Interview: N’Dea Davenport of The Brand New Heavies
MIDNIGHT at the Oasis is one of those songs which can be found in CD racks everywhere.
The cover version of Maria Muldaur’s classic is, of course, one of the most loved of the many popular tracks by The Brand New Heavies — first time around.
The group, formed in 1985 in Ealing, London, enjoyed cult success in the ’80s and ’90s, releasing hit after hit both in the UK and America.
Lead singer N’Dea Davenport left the band in 1995 but, a decade on, they reunited and now the group are winning awards from a whole new generation of music fans.
N’Dea, who still speaks with her soft Atlanta accent tells me she is even happier as a pop star in her second spell in the spotlight.
And it’s no wonder she’s grateful for her happiness following her recent run of bad luck.
Not only did she narrowly escape the World Trade Center disaster — “I was actually standing under the first building when it fell,” she recalls solemnly — but she even dodged Hurricane Katrina, having sold her property in New Orleans just weeks before the devastation struck.
“I've been skimmed by a few bullets,” she says. “But to me, that's something positive that means I’m supposed to be here. I don’t think things like that are accidents so much, but if it’s your time to go you have no choice and if it’s not then you have to make the most of every day that follows.
“I think I appreciate everything even more now and it has made me a soulful person. It’s created a whole other degree to me as a person.”
She continued: “I think this time we have a lot more to bring to the table individually, so I think that has helped us to be successful again. It feels renewed. We’ve been back together a while now, but its still a renewed type of feeling.”
At 43, she’s not the youngest singer in the industry but N’Dea reckons that’s something in her favour.
“I don't want to do my career the way I did it before. We were just constantly touring. I realise now how important it is to get the balance right. You need to give yourself 100 per cent to the public but at the same time give yourself 100 per cent to yourself and your loved ones.
“When you’re young you don’t don't know very much about these things — not that we know so much now,” she giggles. “But you are more able to handle life. I try my best to take more personal time. My dad is ill so I’ve been trying to be more supportive to my parents.”
With The Brand New Heavies, N’Dea is travelling across Europe to promote their debut live album Live In London, with their biggest tour since regrouping four years ago, They’re in Manchester next month and it’s the UK leg that N’Dea is particularly excited about.
She said: “We’re really looking forward to coming to England. Seeing all our old fans there is like meeting up with some old friends that you haven’t seen in a while and now some of them have children so they’re bringing them to the show. It’s really nice to meet the kids afterwards and see their parents who we all grew up together with.”
So what does the next 20 years in the industry hold for N’Dea?
“I like to travel to different cultural places in my own time, I have so many things I’d like to do aside from music. One of the things I got involved with away from the band was architecture and developing older buildings to preserve them from demolition. I have put it on pause a bit to focus on music for now,” she said.
“I have other projects. Being an artist in music is like being a painter and you get frustrated if you don’t practise your art in every way so that means doing things both with and without The Brand New Heavies. There are exciting times to come yet.”
l The Brand New Heavies — Manchester Academy, November 9. Tickets on 0161 832 1111.