INTERVIEW: Jacqui Dankworth

Jacqui Dankworth. Photo credit: John Kentish

In this wide-ranging interview, conducted by email with Erminia Yardley, Jacqui Dankworth talks about her career in music and in acting, her most recent album "Live to Love" (Specific Jazz, 2013), and about how her follow-up album is developing. After expressing how much she has enjoyed her first-time role as a producer, of  Charlie Wood's album "New Souvenirs," she finishes by talking about other current projects:  

LondonJazz News: As an actor you have worked with the RSC and at the NT, but also been in the television series "The Borgias" and "Les Miserables". How did you first get into acting?

Jacqui Dankworth: I got into acting via my school, St Christopher's in Letchworth Garden City. The drama teacher there was very good. I auditioned for The Guildhall and got in - in 1980. My first job was in Wales at theatre Clwyd in a review called Cowardy Custard (the music of Noel Coward). I couldn't believe that I was being paid for something i loved doing. In that respect it’s a very cool way of earning a living!

LJN: What is the hardest part about being an actor for you?

JD: Well, most of my work now is in music but I would say these days that competition is fierce and much harder than in the 80's and 90's. I did some TV/ Film recently and the hardest thing about it was the new script that got sent under the hotel room door at 12am. With a 6am call the next day - that was tough and if I am honest, a little terrifying.

LJN: Do you have any roles planned out for the future?

JD: Well, I have a few ideas in the melting pot and a friend of mine Seb Williams is writing a new play based around my character. I'm so looking forward to reading it and putting it on. I am also working on an idea of my own involving gardens!

LJN: Turning to your most recent album, it has a great title, Live to Love. Is there a particular story or experience behind it?

JD: Charlie Wood, my husband, wrote the song. He's a clever writer. You'd have to ask him! I think it’s about the compromises and choices we make in life.

LJN:  Among the great artists over the years whom you have collaborated with, is there an experience that you found particularly fruitful for you?

JD: There isn't one that I could single out really. I enjoy singing with the symphony orchestra so the haexperience of singing with Alan Bergman (lyricist extraordinaire) was thrilling. I have been a massive fan of his and Marilyn Bergman lyrics and songs such as Windmills Of Your Mind, You Don't Bring Me flowers, The Summer Knows, and on and on….

LJN: And you have a new album in the pipeline, which I understand will be out next year?

JD: Well, I am working on repertoire with Rob Barron who is MD'ing it. I'm aiming for the beautiful, simple, and lots of space in the music. That's what I like to listen to and it definitely suits my voice. Charlie and I will co - produce again, I think. I'm looking forward to being in the studio next February as I love recording and its time to release a new album. These songs were ones that I "stumbled upon" so they seem natural. I feel very connected to them. I am waiting for the next ones to fall in my lap. Whilst writing this, my cat Ophelia is lying on my lap so maybe she will help me along the way!

LJN: With 2014 being such a busy year for you, more acting, festivals, you have also found time to produce your husband’s, Charlie Wood, new album “New Souvenirs” on Perdido Records. How was that?

JD: I loved it! In some ways the hard work actually starts after the recording has finished! It's a beautiful album I think even though I am obviously biased. Charlie did most of the hard work and I was there as a "sounding board". He's a phenomenal artist with a very charismatic style and it is time the world took note! I have high hopes for this very special album. . It just received four stars in Jazzwise so we are both very pleased and other great reviews are now coming in.

LJN: So it might be something you’d like to do more of in the future?

JD: Yes, very much so. Being my first attempt (at production), it has been a learning curve for me and a very joyous one. Its a great album and Charlie is an amazing singer and a very skilled writer. I believe some of his songs will become standards of tomorrow.

LJN: Tell us about Perdido Records?

JD: Well, it’s a new label. At the moment Charlie is the first on it - but we are keeping our ears out for others.

LJN: You're about to play Gibraltar - where you've never been before? 

JD: I'm working in Gibraltar with poet Jeremy Robson , musicians David Gordon, Ben Davies, Charlie Wood and actress Maureen Lipman. We just performed together at Blenheim palace and it was so successful they invited us to the Gibraltar literary festival. I'm very much looking forward to meeting the monkeys!

LJN:  Is your band stable or are you about to be playing with someone completely new? 

JD: My band is pretty stable but I also work with a pool of great musicians. The musicians are all freelance of course and I am loyal but they all play with other bands so it can be difficult to keep the same musicians together for every concert. They are all quite loyal to me too but life is such that you just can't keep an exclusive band together unless you give them work 365 days a year! It took me a while to accept this in my career as I have always wanted the same musicians for every gig because chemistry amongst players is key for me... It's an ideal!

LJN: What scares you in life? 

JD: The way everyone watches TV everyday and for hours. It’s a drug that numbs the mind.

 LJN: But even you must need to relax 

 JD: I go into my garden (a mess at the moment) and dig!!!


Kings Place with The Brodsky Quartet, Charlie Wood, 30 th November. A Panufnik retrospective.
Jacqui Dankworth with her own band, 1st February 2015, Pizza Express Dean Street

LINKS: Review: Jacqui Dankworth at Cadogan Hall 2013
Preview Brodsky String Quartet with Jacqui Dankworth, 2012
Review: Jacqui Dankworth at Blackheath Hall 2010


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