Sisters Gina and Mazz Murray, daughters of the renowned songwriter Mitch Murray, plus Emma Kershaw, have enjoyed careers in the West End and as backing singers for some of the biggest names in the charts. Now the trio are making waves with their band, Woman, which combines bluegrass, rock –and ukuleles!
Fresh from supporting Earth, Wind and Fire earlier this month, the band have appeared on Loose Women and are looking forward to supporting Billy Ocean at Indig02. They recently released their new album, Womanville. With music in their blood, it’s hardly surprising the tuneful trio known as Woman are already creating a stir. Francine Wolfisz talked to them about the path to success[divider]
Jewish News: How did you all meet?
Gina: Mazz and I are sisters, so we pretty much came together from the moment we were born! We both knew Emma independently from our careers and we all have backgrounds in musical theatre and session work.
JN: How did your band, Woman, come together?
Gina: Actually it was by accident. We were asked to perform at the Savoy a few years ago for a charity concert in aid of breast cancer. We decided that we would sing the Etta James number, ‘W.O.M.A.N.’, because it seemed like a good anthem for the event. After the gig, Mazz received a call from Woman magazine. The reporter said: “Hi there, we saw you last night, and we want to do a piece on your band. What’s the name of your group?” My sister, because we weren’t really a band, just said the first thing that came into her mind, which of course was “Woman” – because the caller had just said it! So that’s how we got our name!
JN: Together, you are mums to five boys aged from three to eight. How has it been working out juggling motherhood with starting a new band?
Emma: It is extremely difficult to be in the band and try and do what we’re doing. But we don’t really have any choice, because we just love it so much. Our families are extremely supportive and we probably couldn’t do it without them.
JN: Mazz and Gina, as the daughters of smash-hit song writer Mitch Murray and actress Grazina Frame, did you always know that you would go into showbusiness?
Mazz (laughing): Well, actually we really didn’t have an idea that there were any other jobs. As far as we were concerned, everybody had a lay-in, got up late, had people round at night and wrote songs!
JN: How would you describe Woman’s sound?
Mazz: We have our own little vibe where we take songs typically sung by men and we “Womanise” them to our own style. So our songs are quite rocky, but also folksy, mixed with blue grass, because we all play the ukulele. You could describe it as “Rock-a-lele”.
JN: What do you like about singing songs that have traditionally been sung by men?
Emma: Primarily the key that they sing in! Generally speaking, musical-theatre songs are incredibly difficult and always set very high. Women have had to listen to these songs for years and years because their husbands love all that. Now the women can also embrace Aerosmith and Guns ‘n’ Roses, because we’re putting a different twist on to it. At the same time, however, we are staying conscious of performing songs that men would enjoy as well.
JN: How long have you been playing the ukulele?
Emma: For about two years, but we all play other instruments as well. I play the violin and the guitar, while Gina plays the piano. Interestingly, Mazz was taught all her chords on the ukulele by Bryan May! I think the ukulele is a really easy instrument to pick up and play three or four chords, which is all you need for a simple pop song. I think that’s why it’s suddenly becoming so popular.
JN: Mazz, you have sung alongside the likes of Iron Maiden, starred in Rent, Smokey Joe’s and Boogie Nights and feature on soundtracks including Sweet Charity and Chicago. Your longest role was as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, which you played for nine years. What was it like to work with such an iconic rock band?
Mazz: Musical producers structure a show differently, they critique it differently and they spend money where others don’t. I found it liberating to work with somebody like them, because they were so hands-on. We had just opened and were slaughtered by the media. We had been open for only ten days and were given our notice. As it happened, Bryan May had been asked to play on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and he said: “I will play, but because my whole company are not going to be in work for a year now because the show is closing, I would like them to come with and do a number.” That turned out to be the exposure that We Will Rock You needed, because it got to the people, not just the critics. That event really launched the show – and you couldn’t really imagine another producer doing anything like that!
JN: Gina, you starred in Chicago, The Full Monty, Fame and Patsy Cline – A Musical Tribute. But you have also worked extensively in recording studios. Who have been among your favourites to work with?
Gina: Cliff Richard, because he was really lovely and because my mother was the voiceover on his musical films – the actresses couldn’t sing! My father wrote a hit or two for him as well. I think the other most memorable time was working on X Factor with George Michael, when Emma and I were chosen as backing singers. We had to wear cassocks, which is wonderful for a pair of Jewish girls. It was a good laugh and Sir Paul McCartney was waiting on the edge of the stage to come on!
• Woman’s new album, Womanville, is out now, plus their new single, ‘Dead Inside’. See http://www.womantheband.com/