Beverley Knight & Husband James talk mental health, life in the spotlight and who’s the boss!
Hi, I’m Jan Gerber and this episode of a mental health awareness podcast series, I’ll be talking to Beverley knight, a well-known and decorated singer, and her husband James O’Keefe, both Beverley and James have been through interesting, sometimes difficult, sometimes very difficult phases in their lives, from childhoods into their forming at school, into their adult lives, now be looking forward for them to share their stories. So, I’m sitting here with the wonderful Beverley Knight and her wonderful husband James O’Keefe. Why don’t you briefly introduce yourself?
Beverley Knight: Well, I’m Beverley Knight. I am a singer, writer and latterly, I’m an actress now. So, I do a few things. Yeah, doing it a while. Twenty-five years.
Jan Gerber: Twenty-five years, a quarter century as you just said.
Beverley Knight: Twenty-five years a quarter of a century is a long time to be doing something, but I love it. So that’s good.
Jan Gerber: Brilliant, do what you love to do.
Beverley Knight: Absolutely.
Jan Gerber: James.
James O’Keefe: And yeah, as you said, I’m James O’Keefe. And I’m currently a property developer. And I suppose an entrepreneur as well. Doing kind of different few different business activities and just trying to have some fun along the way as well yeah.
Jan Gerber: Looks so fun.
James O’Keefe: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: Brilliant. Well, welcome to this podcast and thank you so much for agreeing.
Beverley Knight: It’s a pleasure.
Jan Gerber: Yeah, our mission is to spread mental health awareness. And, we’ve talked previous to this recording a bit about you your story. Maybe let’s start where everything starts with childhood. Both of you had your own struggles in your childhoods. You had complex parents and complex relationships with your parents, with your fathers. I would say ladies first.
Beverley Knight: Okay.
Jan Gerber: Do you want to talk a bit.
Beverley Knight: Um, I had for the most part, my childhood was a happy one. And the thing that made it complicated was _ I was born and raised in Britain. My parents were born and raised in Jamaica in the West Indies. They met married in Britain had us kids. So, my mom pretty quickly I would say, adapted and assimilated into the British way of life. It was something they were used to because, you know, Britain used to own Jamaica as a colony. So, they were used to how Britain did things. Brits were not used to them at all. My dad struggled, my dad struggled he came to Britain, he wasn’t treated well, at all. I don’t think there were any Jamaicans who were treated well in the beginning, and then some, you know, kind of.
James O’Keefe: It was the you know, in the past at the time because my family, my dad’s is an Irish.
Beverley Knight: Irish immigrant.
James O’Keefe: So, there’s a kind of synergy there with the no dogs, no blacks, no Irish signs in the past.
Beverley Knight: When we are looking for place to live dogs, no blacks, no Irish and then you’ll be like: okay then. That’s me then you know, and so my mom probably being a woman didn’t suffer that confrontational prejudice that my dad got the worst of it and didn’t go into detail talking about it. So, we when I say we my older sister, my younger brother. We grew up as part and parcel of Britain, but we knew we were a very visible minority. So, sometimes we went through racist episodes, kind of implicit racism as opposed to too much confrontational racism. And that only happened on one occasion where it did happen, which was horrible was a bunch of skinheads surrounded me on my bike. I was very young about six and they were like: we want your bike, you all shouldn’t be here and I was like, you can’t have my bike. It’s my bike.
James O’Keefe: that was my girl.
Beverley Knight: Oh, yeah, I was having it and I was six, and I was not having it you know they were like get up, go back to your own country. I was born here. And they tried to take my bike off me and I pedaled home and you know, so those kind of things happened. But as a child, I felt as the _ I felt as duality of my existence. I was British on the one hand, and I had Jamaican heritage on the other and there was this duality. And I think my dad was uncomfortable with that. He saw these British children growing up in front of him and whilst he was happy for us to be growing up and being raised and the key word for my dad was educated in Britain. He, really struggled with British sense of feeling as though we had the freedom to speak freely, you know we’re sending children what supposed to speak freely you know quite old fashioned and out of the three of us I was the easily the mouthiest. If I thought something was right, you could not back me down. And I’d argue with anyone over it. I had that strong sense of my own. You know, my own point of view and if it clashed with my dad’s well so be it I was going to clash with my dad and I did and a lot of it came from his own struggle to fit into a society that didn’t really want him there.
