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Naomi Payne, singer and entertainer








Naomi Payne, jazz and blues singer and entertainer and forties/WWII entertainer based in Shropshire. Naomi also covers from 1920s - 1940s gangster and moll parties, murder mystery, tea dances, vintage balls.



   01588 674823

   07767 464352




Here, Digger talks to Naomi Payne, singer and entertainer, who specialises in jazz and blues and who has wowed audiences at vintage events and private parties. As a solo artist or with her four-piece or sixteen-piece bands, Naomi comes with a grounding in the material of the greats of jazz and blues like Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly and Billie Holiday. This pedigree manifests itself in her performances.




Naomi Payne is available to perform in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Hereford, Wales, Birmingham and the midlands and further afield by arrangement.







Digger: Hello Naomi.

Naomi: Hello Digger!

Digger: You sound very happy and upbeat as usual. Are you ever grumpy?

Naomi: (Laughs) Yes at about 10:00 in the morning.

Digger: So you're like me and need a few coffees first? My girlfriend is like the woman in the old Ski yoghurt TV ads. You know, she jumps out of bed and flings the curtains and windows open with a big smile. Nothing like me!

Naomi: Yes, I remember that. (Both laugh) That's not me either.

Digger: Please tell us a bit about your musical background and your musical inspirations.

Naomi: I suppose it was my parents, who are both into the folk scene, who influenced me. I was brought up on folk music and was encouraged to sing from an early age at folk clubs, parties and that sort of thing. My parents used to have people round with guitars and accordions. They would get me to learn songs and to stand up and sing them.

Digger: Doing your party piece? That could have gone one of two ways, either you'd go with it or you'd rebel as a child and a teenager.

Naomi: Yes, it's funny isn't it? I don't remember ever feeling particularly nervous about it. I did enjoy it, whereas my two girls who would now be at the sort of age where I was doing that sort of thing aren't keen on doing that at all.

Digger: Ah!

Naomi: But they both play piano and would gladly play a piano piece.

Digger: That's good.

Naomi: But they wouldn't ever get up and sing.

Digger: I think that's wonderful that they play and it would be nice if everybody could learn an instrument.

Naomi: I think so too. I would have loved to have learned an instrument. It's so expensive, though, isn't it? When the bill comes through for theirs I think "Oh my God!" (Laughs)

Digger: It could be worse, it could be ponies.

Naomi: Absolutely. So as a child I learned to play a flute. But when I got to about fourteen I didn't want to carry on with that. (Laughs)

Digger: A very handy sized instrument though.

Naomi: Exactly. I learned quite a few chords on the guitar, because my Mum had quite a good collection of blues LPs which I'd rummage through. People like Gerry Lockran, who is fabulous and I used to listen to him all the time. Have a listen to him on YouTube - an album called Blues Vendetta - he is brilliant. In fact I've got it on cassette, not on LP. He has a fabulous voice and I'm always drawn to that sort of blues style - John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Bessie Smith, Lil Green and those sorts of people. So I was singing and playing a few chords of blues and then I met up with a piano player in my later teens who suggested I join him as a duo. We performed at restaurants and hotels, which meant jazz-style, so I went down that route because that's where the gigs were. I did people like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne, although I still prefer the raw side of things. Ella is a jazz icon and great but I find it a little too perfect.

Digger: I know what you mean.

Naomi: I've always listened to people like The Inkspots and so on.

Digger: Were you not also into the contemporary stuff that your friends would have been into?

Naomi: No. It's funny a few months ago I bumped into somebody who I knew from school and she said "Oh yes, you were a bit odd, weren't you?! Because you liked jazz." (Both laugh) I thought "Hang on!" I was one of the kids who would hang around with others who played instruments and the others were listening to Bros. Mind you, I used to like Terence Trent D'Arby.

Digger: (Sings song) "Sign your name across my heart.."

