Si’s Modern Motown

Si Cranstoun talks to Daniel White about his life-long struggle to bring a contemporary soul to the masses

“The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”

This famous quote by author Swami Sivananda is never truer than in the case of Si Cranstoun.

The doo-wop singer-songwriter has spent the last 20 years busking on street corners but, after catching the attention of a music expert during a street performance, the 38-year-old has seen his life turn upside down.

Si recently signed a five-album contract with industry giants Warner and is set to release his new album Modern Life in October; an outcome that has made his struggle all the more worthwhile.

“It’s what everybody dreams of and that dream has come true for me and I am absolutely over the moon about it,” there’s an increasing sense of energy as he talks. “I’m still pinching myself that I’ve got this far and I’m buzzing from it.”

With musical idols including Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield, Si’s sound is undoubtedly influenced by the American soul of the 60s, and it is evident in his new album which offers a contemporary twist on the Motown-style.

“It’s designed to get you feeling better, it’s all about lifting people’s spirits. It’s almost medicinal,” he produces a jittery laugh.

“I’ve been doing something I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid; buying the Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson records and that’s my passion. My hobby was in American rhythm and blues and it comes out in this new record, which for me is a celebration of everything that got me interested in it in the first place.”

He has been acclaimed by Jackie Wilson’s son, Boobby Brooks Wilson, as “sounding so much like my father it scare me,” with the product producing an instant sense of nostalgia, despite its recent conception. And this, he explains, has been developed during his time playing to the public.

“Being on the streets and busking for people has been a wonderful experience for me,” he explains earnestly. “It’s been a great training ground to read people and really understand what it is about myself as a performer that will get their attention and, furthermore, please them and get them feeling uplifted.”

However, it is not just the moguls of Warner that he has won the heart of with his music. While playing his self-penned song Beautiful Stranger he met his future wife Tamu.

“She was visiting from Brighton that day and I was performing outside the Drummond Centre in Croydon. She bought a CD and I was bowled over by this stunning face. There I am, a busker and this beautiful girl wants my CD.

“So as I signed it I added my email address and said ‘let me know what you think’ and I thank my lucky stars that she did,” he continues. “As a result of that, about a year later we went on our first date and then started dating; we got married, had kids and have been married for six years.”

Photo By Idil Sukan
Photo By Idil Sukan

As a result Si, who grew up around the Sussex area, spends most weekends in down by the seaside and may one day make the move down south.

“We’re always down in Brighton, it’s one of my favourite haunts,” says the father of two. “I take the kids down literally every Sunday if the weather is dry and we just wander up to Brighton from Hove along the seafront. My wife wants to move there and I love to visit it and relax so you never know.”

With his album Modern Life set to be released on October 13th there is plenty of work to keep him busy. Yet, despite getting A-Listed on Radio 2 and receiving support from radio stars Chris Evans and Terry Wogan, the king of the vintage scene is not getting carried away.

“When I’m on stage I’m all out rock star-tastic but when I’m home I’m just dad or husband to my wife,” he confesses. “Being more mature and that far down in your life keeps you grounded. It helps you to really appreciate how lucky you are to have this kind of attention doing something you really enjoy.”

After spending more that two decades performing on the streets, learning how to understand and connect with his audience, his struggle is now paying off. But Cranstoun admits he is unlikely stay away for too long.

“I love playing on the streets, some of the happiest times of my life were spent on the streets and it’s a great opportunity to connect with the people,” a slight smile appears as he reflects.

“Ultimately, the people are the reason musicians and people like myself have a living in music; it’s their enthusiasm that we all owe a debt to and we all owe a great amount of gratitude and thanks for. So the next opportunity I get to go out there and play on the streets I will jump at.”


Si Cranstoun’s news album Modern Life is released through Warner on October 13th and for more information visit his website