How We Met: Clare Teal & Sir Tim Rice

'I recorded a celebration of the greatest British songs and felt guilty I hadn't included any of his'

Clare Teal, 40

On the strength of her 2001 album, 'That's the Way it Is', Teal landed the biggest recording contract for a British jazz singer – resulting in her breakthrough album, 'Don't Talk', in 2004. She currently presents 'Big Band Special' on BBC Radio 2. Her latest album, 'And So it Goes', is out now

I was brought up in Yorkshire in the middle of nowhere and developed an unhealthy interest in my grandmother's old jazz records as there was very little modern music to listen to. There was also this pop single, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", written by Tim for the musical Evita. I was suspicious of it initially as it was not terribly jazzy but I really enjoyed it.

We met by chance two years ago at this gentlemen's jazz club in London called the Boisdale, where I was asked to be the singer at an event and he was hosting it. It was a rowdy affair and afterwards I met him. I do a couple of radio shows, and one goes out on Sunday nights at 10 o'clock. He said, "I listen to that while I brush my teeth." I thought, "Great, I'm now what people brush their teeth to!"

I asked if I could send him my album Hey Ho, a celebration of the greatest British songs, though I felt a bit guilty that it didn't include any of his. I didn't think giving it to him would ever amount to anything.

Musical theatre and jazz don't often cross but when they do they make for great musicals. Tim was working on this musical adaptation of the book From Here to Eternity, and he sent me some demos with a note saying it was from his new show. I listened to them and I really liked one of them, "Another Language", and I thought might be suitable for my voice. So I recorded a very intimate version, just piano and my voice. It's been a pivotal record for me. I've got to a point where I'm fed up with the way records are made these days; it's so artificial. So I wanted to go back to basics, like how it used to be.

Looking at Tim's writing I think his skills as a lyricist are underrated. With his songs he creates the most vivid picture with a minimum amount of words that rhyme with real purpose. Look at "Don't Cry for Me Argentina": it's extraordinary how intense it feels even out of the context of the musical. I've also sung his Oscar-winning song, "A Whole New World", a piece that, despite the fact that Katie Price did everything she could to ruin it, is also great in and out of its rightful place [the 1992 Disney film Aladdin].

Of course his general pop knowledge is so extensive it's ridiculous. He can tell you what song was at number one when you were born. What do I like most about him? He's very able to laugh at himself. He's a huge Elvis fan, and I've seen him do his Elvis party pieces: it's unexpected and surprising – the sort of thing you wouldn't expect Sir Tim Rice to do.

Sir Tim Rice, 68

In a career that has spanned five decades, the award-winning British lyricist and producer is best known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, creating West End hits such as 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Evita', before going on to write lyrics for Disney films including 'Aladdin' and 'The Lion King'

I was aware of her on radio for some time and I finally met her at a party at the Boisdale club in 2011. She sang three songs, which were fantastic – classic jazz standards. Afterwards, I introduced myself and she didn't disappoint. She was a sparky individual, very lively and entertaining and not just interested in the world of showbusiness.

I got to know her properly organising a big charity event in Durham Cathedral, later in the year. Clare came up for two days and we had a some nice evenings and lunches together. During one dinner she said to me, "I'm doing a new album, so if you've got any songs let me know. As it happened, I'd just completed a new score with [composer] Stuart Brayson for a new musical, From Here to Eternity. I sent her one of the songs and she loved it and recorded it.

I was thrilled to hear one of my songs sung so well, in an adult way. She sang it with a Streisand quality; understated and powerful. You get a lot of singers who think that the way to do a song is have a Mariah Carey approach and stick in 38 notes when one will do. Clare sings entirely what's necessary and adds her own style to it. I can't see it racing up the pop charts, though, as these days they seem to be only inhabited by dance records. But Clare has restored my faith that there are some younger artists still able to sing that kind of music.

We are both intrigued by the absurd side of life, too. If something doesn't work out both our reactions tend towards one of amusement rather than anger. There was a charity event in Windsor, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, and we both sat around a table in the bowels of the castle thinking, "Will we ever find where we're playing, and with no access to water will we even survive long enough to play?" But she didn't complain, as some artists might.

She been so good at helping me out at charity events I remember saying to her, "If I can ever help you…" I didn't expect a reply but out of the blue recently she said, "Right, you're lumbered for this event at Harrogate." So I'm going up on Friday to help out. I'm not a world-class entertainer, but there's an Elvis song, "Teddy bear", I've done with her pianist. I bring my own character to the great man's songs – it's a safe bet, as it's quite short. 1

Clare Teal: An Evening with Sir Tim Rice & the BBC Radio Leeds Big Band is at the Harrogate International Festivals on Friday at 8pm, harrogateinternationalfestivals.com. 'From Here to Eternity' previews at London's Shaftesbury Theatre from 30 September

Comments