Naomi: Yes, that's the one. I listened to people with more unusual voices I have to say. I was lucky enough to have parents and grandparents with a large 78s collection of twenties and thirties stuff - Paul Robeson and that kind of thing.

Digger: We have a client called 78RPM DJs who does shows based on the vintage 78s. Have you heard of him?

Naomi: No.

Digger: He might be worth getting in touch with. So this passion for vintage was down to your Mum?

Naomi: I think so. Her blues collection and my Grandfather's huge 78s collection - Johnnie Marvin, Jay Wilbur...

Digger: You do pretty well on remembering the names.

Naomi: (Laughs) You know, that sort of thirties sound?

Digger: I do and I love that and the rawness you mentioned as well. I suppose you're like me - not having a problem with the scratches and the bumps on these old records?

Naomi: No, and in fact at my gigs I usually plug an iPod in through my PA system with thirties and forties songs on there. But I also have one of those wind-up gramophones and take the 78s along with me. It does men winding it up all the time though.

Digger: Who are your typical audiences and customers Naomi? And what sort of feedback do you get?

Naomi: I don't have a stereotypical customer. I have jazz gigs where people sit and listen and then I have the vintage-style gigs with my Hotsy Totsy Band where people get up and dance and then I have the gigs where I play at fashion shows. I've got one in February where I've got to play at an 007 Casino Evening. I get a lot of repeat bookings - I do a lot for a charity called Hope House and the lady there organised this casino evening and said could I come and perform there as a quartet. "Is there any chance you could sing a few James Bond numbers?" she said, so I learned a few specifically for it. That's also vintage as well now, isn't it?

Digger: It is. The first James Bond movie was '62.

Naomi: So it's very retro. Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever. I think there's about ten of them. I'll learn them and then I will throw them in occasionally on a jazz gig.

Digger: It adds to your repertoire. If people hear you doing something that's not what they'd expect you might get some other bookings from it.

Naomi: Yes.

Digger: You're very flexible aren't you? You're doing an eclectic variety of styles but also saying that you can turn up as in individual or a duo or a quartet . You have to do that these days I suppose?

Naomi: I don't go out on my own with just a backing track. People have asked me to do that, because times are hard and maybe they can't afford to splash out on a full band. But it's not something yet that I've gone down the road of doing. There's pros and cons of working with bands and singing to backings and I'm not sure if it's for me or not really. It's a case of "never say never really" isn't it?

Digger: And that takes us back to James Bond again! (Both laugh) So in an ideal world what's your favoured format and favoured genre?

Naomi: With the jazz, it's still vintage because it was popular in the thirties and forties and the ragtime era so I'm not going into any other genre really. I'm doing the same performance at each gig in reality. It's just that with the Hotsy Totsy gigs you're dressing up and it's a bit more theatrical and a bit more of a show rather than a jazz gig where you're going along in your everyday clothes.

Digger: Sometimes people are sitting down with their arms folded listening intently, sometimes they're going with the beat and dancing and having a rave-up and at other times you're just background music to what is basically a vintage fair. They're very different aren't they?

Naomi: Yes, I think it's probably the way it's advertised that effects people's behaviour. I think if you let people know that they can get up and dance then they will, but some people are self-conscious and not sure if it's the thing to do. At jazz gigs, you've got people foot-tapping along.

Digger: A little bit of alcohol helps me there.

Naomi: Not much of that at tea dances.

Digger: You can put a bit of sherry in there. What would you say are the reasons why retro and vintage are so popular? When I started it was a bit niche, but now...

Naomi: I suppose it has become much more popular. I've always been into it, because I've been drawn to the vintage radio and vintage objects and music obviously. But I suppose people look back at it with a bit of envy, I suppose. Because there did seem to be a lot more order and people seemed to be more happy with their lot rather than now where we all seem to be wanting a bit more. Everything seems to be a bit more chaotic and with The Internet everything's got quicker. I suppose we look back with rose-tinted glasses.

