New Seekers still teaching the world to sing, 40 years on

Eve Graham, lead singer of the New Seekers. Photos supplied.
Eve Graham, lead singer of the New Seekers. Photos supplied.
Eve Graham's voice helped propel British-based folk-rock group the New Seekers to fame in the 1970s. Shane Gilchrist discusses hits, highlights and long hauls with the Scottish singer as she embarks on a New Zealand tour.

Eve Graham, lead singer of British-based folk-rock group the New Seekers, has a simple approach to concerts: give the audience what it wants.

"You can sing [what you like] in the bath, but when you are out there on stage and people have paid money ... they know what they want - and that's what they should get," Graham says.

"I don't think I should foist on them something else I think I'd like to do. If it's not what the public think they came to see I think they'd feel cheated. And the audience reaction is so positive to these songs that there is no way I'd leave them out. These were the songs that established me."

British-based folk-rock group the New Seekers. Eve Graham is second from left.
British-based folk-rock group the New Seekers. Eve Graham is second from left.
Some of those songs, including You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me, Melanie Safka's What Have They Done To My Song, Ma and I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, have taken Graham many places, from Europe to the United States and further afield.

That list of destinations includes New Zealand. Last here in 1972, Graham has returned for a 12-date tour, titled "Smash Hits 70s: The Greatest Hits of The New Seekers and Paper Lace", which includes a concert at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin, on Friday, May 11.

The Scottish singer was overcoming jet-lag in her Auckland hotel room late last week as she ruminated over a musical career spanning more than 40 years.

"It seems like one long day at the moment. I haven't managed to sleep very much, I'm afraid."

Asked if she was reminded of the early '70s, when the New Seekers were at the height of their fame, the 69-year-old laughs: "Well, yes. But the difference is I was young then".

"When we finish here we are flying straight back home. I think I'll need to draw breath after this one.

"When you're young it's a lot easier and you don't think about it so much ...

"I'm so looking forward to it. The idea of working so far on in my career seemed a little bit daunting, but with a really seasoned group like Paper Lace, who have kept working, it will be high quality.

"We all still have a spring in our step," Graham says, adding Paper Lace will open the concerts, before she and her husband, fellow New Seekers member Kevin Finn, join the band and revisit all those hits, including I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing.

Originally recorded for Coca-Cola's famous "Hilltop" commercial in 1971 and titled I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke, the song was rerecorded the same year; it became a worldwide hit and earned the New Seekers a coveted Grammy nomination.

"During the time of the New Seekers a lot of kids would come up and ask, 'How can I become a famous singer like you?' If any of them seemed really serious I tended to tell them that the fame part of it is great if it happens, but it doesn't always happen," Graham says.

"You have to do it because you love it. And if you're lucky, something really good will happen. I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time."

However, by 1974 the pressure became too much and the New Seekers split, though it re-formed in 1976 with a new addition, Danny Finn. Three years on, a year after she had left the group, Graham married Finn (who also left and reverted to his given name, Kevin.) The couple are still together, still playing music.

Asked whether her man's musical ability was a prerequisite for marriage, Graham giggles: "It was probably that. Or it could have been the fact that we worked so hard in the group ... we got to be such firm friends. I'm a bit of a fatalist in every respect: I didn't fight the music; and when we got together we knew we wanted to get married.

"I don't know what would have happened if I'd met someone who wasn't in the music business, who couldn't sing. On the other hand, would I have gotten out of the music business? I don't think so."

In 2004, the couple moved to Scotland, with the idea of retiring.

"The first thing that happened was we got together with a record company, Scotdisc, and I've done two albums with them as well as half of one with Sydney Devine and The Glasgow Phoenix Choir," Graham says.

"I'm still involved in music but at a pace that is comfortable. It is only here, on tour in New Zealand, that the pace has picked up. It's back to the way it was 40 years ago.

"I'm a little bit anxious because the first show is tomorrow night ... I feel very responsible for making sure I'm the best I can possibly be."

See it
As part of the "Smash Hits 70s: The Greatest Hits of The New Seekers and Paper Lace" concert, Eve Graham performs at the Regent Theatre, Dunedin, on Friday, May 10, and the Civic Theatre, Invercargill, on Saturday, May 11.

Vocalist Philip Wright and bassist Cliff Fish have joined forces with Phil Hendricks and Paul Robinson to form Paper Lace, whose hits include Billy Don't Be A Hero and The Night Chicago Died.


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