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December 2, 2021

Being Etta James

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Vika Bull tells The Etta James Story, Sunday at the Ballina RSL at 8.30pm.
Vika Bull tells The Etta James Story, Sunday at the Ballina RSL at 8.30pm.

For 25 years, the glorious voice of Vika Bull, alongside her sister Linda, has been one of the most distinctive, versatile and emotionally charged sounds on the Australian music landscape.

Since a multi-platinum conquest of pop radio with the Black Sorrows in the late 1980s, Vika Bull has forged a diverse pathway into soul, gospel, blues, country and the island music of her Tongan ancestry. This Sunday Vika Bull presents At Last – The Etta James Story, a remarkable show that pays tribute to the life and music of Etta James.

Vika, what attracted you to tell the story of Etta James?

Etta is my favourite singer – I have been listening to her music and studying her voice since I was 17 years old.

What was it about Etta’s music that connected and still connects with audiences ?

I can only answer this from a personal point of view: Her music connects with me because it is honest.

How do you think personal struggles broaden a singer’s performance – particularly when it’s soul music?

Personal struggles broaden a singer’s performance tremendously. That is how they become great. You have to have been blessed with the gift and when you experience life that’s when you learn to sing with passion and honesty.

What are your favourite Etta songs to sing?

I love every song in the show; my favourite changes from week to week. Etta can sing many different styles – R&B, jazz, soul, funk, rock, the phone book! This week my favourite is A Sunday Kind Of Love.

How did Etta manage to overcome her addiction?

She went to rehab, did all that stuff, and finally overcame them all – hallelujah!

Can you tell me how you came to put the show together?

I was asked by the producers Simon Myers and Moira Bennett. John Livings wrote the script. They are all big fans of Etta’s and they knew that I was too, so they approached me to sing the show. Learning the songs wasn’t hard ’coz I knew them all already – it was learning the script and having to narrate that was the difficult part. They put the show together, not I; I was just lucky to be asked.

What about the band?

Fantastic band. Seven-piece – drums, bass, guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone and saxophone. All brilliant musicians that can sing, too, and they are very funny people and so touring with them is great fun, especially when John Livings comes on the road ’coz he is the funniest one of them all. You know that saying that all actors wanna be musicians and all musicians wanna be actors? Well it’s actually all musicians wanna be comedians!

What should we expect for your show at the Ballina RSL?

We tell the story of Etta’s life from start to finish and in between sing 22 of her songs. It is not a boring story and every song is a killer!

Sunday at the Ballina RSL at 8.30pm.



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