Digger: The wartime community are very obsessive about it but they seem to forget that people were dropping big lumps of explosives on us and we were losing loved ones as well, but they still say what a wonderful time it was. And in some ways I suppose it was.

Naomi: I think that has to be remembered and people who do look back and say "I wish we'd lived then" need to consider that. The films have a lot to do with it - the thirties and forties films with shiny hotels and dancing.

Digger: That's true and the funny thing is that most of those films were made as an escape for people, most of whom were in desperate circumstances when they left the cinema with the depression and the war and so on.

Naomi: Yes.

Digger: I can remember saying to a celebrity pen pal once that I'd love to go back to the days when people were more polite and they all wore smart clothes and she said "Oh no. All that illness that we have cured and people are much better off in so many ways these days." And she had a point.

Naomi: Fashions then - people did seem to be smarter. People made much more of an effort.

Digger: Working class people looked clean and smart, didn't they? And now we're all such slobs.



Naomi Payne at a forties vintage event




Naomi: Yes. Just like me now in my tracksuit.

Digger: I'm wearing jeans and a T-shirt today and that's typical for people of a certain age these days.

Naomi: I always remember my grandfather had a tie on and trousers and a cardigan. Very much that thirties look still into his eighties when he died.

Digger: My Irish granddad had a stroke so was bed-ridden so what I remember about going over there is the smell of pipe tobacco and wee! Because he had a chamber pot under the bed. (Both laugh) It's a happy memory.

Naomi: It's actually similar to my grandmother only it was fags - singe holes in things.

Digger: What are the most rewarding and enjoyable things about what you're doing Naomi? There must be quite a lot?

Naomi: Oh absolutely. I mean it's hard work to research the music and to get the band in order. I have to write chords out and download music and all that type of stuff, but when you get to the gig and people are enjoying themselves... I try and take a visitors book with me and read the comments that people have put. At the end of the gig people come up and say "I really enjoyed that."

Digger: Any odd comments?

Naomi: I had one at a tea dance where someone wrote "Well it would have been nice if there was coffee." (Both laugh) At the dancing gigs I have a lot of serious dancers who do ballroom and you have to keep an eye on your tempos because they're very strict on tempos. That's the great thing about working with a band that you wouldn't get with a backing track. You play a quick step and if it isn't quick enough you can speed them up easily. You haven't got that sort of flexibility if you're working on your own and have to play around with your iPad or laptop of whatever.

Digger: It's one of my favourite paradoxes that you're doing something that is very vintage and retro, yet you're using the latest technology and also relying on The Internet. It's quite a contradiction.

Naomi: Yes, that's why I'd like to take the wind up machine with the 78s with me rather than play it from an iPod, or even just record it from the 78s. You have that sound with the crackling of the needle going onto the record.

Digger: How hard is it to reproduce the different styles?

Naomi: There's not a lot of different styles because most jazz standards are from the thirties and forties.

Digger: Unless you're doing James Bond?

Naomi: Yes, I don't do many of those. At a masquerade ball in December I was asked to play Andrew Lloyd-Webber stuff and O Sole Mio and that's out of my comfort zone completely but I did learn it and do it. I grinned my way through it! It was all in fun, a masked ball where people were really dressed up and they knew when they booked me they were booking a jazz and blues singer so it wasn't my normal sort of stuff. I'll give it a go. I have the odd gig where people ask me to sing stuff I don't usually do and I'm happy to sing it if I can.

Digger: What are your vintage passions? Do you live in a vintage house?

Naomi: I have an old farmhouse, so I suppose it's vintage - it's a black and white timber-framed house.

Digger: I had visions of you saying you lived in a black and white world! Both Petula Clark and Kenney Jones told me that they still see the fifties and the early sixties memories in black and white and then suddenly it went into colour. Isn't that strange?

Naomi: (Laughs) Technicolor.

