Matthew vanKan knows how to get a Brighton audience swinging, as he explains to Daniel White
What style of music do you sing?
Swing and jazz. All the Great American Songbook tunes that everyone knows and loves. The pop music of the 1940s and 50s made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra.
Do you have any crazy stories from your time in the industry?
I was singing at The Savoy Hotel one evening and Craig Revel Horwood came along with a friend of his to hear me. When I was singing ‘Mr Bojangles’ I gestured to him to take to the floor not thinking that he would and he actually got up and tap-danced his way through the rest of the song. He’s a really lovely guy!
What is it about Brighton that makes you continue to perform here?
It’s my hometown. It’s where it all started. It’s where my family and friends are and it’s where I’ll probably end up when I’ve hung up my microphone for good – hopefully that won’t be for a very long time.
What is your favourite Brighton venue to perform in?
It has to be The Grand. They gave me a monthly residency in 2012, in 2013 and again this year. I perform in the main hotel bar from 8pm to 11pm on a Thursday towards the end of the month. My remaining dates this year are 23 October, 20 November and 18 December. There’s no entry fee so everyone’s welcome.
What has been your favourite performance you’ve played in Brighton?
I think my show ‘Let’s Face The Music’. It was at The Grand Hotel during the Brighton Fringe Festival 2013. The show sold out and included the burlesque dancer Liberty Sweet, Marilyn Monroe impersonator Laura Nixon and my five-piece band. My sister Virginia joined me for a duet which is always a real treat for me.
What do you enjoy most about performing around Christmas?
The nostalgia. The songs I sing are all heavily laden with memories for most people; memories of their childhood, Christmases past, old movies etc. People get very focused on family, their partners and friendships so there’s a lot of love in the air.
What are your favourite Christmas songs to sing?
We do a blues version of the Aled Jones song ‘Walking In The Air’ from the animated film The Snowman. I love a bit of ‘Silent Night’ or swinging ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ but the sentiment of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ gets me every time.
Do you alter your performance during the festive season?
The Great American Songbook is packed full of songs about romance, relationships and love. Although they’re not specifically Christmas songs they’re pretty universal, ringing true with everyone at that time of year. I tend to pull out all the stops for my December shows.
What advice would you give to aspiring singers?
Don’t think that shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are the only platforms for any kind of success. There are so many ways to be creative and get heard. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, busking, charity gigs, restaurants and bars. You just have to get yourself out there and learn your craft.
What does the future hold for Matthew vanKan?
Hopefully new destinations and stunning venues. Bigger audiences and maybe even an album release – watch this space!!