By Scott Kara / NZ Herald
Lucy Lawless has a thorough knowledge of swing and has passed on her expertise to OpShop's Jason Kerrison. Photo / Supplied by Starship
Jason Kerrison has been practising singing Opshop's Maybe in a swing style and failing miserably.
"What happens is I end up with this really bad faux New York accent. I'll have to work it out somehow," he laughs.
He may have written the song of the year in 2008 - with One Day, the PostShop song, winning the APRA Silver Scroll - but when it comes to swing music Kerrison's a novice.
Apart from growing up listening to Manhattan Transfer, and hearing songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Perry Como in old movies, he reckons he learnt all he knows about swing from actress and singer Lucy Lawless during their photo shoot for the upcoming show Starship Supernova Swing at Vector Arena on September 16.
Lawless, who is ambassador for the Starship Foundation, the charity arm of Starship children's hospital, brought along a bunch of classic swing tunes by the likes of Benny Goodman and others to create a swingin' mood.
"Man, she is a wealth of knowledge,"says Kerrison. "She knew all the stories behind the songs, all the lyrics, and she knew who was playing on the records. I felt woefully inadequate. I have to do some research."
Kerrison and Lawless will be joined for the show by former Dudes frontman-turned-swing singer extraordinaire, Peter Urlich, Kirsten Morrell of Goldenhorse, feelers frontman James Reid, Dave Gibson from Elemeno P, former Zed singer Nathan King, and the Lady Killers.
Proceeds from the evening will fund a number of projects at Starship, including new lifesaving equipment, on-going research, family support initiatives and preventative programmes.
Kerrison's aim is to bring "a touch of class" to a few of Opshop's best known songs.
"I've never experienced that so that's the angle I'm going for," he says.
Although, Urlich might have some expert advice for Kerrison when it comes time for rehearsals. "Is he going to take Opshop songs and swing them?" he asks, a little perplexed by the idea. "That's an interesting experiment."
One thing's for sure, Urlich won't be attempting to swing Th' Dudes' Walking In Light - although one imagines it might go down quite well - and he'll be sticking to classics like Fly Me To The Moon, most famously recorded by Frank Sinatra, and Fever sung by Peggy Lee.
Forty-one-year-old Lawless has been a fan of swing and jazz since she was 13, with records by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Dinah Washington ("She had a lilt and a warmth about her that is just astonishing."), among the first she owned.
She also remembers one of her first introductions to swing music being from 70s TV show The Waltons, with piano-playing brother Jason Walton a big Benny Goodman enthusiast.
So Lawless is looking forward to the swing spectacular in September.
"It brings the romance of another era and we all sorely lack a little romance these days I think. So a little bit of the Brat Pack will be nice and I get to go and play a little bit with the big boys," she says of performing with Tuxedo Swing Orchestra on the night.
Lawless and Urlich both have different takes on what swing music is but the names Peggy Lee, Benny Goodman, and Frank Sinatra always seem to pop up, along with classic swing tunes like Sinatra's version of Fly Me To the Moon and Lee's Fever.
Urlich, who released the swing album, Between You And Me, last year featuring songs like Fly Me To The Moon, Fever, and Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, says swing is not necessarily a style and more like a mood and vibe created within a song.
"It's when the band is in the pocket. It's when the band is in unison for what ever genre they are [playing]. So it doesn't just cover a certain period of music associated with the likes of Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra and others."
But for him, the classic swing period is the glory days of the big bands from the 50s and 60s and songs like Fever.
"[That song] had a strange and funny vibe to it. It intrigued me for the way the bass was going ..." he says as he starts singing a deep, moochy bass line.
"It's got that skippy, relentless thing that takes you on to the next part of the song and there is a lot of energy in it. That had a huge impact on me.
"It's a groove. It's so cool," he says before breaking into song. "Fly me to the moon, Let me sing among those stars ..."
What: Starship Supernova Swing
Who: Lucy Lawless, Jason Kerrison (Opshop), Peter Urlich, and more.
Where & when: Vector Arena, September 16