Becki Biggins is a funny fish.

She IS!

Out of all the careers in all the world, she chose to be a jazz singer.  Not only that – a jazz singer and saxophonist.  Not even just that.  Oh no.  She also decided that she should be a songwriter.  So, what would persuade someone of reasonable intelligence to want to be a musician, I hear you cry.  Let me tell you…

It all began, at the grand old age of 12, at Adams School, in Wem.   Where is Wem?  Good question – I’ve never seen it on a map, and don’t believe it exists.  I like to refer to it as the Narnia of North Shropshire.  The school’s saving grace was its Big Band, which little Becki Biggins was asked to join as the token ‘cute’ singer.  Having been ‘cute for a little while, two things became understood:

1. that she could actually sing, and

2. that she was quite a decent musician, so someone decided to hand her a clarinet, and then a saxophone.  Good move, that man!

So, for the next five years Adjazz (yes, that’s really the name of the band) was young Becki’s life.  She toured Europe and the US, performing as part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras at the grand old age of 13.  With two other girls, singing in close harmony, she won the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Competition, and sang on The Big Breakfast, This Morning and Blue Peter, amongst other marvellous televisual classics.

But – oh no! – disaster struck and 17-year-old Biggs found a problem with her voice – she had paralysed one of her vocal cordds and was banned from singing for six whole months, just at the time of music college auditions.  Did our girl give up her dream of becoming a professional musician?  Of course not!  (You’re reading this…)  Not one to let the grass grow, she practised and practised, and successfully auditioned for Leeds College of Music, on tenor saxophone.   Phew!

Three years of cocktails and waitressing later, whilst travelling in Australia, Becki discovered that some bright spark had awarded her a degree, and she now had a BA (with Honours) in Jazz Studies.But what to do?  The life of a jazz saxophonist, as well we all know, is a perilous one, and Becki realised she needed a Plan B.  She worked ridiculously hard for a year and was awarded a PGCE in Secondary Music Teaching, and was packed for London before she could say ‘Sit down and take your coats off…’

During the next couple of years, whilst teaching part-time, Becki met a Very Important Person.  She had answered an ad in industry newspaper The Stage, asking for vocalists for a forthcoming recording project.  This is an accurate transcription of her telephone conversation:

BB:   Hello?

Person-on-the-other-end:  Hello, is that Becki?

BB:  Yes, it is.

Person: Hi Becki, it’s Paul Hardcastle here.

BB: (*Oblivious) Oh, hello.

PH: (*Encouragingly) You answered my ad in The Stage, looking for a vocalist.

BB: (*Remembering, yet still oblivious) Oh hello! Yes, of course…

And later, on the phone to her Mum:

BB: Hi Mum. I had a phone call today about that advert in The Stage

Wend (Mum’s name): Oh, yes?

BB: Yes, a chap called Paul Hardcastle phoned.

Wend: (*Drops the phone, picks it up. Sounds surprised, to say the least…) What?! THE Paul Hardcastle? N-n-n-nineteen Paul Hardcastle?!

BB: Ooh, I dunno…

Etcetera, etcetera. Needless to say, a lasting friendship and creative relationship was struck, and together Becki and Paul have so far written three albums, which have all been No. 1 in the US Smooth Jazz chart, with a couple of Billboard and iTunes No. 1s thrown in too. In fact, the pair’s first album not only won a host of awards (including Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Artists of the Year), it was listed on the Initial Ballot for a GRAMMY Award (but did not advance). Not bad, for a girl from the Shire.

Closer to home, the jazz gigs were coming in thick and fast, and Becki began to work with two piano players who would have a significant influence on her music; Laurie Holloway, of Parkinson, Strictly Come Dancing, TV-MD-Royalty fame, and Malcolm Edmonstone, Professor of Harmony at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. With these most excellent Musical Directors, our girl recorded two independent jazz albums, First Love and The Positive, gaining both valuable experience and very, ahem, positive reactions from the UK jazz mafia. Or media…

She began to play UK festivals and venues, including the Marlborough International Jazz Festival, where she won the Best Newcomer Award, and the legendary Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, where her debut performance (and every one since) was sold out.

Since then, our young friend has performed for a Prince (Harry, and no, he wasn’t touchy-feely), with a knight of the realm or two (Sir Michael Parkinson has been beautifully complimentary – see above) and for the great and good of both the UK and New York, where on a recent visit she gave an impromptu performance at the very elegant Cafe Carlyle. On leaving the stage, one regular patron embraced her vigorously, shrieking, “Darling, Liza was here last week, and they didn’t ask her to sing!” She was thrilled, he was drunk. It was a match made in heaven.

So, what now for the heroine of our tale? Well, she’s just signed a publishing deal with Bucks Music Group to represent her songs (making her a proper songwriter), and is about to begin her fourth studio album with Sir Paul of Hardcastle.  Perhaps most excitingly, she’s writing/stressing-about-the-recording-of her first solo album of original material, so you could say that she’s doing alright for herself really. For a musician, anyway.

Billy Richardson October 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Ms Biggins, I hear 1000 miles from nowhere …and I was swept away great writing and arrangement…

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Rodney March 26, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Ms Biggins. you have a beautiful voice singing on all songs with Paul Hardcastle.

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Thomas June 2, 2016 at 12:44 am

Hi, Ms. Biggins. I love your beautiful smooth voice from Paul Hardcastle’ albums. Best wishes for you.

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Gregory Mars September 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Hello Ms. BB. Your voice is so Hipnotizingly Beautiful. And so are you. Big fan! 1000 Miles from nowhere is my favorite. 🙂

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