Getting to know Kiki Dee
PUBLISHED: 11:04 21 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:24 20 February 2013
Singer Kiki Dee shot to fame thanks to a duet with Elton John. Now 36 years on, she's settled into village life in Hertfordshire, as Nicole Rubio discovers
FAR from the spotlight of life on the road with Elton, Kiki Dee is still singing Dont go breaking my heart, only at a slower tempo with musician Carmelo Luggeri. Life has a different flavour to it now, having moved from Londons buzz to the sweet streets of the small Hertfordshire village of Ashwell.
From her serene and cosy cottage, we discuss life over champagne (brought back from her recent tour) and trifle. As she takes me through the corridors of her heart and mind, I am impressed by her sincerity and genuine approach to all matters.
She is both gracious and direct, never belittling another in her words nor needing to be mindful. Her acceptance of life, its journeys and revelations are refreshing and candid. She is happy, with herself, with her music, with her choices and there is nothing to hide.
I have worked on myself a lot actually, through my life. Ive worked on the way I am and the way I think. Because I think you can change the way you think if you work on yourself and have a positive attitude. My priority now is to work as long as I can and stay healthy.
Kiki uses the word real an awful lot, in relation to her home, the village where she lives, her sense of self and her music, Its more real than when I was a pop star. It seems particularly important to her now, and not just as a word or concept, you can hear it in her tone, the earthy, slightly husky sounds of her voice impart confidence in her self and what she is all about. The nice thing about being older is that you know who you are.
Kiki was part of the pulse of the 70s music scene, but had been singing for a good ten years when celebrity found her. She had already been signed with Motown, the first white British artist to have done so - It was a fluke thing, somebody heard me sing and they wanted to produce someone from England so they took me on, - but when nothing big came from it, she made a couple of calls and found herself in Eltons first London flat.
Ill never forget, because the night I went over there his mum was coming and Neil Young was coming over, so it was the most bizarre evening, and thats how I met him.
Signing on to Eltons label, Rocket Records, was a move in the right direction and she was soon a household name with her first hit Amoureuse followed soon after by Ive got the music in me.
By 1976, Kiki was a global name, having climbed to Number 1 in the UK singles chart as well as the U.S Billboard Hot 100 chart with Elton John singing Dont go breaking my heart.
It wasnt long before she was on the road, backing up Elton as they toured the States. That period was very exciting because up to that point, Id been this kid who had been discovered in Yorkshire, who had been working with much older people. When I met Elton I was working with people my own generation, my own age.
The next couple of decades Kiki stayed busy, and although she wasnt centre stage in the charts, she kept her feet firmly in the music industry, contributing to tracks such as Too Low for Zero, with Elton John.
Adding acting to her retinue, Kiki took to the West Ends musical production of Blood Brothers, where she was nominated for an Olivier award for her acting prowess. Meanwhile, she continued to make music, get involved in collaborations between other artists such as Alan Parsons and performed at Live Aid.
Arriving at the present day, Kiki is reclining in her favourite chair, looking casually beautiful and sharing insights in her frank and honest manner.
When you are under 50 you want to look good and when you are over 50 you want to feel good. Then when you feel good, you look good, she says.
Music is still her driving force and she finds fulfilment in her profession. I kind of work at my own pace now. It seems to have gone that way because I am not doing the celebrity thing, I havent got management and publicists. Im just doing my own thing with my music partner Carmelo Luggeri.
She enjoys the music, from its creation to the playing and she and Carmelo are working on an album, due for release later in 2012. It feels more authentic in that sense because its me as a person, not relying on having a record in the charts.
Now contentment is found in her friends and familys happiness and wellbeing. She enjoys time to relax a little now, having launched into a career at the age of 16, a weekly yoga class keeps her centred and her music is practically a life long friend.
She still holds in her hands mementos from those early years; a friendship with Elton. Ive always felt that we have had an authentic relationship. I like that, and I dont have to see him all of the time to know that we care about each other, a string of hits, as well as musical and acting achievements, and a pair of silver rhinestone studded platform boots, they are pretty wild. I couldnt throw them away.
Life in a small village suits her. She enjoys hearing kids on their walk to school in the mornings, to be comfortable in her home and environment, to meet up with friends and work with Carmelo. She still gets recognised but people in the village are relaxed about having a celebrity in their corner of the world.
She says, I decided a long time ago I wanted to be someone who could walk down the street. I didnt want to be somebody who was caged by celebrity. You know, theres always those moments when someone might know you or recognise you or ask you to sign a CD in the village, which is always quite funny.
Kiki continues to tour regularly and still gets nervous before she performs. The gigs are more intimate these days, acoustic and rather more home grown. At the meet and greet sessions that follow, she enjoys the comments she receives about her performances, finding that people are surprised and delighted by her new material. Thats what keeps me going. And she is still going, with verve, flair and integrity. As we part ways, she bestows her motto on me Ride loose in the saddle of life, blows me a kiss and gives me a wink. Shes still got the music in her.
More information about Kiki Dees performances and music can be found at www.kikiandcarmelo.com