Singer Vika Bull, 50, lives in North Fitzroy, Melbourne and has an incredible voice we have come to know and love through her work with her younger sister Linda and of course, their long-standing collaborations with Paul Kelly.
WYZA® speaks with her on tour for her show At Last The Etta James Story.
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Q. What is life like on the road?
Life on the road is fun but can be hard work. You really have to take care of yourself. Most of my days are spent conserving energy for the evening’s performance – so speaking very quietly until 4pm and then I start warming up, then soundcheck, then show.
Q. How much of your time are you away from home?
I am away from home about half of the year.
Q. Any good travel tips for readers?
Drink lots of water and buy noise canceling headphones for the plane.
Vika Bull's show returns to the #SydneyOperaHouse for one week only after a sold-out season across Australia and New Zealand (Image: Matt Deller)
Q. How do you relate to the singer Etta James you play in At Last – The Etta James Story?
She is a singer, she is from mixed race and she is wild.
Q. Etta James has a famously turbulent life. What is something you wish most people knew about her?
That her mother was only 14 when she gave birth to Etta and that she conquered her demons and was making music right to the very end.
Listen to Vika Bull and John McAll discuss their hit show, At Last The Etta James Story
Q. How did you go about researching her life and music?
I read her book ‘Rage To Survive’ twice and looked at a lot of stuff on the internet. I was very familiar with her repertoire cause I have been a fan since the age of 17.
Q. When did you realise you wanted to be a singer?
Q. If you hadn’t been a singer what would you have liked to do?
There was no other option.
Q. What is the question you are most often asked?
Are you Vika or Linda?
Q. Music fans know you have a long-standing relationship with Paul Kelly – how did that start and what is it like working with him?
I got to know Paul about 30 years ago when Linda and I were touring with The Black Sorrows. We met in a Japanese restaurant in Brisbane and I can’t remember how it came about but we started having writing sessions with him each week. He really tried to encourage us to write our own songs. Paul is a very hard worker, a perfectionist which sometimes drives me nuts but I am thankful in the end because of the result!
Q. How is it having a great working relationship with your sister Linda? How special is that relationship on stage and off?
Our working relationship is like a marriage – you gotta give and take. The good thing about singing with your sister is the blend and when you harmonize or sing in unison this is a very good thing. We are very close, look after one another and this takes some effort cause we give each other the shits a lot of the time.
Vika and Linda's 1994 song When Will You Fall for Me?
Q. What are favourite memories of your time in The Black Sorrows?
My favourite memories of my time in the Sorrows was traveling to Europe and Scandinavia a lot! The Sorrows took me to many places I never thought I would ever get to visit. I especially love Norway – I think it’s the Viking thing I can relate to. They are wild!
Q. What is your favourite musical memory?
Favourite musical memory was probably listening to mum singing in church and because she had the loudest voice I would always be hiding under the pews.
Q. Favourite performance you have watched?
Gee that is hard … so many. Probably Archie Roach when he performed his show 'Into The Bloodstream' – very moving. Prince when he recently toured Australia playing the grand piano! I am very sad he has gone.
Q. What is next for you for work and in your personal life?
More touring and I am going to take better care of myself.
Watch Vika's incredible on-stage performance of Etta James' Take it to the Limit
Q. What are your passions outside of music?
My family, hanging with my teenage daughter at home, my dog, swimming, fixing up the house, reading recipes (and not cooking them) 'cause I always stuff them up!
Q. What is your favourite way to indulge yourself?
Definitely facials. I love them so I indulge once a month.
Q. How do you think music enhances our lives?
It makes us feel good. Music is definitely a health tonic. I often wonder about people who say they are not really into music … that scares me a lot!
Q. What is your favourite motto or saying?
Never listen to knockers.
Q. What do you wish you knew at 21?
Vika has taken the lead in 'At Last The Etta James Story' in which this incredible show saw its world premier in Melbourne in 2013 and since then has toured all the capital cities in Australia, completed two sold out seasons at The Sydney Opera House and in November of 2014 rocked an enthralled Kiwi crowd at the prestigious Aotea Centre in Auckland New Zealand. Visit vikaandlindabull.com for Vika Bull’s upcoming shows.
What is your favourite kind of music to listen to? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Featured image: Vika and Linda Bull)