PURE PALOMA – SOULFUL & RETRO
Pure Paloma: A Life on the Ocean Waves
An inside look at cruise life from a guest entertainer.
Ahoy! That’s pretty much the extent of my nautical terminology. I can just about remember which side of the ship is which.
Firstly… “why Paloma Faith? Surely there are more “mainstream” tribute acts you could do aren’t there?”
I get asked this a lot, the main reason is… well, I didn’t pick my face. We do, (sort of) look alike. Although I got the teeth, she got the gums! There are tonnes of other reasons too. The obvious being:
– I really like her music and her songs are fun to sing.
– I have a real affinity with underdogs.
– Audiences know more of her songs than they think, the most common comment after my show is: “I didn’t realise that song was one of hers!”
– In my opinion, she’s criminally underrated as an artist. Anyone who has seen her live can attest to the shows she puts on.
– Her vocals are sensational and she’s funny. Really, really funny! You really should go and see her live at least once, you’ll be glad you did.
– Most of the arrangements in my shows are from her live performances rather than album tracks and man, does she know how to cover a song! Her versions of Never Tear Us Apart, At Last, Let Me Down Easy & Lola are usually the favourites of my second show.
– There’s a real joy in everything she does on stage. She’s been lovingly compared to Barbara Windsor and a bordello madame. A comparison I’m more than happy to lean into.
– I’ve worked with a fair few people who have worked with her and I’m pleased to say, she’s not a d**k; always a bonus!
– Big thing is, when something is easy, it’s less worthwhile. I preferred the challenge, to work on something I knew would be good rather than something just to make easy money.
Go on then. What’s it like working on a ship?
Genuinely the best job in the world! I love it. It’s not for everyone, the lifestyle doesn’t necessarily fit a standard way of living, but if you enjoy last-minute adventures, travel, meeting and working with glorious human beings then it’s definitely something you should try.
The first contract I ever did I had the worst imposter syndrome, I came to it relatively early in my tribute career and had to pinch myself that it wasn’t a fluke. I still feel that way to be fair, I really do feel very lucky that I get to do such a cool job so often. If you’re like me and spent years doing terrible office jobs, you really appreciate how good you’ve got it.
Before you get on board:
Dots/Charts/Music: Make sure you invest in great click tracks and sheet music. I’m a bad bear and I don’t read music. So if you don’t know what’s written in front of you make sure the person writing it does and have someone you can go to, that can play it through with you before you go out. A really fun job (it isn’t) is sticking your charts together. If you want to create tonnes of new swear words and find out what one of the seven circles of hell will be like if you’re a terrible person, this is pretty close. You’ll find you get a nice rhythm going then realise you’ve stuck them on backwards or upside down or something else equally stupid that you didn’t think was possible for a grown adult. TOP TIP: Invest in good quality paper so they last.
Should I really need to say this… umm, make sure you know your show. Like, really know it!
Paperwork: more fun stuff, there are lots of bits to do before you join, just make sure you read through everything, once you get into the groove of things it gets easier, since Covid there are a few more things to do, but that’s easing off now.
Promo: Up to date, good quality promo images and your blurb for your show is enticing and interesting. Speaking from my own experience, I get guests coming to the show who have never heard of Paloma Faith because my write-up hooks them in. If you need help with that then you can click here for excellent copywriting services. TOP TIP: Tie in your second show to your first. This is a lesson I learned. After I did my tribute show which was rammed, my second show was much quieter, I couldn’t understand why, guests said they didn’t realise it was the same person. I then massively improved my blurb for the second show.
When you get on board:
Other Guest Entertainers: If you want to improve what you do watch other acts, not in terms of stealing material. If you do that, you suck as a person! Don’t be that guy! I mean seeing how other people engage with the audience, I’ve soaked up a wealth of experience in my short time doing ships chatting to everyone and watching shows. Even if it’s a show I don’t think will be my cup of tea (not everything will be) it’s only 45 minutes of my life and I get to watch someone else perform their passion. I love to hear all the stories from various ships, talk about mutual friends we all have in common and form great friendships. You’ll find you get a run where you’re working with the same people time and again, then you might not see them for months or even years. Sometimes I can do a guest spot in their show or vice versa, that always adds a nice, special experience for that particular cruise.
Crew: The backbone of the show they work much harder than me.
