8 QUESTIONS WITH Louis Hoover

'I sound like Frank Sinatra'

Englishman Louis Hoover says he is not an impersonator but that he sings like the legend

He is best known for singing Frank Sinatra songs and bears an uncanny resemblance to the late American icon, but do not call Louis Hoover an impersonator.

On his upcoming series of shows, Louis Hoover's Salute To Sinatra, at Marina Bay Sands from Oct 18 to 20, the 45-year-old Englishman says in a telephone interview from London: "Yeah, indeed, it's a tribute to Sinatra by me. But it's not an impersonation. It's just a very strange coincidence that my singing voice is very similar to Sinatra."

His backing orchestra includes musicians who have played with Ol' Blue Eyes, whose huge legacy of hits includes Strangers In The Night, One For My Baby and Drinking Again. The show has toured Europe, the United States and Japan.

In the early 2000s, Hoover also produced and starred in a musical, The Rat Pack, based on Sinatra and his buddies Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior, that ran in London's West End for 3½ years. It toured Europe and the United States.

Hoover was also involved in British pop singer Robbie Williams' 2001 big band album which went to No. 1 in the British charts, Swing When You're Winning, helping the former boyband star select tunes originally made famous by Sinatra, Bobby Darin and other big- band luminaries.

Hoover does not just do Sinatra, who died in 1998. He also writes his own music and performs at jazz festivals. He has released two albums comprising originals and covers - a self-titled album released in 1997, as well as And This Is Me... (1998).

But he was not always a jazz and big band singer. Hoover, who is single and has never married, was part of British vocal harmony pop sextet Wall Street Crash from 1987 to 1989. The group performed in Singapore in 1988.

He says he is excited about coming back here for the shows, which includes an opening charity gala on Oct 18 in which 30 per cent of the ticket sales go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

He is also set to appear in the President's Star Charity show to be televised live on MediaCorp Channel 5 on Oct 14 at 7.30pm.

1 What was it about Frank Sinatra that made him such an iconic figure in the entertainment world?

Back in the old days, most singers would turn up at the studio and most arrangers would have the chart and say "just sing it". But Sinatra was in on the arrangements from the start, so he developed a special sound.

Bono said it best when he said Sinatra was the first real rock 'n' roller, even before Elvis, because of his attitude. He was the first star about whom you heard the good and the bad stories. Before him, the only stories you heard were the good stories. Frank had a rock 'n' roll attitude in life.

2 You helped British pop singer Robbie Williams choose the covers in his big band album Swing When You're Winning. How did you end up working with him?

When I met Robbie in a jazz club, he had just left Take That to go solo. Somebody introduced him to me. He started asking me questions about Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, and we had a good time.

After 30 minutes, my friend said: "You don't know who this is, do you? This is Robbie from Take That."

I went: "Oh my goodness, I'm sorry I don't know much about Take That". He said: "Louis, if you knew anything about Take That, I'd be very disappointed."

3 You saw Frank Sinatra perform three times when you were young but you never met him. If he were still alive today, what would you say to him if you met him?

If I did meet Sinatra, I would sing to him. I'd like to know what he thinks of my voice.

I did a charity gala where British actor Roger Moore was a host and he was very good friends with Sinatra. Afterwards, he told me: "I'm sure if Frank met you, he would tell you that you've got a great voice."

4 Sinatra did a song with Harry James called On A Little Street In Singapore. Any chance you will be singing that tune when you are here?

Well, we're going to do that either as an instrumental or I'll sing it. I've never sung it before but I do know the song.

5 You came from a pop and rock music background. What made you turn to singing jazz and swing almost exclusively now?

When I was younger, I sang soul, rock and pop tunes and I also wrote songs for pop artists. But I noticed that other rock artists and pop singers couldn't swing. Some can, but most can't. I know I can.It's like a gift - you either do it or you can't do it.

6 What was it like when you sang at the Royal Albert Hall, where you saw Sinatra perform when you were younger?

It was uncanny. I'm a little bit psychic and I had a premonition about it.

When I was 17, I saw Sinatra at the Royal Albert Hall. I was with my then girlfriend and she noticed that I was very quiet so she asked me if I was okay.

I said, "I don't know how to tell you this but that's what I'm going to do one day", pointing to the stage. At that time, I was still working in an office... and it really happened.

7 Part of the proceeds from your first show at Marina Bay Sands are going to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. What are your thoughts on singing for charity?

Music is a very special and human thing. It can work like magic and it is essential, especially for children's charities.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

I'm quite a purist about the music I love. I just want to be recognised and remembered as one of the top swingers up there along with Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin.

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

The show on Oct 18 is a charity gala in which 30 per cent of the gross ticket sales proceeds will be donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.