James O’Keefe: And it was supposed to Jamaican kind of way is very staunch very just deal with it. Isn’t it, is like you know and he had tough childhood.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, my dad came from a very tough childhood.
James O’Keefe: Same as your mom very poor.
Beverley Knight: Dad was very poor, my mom was way poorer than my dad and my dad was poor. My dad lost both his parents when he was young. So, affection showing affection was difficult for him. He was raised by an aunt, who wasn’t particularly affectionate, you know, wouldn’t care and all of those things in a practical sense, but my dad was not a man for you know, oh, I love you and give me a hug, no way was not my dad. Me hug all the time very tactile always wanting to show that I love you know, very demonstrative like that my dad wasn’t anything like that. And so me and my dad would clash initially me and my mom would clash because we’re very similar personalities, both quite fiery, and both would stand up for what we believed in, but they were only minor really. Frequent but minor. My dad and I clashed heavily when we clashed it was heavy. And that made for a loving home, but also a complex home because you know, we didn’t we didn’t feel as although we didn’t have money that wasn’t the issue or anything like that and we would sit and discuss things as a family in a lot of ways we were quite middle class, you know, middle class, middle class.
James O’Keefe: Very middle class compared to me
Beverley Knight: We said we didn’t come from a counsel estate; we didn’t come from all the stereotypes that are associated with black families.
James O’Keefe: Beverley was actually from Wolverhampton, you know.
Beverley Knight: Industrial Midlands, and you know, our family life was secure, but there were battles and a lot of it did come from just my dad’s pull up my poor dad struggle to see these children growing up in a way that he wasn’t comfortable with you know, when my sister brought my now brother in law home oh my god he was silently seething and then the seething this turned into a resentment because he didn’t want it was one thing to have your white friends come around and play and all of that stuff quite another to bring a white boyfriend home with very serious intentions. Oh my god, that was a struggle and my sister wasn’t vocal in the way that I was. So, I would be fighting my sister’s battles for her because I was the mouthy one who would never back down. So as a result, dad and I would, would clash. And it was difficult. It really was. It was difficult.
Jan Gerber: Now, I thinking back for two-year journey from there and after that. Has that dynamic had an implication for you? Did it define you? Did it give you strengths? Or did it cause issues later down?
Beverley Knight: When I think back now of that period, I think what it did for me was made me even more resilient. I think that’s the best thing I can say. I was so convinced that my attitude to other people except, you know, as they say, in the middle is your people as you find them, you know, and I was so convinced that was the right way and dad’s entrenched views that were _ that became hardwired for him just turned me right the other way, and I was determined to throw my mind and my heart open to all kinds of everyone.
James O’Keefe: The thing is that it came from your mom as well because.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, my mom is way more.
James O’Keefe: Beverley’s mom was like my mom that synergy as well was the one that was there holding everything together and you know, and obviously, my situation was different but yeah it.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, Mom, I think you know, mom’s influence was a factor as well because while I saw my dad kind of destroy a part of himself because he struggled so much. On the other hand, I saw how my mom coped with the prejudices whether they were casual or confrontational that came her way and her way was to.
James O’Keefe: Kill them with kindness.
Beverley Knight: Yeah Kill them with kindness .
James O’Keefe: Yeah, and that’s Beverley and that’s the difference in us.
Beverley Knight: That’s a legacy.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, but that’s the difference in us or it become more. I think men are I think men are more well, you know, reactive to that. Beverley will be a bit you know more or no yeah let’s be a bit kind of sometimes but then it’s weird but then sometimes it works the other way around it is where you know when you’re a couple sometimes you feed off the yeah it’s weird.
Beverley Knight: But yeah, I think.
James O’Keefe: It made you strong.
Beverley Knight: Oh my God yes.
James O’Keefe: But you know your dad was didn’t talk a lot did he was but about feelings and everything you get him talking about youngsters need be there four hours. Tell me about lots of things you know.
Beverley Knight: When did my dad could talk for over.
James O’Keefe: He was massive talker about feelings sometimes so that’s a
Beverley Knight: I tend to yeah, that’s something I’ve from _ I didn’t really realize what I’d inherited from my dad until I met you and you pointed out so much of what I’ve inherited. My inability to speak of deep-seated feelings. I will speak of them in song because that is a much more general thing and I can, when you’re writing a song, you want to make the message universal whilst you’re basing on your own feelings, you still want to, you know, you generalize things so that the widest demographic of people can understand what you’re singing about. But for me to get really personal and just really go there and talk about things that are bothering me, often I will just sit on those things just like my dad, exactly like my dad.
