There’s a charming allure of old-Hollywood beauty and cabaret glamour to Naomi Price, but it was her performance free of any costumes, on reality TV show The Voice, that saw her become a household name earlier this year. A favorite member of team Ricky, the vocal powerhouse captured fans, as she broke down barriers between the genres of swing, jazz, opera, musical theatre and pop. This adopted Brit and her partner (former runner-up of the Voice 2013) Luke Kennedy, are becoming quite the Brisbane power-couple. A performance together in Rumour Has It, for Queensland Theatre Company and Naomi’s own The Little Red Company has resulted in an invite to perform at one of the most iconic venues in the world, the Sydney Opera House. Tickets are on sale now. Lunch with Liz caught up with Naomi at award-winning Japanese Restaurant, Saké Restaurant & Bar, Eagle Street Pier in Brisbane city.
WHERE WE WENT: Saké Restaurant & Bar, Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane.
WHAT WE ATE: Scallop Tiradito Yuzu Lemon, Rocotto Chili $26. Ocean Barramundi crispy skin, Spinach, Shiitake Sweet Soy, Jalapeño Butter, $31.
WHAT WE SIPPED: A modern Japanese take on the classic Tom Collins, Tanqueray Gin, Tantakatan Shiso Shochu, fresh Yuzu juice, Gomme, fresh Ginger, sparkling mineral water, with a Tanqueray, Yuzu and Yama Momo Granita $17.
WHAT NAOMI WORE: Sports Girl & Forever New
WHAT LIZ WORE: Zimmerman
What drove the creation of your own creative space, ‘The Little Red Company’?
“My co-creator Adam Brunes and I have that left right brain cross over. We’re both very creative thinkers, but also highly organised, well-read and we both had come from a production and marketing background in the arts. So in terms of forming a company, it made sense to join forces. We say it’s a company, but really it’s a partnership. It’s a name we give to the creation of Adam and I’s work. We formed the company with a view to people taking us seriously and not just thinking it was us messing around in my front room … which is actually what it was.”
Where does your love of performance come from?
“I grew up in a really musical home, my family are all really creative. I’m the oldest of four and all of my siblings and my parents play instruments and sing. It was like growing up in a bilingual household, where my second language was music. I did Gilbert and Sullivan operas when I was really young. I remember at the time being so submerged in the world of this production in my hometown Brighton. I knew that it was a show, but at 5 years old I had such an imagination that when I stepped on stage, I wasn’t me, I was a young flower girl in Italy, handing out roses. The stage felt like such a real place. I performed in Annie, The Sound of Music and along the way people would say to me ‘oh but what’s going to be your career? What’s going to be your job? Yeah you’re in theatre but what do you really do?’ I never had an alternate job. I never had a plan B. It was always me innately to be doing music and theatre.”
What urged you to move to the other side of the world?
“Maybe a small part of me knew I’d meet Luke Kennedy! I was a very adventurous, nineteen, I wanted to study and I wanted to travel and I was worried if I did one I would miss out on the other. So I thought ‘do the both together’ and Australia felt like just a plane ride away at nineteen … now it feels like forever away! I sent a video audition to QUT and got accepted. I got very homesick in my first year and I went back to visit my family in England and told my mum ‘I want to stay here’, but she could see how much I’d grown as a person in that time and she said ‘no go back and finish it’ and I never got homesick again! Social media’s made things a lot easier.”
How do you prepare to perform a part such as Mary Magdalene, in Jesus Christ Superstar, as opposed to Miley Cyrus or Adele in your stage-shows?
“I’ve always said ‘I’m an actor. So going on a singing show this year was a new experience for me. I kept making that excuse ‘if I don’t do this very well, it’s because I’m an actor. That’s my first thing. I perceive myself as an actor’. I guess that’s why I love theatre so much, because I feel like it is this really transformative experience, where you get to tell someone else’s story for a bit. I prepare by research, whether it’s a historical person, a real person, a fictional person, I always research. When I did Jesus Christ Superstar I read a whole lot of books on Mary Magdalena and her role in Christ’s life and the ministry. All the conspiracy theories about how she was the mother of Christ’s children. I read a lot of fictional novels about her life to try and flesh out this person that I didn’t know very well. I only originally knew a few stories about her from reading the gospels. From there I take whatever happens to the character in the 90-minute show and try to connect to it on a personal level. Mary was swept up in the a monumental new way of thinking ‘love your neighbor’, she passionately followed Christ and it must have worked because I fell in love with Luke who was playing Jesus! With Miley I had to do a lot of physical training. I always say doing the Adele show was amazing because I didn’t have to shave my legs, I didn’t have to get a spray tan, I just put on my fat suit, put my wig on and I’m ready. Miley was the opposite it was all, taking off! I only trained because I had the role of Miley, but I still go to a personal trainer now, because I felt so much better after getting fit.”
Which character out of all the characters you’ve played, have you most resonated with?