Digger: Yes, they remember it almost as you do when you watch TV and film.

Naomi: It is funny. I love the music, the fashions interest me. But I find it quite hard getting into vintage clothes.

Digger: Quiet a few people have picked up on that and are making reproductions in larger sizes.

Naomi: Yes, they were a lot smaller then. I'm five foot ten and so trying to squeeze into little tiny clothes, like dolls clothes, is a challenge. Fashion interests me and I've always been drawn to vintage objects like radios and cameras and so on since I can remember. I have those around the house.

Digger: And you can use them as props.

Naomi: I do yes.

Digger: Do you think The Queen's jubilee will have a big impact on you this year?

Naomi: I do quite a few gigs for the Royal British Legion so yes they've booked me for Sunday 3rd June and then I've got one in Solihull where they're doing an event for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations - they've booked the jazz quartet. And possibly one in Shrewsbury the week before on 26th May so it seems to be spreading over quite a few weeks. So hopefully there will be a few wanting to celebrate it. Streets and villages are being encouraged, aren't they, to lay something on?




The Naomi Payne Quartet




Digger: I think it will be a very patriotic year because we have the London Olympics as well.  It's got to be good for you.

Naomi: Hopefully.

Digger: So can you tell us about your plans for the future Naomi? Developing the act and what would you like to achieve in terms of how far you go with it?

Naomi: World domination. (Laughs)

Digger: But would you be happy? (Both laugh) Probably you would! Appearing all over the world?

Naomi: I think most singers or musicians would like to be recognised as much and as widely as possible.

Digger: Yes and play to the biggest audiences you can.

Naomi: Yes, I'd love that. But in the near future I need to lose a few pounds!

Digger: I lost a stone in three months by eating less bread and butter and chocolate and more fruit and vegetables and just eating a little bit less of the wrong stuff and more of the right stuff. You can do it.

Naomi: That's something I'm aiming towards. Also, most of my gigs are based in Shropshire although I have a couple floating around the surrounding counties but I'd like to break out of Shropshire a little bit more. But it's very hard because obviously I get re-booked by the same sorts of crowds that come to the gigs. Although I have people travelling in from all over the place. So that's something I'd like to do more.

Digger: Isn't that odd that they all seem to come from within the county border? You'd think you'd get some in Cheshire, Staffordshire, Hereford.

Naomi: No, it's funny. I think it's because if you advertise then it's only included in the Shropshire papers and you never end up in the papers in the surrounding counties.

Digger: Well, we'll mention your wider availability. Thanks for letting us know about what you're doing Naomi and best of luck for the future.

Naomi: Thanks David.




The sixteen-piece band




   01588 674823

   07767 464352




Naomiís musical talent and extraordinary voice were first recognised when she was just a young teenager. This was hardly surprising given the way in which her parents had immersed her in the music of Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and other blues Greats and it was only natural that she should move onto listening to such jazz Divas as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Naomiís desire to entertain led her to sing with a number of different bands on the jazz and blues circuit in her early twenties, and she was chosen to sing live on BBC Radio Shropshire in 1996.

Despite taking a short break to marry and have children Naomi inevitably returned to her singing career three years ago and immediately found herself in great demand at a variety of society functions, including weddings, fashion shows, tea dances, vintage themed dances, parties and balls (playing popular music form the 1900s - 1940s) and the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Ludlow Food Festival.

Currently Naomi provides a stunning front for a sixteen piece show band as well as mesmerising the audience with her more intimate Naomi Payne Quartet which plays jazz, blues, classic and latin numbers. Together these two allow her to give full range to her magnificent voice, equally comfortable delivering the husky blues classics as the show stopping Broadway hits.

This incredibly versatile singer can only go from strength to strength as more and more people experience the rich, unusual and beautiful voice of Naomi Payne.

Naomi Payne is available to perform in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Hereford, Wales, Birmingham and the midlands and further afield by arrangement.







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