As a London native, do you feel the capital has a big influence in what you do?
Definitely. Audience wise London is always a tough audience so getting the reaction you want from them you have to pinpoint and know what it is you’re going to do to get it. I love that challenge. But also living in a large city again, with the things we’ve been through –
Grenfell Tower and the terrorist attacks – so much happens and we’re in it all the time. From a joyous celebration of a jubilee to then having an attack, we go through a lot of emotions living in a big city. It does get into my music a lot. On the saxophone you can growl into it and I find when I listen back to some concerts you can tell what emotion I’m feeling or what time we’re in by how much I’m growling! Similarly it does get a bit more soulful and relaxed when you’re playing in a Caribbean paradise.
Tough question then, if you had to pick, where’s your favourite place to play?
I would have to say Mexico. I was in Queretaro in Mexico and I speak Spanish and presented it in Spanish, but just the way they reacted to the music. I love a free audience and an audience that will talk to me and there’s no divide between the audience and stage. I love coming off the stage when I perform. I like to be in the audience and sit down next to someone and play and I think there they didn’t have that barrier. They were in this and wanted to have a party together! I’m always trying to pull that out of British audiences, trying to get them involved. We’re getting there!
I also saw you performed on a plane mid-flight!
I did! I should have picked that as my favourite, then I could have covered loads of continents in one go! It was a great experience though, playing on the inaugural direct flight from London to New Orleans. So 30,000ft up in the air, Nicole Scherzinger performed and then I did some Posh Reggae in the skies. We had cocktails, everyone was wearing Mardis Gras beads and it was the best! The seatbelt signs were off and people were up dancing and jumping over seats. Like I said, I like to move around when I play so it was a unique experience playing right in peoples faces.
Where’s the next dream place to play?
It’s nice when you tour and go somewhere you’ve never been before, so next week I’m going to Australia for the first time. I can’t wait, I’m excited to play in Melbourne.
Something else that you’re extremely passionate about is being a positive role model for young people, whether it’s your work with ABRSM or the children’s novels you’re writing. How important is it to inspire today’s youth to get into music?
It’s really important, my journey into music was very unorthodox. I studied all the way up to PHD level in Management Science, so not related to music at all. Even though I played sax from a young age, I never thought of it as a career, it was always brought to me as a hobby. I’m not saying go into schools and say to kids ‘you can be a musician’ but helping them understand that music is a fantastic outlet and if you really do enjoy it there are different avenues you can go down. There are so many things you don’t think about in school. Also having access to an instrument, there are so many young musicians that don’t, so working with charities like the Mayors Fund for Young Musicians and Children and the Arts allows children to try out instruments. For me it’s been therapeutic, I’m self taught on the saxophone so it acted as a diary for me. It’s not just about passing grades. Saying ‘I’m a grade eight pianist’ is fantastic, but what does it make you feel?