Many Shaftesbury residents know local singer Samantha from her sell-out performances at the Shaftesbury Arts Centre and Shaftesbury Fringe. She is also known as one of Britain’s most accomplished vintage music artists, from her impeccable recreation of Vera Lynn’s wartime performances. Now Samantha will be heard across Europe.
Samantha has been chosen to sing the soundtrack for a Christmas TV commercial. “I’ve done the singing parts for an advert for Coca-Cola,” said Samantha.
In Britain, television viewers are familiar with the ‘Holidays are Coming’ Coca-Cola commercial which features a truck decorated with festive lights, driving through a snowy landscape. The soft drinks company doesn’t use that promotional video in Eastern Europe.
Andy Tebbutt-Russell, Samantha’s manager, said, “It’s a totally different concept. Their strap line is ‘Be More Santa’. It’s all about encouraging people to do good deeds and feel that they are behaving like Santa might have done. Samantha is performing the vocal part of the advert. There is also a rap section.”
Samantha is a versatile vocalist who can flawlessly replicate the unique sound of artists like Dusty, Cilla and Judith Durham of The Seekers. Rap is beyond her repertoire. “At first, they thought it might be a beat poem and they asked me to do that, but they went with a rapper in the end. It is one the few genres I don’t cover,” she said.
The tune used for the advert is Björk’s hit, ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’. “It’s actually one of my favourite songs from when I was growing up,” said Samantha, although she added that she didn’t have the urge to start screaming and shrieking during the song, like the Icelandic pop star. “I thought we would go with a more restrained version,” Samantha said.
The Björk version of the track has been her biggest hit to date and reached number four in the UK singles chart in November 1995. But Samantha says the song is much older. “It came out in 1948, weirdly. But it’s such a good song, it has really stuck around, she said.
Samantha says that recording a TV advert jingle was a different experience for her. “It was just four lines, about twenty to thirty seconds-worth, but it took us about an hour to record, although there was a lot more preparation beforehand.”
Samantha says it felt unusual singing a section of the song again and again. “It’s very strange. I’m used to performing live and doing 90-minutes of music as a performer. Making sure every word is perfect and the ‘ups and downs’ are exactly as they wanted them was unusual,” she said.
A Dutch company that specialises in commercial jingles contacted Andy. “They used an intermediary, an agency specialising in fitting singers to advertisers. That agency was scouring the internet and came across Samantha singing in her Vera Lynn persona. They thought that might suit the style of advert, although things changed along the way, but that’s how they initially found her voice,” explained Andy.
You wouldn’t expect Vera Lynn to be an artist who would make a connection with Coca-Cola buyers. “I guess it was just the clarity of voice and the professionalism and that aspect of it they liked,” said Andy. Samantha only had to travel down to the coast to record her vocals. “There’s a studio in Bournemouth that we use, Sizzle Studios. We have been going for years,” said Andy.
Often companies with massive budgets, like Coke, approach big name singers for their commercial advertising. Andy doesn’t expect direct promotion for Samantha because of the advert, but he says he will make sure anybody searching for information about the advert online will know who sang the track.
“We also imagine that a lot of people will be hearing the advert and will think, ‘that’s nice, I wonder who has done that?’ They’ll be searching for that online, so we’ll make sure they can find out who sang it and track Samantha down from that. To that end, we’re also releasing a Christmas single, a cover of the original song, with the original lyrics because Coke changed the words slightly for the advert. That will come out to coincide with the advert,” said Andy.
Recording and releasing a single is a first for Andy and Samantha. “We’ve recorded a few CDs in the past to coincide with the shows that we were doing, but this is the first stand-alone single,” said Samantha. “It will definitely be on YouTube and we may make the single available for download.”
Andy says he’s looking into the possibility of adding captions, in different Eastern European languages, to the video. “Perhaps we will release versions with subtitles in the main languages, but we would have to make sure the subtitles were accurate because we don’t speak those languages. It will be a challenge but we’re looking into it,” Andy said.
Andy is not sure whether there will be more work from Coke. In getting such a high-profile client and being added to the agency’s books, you could argue that Christmas has come early for Samantha. “We will definitely be retained by the agency. They are very keen on using her for other work in the future,” said Andy.