“The shows that I create are definitely a part of me and I deeply connect to those characters, so Miley and Adele. But playing Lady Macbeth was a dream. I didn’t realise how deviant I was until I played her! In every character no matter whether you agree with their actions or not you have to find one thing about them that you understand and if you can find one thing you understand, the rest will follow. In Lady Macbeth I thought about the things that we do when we are desperate. She could see the next phase of her life up the ladder and the only thing stopping her was this murder. I can understand wanting to break out of where you are now and get somewhere else!”
What was it about Adele and Miley Cyrus that inspired you to write shows?
“Look, I’d be surprised if Adele’s people didn’t know. It’s such a niche thing to do an Adele show and no one else in the world does it. So I feel like someone there would know! Can I say, ‘I just want you to know Adele that if you came to the show you would love it! You would drink a Gin and Tonic and you would laugh’! Adam and I came up with the show over a couple of bottles of wine. We were just fascinated that when Adele speaks it’s this broad down to earth cockney accent and when she sings it’s this ethereal goddess. With Miley it was harder because she was such a polarizing character. Adele’s album was about a break up, whereas Miley was this All American, Disney princess, that went away, shaved her head and came back with nothing on, on a wrecking ball. Everyone was so mortified and offended and distraught; ‘How dare you grow up and how dare you cut your hair and how dare you show that you’re a sexual person now’! We read so many messages on her Instagram saying ‘bring back Hannah Montana’ and we were thinking ‘Hannah Montana is not a real person! Miley Cyrus is! The dramatic tension of people longing for a fictional character and Miley at her funeral!”
Talk me through your blind audition experience on The Voice?
“I was really nervous and the only way I could handle it was to wake up in the morning and not think ‘in x amount of hours I am going to sing in front of extremely famous people and it’s going to be filmed’. I had to go ‘ok, I am getting up now and I need to dry my hair. Ok now I am getting in a car and driving. Ok now I’m getting my make up done. I literally compartmentalized each task. I didn’t let myself do any warm-ups too early. I’d focus on ‘now I need to eat’. It was all small baby steps. I had Adam and Luke there and they were the best support. We spent most of the day laughing. I knew I could sing Rolling in the Deep even if I was hyper-nervous, but the doors opening and walking up and looking at the back of the chairs, there’s no words to prepare for that. What saved me was that you always think about the judges in the chairs, but I walked out on the stage and I had forgotten about the live audience and when I saw them I was reminded why I perform! I thought, actually, this isn’t for the back of the chairs, this is for an audience and it’s an opportunity to perform again! As soon as I thought that I though ‘oh this is going to be great, I’m going to sing a song and the audience is going to love it and we’re going to have a great time together and who cares if no one turns around’. I was grinning as I walked towards the mike and I felt the whole room lean forwards. It was fun! The Madden’s turned first and I thought ‘oh wow I’m on the show, hey Joel and Benji you’re real! How cute’! Then I thought ‘ok, now I really want Ricky’ and when he turned around right at the very end, it was total relief.”
How much help was Luke, having had such a successful run on The Voice himself?
“He said from day one, when he did the show, he didn’t have someone standing there telling him what to do. He experienced it as it was presented to him. He said, ‘I just want to be your boyfriend, I don’t want to be your life coach, I don’t want to be your singing instructor, I want you to have the same great process that I experienced, the unknown is exciting.’ He was proud, supportive and looked after the dog. I saw the show through my own fresh eyes.”
Tell me about the Ricky Martin behind the scenes?
“Something that really surprised me about Ricky, is everyone bangs on about ‘he’s so handsome, he’s so sexy, he’s so beautiful’ and he is glorious, but then you work closely with him and what happens is, this relationship where he surprises you by being the most amazing performance coach. He’s technical, he will give you a very detailed description of what he’s trying to get from you. He’s very knowledgeable. He doesn’t drop names. He’s all about what’s happening with you in this moment and how you can be better. It’s never about him. He has very little ego as a coach and as a co-performer. He was so generous on stage when we would perform together. Everything you would want from someone in that role – as a Voice Coach. He was my calm in the storm.”
I heard that you and Luke have stated that you won’t get married until everyone has the equal opportunity, is that correct?
“That is right, a truthful rumour! I said that on the show totally by accident as Ricky, hilariously said ‘this is Luke’s wife’, and it was that awkward moment and the words came out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. Luke had already shared on his tour in 2013 that he wouldn’t get married again until everyone had the equal opportunity. Luke did a song by John Mayor ‘you love, who you love, who you love’ and Luke would talk about how he doesn’t want to get married again for the second time, until everyone has the choice to do it for the first time. It’s nice to speak up for something so marginalized, which really is such a small thing, that could be changed tomorrow. Basic human civil rights are being denied because of politics”.
Kara’s Question. *note to reader Kara is my adult best friend (not a child) who gets to ask each week’s celebrity one question. If you had to perform to Justin Bieber what would you sing?
“What would I perform to Justin Bieber … I’d probably sing Baby back to him! I’d sit him down and say you’ve done your time, for tonnes of screaming girls, so I’d sit him down and sing him back some Beiber love. Whenever I think of him I just think ‘cut your hair’. Is there a song about cutting your hair? He’s very talented.