'She Is The King'
'She Is The King' is the only woman ever to be selected by EPE to compete in the FIRST EVER worldwide sponsored Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, which was held in Elvis' birthplace Tupelo, Mississippi.
There is no doubt that since her performance at Elvis Week in Memphis this year she is also rapidly building a cult-following not only in Australia but also in the US.
She Is The King currently lives in Australia's picturesque harbour city, Sydney.
EIN's Piers Beagley had the opportunity to catch up with her recently, listen to some of her new album and to ask her some challenging questions such as, 'Would you let Nicholas Cage take you home?' and 'Shouldn't fat ETAs in bad jumpsuits be banned?'
Her answers were illuminating...
EIN - When did you become aware of the phenomenon of Elvis?
She Is The King - It wasn’t until after Elvis died that I realized his phenomenon.
Growing up, I truly believed that I was amongst a special few who knew how great he was & who bought his records. My earliest memory of Elvis was hearing an eight-track tape of him in my dad’s car. That was when I was three so the year was 73. In that same year & for many after that; the midday movie on a Saturday (in Perth, WA) was almost always an Elvis movie. Apart from being besotted with his majestic voice from the tapes first-off, I was also mesmerized by his perfectly good looks.
Upon many trips to the record store & local news agency with my mum, I began collecting all things Elvis. I began reading everything Elvis-related I could possibly get my hands on. My pocket money burnt a hole in my pocket on the way to the record store (the "Purple Ear" in Dianella, W.A.) & my Aussie pressings of Elvis vinyl were a collection to be reckoned with by the age of 12.
Though my dad had a tape of Elvis, (I think it was "Elvis On Tour" – Live at Hampton Roads, Madison Square Garden, recorded in 1972) he listened to it least of all his music. My mother & sister were not in to Elvis at all.
EIN - So why did you chose Elvis - or did Elvis choose you?
SITK - That’s a great question. I believe he chose me. I believe I was destined to find him & learn about him.
There has never been another seriously talented entertainer like Elvis. His energy was electric. He put heart & soul into each & every word. He was a master at telling the story & the drama in his vocal – live & studio – were proof enough to me that he meant every word he sang. He oozed sex on stage, his movements were like that of a wild but graceful animal……… all that’s too much for a human being to bare. Resistance was useless.
EIN - What's your background as a singer, and how long have you been performing as an Elvis Tribute Artist?
SITK - I started out singing in garage bands which was a great & frustrating insight into the music arena about 9/10 years ago. Great because I learned so much so quickly & frustrating because all I wanted to be doing was to be singing Elvis & none of those bands wanted much to do with the idea.
I was also singing at a piano bar called Winstons at the Stamford Plaza in Double Bay with resident pianist, Scot Finnie. Then some session vocals were thrown into the mix as well as a stint with the Australian Blues Brothers Band.
It was soon after that I decided to become a female Elvis tribute artist & do away with any idea of NOT singing the songs that I was so passionate about. I began singing at parties, functions etc & then on to the Clubs. But all the while & any chance I had, I would enter serious Karaoke competitions around Sydney & only compete singing Elvis songs. I was often successful & with the prize money, I funded my first costume, backing tracks & demo recordings. The rest is history.
EIN - When and where was the first time you performed in public as Elvis?
SITK - I managed to get a gig on New Years Eve at Petersham RSL Club about 6 years ago as the support to the Australian Blues Brothers Band. I performed songs from the 68 Comeback Special in black leather.
EIN - Did the resurgence of Elvis with the #1 'A Little Less Conversation' also generate more interest in your performances?
SITK - Definitely; I included it in my live sets & found that most people were mouthing the words to the song; which was great.
EIN - Have you seen many other ETAs such as Trent Carlini or Max Pelicano and what do you think of their shows?
SITK - I have seen many tribute artists including Trent & Max. I have nothing but respect for them & their love of Elvis. After all; how could anyone do a tribute to someone they don’t absolutely adore. I think both these men put everything into their shows.
