Back to Basia: The iconic, Polish-born songstress comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall

Back to Basia: The iconic, Polish-born songstress comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall

“I really didn’t know I had a huge gay and lesbian following, until they started coming up to me at my shows. It’s really a compliment, isn’t it?” Basia laughs, congenially.

Basia’s concerts are known for their deft combination of adult contemporary musical styles—Latin, jazz, word, and pop—with the singer’s warm, convivial spirit. The Polish-born artist will be using her distinctive voice to fill Tampa Bay’s Ruth Eckerd Hall on May 30, after touring Europe and the Far East. For tickets, visit

This world tour comes after a significant hiatus for Basia. In the late 1990s, after several people close to her died—including her mother—Basia found she couldn’t bring herself to sing. After more than five years of silence, fellow musicians pulled Basia out of her grief.

Now, Basia is back, touring with a new album, It’sThat Girl Again. We caught her on a short break at her England home.

Basia_833712676.jpgI was recently in a club, and in their lounge area, the DJ played a remix of your 1990 tune Cruising for a Bruising.
That’s awesome. Fantastic, because we plan to play that on this tour, and it’s good to hear that people still know it!

You were raised in Communist Poland, and you went on to sell more than 10 million albums worldwide; that makes you pretty unique.

Yes, I was born in Communist Poland, but my whole career—from 1983 onward—really started in England, where I still live. I tried to start in Poland; I recorded a few songs just before I left, but I had a terrible problem having them played. I kind of gave up on music, although I was very young.

I followed my heart; I fell in love with someone who was English, and I came to this country. After moving, I had to find work. At the time—with my very bad English—all I had was music. I liked singing, and I thought that I could somehow make a living at it. I was lucky to meet [life partner and keyboardist] Danny White, who I’ve worked with ever since coming to England. I’m very loyal; I stick to people I like. [Laughs]

Did you purposely shape your career so you could explore different styles of music?
I don’t try to fit into a particular market, whatsoever. I don’t want to sing something I don’t really feel is me. I was lucky to meet Danny, because he and I have this amazing connection; we understand each other. He and I stuck to our guns, even though our entertainment wasn’t the most popular style of music; it’s a mixture of pop and jazz and Latin music.

You have a very recognizable voice.

[Laughs] Yes, I have always had a bit of a strong voice, but it’s only moderate in range. There are noises I’d only ever attempt in a studio, never live onstage. I really only have a couple octaves, but I like all sorts of styles of music, so I mess around with the way I sing things. On the last album, I did a bit of a Wagnerian backing vocal, just for fun, because I do everything myself. I don’t have a producer. I just play with the muse, by myself in the studio. [Laughs]

Do you like doing your own production?

Sometimes, I get crucified. When I made the live Broadway album [1994’s Basia on Broadway, based on two concerts at the Neil Simon Theater], I was criticized for making it sound too “live.” My Polish family thought it wasn’t polished enough. Lots of people overproduce an album so much, it doesn’t sound live anymore. We didn’t change one note on this album; it’s an honest recording of those two wonderful nights on Broadway. I’m very proud of that album. I’m very happy when I hear that people enjoy it.

In 1994, you recorded The Sweetest Illusion, an album of new material. Then, you didn’t record another new Basia album for 15 years, until the 2009 album It’s That Girl Again. Can you tell us what you did in between?

In 1997, we released a “best of’ album, according to us. It was called Clear Horizon, and it included four new songs. I was a guest on a couple of albums. But, yes, I had maybe five or six years where I didn’t do any music.

Why the musical silence?

Those years were really miserable. If I don’t sing, I feel quite ill. Unfortunately, I went through a little bit of a quiet period, because I lost too many people in my life in a very short space of time. It started with my mom, then cousins, then friends. Five people died in a very short space of time, and I had a really terrible time of it. I just couldn’t sing. Something took my voice away. I couldn’t even listen to music.

In 2002, these two boys from my first band, Matt Bianco, convinced me to make another record with them. I’m glad they did, because it brought me back into this wonderful world.

Now I feel alright. I enjoy playing live, although I was nervous at first about going back on after such a long break.

Is a lot of your experience with grief on the new album?

Sure. When I write lyrics, I only write about what’s happening to me, or what I feel. Sometimes, I write about friends’ lives. Although the new album has a positive side, there is also a sort of disenchantment. I don’t dwell on the negative, but it’s important to go into it and then come back out of it.

The title song “It’s That Girl Again” is about one of my friends who passed away, and she was a very optimistic person. These days, I feel as if I am carrying her in my body by putting her philosophy forward. [Laughs] She infected us with a sort of wonderful positivity, and that’s why I think the loss of her was so hard. In spite of what happened to her, though, she really had the time of her life!

I imagine you’ll have a lot of gay couples at your American concerts.
Oh, that’ll be so nice. I’m really looking forward to it.

What else are you looking forward to in America?

I’m glad the Far East and European tour dates are behind me; they were like a big meal. America is my dessert. American audiences are very demonstrative; they really show you how much they love you. Because of that, I stopped using my earphones [in-ear monitors] onstage. I love to hear exactly how people react. For the few years I was using those in-ear phones, they separated me from the audience. Maybe I could hear better, and maybe I could control my voice better, but I didn’t have that spontaneous reaction from the audience. I like the communication from stage. I like to talk to people, and I like when they shout back to me. I just love that interaction.

Who: Basia and Bernie
When: 7 p.m., May 30

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