Britain's Queen of Soul can't get enough of Dubai. As part of a world tour after the release of her seventh album, 100%, Beverley Knight will perform on Friday at the Irish Village. She describes her latest album as decidedly positive, and says that because she writes her own music, her songs reflect her life experiences. And at 36, Knight says, she's beginning to feel like she's finally got a handle on it all.
"I'm really in control of my own destiny. That's how I feel," she says, adding that the song 100% is about her current relationship. "I'm giving this relationship 100 per cent. But the album is also about me doing my personal best. I'm doing everything I'm capable of." Knight grew up in a strict Pentecostal family, and her first exposure to music was in church, where her mother led the congregation in songs. Knight still cites gospel music among the most profound influences on her style.
Since she signed her first record deal in 1994, though, Knight's sound has evolved. It was initially categorised as urban music, but Knight branched out to a distinctly rhythm and blues style, aiming to attract a wider, more mainstream audience. Her recent album has a pop feel with a clear gospel influence. She counts the 1980s pop icon Prince, whom she's had the chance to perform with on more than one occasion, among the artists who have inspired her work.
"I first met him in 2007 when he was performing at London's O2, and me and my band were the opening act," she says. "After the show he actually came and found me and asked me if we'd play the after-show. We did, and while my band and I were playing he and his band came out and just started jamming with us." Knight is heavily involved in charity work. She says she considers herself lucky. "So many people are nowhere near as fortunate as I am, so I feel a responsibility to give something back."
Part of this desire arose after Knight's best friend died of Aids several years ago. "Losing Tyrone to Aids struck the core of me, and I promised I would fight the battle against HIV and Aids until my last breath," Knight says. "I bring this same attitude towards other issues as well." Knight is a self-described control freak, and says she spends much of her life outside music actively scheduling time for friends.
"That's one thing about this career," she says. "It robs you of time." Last year, Knight left Parlophone Records after 11 years with the label and formed, Hurricane Records, under which she works now. "It's really hard work," she says. "It means I have to do a lot of the work most artists don't have to, like administrative stuff. I have to think about cost. I have to make music decisions that the label would usually make for you. But you know what? As hard as it is, this is so much more satisfying. I know what's going on. This is my destiny."
Knight says she is always thinking ahead. After her show in Dubai, she'll continue on the second leg of the tour. "Then I'll be like, OK I need to write new songs now. Then there will be more festivals, more shows. The cycle will continue." Beverley Knight performs on Friday at 9pm at the Irish Village. Tickets are available at the Irish Village Box Office, selected Costa Coffee, Virgin Megastore and Spinneys outlets, www.timeouttickets.com and www.boxofficeme.com.