An award-winning vintage singer who left her waitressing job to follow her dreams is bringing her authentic blend of jazz and blues to North Wales’ own ‘Downton Abbey’.
Talented vocalist and vintage pin-up Bexi Owen, who has performed throughout the UK and Europe, will be treating guests to tea, cake and jazz at Soughton Hall Hotel, near Northop, Flintshire, on December 17 during a vintage-inspired afternoon tea event.
Bexi, whose grandmother lives on Anglesey, has seen her career soar since throwing caution to the wind and pursuing her singing dreams full-time three years ago – success which saw her crowned Best Musical Performer at the National Vintage Awards.
It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind for the former Liverpool John Moore’s University student, whose talents are now in high-demand for vintage festivals, weddings, afternoon tea events and cabaret shows across the country.
“I’ve always wanted to sing, ever since I was small and singing in school. A lot of people told me that it wasn’t a real job or a viable career so I put if off for a while,” said Bexi, 30, speaking from her latest gig in Portugal.
“I went to university to study English. It got to the point where my funding for my PhD ran out and I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do. I just thought I would give it a go and try it.
“It’s my dream to sing professionally and so to be doing this is amazing. It’s lovely to be able to earn a living doing something I love, which is singing.
“I’ve performed abroad in Spain, Switzerland and now Portugal. I love travelling and exploring and so singing abroad is an adventure.”
She will soon be on a tour of afternoon tea performances including her forthcoming gig in the magical surroundings of Soughton Hall Hotel which was redesigned by Sir Charles Barry whose iconic work includes the Houses of Parliament and Highclere Castle – the home of the Crawley family in the blockbuster television series Downton Abbey.
“It’s a perfect venue and I’m really looking forward to singing there,” she said.
Bexi’s sound is a unique blend of jazz, swing and blues and takes inspiration from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Her singing legends include Sarah Vaughan, Doris Day, Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington but she has developed her own unique style which has won her a loyal following.
At just 30 years old, Bexi admits her tastes in music differ considerably from other people her age and her friends.
“Growing up, I was an only child and I was around adults a lot. I was always around my grandparents and so I listened to the music they enjoyed,” said Bexi, whose proud grandmother Olwen Owen, lives in Penysarn, Anglesey.
“These women I aspire to were there at a time when music was dominated by men. They were at the forefront of 12 or 14 piece orchestras – all full of men – and I find that very inspiring.
“I also love the era and I love vintage fashion.”
Bexi, who was born and brought up in Morecambe, Lancashire, and now lives in Upton, Wirral, is a vintage pin-up model represented by an agency, and now performs an average of two events every week but it could be as many as three in one day.
She has also created her own dementia wellbeing project Forget Me Never in which she goes into care homes and community centres and engages with dementia sufferers by sharing vintage music and authentic vintage memorabilia such as magazines and gramophones for memory therapy.
“I did a few war time events with a lot of elderly veterans. I could see before the music started they were quite unresponsive but as the music began to play they would light up and sing away. I realised there was something in this,” said Bexi, who once worked in a pizza shop in Liverpool.
“On a lighter level, they can enjoy a nice, relaxing afternoon but on a more serious level, it might trigger some memories and help improve their condition.
“A lot of people with dementia still live in their own homes and feel quite isolated so I try and organise events where their relatives and family members can bring them along for a fun afternoon. I really enjoy giving something back and helping people.”
Bexi hopes to be able to take the project abroad and is also planning to create some of her own music with the band she recently established, Bexi and the Beats. The band has already been booked for a number of gigs and Bexi sees this as the perfect outlet to explore her song writing talents.
Soughton Hall Hotel was taken over by Manchester-based Elle R Leisure in February this year which also owns the successful Dukes 92 and Albert’s restaurants in Manchester and the boutique Woodlands hotel in Leeds.
It has since undergone a £150,000 refurbishment including an update of the main guest areas and a transformation of the bridal suite.
The Vintage Afternoon Tea event takes place on Saturday 17 December from 1-3pm.
For more information go to www.soughtonhallhotel.co.uk or on Facebook @soughtonhall