Musicians: I go in, give them music, they read it, they create magic. It’s loads of fun incorporating them into the show too, especially because I spend a lot of my time singing to track, so to have awesome people to play with and bounce off just gives the show such a boost. Sometimes you might get some more reserved musos, who might not feel comfortable being included or joining in the banter during the show, I always ask the question but never push it, otherwise, it looks forced and uncomfortable. There’s one group, I’ve done my shows with so many times, when I go back it doesn’t feel like work, more like having a party with my mates!
Techies: I give them a tech spec and they create awesome visuals and sounds. It’s great having the opportunity to be creative with sound and light, I write it all down on a cue sheet and I’m always amazed that they can project the utter nonsense that has spewed out of my mind into scrawlings on paper and they seem to know exactly what I mean. Things like: “I’m thinking old school Merrie Melodies Cartoons where everything has a face, give super happy vibes, lots of yellow and orange” I think they could be wizards!
Cruise Directors/Production Managers/Ents Hosts: legends! You get a welcome pack from the Production Manager with your show dates and sound check times when you get to your cabin. Usually, the Cruise Director/Ents Manager will call the cabin to say hello too. But I always go to the office and say hello. Sometimes I bring cake “Life is better with cake”. The Cruise Directors know everything about the ship and are wonderful and very supportive, particularly if it’s your first time on board, they really want you to do the best show you can. I don’t think the Ents Host sleep. They do so much and they are brilliant, lovely people. Tell them what you’d like them to say before your show. If you think it will help, write it down for them, it doesn’t have to be War & Peace, it can be as simple as: “Please welcome to the stage, Pure Paloma” or “This is Yzzy, she’s alright.”
I do my best to stick to my golden rules:
– Do the best job I can
– Be easy to work with
– Don’t cause any fuss
The question I get asked the most is where do you prefer performing?
In the theatre or in the aft bar? Or top deck in the Caribbean? I suppose that’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. They do have a preference but they probably shouldn’t say and even the other one/s have good qualities, so it’s hard to answer. I’m fortunate that my show seems to work wherever you put me as I (and I quote) “just bully people into enjoying themselves”. I’ll break it down though
Theatre: It’s a theatre, the stages are huge! It’s usually the orchestra in there, so BRASS BABY! The large capacity venue, but it’s tricky to see everyone, guests are apprehensive to sit in the front few rows too (stiff necks). I run around like a loon, hop off the stage, climb back on and just because it’s a theatre don’t think they won’t get on their feet and dance!
Aft Bar: Known as the party venue, this is where the resident party band Pulse play. A more intimate venue and a bar, there’s more chat in here, cocktails being made, it’s noisier and rowdier… much easier to get a conga line going!
Top Deck: I’ll get back to you. The one I had scheduled was rained off! In that instance, you perform in the aft bar which is always held as a “backup venue”. THE SKYDOME: also exists as a venue.
Guests: These are the people you’re there for. I make sure I’m always available for a chat whenever anyone comes over. I used to be an Ent’s Host and some things never leave you, like making sure I smile, say hello and wave whenever I walk past anyone. Sometimes it can be really surreal, when they want pictures with me or sometimes kids want my autograph (yes really, bizarre right?). It’s lovely getting to know guests, a friend of mine started a secret crochet club (not sure how I know about it, it’s a pretty rubbish secret) so she could get to know guests and have an opportunity to chat to them. I’m a bit of a tea & coffee fiend so I usually get chatting in the coffee shop. They are there to have a good time and to be part of that is the coolest feeling in the world. TOP TIP: It took me a while to come to terms with this, but you will never be everyone’s cup of tea (and if you’re not, believe me, they WILL tell you), you can do everything right, storm a show, pack out a theatre, have everyone dancing, singing along and yet, you’ll still get someone coming up to you saying “not for me”. Story time: I was in port with a few other Guest Ents, a woman ran over to us all and proceeded to tell each act I was with how much she enjoyed their shows. She then looked me dead in the eyes, looked me up and down, turned on her heel and left. It was utterly hilarious.
Are there any downsides?
Every job has positives and negatives. But the negatives here are teeny tiny in the grand scheme of how cool the job is.
