James Attlee investigates London's crossover gospel quintet NU COLOURS
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Fay: "Oh yeah, we did another concert with them in Oslo. They're great people to talk to. We met them when they came over to do a concert in Britain at the Hackney Empire. They're very encouraging."
One of the things that has set Nu Colours apart from their peers on the British Gospel scene is the amount of attention they ha given to their image and stage presentation. At their debut British performance supporting Vanessa Bell Armstrong, what made an immediate impression was that their act is choreographed, much the way a soul vocal group might be. Their clothes too have obviously been designed to give an overall slightly futuristic "group look". I wondered who was behind all this. "We have people working with the group responsible for the imaging and the marketing of the group - how they look on stage, the clothes or whatever. That's a bonus to the group because it's important that they look as good as they can sound." I ask Fay if it's easy to sing and dance at the same time, and she laughs.
"For the backing singers it's okay, for the lead singer you need to highlight the choreography, but mostly get more into the feel of the singing - mostly what I do as lead singer of a song is just highlight a few of the moves with the band to make it look together and tight."
Could they see Nu Colours on Top Of The Pops?
They both seem delighted at the prospect. I wondered how important it was to them as they venture boldly forth into the treacherous world of the music industry, to be supported and still be a part of their home church.
"It's important for our grounding," Wayne answered. "It's very demanding and tough to be out there performing touring and recording. The music industry is probably one of the most stressful industries because it's all about making money to survive. You've got pressures from promoters and recording companies and everybody's trying to keep their jobs - it's all about selling your next album. When you're touring all the time it's good to fall back on something, and for us its going back to our normal everyday church with ordinary people, and you can say 'well, back down to earth - give us some support here'. We need that, some encouragement. Without that it can be lonely out there, because there isn't a lot of gospel artists that are out there performing at a high level within the industry. Coming back to church is very good."
Do your pastors understand what you're doing?
"Well mine does, yeah," Fay replies. "He encourages me all the time - that helps me spiritually. It's a ministry..."
The phone rings, and while Wayne answers it I take the opportunity of asking Fay who her musical influences are.
"My favourite singers, who I really admire...well number one is Tata Vega." (Interestingly enough, readers of Cross Rhythms issue one will know that an Andrae Crouch track featuring Tata Vega on vocals, 'Oh It Is Jesus', was also number one in Tony Cummings' 1001 greatest gospel recording listings.) "She's one of the ladies I really look up to - I've met her, we've sung in a concert with her. She exchanged addresses with me and we write to each other. Then there's Vanessa Bell - from a young girl I always used to pretend I was her in front of the mirror, singing."
This is a clear case of the gospel torch being passed from generation
to generation - Vanessa told me that she always used to stand in front
of the mirror as a kid pretending to be Aretha Franklin. Who did
Aretha pretend to be?
It seems as though Nu Colours are going to have at least as good an opportunity to make it in America as any other British gospel artist has had so far. In Britain they really need the push of a major to get them beyond the confines of the Christian market, which is being handled by Word UK. They are returning to the States soon for further showcase appearances, and there are rumours of a tour supporting The Winans, yet to be confirmed. By the time they record the second album later this year they hope to have established their name on the worldwide gospel scene. In 10 years time, will young gospel singers practicing in front of the bathroom mirror pretend to be Fay Simpson or Lawrence Johnson?
On their form so far they need to relax into their choreography a little, learn how to pace their slower numbers and possibly look outside of their immediate circle for musicians and additional production skills to take their recorded work a step higher. Then of course, Leona needs to work on her interview technique - banging the table is not enough! But they've already got some very good songs, and if determination is anything to go by, these contenders could be the ones who finally go the distance. The 90s could be a Colourful decade!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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