Midland singer Deborah Rose tells Zoe Chamberlain how she ended up friends with the family of her tragic heroine.
An unrecorded Eva Cassidy poem is being exclusively released by a Midland singer.
Deborah Rose was a businesswoman who dreamt of singing and song-writing.
She took a giant leap of faith in 2009, leaving the safety of a steady job as external relations manager at Birmingham’s NEC to pursue her burning ambition, inspired by her heroine Eva Cassidy.
It paid off.
Within months she was singing at the Isle of Wight Festival then, by a strange twist of fate, Eva Cassidy’s brother, Dan, ended up jamming with her in her kitchen in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
As a result, Deborah met Eva’s parents and sought their blessing to put one of their daughter’s unknown poems to music.
“I had always wanted to be a singer-songwriter,” said Deborah, 33.
“I sang from a very early age but it was only when I did a song-writing degree at Bath University that I discovered I was able to write songs as well.
“It was a really exciting journey to not only be able to sing songs I love by artists such as Judy Collins and Joan Baez but to be writing my own material, too.”
Almost overnight, her lifestyle changed and she found herself playing at the Isle of Wight Festival and subsequently being invited to a party at Tennyson’s former home to celebrate his 200th anniversary.
“It was there that I met a harpist from America and we talked of our love of Eva Cassidy.
“He told me about Eva’s brother Dan, who is a violinist.
“I decided there and then I wanted to go and hear him because I knew it would have as much soul and beauty as Eva’s voice.
“But, by some strange coincidence, I got an email from my agent saying ‘I don’t know if this is of interest but Dan Cassidy is coming to the Isle of Wight to perform and I’m having coffee with him?’
“Even more amazing was that he wanted to perform in Worcester and Birmingham and was looking for someone to help promote his shows.
“Having done a lot of commercial and PR work, I jumped at the chance to help him.
“Soon after, he came over from Iceland (where he lived), drove to my house in Droitwich and we jammed in my kitchen with his friend playing the banjo!”
It wasn’t long before Deborah met Eva and Dan’s parents, who had come over from America.
She said: “To hear stories about Eva and what her inspirations were was an amazing, magical experience.”
Dan Cassidy has played violin on Deborah’s debut album, which is due to be released later this year.
They recorded together at a studio in Tenbury Wells.
“The working title is Song Be My Soul, which takes some of its lyrics from a Welsh song meaning ‘sing all day and sing all night’, which is basically what I do,” smiled Deborah.
“I’m really excited to be singing Eva Cassidy’s poem Springtime.
“I found the poem in a CD sleeve and sought the blessing of her parents to set it to music.
“It’s the first time one of her poems has been set to music.
“It captures the essence of her, being all about the beauty of flowers and the simple things in life.
“A local composer, Ian King, wrote the music and I sang the song.”
Upon my request for lyrics, Deborah began to sing them down the phone to me. Her voice is simply mesmerising.
“I think people are looking at me thinking why is that crazy woman singing into her phone?” she laughed.
Deborah’s life has changed considerably over the past few years but she says everything has come together well.
“Being a professional singer-songwriter is very different to what I was doing before.
“But in many ways the work I did in collaborating with people in the music industry has been invaluable to what I’m doing now.”
Inspired by a Masters degree she is completing at Worcester University, Deborah is also recording an album featuring the works of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dickens, Blake and Christina Rossetti.
“I’m very passionate about poetry and Pre-Raphaelites,” she said.
“This album will be released alongside my debut album.
“I have set Lady of Shallot by Tennyson to music, which really brings it alive.”
Deborah is opening a show by Raghu Dixit at Birmingham Town Hall on Wednesday.
Raghu is a one-time scientist who gave up a highly successful career in Europe to return to India and create a new style of his own, which he describes as ‘Indian folk-rock, with world rhythms creeping in.’
Deborah said: “I’m really excited about the show. His voice is otherworldly.
“It’s a wonderful privilege to work with him. We might even sing a song together on the evening.”
* For information on Deborah Rose and Raghu Dixit’s concert, visit www.thsh.co.uk
Songbird Eva found fame after her death
Award-winning singer Eva Cassidy was virtually unknown outside America when she sadly died of skin cancer in 1996, aged just 33.
It was only when DJ Terry Wogan played her version of Over the Rainbow on BBC Radio 2 four years later that UK audiences became aware of the Washington DC vocalist.
The airing received an overwhelming response and a camcorder recording of her performing the song, taken at Blues Alley in Washington, was shown on BBC2’s Top of the Pops 2.
As a result, her compilation album Songbird, featuring Eva’s unique versions of Fields of Gold and People Get Ready, climbed to the top of the UK album charts.
This led to global recognition and Eva’s posthumously released recordings, including three UK number ones and have sold more than ten million copies.
Eva learned guitar from her father Hugh who, at one point, put together a family folk act featuring himself on bass, Eva on guitar and vocals and her brother Dan on fiddle.