EIN - Don't you think the 'White Elvis jumpsuit' ETA is too obvious and almost too easy?
SITK - Whilst I agree, in part, to the "White Jumpsuit" thing being obvious; I could never agree to any part of an Elvis tribute being easy. More particularly the fact that in 1972, and Aloha via satellite, Elvis was in peak voice, performance, looks & his body was fit & lean. That is an extremely hard act to follow for most ETAs & the single reason why so many take on this particular era. It is the highest challenge where esteem within the tribute artist community & the fact that others recognize real talent when they see it; is almost prize enough.
EIN - Have you seen Jamie Aaron Kelley, isn't he a stunner?
SITK - I’ve never seen him live but from any footage I’ve seen, he’s very, very good.
EIN – He always sings some very vocally challenging songs in his live set. Would you incorporate songs like ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ on stage?
SITK – In fact I’m just rehearsing that at the moment. It’s one of my favourites and I’ve never done it live yet. I loved Simon & Garfunkel’s rendition of the song but Elvis just made it… ahhh, perfect! To be honest I reckon I can do it much better than a lot of ETAs that I have seen.
EIN - I have a golden set of ETA rules that I genuinely think EPE should apply to their ETA marketing?
1) No ETA should be older than Elvis ever reached.
2) No ETA should be fatter than Elvis 1973.
3) No ETA should wear an Elvis wig.
You obviously fit these rules. Since they would help stop the ridicule of old/fat Elvis impersonators don't you think that they should officially be applied?
SITK - That’s a hard one. Whilst I believe Elvis should only be represented with the focus on maintaining his integrity of paramount importance, I can understand why tribute artists of all ages, shapes, sizes, amateurs & professionals (some great & some not so great) would attempt their tributes. It may not fit the criteria for a competition or fit the mould of what EPE are trying to have represent Elvis but again; it comes back to the adoration he still commands & what ETAs aspire to be. So I can do nothing if not respect that.
EIN - You are the only female Elvis tribute artist invited to perform by EPE, how did that feel?
SITK - This was an honor for me & a very emotional experience. To have the opportunity to sing Elvis’ songs while performing at the Mecca of all places – Memphis - & on top of all of that – during the 30th Anniversary……… I had a constant lump in my throat. The thought of how incredibly awe-inspiring & truly great Elvis was kept firmly looping through my mind as it always does. You just had to take a look around & see why 75,000 fans from all over the world converged on his city for his 30th Anniversary. I think that is enough to keep even the most confident tribute artist very grounded.
EIN - What was the first major ETA competition you were involved in, and how many other Elvii did you have to compete against?
SITK - The first comp I was in was in Las Vegas in June last year which had about 25 contestants. I entered that comp not knowing what to expect.
EIN - Have you met any of the Directors of EPE like Lisa Marie or Priscilla? How was that?
SITK - Yes, I met Lisa Marie back stage at her own concert here in Sydney about 3 years ago. She came across rather shy. In looks, the resemblance to her father is quite remarkable.
EIN - Have you seen any other female Elvis artists perform and what did you think of them?
SITK - Yes, there was another woman in the Las Vegas Comp. She has a different spin on her tribute than I do but that’s what makes it all so interesting & entertaining.
EIN - As you work from Australia have you ever seen or met Elle-Vis the female Elvis who lives in Adelaide if Portuguese in origin? She obviously appeals to the rather interesting lesbian Elvis fan base. Do you feel that she might be in competition to you?
SITK - I’ve only ever seen pictures of Elle-Vis. I don’t consider her or any other female tribute artist to be competition because as I explained earlier; each of us has something unique to offer to our own performance & while some fans may like her style, they may not fancy mine & vice versa. That’s just the way it goes. I was invited to sing at "Fair Day" this year (a lead up event to the Sydney Mardi Gras) & that performance was very well received. I find that many of my fans are indeed women.
