Given the list of artists British singer Miriam Stockley has worked with - a list that includes such names as Tina Turner, Elton John, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Chaka Khan, David Bowie, Seal and Adiemus - you may be surprised that you haven't heard her name before. But that is soon to change. One of the most distinctive voices in music, Miriam has probably sung on more hit records and with more success than most artists achieve in a lifetime. What is also surprising is that it has taken so long for Miriam to capitalise on her undisputed vocal talent by recording a solo album. But now Miriam is ready to go it alone and will release her self-titled debut album on Virgin on 31 May 1999.
"Sonically, she's got ears like a bat" says vocal recording engineer Rod Houison. "She rolls out six part haromonies effortlessly. From a technical point of view she's in a class of her own." Not bad for a totally untrained singer who sings from the heart, but being technically superb is only one side of Miriam. She also has a tremendously emotional delivery that can often send tingles down your spine.
The album entitled simply Miriam combines a variety of styles and influences from the African influenced "Forever My Heart," "Ruwenzori," "Uku'lele" and "Nocturne" to the Celtic themes of "Song Of The Seahorse" and "Homeland." But then there are the ballads like "Empty Space," "Arcadia" and "Perfect Day." The album also features an inspired interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street."
Miriam worked with five different composers, and several different orchestrators all of whom she feels have influenced the album to certain degrees, which results in an album with such great balance and depth that it is almost impossible to categorise. "The writing has my stamp on it, but it was great to have all these other people involved" she says. "I have always written from a contemporary standpoint, rather than a classical one, and I wanted this album to have a contemporary edge that would appeal to a wider audience."
Originally from Johannesburg, Miriam began singing at the age of 11, when she formed a duo with her sister Avryl. Shortly afterwards she was asked to record a jingle for a local building society, which began her session career. "From then on I was constantly in and out of studios recording jingles for various radio and television commercials, which I loved. However, half way through my A levels I found the combination of singing and school work too much to cope with, so I gave up school and concentrated on singing instead." It was during this period that Miriam developed her unique vocal skills of multilayering vocal harmonies.
Having reached the pinnacle of her career in South Africa, Miriam set her sights on Europe. She began travelling to Paris to work with French composer Francis Lai and finally packed her bags and based herself in London at the age of 18.
"In the early days I did a lot of work as a backing singer but I also demoed songs for various song writers and joined the occasional band for a few gigs. It was a good way of building contacts because I was in at the start with a lot of people who were obviously going places."
Throughout the 80s and 90s Miriam was in great demand and her voice can be heard on numerous hits by a diverse range of artists. She sang on several British television cult comedy shows such as Spitting Image and Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge. Her solo voice has also graced feature film and TV soundtracks including Rob Roy, Great Expectations, Mike Figgis' One Night Stand and the successful Beatrix Potter series Peter Rabbit and Friends. She also appeared live in a variety of concerts including the 1997 Prince's Trust concert, the Wham! Final Concert and the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at London's Wembly Stadium where she provided backing vocals for Elton John, Annie Lennox, David Bowie and Seal. Miriam was also featured on the 1998 Diana Princess of Wales Tribute Concert at Althorpe England on which she sang "Arcadia" and "Song Of The Seahorse" from the new album
Miriam's extensive studio work that brought her to the attention of former Soft Machine members Karl Jenkins and Mike Ratledge who were busy writing music for advertising. Jenkins had heard about Miriam's unique vocal style and invited her to work with him on a piece of music for a Delta Airlines commercial. This was the beginning of the highly successful Adiemus project, and Jenkins' compositions featuring Miriam's vocals were recorded in 1995 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and released as Songs Of Sanctuary by Adiemus. The album was an international success and, together with the follow-ups Cantata Mundi and Dances of Time has so far sold in excess of two million copies worldwide.
"Only You," a hit Miriam performed with the group Praise, charted number two in the UK and resulted in her debut Top Of The Pops appearance. Miriam always had her heart set on recording her own solo album. After completing the third Adiemus album she felt the time was right to expand her musical audience.
Miriam's first solo album on Virgin is a work of the finest quality and promises to be one of the surprises of 1999.