Julia Fordham life and biography

Julia Fordham picture, image, poster

Julia Fordham biography

Date of birth : 1962-08-10
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Portsmouth, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-11-15
Credited as : singer-songwriter, Porcelain, Falling Forward

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Julia Fordham is a British singer-songwriter based in California. Her professional career started in the early 1980s, under the name "Jules Fordham", as a backing singer for Mari Wilson and Kim Wilde.

The earthy, sensual appeal and the emotional potency of Julia Fordham's contralto voice are what initially strike most people listening to the British pop singer. Having released four albums to British acclaim and moderate U.S. attention, Fordham has carved a niche for herself in the adult contemporary market. She writes almost all of the songs she sings, alternating between melancholy, love- centered lyrics and socially conscious ones. Influenced by Julie London and Joni Mitchell, Fordham combines ethereal background instrumentation with folk/pop sounds for the thinking listener.

Born in 1963 in Portsmouth, England, Fordham, along with her two siblings, was brought up on Hayling Island, a rural island next to the Isle of Wight. "I wanted to be a singer from the time I was a small child," she expressed to Kristine McKenna of Musician in 1990, "but my hopes were temporarily dashed when I couldn't get into the school choir. My voice was so low they wouldn't have me! It wasn't until I was 12 and got a guitar and spent endless hours singing in my room that I discovered I had two voices--one high and one low--that I could switch between quite easily."

Although many musicians can point to childhood performances as heralds of their later careers, Fordham actually entered the world of professional music at a very early age. At 15, she began performing in pubs, having left school to devote herself to music. She took buses off the island to sing in pubs in Portsmouth and Hampshire. "In retrospect, it's amazing my parents let me do it," Fordham exclaimed to McKenna. Not only did the singer have the courage to launch her career so young, she had the confidence to rely for the most part on her own songs. Along with her own music, Fordham mixed songs from the 1940s, such as tunes by the Mills Brothers, and pieces by Joan Armatrading.

Fordham's musical career took a shift in 1982 when she responded to an advertisement in Melody Maker for backup singers for Mari Wilson. As one of the Wilsations, the 19- year-old Fordham was exposed to the workings of the pop music business. "I learned a lot from Mari," Fordham explained to Musician's McKenna. "An intelligent woman with a great voice, but she let herself be manipulated into selling herself as a pop novelty. She took off in this big, pink bubble that eventually burst, and observing that process I came to understand that if I was gonna be successful in this business, that wasn't how I was gonna do it."

Five years later, Fordham felt she had enough experience to launch her solo career. Virgin Records agreed with her, offering the singer a contract in 1987. By 1988 Fordham's debut album was released to positive reviews in Great Britain. Julia Fordham generated two European hit singles and sold 150,000 copies. After hearing the singer's album, Jim Farber of Rolling Stone complimented Fordham's voice, calling it "a deep, warm instrument, rich with deliberation. Her alto is as thick and androgynous as Alison Moyet's, but she doles it out smoothly in a cool jazz style reminiscent of Sade and informs it with a self- conscious ambition suggesting Joni Mitchell." However, Farber felt that a "murky production" detracted from the impact her voice could have made.

Rolling Stone reviewer Rob Tannenbaum had few good things to say about Fordham's second album, Porcelain, released by Virgin in 1990. He judged her experimentation with foreign genres too casual to have more than a surface appeal and her melancholy unrelenting. "With its curious match of adolescent lyricism and contemporary musical structure, Fordham's second album is full of foolish and beautiful extremes," was the best he could find to say in his 1990 review.

Record buyers apparently disagreed, acquiring Porcelain to the tune of 225,000 copies and raising the album to Number 74 on the album charts. In addition, the single "Manhattan Skyline" from the album achieved substantial popularity on the VH-1 music video network. Fordham's 1991 release, Swept, would not fare as well, selling only 85,000 copies. Jon Cummings in Billboard, though, called both Porcelain and Swept "exquisitely crafted, meticulously sung pop." Fordham herself commented that her intent with the two albums was to achieve a certain kind of delivery, one that was emotive but controlled.

For her fourth album, Falling Forward, Fordham changed tactics, abandoning her controlled delivery for a more spontaneous sound. She remarked to Cummings, "This time I wanted to sing my pants off." To help create an original feel for the album, Fordham looked to new producers. She left Grant Mitchell and Hugh Padgham, who had produced all three of her previous albums, and enlisted Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell's husband and collaborator. Despite the radical change in sound, Fordham claimed to be happy with how she sang on her previous albums, explaining to Cummings, "I just came to feel you can't keep doing the same things forever."

The change seemed to renew enthusiasm for Fordham's music. When the album was released in 1994 in Great Britain, it leapt to Number 21 on the British charts. Virgin Records felt the emergence of the LP on alternative and contemporary jazz radio stations would give it the boost that Swept did not have. Also, the label did not want to repeat what it saw as a grave mistake in the promotion of Swept: the lack of a U.S. tour, which it cited as the main reason for Swept's poor performance in the United States.

Virgin brought Fordham to the United States in the summer of 1994 to prepare for an extensive fall tour. "We're all big fans of Julia's at Virgin," product manager Jean Rousseau told Billboard's Cummings, "and we're expecting that all it's going to take will be to get her out in front of people and let them rediscover her."

Signed in 1999 to a Division One/Atlantic, Fordham recorded Concrete Love. The album was produced by Larry Klein who has worked with many artists including Joni Mitchell and with Fordham previously on Falling Forward. The release was cancelled when a corporate shuffle caused her record label to be closed and her contract was terminated.

She followed up this album with her seventh record, That's Life, which was released on her 42nd birthday in 2004. She performed more live shows which included a successful run of shows in Japan at the Blue Note venues. That's Live, a live album and DVD (filmed in Los Angeles, California with guests India.Arie and Judith Owen), was released in January 2005. Fordham then came to the end of her recording contract with Vanguard. Also in 2005, Fordham's sister, Claire Fordham, had a book published, Plus One: A Year in the Life of a Hollywood Nobody based on her experiences of being Julia's sister and living in Los Angeles.

Without a new record contract, Fordham continued to record, releasing independently a rewrite of debut single "Happy Ever After," in aid of tsunami relief. This was backed by two tracks written and recorded with Aadesh Shrivastava. The single was released to download and then made available to purchase on CD. It was also backed by Richard Branson who offered to stock the CD in his Virgin Megastores. The project was nominated for an OSSA award.

In 2006, she released her Baby Love EP via AWAL (Artists Without A Label). The EP is a collection of songs inspired by the birth of her daughter, Marley Rose. Also in 2006, Fordham appeared in a music video for the Judith Owen track, "Here", playing the part of Owen's mother. The video was directed by the actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

In September 2007, EMI released Songbook. It was a Philippines only release and included previous studio recordings as well as live cuts and rare tracks. In November 2007, it was announced that Fordham had completed a new album which was going to be released via a 'start up' company called NovaTunes. After some delay China Blue was released as a download-only album in late January 2008. It was a jazz-based album of self-penned songs with the exception of one track ("I Keep Forgettin'") which is a cover of a Lieber and Stoller song. The album was subsequently released on CD.

The 2010 release, Unusual Suspects, is a collaboration which featured the American comic actor, Paul Reiser, on piano.

Selective Works:
-Julia Fordham, Virgin, 1988.
-Porcelain, Virgin, 1990.
-Swept, Virgin, 1991.
-Falling Forward, Virgin, 1994.
- East West,1997
-Julia Fordham Collection,1999
-Concrete Love,2002
-That's Life,2004
-That's Live,2005
-China Blue,2008
-Unusual Suspects,2010

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