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Back to the old school
Peter Grant returns to Batley Frontier Club tonight and he can't wait.
"There's always a great atmosphere there, it's kind of old school with a good northern audience," he says. "I always try and get northern gigs included on my tours. Most of my work is in London but I'm still based up here, I'm sick of the M1 but at least playing up here means I can sleep in my own bed. I love taking my dog for a walk in the fresh air, it's great to be back."
The Guiseley singer, who had extraordinary success with hit debut album, New Vintage, has spent a hectic few months on the road and in the studio recording a new album.
"It's out in June, the title going around at the moment is Old School, New Class," says Peter. "With New Vintage the sound was classic Matt Monro, but this time I've gone for a more contemporary, younger style. It's half original material and half covers. Songs like This Guy's In Love With You have been given a contemporary feel."
He plans to showcase the new album on a tour this summer, taking in St George's Hall and City Varieties in Leeds.
"I've learned loads from being on the road, I've developed as a performer and I love being out there with the band," says Peter. "We have a great laugh, that comes across in our banter on stage."
Life has been a whirlwind for Peter since New Vintage reached Number 8 and went gold. At the age of 18 he scored a six-album record deal with Universal; he's been championed by Michael Parkinson, and appeared on his TV chat show; he's played at legendary jazz venue Ronnie Scotts; performed alongside Kildwick jazz singer Clare Teal, and last December he starred with Meryl Osmond in glitzy variety show The Spirit of Christmas at Leeds Grand Theatre. Not bad for a lad who left Guiseley School little over a year ago.
Still only 19, Peter has a trademark smooth swing style which has seen him compared favourably to his hero, Harry Connick Jr. He got into swing music at a young age and first sang in public aged six with his father, a tenor.
"I used to go to charity shops with my mum on Saturday mornings and I'd buy records by people like Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme. They weren't cool artists for a kid of my age to listen to but that didn't bother me, I just loved the music," he says.
Peter learned piano and started performing in working men's clubs. "I loved it. I played pubs, clubs, weddings and cruise ships, it was great experience. I was a 12-year-old singing The Lady Is A Tramp, people didn't expect it. But I felt from an early age I would get somewhere, I believed in myself.
"Singing was all I ever wanted to do and although it's amazing to be in a recording studio you can't beat singing live to an audience. Young singers need experience, it's how you learn your craft and develop as a performer," he adds. "There are too many people wanting to be famous overnight without putting the work in. I've had huge success and I still can't believe it's happened but I worked a long time for it. I wasn't an overnight success."
Before landing a recording contract Peter auditioned for ITV's X Factor and impressed the judges, but he pulled out when he realised that the show wouldn't take his career in the direction he wanted.
"They're looking for someone they can mould into a certain kind of star," he says. "I'm not into all that. I want a long career but I want to do it my way."
After a season playing swing at Blackpool Tower and performing on ships in Barbados, Peter got his break when producer Don Reedman came to a show. "We got on really well and the next thing we were in Abbey Road doing the album," says Peter. "Paul McCartney was in the next studio!"
With Michael Parkinson championing his songs on his BBC Radio 2 show, it wasn't long before Peter was making a name for himself.
Like Amy Winehouse, Jamie Cullum and our own Clare Teal, he's one of a new breed of accomplished young jazz musicians reaching a wide audience.
"Music isn't so pigeon-holed now, people are more into different styles," he says. "Look through any student's record collection and you'll find a mix of indie, reggae and jazz. I'm not commercial in a pop sense and thankfully there's room now for artists like me."
Peter is easy-going and friendly and, despite being a teenager who's fast ticking off his ambitions, he seems grounded. "I've always been driven but it's important to keep your feet on the ground," he says. "I played the Cellar V bar in Guiseley last year and I knew everyone in there. All my old teachers and friends were there, it was great. I'd like to do something like that again."
He's writing his own songs which he plans to release on a future album. "It won't be included in the new album because it didn't fit the style we wanted this time but it will be included on a future album," he says.
Peter plans to tour South Africa, Australia, Japan, America and Europe later this year and in the meantime there's that new album to promote.
"The next few months are going to be a whirlwind but I'm used to that," he smiles. "It's going to be a very exciting year - and it all starts in Batley!"
Peter Grant is at the Batley Frontier Club tonight. For tickets ring (01924) 442122.