(Left: She Is The King performing at The Graceland Crossing)
EIN - This year at Elvis Week in Memphis there was a proliferation of fat old men looking terrible in bad jumpsuits - surely they completely destroy the "Elvis image" EPE are trying to sustain. Why do old men have to imagine themselves as the King?
SITK - Elvis was a perfect package. He could sing, dance & act. He was blessed with incredibly good looks & a great sense of humor. His generosity & kindness have been well documented. Why wouldn’t old men try to emulate that? Some probably imagine that if the mirror tells them they’ve got it going on, so will all the Elvis fans. I say good on them!!
EIN – But hang on, surely fat people in bad jumpsuits should not be there!
SITK – How can you say that to me!
EIN – Especially if they can’t sing! And why can’t they wear a nice fitting plain jacket instead? Elvis didn’t always wear jumpsuits, so I feel that they are ridiculous.
SITK – I agree that sometimes the jumpsuit idea is a little too obvious. But I have to think of it as whether they are old or fat or whatever it is, they must be doing it because they love Elvis. I have seen so many and some of them do put on an amazing show - and I have to respect them for it.
EIN – I usually have no idea why fat Elvis imitators even try, as they can only look bad compared to the real thing. So can you explain why you sing as Elvis?
SITK – When I think about it, I’m not trying to appeal to the market that is already there for Elvis, I’m trying to appeal to possibly new devotees to him. If I’ve modernised the sentiment or music slightly, but enough to attract the interest of a young person, then I hope they’ll go and research who sung the song originally and they will find Elvis. That’s my take on it and then I feel I will have done my job
EIN - How did other ETAs react to you performing at the Graceland crossing?
SITK - Surprisingly, I was welcomed into the fold. I anticipated a little resistance but I encountered quite the opposite.
EIN - How often have you performed in Vegas?
SITK - Only once so far. We are planning to do some shows back in Vegas next year.
EIN - Tell us about the stolen jumpsuit and how you won the ETA competition wearing jeans? After all Elvis never wore jeans!
SITK - My luggage went missing when I arrived in Vegas & I was left with an Elvis T-shirt & jeans to perform in. I didn’t think I had a chance at a place in the top six much less to win the competition because of my lack of costume so I adopted the attitude that I’ll just have fun & not take it all too seriously. All the other ETAs were in full costume & I did feel slightly intimidated. Some were not very friendly either & that also made for nervous anticipation. But once it was my turn on stage, I gave it everything I had & I was pleased with the result. When the top ETAs of that comp were announced from 6th place to 1st; my name was called out for second & I just stood there in disbelief. That placing certainly inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing.
(Right: SITK in Vegas)
EIN - What do you list as your profession, Elvis Tribute Artist? and do the customs officers ever laugh?
SITK - Entertainer is what I most commonly list but if I’m ever asked, I proudly go into detail. The reaction is usually one of disbelief.
EIN - How long have you been performing in Sydney?
SITK - As an ETA – about 6 years but almost 10 years as a singer including an album I wrote myself but never released. I won a songwriting award for one of the tracks on that album.
EIN – You’ve played me a few tracks from the new album. I must say that, since everyone knows Elvis’ version so well, singing ‘Love Me Tender’ is a challenge but I loved your version. I also loved your take on ‘Such A Night’ with a kick-ass band getting the feeling just right. So how long have you been working on the album - and when is it due out?
SITK – Well, this album has taken over a year to make. I have worked with many accomplished musicians in the process including a horns & strings section of which I am very proud. It’s due out near the end of this October & it will be available worldwide via iTunes & in stores across Australia.
EIN - At 'Elvis To The Max' shows I've seen women offering their underwear to Max Pellicano - Do your male fans ever do similar?
SITK - Ha Ha!! Not yet thankfully……but I have been asked for a lock of my hair.
EIN - How many male Elvis fans ask if they can take you home?
SITK - I’ve had many requests like that but I couldn’t give you a number. I always consider such requests to be flattering.
