Jessica's interview with Wales Online
Mary Hopkin's daughter plans to keep her mum's songs alive on stage with her own tribute act By David Owens
Welsh singing legend Mary Hopkin may have long since retired from touring but her songs are set to live on thanks to her daughter Jessica Lee Morgan.
Under the banner of Very Hopkin her mum's back catalogue will be brought to life on stage once more at a series of shows this autumn.
Jessica, who looks after the music side of her mum's life as part of Mary Hopkin Music, which distributes the singer's albums, said it was performing at the Wales At No 1 St David's Day celebration concert at the Wales Millennium Centre that acted as the catalyst for her paying tribute to her mother.
"The job [at Mary Hopkin Music] consists mainly of saying a polite 'Thanks but no thanks' to any offers of gigs people would like Mary to do," said Jessica."Whenever I received a request for her to perform live I'd always joke 'Well you can't have Mary but you can have me'.
"Nobody really took me up on that but eventually Lucy J Morgan of the Welsh Pops Orchestra, who organised the Wales At No.1 Concert, gave in. "When she realised she couldn't have Mary, or Mary and me, she said 'Okay we'll have you'."
The concert, which featured a host of Welsh music stars such as Shakin' Stevens, James Dean Bradfield and Ricky Valance performing their number one hits, saw Jessica performing her mum's most famous song, the 1968 number one single Those Were The Days.
"It went down very well," said Jessica, herself a recording artist who has released her own albums. "People really liked the idea of me singing Mary's songs.
"I had talked about doing this for many years but I thought after the concert 'Now is the time to do it'."
According to Jessica her Pontardawe-born mum, who was signed to The Beatles' Apple Records when she made her breakthrough in the late 1960s, had fallen out of love with performing live sometime ago.
"I think she last played live in 1999 while touring with traditional Irish music group The Chieftains and after playing shows that same year with Benny Gallagher and Jim Diamond.
"She is happy with me performing her songs and flattered that I want to sing them but she is defiant when it comes to playing live.
"She decided she'd had enough. I thinks she just didn't enjoy it and she had reached a point where didn't need to do it any more."
Despite 65-year-old Mary not having played live for more than 15 years Jessica, 38, revealed the offers still roll in. "She's had lots of offers over the years and we still do a get lot of offers - for festivals, private parties, reunion tours, all sorts of things.
"It just doesn't appeal any more, which a is real shame as she is really good on stage. She's got a wicked sense of humour and a fantastic voice."
Now London-based Jessica - whose dad is legendary record producer Tony Visconti - is taking on the challenging job of doing her mum's songs justice. "I started compiling a list, focusing on the songs we had released on the Mary Hopkin Music label and songs I had grown up hearing her write," she said. "I started to sing them and I quickly realised that her range is quite different to mine so I had to pick songs that I felt comfortable singing.
"When I teamed up with the musicians who I will be playing with on the tour - Brian Willoughby, who was in Mary's original band, Cathryn Craig, Simon Adams and my partner Chris Thomas - they started having an idea of how I sounded and how I could pull it off. So I have found a Mary range in my voice.
"It is a bit of a challenge because we are different styles but I think I might get away with it. We keep joking that when I step out on stage people are going to say 'Wow Mary doesn't look like she's aged much'!"
Before she hits the road in the autumn Jessica will be joining forces with Woody Woodmansey's Holy Holy - a supergroup consisting of a revolving cast of musicians performing the songs of David Bowie from 1969 to 1973.
The group includes the likes of former Bowie drummer Woodmansey, Generation X and The Alarm guitarist James Stevenson, and Heaven 17 frontman Glenn Gregory.
However their tour next month will be a family affair for Jessica as it also features her dad Tony - who produced many of Bowie's iconic albums such as Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters - and her brother, musician and producer Morgan Visconti.
"It's a really great supergroup and I'm delighted to be involved with that and to provide some backing vocals," she said. "Lisa Ronson, [Bowie guitarist] Mick Ronson's daughter, is on backing vocals too so they sound incredible and we're all massive Bowie fans and I get to perform with my dad, which will be lovely.
Very Hopkin play two shows in Wales this autumn at Pontardawe Arts Centre on September 11 and The Globe, Cardiff, on September 12.
Jessica has released a version of Mary Hopkin's Painting By Numbers which can be downloaded now from iTunes.
To find out more about Very Hopkin and the music of Mary Hopkin visit www.maryhopkin.com