Interview: Curtis Stigers – ‘I probably have some fans in biker bars now’

This article is from 2016

Take a trip

credit: Mali Lazell

He’s formed unlikely friendships with comedians but can’t abide one particular US presidential nominee, the singer explains it's sophisticated Edinburgh audiences that keep bringing him back for more

‘That holding music was slowly turning me into a serial killer!’ laughs Curtis Stigers, when our connection is finally made. ‘It was that really bad smooth jazz, the stuff bordering on a porn movie!’ Obviously, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival audience can expect something altogether classier from the American saxophonist and singer.

Last year he performed in a Frank Sinatra centenary tribute concert alongside Jacqui Dankworth and the BBC Big Band, but this year he’s excited to bring over a solo show, accompanied by his faithful touring band. ‘I have 25 years of albums to choose from,’ says the youthful-looking vocalist who says he borrows fashion tips from ‘1961 JFK’. ‘It means we can mix it up each night, so it keeps things interesting for me. I like to chat up the audience and put on a show.’

Perhaps the charismatic vocalist says it to all the cities, but he insists that Edinburgh is always a highlight on his tour schedule. ‘I spend a lot of time working in the UK, and the further north you go, especially in Scotland, the warmer the response you get. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, up there with Rome and Paris, but it’s a well-educated audience too: they always applaud in the right places for jazz solos.’

While he’s in town, Stigers is looking forward to visiting his favourite curry restaurant, Mother India (‘you can’t get a decent curry in Idaho’), and hopes to catch up with Glasgow comedian Fred MacAulay, who he met during a guest spot on the latter’s radio show. The pair are friends on Twitter, which Stigers admits he has become addicted to since joining in 2013. A quick browse of his account reveals he is staunchly anti-Trump (‘he’s one of the worst human beings the world has ever produced’), an advocate for affordable housing and trans rights, a fan of Bob Dylan and Prince, and, rather unexpectedly, has ice skated with Welsh comedian, Rob Brydon.

‘That happened as part of a crazy corporate gig we did in Geneva which Rob was hosting. It was this star-spangled event with dancing girls and an ice rink for guests. I was already a big fan of his after watching The Trip and The Trip to Italy. I think most rock stars would like to be comedians and vice versa. I’m definitely gravitating that way … Twitter is a good place to try out one-liners and smart-ass comments that might work on stage.’

Although Stigers seems sheepish about his 1991 breakthrough single, ‘I Wonder Why’, (it reached number five in the UK charts), many of his fans remember it very fondly. ‘Sure, I have certain female fans who first knew me as this crooning, long-haired guy, but I enjoy introducing them, and their husbands, to new stuff I’ve been doing in the last ten years or so.’ And there’s one final surprise about the new Curtis Stigers: an invitation to record the theme tune to US TV show Sons of Anarchy which opened him up to a whole new audience. ‘That was fun as hell to do. I think I probably have some fans in biker bars now. I could put on a nice suit and a skinny tie, and I’m sure I could ride with them.’

Curtis Stigers, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 0131 473 2000, 15 Jul, 8pm, £25.50--£37.50.

Curtis Stigers

American jazz singer and saxophonist who achieved a number of hits in the early 1990s including the international hit 'I Wonder Why'.