Wonderful Women Interview with Classical Singer, Joanna Forest
Joanna Forest’s debut classical crossover album, Stars Are Rising, went straight to Number 1 in the Official Classical Album Charts earlier this year, knocking Alfie Boe off the top and not content with just singing the typical classical favourites, Joanna embraced the crossover theme by singing brand new fully orchestrated arrangements of David Bowie, The Beatles and even Slade.
It’s fabulous to share her work on Honest Mum.
Describe a typical day for you?
As a classical singer I don’t actually have a typical day as no two days are ever the same. My day always starts now though with my husband James and I getting up for our gorgeous 5 month old puppy, Eevee; she’s a Cavapoochon and she’s clearly very happy to see us in the morning as her tail is wagging so hard it could power a small boat!.
An exciting day would be If I am going to be recording or performing later on; if I am going to performing I like to steam my voice, do a vocal warm up and then look over my music and lyrics before maybe having hair and make up arrive at my house.
I have usually planned which dress I am going to be wearing, otherwise that might keep me buried in my walk in wardrobe for a few hours; at the moment my favourite dress is by the incredible designer, Suzanne Neville who also designed my wedding dress, and is a really striking shade of red.
I wore it the summer for the Proms shows which I performed in and intend to also use it on my own nationwide tour, if I can fit it in the tour bus i.e my husband’s car…Oh, the glamour! I always like to leave for the concert venue in plenty of time for a rehearsal and sound check, as each venue is always so different, so it’s better to be early.
If we do drive, I will continue to warm up much to the amusement of James as I tend to still favour a weird sounding technique that I have done for years. The concerts themselves are always filled with a mixture of excitement and nerves. I love connecting with an audience and in many cases enjoy meeting fans after a show before heading home or to hotel for a much deserved cup of tea.
On a day when I am not singing, I can be found doing some of the more administrative parts of the job that come with being a professional singer; maintaining social media, answering e-mails, and sometimes planning concerts which may still be over a year and sometimes longer away.
Whatever I am doing, I always make sure I have time for my family and pop into see them as they live locally. A catch up with my friends, walk in the forest with Eevee and James and a cosy pub lunch are also staple parts of the day before relaxing in the evening, usually in front of a box set or Bake Off.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I am so, so proud to have made chart history by becoming the first independent artist to reach number one in the classical charts with a debut album.
This was my ultimate dream come true, something I never thought would happen after having breast cancer, when I was a bit younger, and couldn’t even face the thought of performing on stage as my confidence was, at the time, shot to pieces.
Regaining confidence in myself to firstly perform as part of an ensemble in shows was the first step, and then finding my voice as a solo artist was then a much more challenging prospect.
I really do believe that the work I did as a CoppaFeel! “Boobette”, where I shared my breast cancer story with schools and businesses, helped me stand on a stage as myself and interact closely with an audience.
As a result, I actually feel that now, every time I step on stage it’s a big achievement, and it’s the greatest privilege in the world to do a job I love so much.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
This might be better answered as handbags, plural! I am a sucker for owning and using bags whether it is my fancy Chanel handbag that my Mum bought me or just simply one of those brilliant reusable cloth bags which slip easily over the shoulder. Right now, in addition to my phone, money and keys, I have:
A whole load of receipts that I need to organise for tax purposes
Headphones, tangled up of course
Paper Diary as even though I love modern technology, I still like to write things down
Perfume and make up
Jumper, as I like nothing better than keeping warm.
Pokemon cards that my step children gave me. Funnily enough, our dog Eevee, was named after our favourite
What are your ambitions in life?
Professionally, I want to continue making and performing music. I love the process of recording songs; hearing how they evolve from concept to fully completed mixed and mastered pieces of music is thrilling. Knowing that you have just created, alongside a team of highly skilled music professionals, a piece of music that will be around forever and, hopefully enjoyed by many, is one of my greatest pleasures.
Personally, I simply want to ensure all of my friends and family are happy and that I can share lots of fun times with them. Life throws so many unexpected twists and turns so I treasure everyone who is close to me. A lottery win would be nice but I’d swap that for happy and healthy every time.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
Just enjoy it. You have to put in so much hard work into this industry and sometimes it’s way to easy to lose sight of why we are doing it. If there is a particular performance I am slightly anxious over for whatever reason, I now just take a step back and tell myself to enjoy it. There is only so much prep you can do and then, for me, I know that once I get excited about doing it I will give a better performance and then have some brilliant memories to treasure forever.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I hope that I have more albums, recordings and some brilliant high profile concerts that I can look back on and feel proud of. Five years in this industry is a very long time. I only started performing as a solo artist just over three years ago so if I think what I have achieved in that time, then goodness knows what may happen in five years! I’d like to think that I’d have another high charting album or two, am happy, healthy and still able to keep up with my dog when she legs it off in the forest, running and jumping like a four legged Jessica Ennis-Hill.
What advice would you give a budding artist?
Don’t be afraid, and ask.
Navigating your way through the music industry as an independent artist is daunting at first, as there are so many different ways you could forge a career, and so many different ways where it could all go wrong.
Talking to the right people, asking for advice from those who have done it is so important. Three years ago, just as I started, I asked Katherine Jenkins for advice and she told me to utilise social media as much as possible, so I took that on board and now can’t stay away from it!
It’s also so important to always believe in yourself and keep going, you never know when a great opportunity will come your way. There will always be knock backs and disappointments but never let that put you off, if you’re good enough, it just makes it all the more rewarding when things do work out.
Finally, happiness is…
Game of Thrones Season 8. I can barely contain myself waiting so long for it.