lorraine bowen | singer-songwriter
What do you get if you cross toe-tappingly catchy tunes and A-line dresses with quirky lyrics, a healthy dose of polyester and a Casiotone organ? Why, the fantastically eccentric world of Lorraine Bowen, of course. We grabbed a few minutes with the colourful songstress, musician, comedian and Britain’s Got Talent alumnus ahead of her Brighton Fringe show to chat about her forays into mainstream TV and her top tips for what to see in this bumper festival month.
Where do you live in Brighton or Hove and what do you like about that area?
I live near Brighton Station. It’s a wonder you haven’t heard the bossa nova beats wafting from my Casio organ as you catch the train! I love being so central to all the goings-on: you can walk to the sea, catch a noisy gig or get to Debenhams in under 10 minutes. Plus there are quirky enough scenes and scenarios to feature on loads of my YouTube videos!
You were on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, how did that come about and what happened?
A friend down the coast persuaded me to pack up my ideals and sell my soul to the Cowell Empire and I did! I was ready for it, ready to see if I could get a chorus of my catchy ‘Crumble Song’ onto mainstream TV and, if I could, what would happen. I did have a Plan B, though – if I was dissed in any way, then I’d leave the UK and move to Italy! Ha ha, still here, though! The experience was mind-blowing; David Walliams pressed his Golden Buzzer for me [this sends an act straight through to the live semi-finals]. I haven’t worked so hard in decades!
That’s amazing! For people who didn’t catch you on TV and haven’t heard your music, how would you describe it?
My tunes are heavily influenced by the catchy ear-worm jingles of the sixties; they have to have good chords, quirky songwriting and the lyrics are always themed around the minutiae of human existence and… food! Mothballs, crumbles, burgers, kippers, space, bicycles, clean sheets and lemon disinfectant are just some of the themes I feature. Check out ‘The Crumble Song (Bombay Mix)‘ for the ultimate version.
When you’re not playing music, what sort of things do you like to listen to? Any hot tips for this month’s The Great Escape?
I love podcasts like All Songs Considered and BBC Introducing and note down any tunes/new bands that I think are worth checking out. I’ve got a big retro vinyl collection to enjoy vintage bossa novas, cha cha chas, orchestral arrangements, and so on, and I also love being dragged out to see gigs in Brighton to hear the latest original sounds from lovely young people! The Great Escape? Feet, Goat Girl, Slugabed…. Anyone got a ticket?!
You’ve got a show in the Fringe this year, tell us about that?
My show this year at the Brighton Fringe is…. a kids’ show! It’s called Be Original! and it’s a pay-back to the next generation – to get them writing original songs and show them that there’s more to life than cover versions and tribute bands, as my experience at the Simon Cowell Empire showed!
Essentially, it’s an hour showing you how to be creative, gather your ideas, try them out and not be afraid of making mistakes along the way. An ideas-fest! It’s aimed at six to 11-year-olds, but Captain Sensible from The Damned came to the try-out show and loved it.
Have you always intended your music to appeal to children as well as adults?
No, this is a totally new direction for me. Before BGT I was tucked into late-night gay bars and offbeat cabaret clubs. But the whole BGT experience brought my music and YouTube videos to loads of new age groups, and kids were the first new fans. It’s all pretty hilarious!
Apart from Be Original! (of course!), what are your top tips for the Festival and the Fringe this month?
Just go and see as much new and original stuff as possible. Everyone has spent a fortune and tons of time and talent putting on a show so support anything that looks weird, wonderful, quirky and entertaining. Other coastal towns have a constant stream of tribute stuff – let’s keep Brighton truly original!
What else can we see you in this year?
I’m off to Birmingham, Brighton and Margate Prides, a public Thames Boat party and I’m going to be working with Brighton’s Boogaloo Stu on some Christmas shows. Fab!
You’ve played at loads of festivals over the years, from Glastonbury to Pride – do you have a favourite?
Well, I have to say Brighton Fringe, don’t I! Performing my huge Polyester Fiesta! show at the Brighton Fringe Spiegeltent last year with ten models on a huge catwalk was sensational. But I also thought Birmingham Weekender was brilliant for its cultural diversity and fab outside dance events.
Finally, can you describe your perfect day in the city?
Ok, let’s eat our way through the continental delights of Brighton. We start with a trip down the great and grungy London Road taking in the gems of the Open Market (use it or lose it!). The Cheese Family – the Ovetts (the only cheese family who don’t like eating cheese!) – do fabulously cheap cheeses from Europe and Yorkshire. I stock up on some packs for later. For lunch, it’s the Middle-Eastern exotic delights of Sunbirds Café in the Market. Then a brisk walk over to St James’s Street in Kemptown for a real Italian ice-cream experience at La Mucca Nera Gelateria with loud Italian TV for good vibes. Next, a walk along the seafront, passing Brighton’s only freshly squeezed orange juice machine from Seville at my fave, the Pump Room, taking in the sea air while watching virile people play volleyball. Lastly, I head to my evening flamenco class to dance off the calories. Where else could you do all that?!
Lorraine’s fun Brighton-based children’s book The Crumble Lady is out now and you can catch her in Be Original! at at the Marlborough Theatre from 31st May to 3rd June 2018
From £7; 4 Princes Street, Brighton BN2 1RD
Photo credit: James Bellorini (space suit Lorraine)