Flights and Layovers: Some of the weirder stuff is the layovers in airports and connecting flights. Being a Northerner, I like to save money where I can too, so if I’m put on a really early flight, I’ll get the last train to the airport (which costs £4.50) and bum around there until the gates open, instead of spending £40 to get a taxi a few hours later. Sometimes you are put on connecting flights from the UK to UK airports and then sent to the port and if there are any delays then you can miss your flight, which can be pretty stressful. Best to see the positive in it and just laugh it off. One of my friends missed the ship because of bad weather, so it didn’t dock, it was the last port on the itinerary (and their first ever cruise contract), so they flew to Norway, had a burger, found out the ship wasn’t coming, then flew back to the UK, picked up the ship in Southampton for the next leg. It’s how you look at the situation. Some people would whinge about it, or you can see it as an unexpected day out and an adventure. It’s all about the mindset you have. I’m very much “if I have no control over this, just go with the flow”. The same thing happened to me in Norway too:
Storytime: due to bad weather the ship didn’t make it into the port. We’d been flown out to meet the ship rather than getting on in Southampton, so that day we had a lovely breakfast in the hotel, which let us take a packed lunch, we then got a cab to the airport, flew to Oslo, then had a tiny chip plane (basically a minibus with propellors) that took us to a smaller airport near the port, we then collected our bags from what could be described as a shed, got into a taxi playing Tetris with 14 suitcases and 7 backpacks/hand luggage, crossed over a lake on an electric ferry, it felt like we were floating, it was so quiet. Then had a beautiful evening meal in a hotel with a spa in the middle of Norway. The next morning we were collected and taken to the ship, the taxi driver said because of roadworks on the main road he was going to take us the scenic route. We got to experience some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen all completely unexpected just because the ship didn’t come in.
Lost Luggage: It’s always terrifying to think you’ve lost luggage too. Fortunately (touch all the wood) that’s only happened to me on my way BACK so it wasn’t a huge disaster. TOP TIP: Always pack some clean pants and clothes in your hand luggage with your charts and media stuff. Doing the gross inside-out pants isn’t fun when you have to do it for a week.
Family/Home time: I can’t speak from personal experience on this as I come from a really small family and we are all workaholics, we talk and see each other once every 6 months or so, sometimes we go even longer. But if you’re close to your family and need to speak to them daily or get lonely on your own, bear that in mind. There’s a lot of solo travelling and sometimes on shorter contracts less time to spend with people. If you’re an only child, who was a latchkey kid, living 10 miles away from your nearest friend growing up, then this life is bliss!
Negative Feedback: It happens, it took me a long time to realise that even though it is personal, it also isn’t personal. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense but it’s the best way I can describe it. Some people are just jerks! As long as I stick to my golden rules, there’s not much else I can do. Fortunately, it’s a very rare thing.
Favourite places you’ve visited?
Saint Maarten is very special to me. It was a lovely destination and double-up port where Azura and Britannia used to dock together, so I had double the fun with loads of people it was great.
Curacao is cool, Mambo beach is ace and there’s a bridge that moves.
Barbados The Boatyard, there’s a rope swing… I don’t need to say anything else! Norway I’m a cold weather lover, not a sun worshipper, the Fjords are just such a beautiful calming place and there are trolls! I had an unexpected magical mystery adventure there too.
Barcelona I ate my first oyster and developed a love for prawns. I can’t believe I got to 34 without really appreciating the utter delights of prawns.
The best thing about working on a ship?
The stories you take away from each contract. My favourite stories are the ones the guests concoct in their own heads. I’ve been married off to at least three different people I’ve worked with to my knowledge. One went with it and started telling everyone it was an arranged marriage and now 8 years in we’ve finally started actually liking each other.
Another time I made reference to it in my show which got a big laugh, there was quite a large age difference between the two of us.
The next time half the passengers on board had me married off to a member of Pulse because he’d spoken on stage about how he met his wife on board. So because I got video footage of the show and ran around after the show asking for video testimonials from the passengers, they put two and two together and came up with a baked cake. My favourite moment from that was…
Storytime: Passenger: “Hello, you’re married to the guitarist in the band aren’t you?” Me: “No, I’m not his wife.”
Passenger: “Oh, so which member of the band is it you’re married to?” *FACEPALM*
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my nonsense. I look forward to seeing you either on holiday or in a professional capacity soon. If you’ve not done a cruise, you really should try it, at least once. I’ve heard there’s a really good Paloma Faith tribute knocking about too.
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