Touched by an angel

Judith Owen
Judith Owen

Singer and pianist Judith Owen says her music has always tended to the confessional but a glimpse at an extraordinary passer-by inspired a new direction

Judith is appearing at The Greystones to promote her new album, Somebody’s Child.

She said: “It’s out of all the records I’ve made probably the first one where I wrote about looking outside of myself.

“I saw a beautiful black girl on the streets of Manhattan with no shoes on and wearing a plastic bag for clothes.

“She was just about to pop, almost nine months pregnant. She was spinning around in the street with this beatific smile on her face, high on drugs.

“She seemed like a crazy angel in front of me. It was very terrifying to see this and at the same time at some point my humanity kicked in.

“I was overwhelmed. This was somebody’s child who started in life like me or anyone else, now having a baby.”

Judith is very open about her own battles with mental health and depression.

Her mother’s mental health problems also ended with taking her own life.

“Having struggled with the black dog all my life I know that it doesn’t take much to end up in a place that is pretty near rock bottom.”

Why I Love My Baby is about her husband, comedian and actor Harry Shearer, famed for many voices on The Simpsons and being one quarter of spoof rock band Spinal Tap.

“It’s about how you should love the person you’re with for who they are, not who you would like them to be. You love someone because you love them, warts and all.”

The couple have performed together and Judith was thrilled to sing backing for Spinal Tap. She’s also appeared on The Simpsons and contributed a spoof James Bond song for the latest Treehouse of Terror Halloween special.

In her solo work, Judith said that she expresses emotions in songs that she finds hard to express in real life.

“I get so much pleasure from being on tour, singing about these things and have such an incredible mutual understanding with the audience, who absolutely get what I’m talking about.”

One of the Welsh singer’s biggest musical influences was her father, opera singer Handel Ludwig Owen (apparently it was a local tradition for children to be named after musicians).

She and her sister were taken backstage at Covent Garden, meeting stars like Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

“It was part and parcel of what my dad was, just a normal job. I loved being there with my sister and crying and laughing and looking at my dad on stage.”

He also loved different types of music, introducing her to singer-songwriters like James Taylor who inspired her own music, described as a mix of grown-up pop, jazz and humour.

Judith is joined on stage by her band,made up of world-famous musicians Leland Sklar (Ray Charles), Pedro Segundo and Gabriella Swallow (Skunk Anansie).

She said: “I was in Sheffield last year at The Greystones and I’m thrilled to be returning there. My last show was incredible, it was a fantastic night.”

She’s back on November 12. Advance tickets: The Greystones