She’s the ex-pat Canadian who has left an indelible mark on the Australian pop music landscape.
And Wendy Matthews is turning her attention to one of her major influences, the incomparable Billie Holiday with a special show, Billie and Me, at Wests Nelson Bay this month.
The show is a continuation of her 2015 album Billie and Me: The White Room Sessions which Wendy revealed bore more than a passing connection to Newcastle.
“The whole idea was quite spontaneous,” Wendy told Newcastle Live.
“We [Wendy, pianist Brendan St Ledger and bassist Greg Royal] went into this glorious old piano factory in Newcastle [Stuart and Sons former piano factory] and decided it would be the perfect place to record these great songs. We basically just set up the mics and launched into these beautiful songs that before then we never got the chance to do.”
Regarded as one of the finest singers in the history of popular music, Billie Holiday enjoyed a formidable 30-year career peppered with such timeless classics as God Bless The Child, Willow Weep For Me, Strange Fruit and Good Morning Heartache.
Wendy said that Billie had always been a strong influence, citing her technical ability and improvisational jazz style as things that drew her to the iconic chanteuse.
“Billie’s phrasing is just phenomenal,” she said. “There has been no one before or since who has been able to do what she does.”
Wendy, an ex-pat Canadian, first came to Australia to sing backing vocals for Glenn Shorrock’s 1983 Australian tour.
Liking the country so much, she decided to say, adding her vocal prowess to recordings from the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Icehouse, and Tim Finn as well as being a regular backup singer for The Models.
Branching out into a solo career saw Wendy win multiple ARIA awards, and record such hits as Token Angels, Let’s Kiss, and her iconic melancholic torch song The Day You Went Away.
Aside from paying homage to Billie, Wendy added that the show would also include stripped-back and intimate versions of some of her own most popular hits.
Catch Wendy Matthews when she performs Billie and Me at Wests Nelson Bay on Saturday 22 June. Get your tickets here.