this nice chat. Good luck!

Pre-order ‘CASSIDY’ and stream HERE

See the new video for lead track Better HERE

Album tracklist:

 

  1. Guess We’re Not In Love Anymore *
  2. Fairytale
  3. On A Beach
  4. When A Woman *
  5. Better
  6. Waiting For The Love Of My Life *
  7. On My Way
  8. Natural Woman *
  9. Leaning In
  10. Forget To Dance *
  11. Words
  12. Charming Man
  13. You Beat Me To Goodbye *
  14. Missing You

 

All songs written by Cassidy Janson except where indicated *

 

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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