Right up until her death in 2003, Nina Simone was a complicated character, famous for both her songs and her often-turbulent life. For former Girl Overboard singer Lisa Schouw, an interest in Simone’s songs led to an interest in Simone’s life. Which led to the creation of The Other Woman.

I gathered up about three or four songs to be just a part of the gig, Schouw told Sydney Star Observer.

But as I worked on them, I just loved them. I felt as if I had come to a time in my own life when I could do them justice. I think they’re the kind of songs where you have to have a few life experience miles on you to be able to sing them.

I also read Nina’s biography I Put A Spell On You and it was great -“ because I’d loved her music but I didn’t really know that much about her as a woman. As I read the book I got the idea there was a great story there. She’d lived an incredible life.

The idea of The Other Woman was born. Together with musical director Peter Bailey, Schouw chose songs representing important moments in Simone’s life, from birth until the late 1960s.

I share anecdotes from particular times, Schouw said.
In a way she had an incredible integrity in the songs she chose to sing. They were always somehow reflective of what she was experiencing in her own life, or they were connected to something she had experienced. We’ve taken her songs and put them in an order that explains the way her life has unfolded.

Recreating such iconic music could be a difficult task. Schouw said the show was more about interpreting Simone’s music than an impersonation.

I am who I am. I’m not at any point trying to be her -“ I’m trying to honour the essence of her as a human being. I’m white, I’m middleclass, I come from New Zealand. My connection to her is as a woman. I’m a mother, she was a mother, lots of the stuff in her book resonated with me as I was reading it, Schouw said.

She chose songs because she loved them, and as a fellow musician, I’ve chosen to do them because I love them as well. I’ve chosen not to sing the songs to do with her experiences in civil rights as a black person. That’s out of respect -“ I’m not a black person and I think it would feel kind of phoney.

The Other Woman -“ The Life And Music Of Nina Simone will be performed at The Studio in the Sydney Opera House this Friday and Saturday, 23-24 July at 8:15pm. Tickets are $25 ($20 concession) and bookings can be made by calling 9250 7777 or online at www.sydneyoperahouse.com/thestudio.

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