Sixty Seconds: Cerys Matthews on having 'ridiculous' nights out with Tom Jones

The singer and radio presenter, 51, on drinking with legends, I’m a Celebrity and her new poetry album.

You sang a duet of Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Tom Jones. What was it like working with such a legend?

He is everything you’d want him to be. If you go out for an evening with him you watch how many martinis you drink because Tom is much taller and weighs a fair bit more than me!

The topics of conversation go from Elvis Presley to Janis Joplin to Wilson Pickett and Sammy Davis Jr. It’s a ridiculous night out, in the best of ways. The only downside is the headache the next day!

He’s a great friend and a standout musician. He loves people and he loves life. To hang out with him is a joy.

Didn’t you almost give birth at a Tom Jones concert?

My son is called John Tupelo Jones because I was on my way to see Tom perform in Tupelo. My contractions started as we were driving there. I had to turn round and hot-foot it back over the border to Nashville, where I was living at the time.

Your band Catatonia split in 2001. Will you ever reform?

No, I’m not planning it. We keep in touch but I like listening to new music from youngsters coming through. I love being on the production side of music and working as a solo artist so there’s no reason to get back together, really.

How was lockdown for you?

I’ve found out I’m quite prone to cabin fever! I live in west London with my husband and my three children, aged 10, 15 and 17, and the value of being able to get a bit of horizon or physical activity has really gone up in my estimation.

Did you pick west London because it’s the quickest route back to Wales?

It’s probably something to do with that! I live not far from Paddington station so it was an area I was familiar with. Wales is in me all the time – it’s shaped me and coloured my thoughts.

Tell us about your radio shows.

My Radio 2 show specialises in blues and I have a Radio 6 show on Sundays. It’s cross-genre and cross-era so I don’t just play music.

I play recordings of people’s voices, such as Florence Nightingale, Lord Tennyson and the American aviator Amelia Earhart.

I also interview people. Recently I’ve spoken to the writer Michael Morpurgo and the astronaut Helen Sharman.

Why did you take part in I’m A Celebrity in 2007?

I’m inquisitive by nature and I had two little children at the time so it was quite nice to go on holiday!

You published a cookery book last year full of recipes, music, poems and cocktails – that’s a rather unusual mix!

Some of the best times ever include great food, great company, great cocktails and great music, stories or poems.

It’s called Where The Wild Cooks Go and it has some history and interesting facts and statistics as well. I’ve been collecting recipes all my life and I’m passionate about whole-food cooking and the environmental impact of what you’re eating.

There are 15 countries featured and I’ve got a playlist of music to go with each one.

You’re releasing a poetry album – how does that work?

It’s basically a musical album but instead of me writing lyrics I’ve worked with ten UK poets. We went to Abbey Road Studios just before lockdown and each writer read pieces.

My role was to add the music in collaboration with an artist called Hidden Orchestra. They’re spoken-word pieces but they’re delivered in such a musical way that they lend themselves to being presented as a musical track.

When you look at a lot of the hip hop tracks coming out, so much music crosses the line.

Do you write poetry yourself?

I write lyrics and I’m a fan of poetry like Richard Burton was a fan – he was buried with poetry books in his coffin. I’m from Wales and an appreciation of poetry is certainly prevalent in my culture.

Poetry is sometimes considered a bit highbrow, isn’t it?

In Wales there would be poetry competitions in pubs. Poetry was enjoyed and made and shared by all classes of people, it wasn’t just the establishment or academics.

And nowadays you find poets on Instagram. The idea of poetry being stuck on a page is kind of old-fashioned.

What type of music is on the album?

We wanted to use a huge palate of sound, not just instruments, so we used field recordings from all over the world.

We’ve gone from urban settings with doors slamming, cars hooting, to more suburban settings, where the sounds of nature become more prevalent.

We have waterfalls in Nepal and then later, on two tracks, we take the listener down into the human body, with the sound of the heart, pulse and blood circulation. It’s a beautiful sonic adventure.

We Come From The Sun is released in January on Decca. Pre-order at cerysmatthews.co.uk.

Single Christmas Eve with poet Liz Berry is out on November 20

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