EIN - Nicholas Cage is an avid Elvis collector. Would you let him take you home (Lisa Marie did)?
SITK - Whilst I respect Nicholas Cage as an accomplished actor & fellow fan of Elvis’, he is not my type.
EIN - Do you know whether any of Elvis' musicians, like the TCB Band, have seen you in concert? And if so what were there reactions?
SITK - I’m not too sure if they have or not but Jerry Scheff & James Burton have certainly been onto my website which has my music video of "Viva Las Vegas" – my first single released. I’ve had lengthy chats with both musicians who have been very supportive of what I’m doing.
EIN - How many times have you been to Memphis and Graceland?
SITK - The 30th Anniversary trip over to Memphis was my fourth time in five years. I visit Graceland each time.
EIN - What do you say as you walk though the Meditation Garden?
SITK - Taking that walk brings on a solemn & reflective mood for me but because there are always so many people visiting Elvis’ gravesite at the same time, I find it difficult to meditate the way I’d like to. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to share your love for someone with many others but sometimes I would like to have a moment alone with Elvis as I’m sure many others would too.
EIN - What was the highlight of Elvis Week for you?
SITK - It was certainly the candlelight vigil. Standing before the gates of Graceland with 75,000 people from every country around the world who were all there for the same reason was an unforgettable feeling. "If I Can Dream" rang out through the speakers & across the sea of Elvis disciples who were mouthing the words in unison; there wasn’t a breath of wind about; the moon was a sliver & it was about 40 degrees Celsius. I looked up into the sky & saw only one very bright star above & I truly believe it was Elvis soaking up the love.
EIN - What era Elvis do you like the most?
SITK - Every era of Elvis is special to me but because I grew up hearing that eight-track from 72, it’s the period between 68-77 which I can identify with the most. I love his meaningful ballads & gospel & country tracks over the rock songs.
EIN - You appeared on National TV in Australia on the Kerri Anne show. There was a big build up to her interviewing you, images of you getting made-up etc but in the end she asked you nothing. What happened there?
Not too sure really. I noticed there were several questions on Kerri-Anne’s clipboard but she didn’t ask me any of those. Perhaps I spooked her by telling her - before the cameras were rolling - that I thought she was more attractive in person than on TV??
EIN - Who designs and makes your jumpsuits?
I have a tailor who has made many of my designs. Being a female tribute artist & not an impersonator; I have a little more creative license so I can take the jumpsuit & make it pink for instance. B & K are still my makers of choice.
EIN - So what plans do you have for the future, any concerts coming up?
The future is exciting. I have my album due out later this month & an exclusive Sydney show planned for early December where I’ll be working with a 10 piece band & a surprise line-up of some other Aussie ETAs. Then in the New Year, a tour of Australia is in the works plus some more shows in Asia & the US.
EIN - Anything confirmed as yet?
SITK - I'll be playing a special one-night only concert at the ROXY in Parramatta on Sunday December 9th. I want the night to be really spectacular, so I'm still working on the final details. However fans should keep the date clear. I'll let you know more as soon as I can.
EIN - Have you ever been to the Australian Elvis Birthday celebrations in Parkes? Will you be there in 2008?
SITK - No I have yet to go. I’m usually overseas at that time so I have missed it every year. I would love to go.
EIN – Thanks so much and we are all looking forward to your new shows - and hearing the whole of the new album.
SITK – Thanks, it’s been fun.
Interview by Piers Beagley
-Copyright EIN, October 2007
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. . . and SYDNEY fans don't forget . . . . . .
SHE IS THE KING - & PAUL FENECH, DANNY TUPELO & ELIAS2ELVIS
The 30th Anniversary tribute
STRICTLY ONE NIGHT ONLY -
5.PM SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16TH, 2007
ROXY THEATRE - 69 George Street, Parramatta
Bringing together for the very first time, Australia’s very own International Elvis Tribute artists for one night only