James O’Keefe: Me on the other hand.
Beverley Knight: You let it all out on the other hand.
James O’Keefe: I think that was when I was so then I’ll relate, you know, when I was young. My mom and dad split up when I was young. We moved around a bit from London to Northridge and you know, back and forth. And my dad unbeknown to me at the time was an alcoholic. So, used to let me down a lot, you know, when I was very young and used to promise a hell of a lot and always let me down, you know, birthdays, you know, coming down and my mom would always have to deal with the you know the aftermath yeah, exactly. And it would be good. I was an angry kid apparently from two onwards, I don’t know why. I was a nightmare.
Beverley Knight: I probably feel that energy in the house.
James O’Keefe: I don’t know. But my dad was a very manipulative man as well. He literally nearly drove my mom mentally around the twist. That’s why she had to leave him.
Beverley Knight: Your dad was a charmer from what you tell me.
James O’Keefe: He was a charmer.
Beverley Knight: Very charming handsome, charming, but there was the flip.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, he was. I don’t think he meant it horribly. I just think he was quite manipulative and you know and but a great dad when we’re young, like your dad, you know, amazing. When we were young, and you know, we remember some brilliant things you know about them and that they were my dad was a fantastic storyteller. You know, Beverley’s dad was really involved in when I was young. You know, and but then your dad kind of lost his way a bit in age went in on himself withdrew himself a lot. My dad just the drinking got worse that he got very ill. I then got kicked out of my house living with my mom when I was fifteen went to live with my dad. He kicked me out four months later as well and then died about a year later. So, you know, very, difficult times and I was very insecure child. My mom would you know, I was always I was very worried about my mom as well you know, I did hate leaving her alone so I wouldn’t go out and stay with my mom very obvious very.
Beverley Knight: Effective.
James O’Keefe: But I was a very emotional child either very angry or very sad or you know, there was _ it was just one of the other you know, and that anger came out a lot. I did a lot of bad things when I was young and always in trouble with police and school. You know, I do crazy things, you know, as a young kid, and I think I didn’t have a role model. My dad was an alcoholic. My brother was an idiot of fighting, and he was my role model. And I wanted to be like him. Terrible role model, bless him, you know, and it’s not his fault. He was dealing with his own stuff as well. So, I could never judge him and think well, at the time, I wanted him to look after me and be my, he was dealing with his own problems when my dad died. And you know, he also got kicked out because he was a nightmare. So, it was this vicious cycle. And I think when my dad died, I just lost it completely.
Beverley Knight: You went in there.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, I just I didn’t care about myself. And that was I think this is the difference between me and Beverley.
Beverley Knight: This is a start difference.
James O’Keefe: She’s had so much respect for herself as a person. I had absolutely zero. I didn’t care whether I lived or died and that came across in everything I did.
Beverley Knight: I suppose conversely, I cared so much. I cared about making my mark on the world because I knew from I was tiny I was going to sing. I mean, no one was going to tell me I couldn’t sing. So, that was what I was going to do.
James O’Keefe: That was your strength of mind and you still got it, you know.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, it’s what propelled me forward but I had even though my dad had his struggles, I did not doubt that I was a loved child, even with the clashes even with the fights. And equally I didn’t doubt that my mom and dad loved each other, even when they had clashes. And even with that I mean, the relationship sometimes to us kids were comedic because my mom would just be telling my dad didn’t know what to do and things and my dad was quite a reserved man. But we always knew that there was love there. And there was never the conflict was because of situations that would arise that we’d have to tackle. It wasn’t inherent to the relationship, if it makes sense.
James O’Keefe: We went through so much my mom, bless her now is still upset about what she put us through and I’m like, you know, Mom, no, you know, you didn’t push, right. It’s just a circumstance, you know, and I wouldn’t change it. And this is bringing it on to the whole, you know, mental kind of awareness side of things. And I wouldn’t change any of it because it’s made me as strong as it has made me weak. And that vulnerability and that strength of both important and I wouldn’t have that now and the same.
Beverley Knight: They stay side by side.
James O’Keefe: Yeah. And I think that’s the biggest lesson that we can learn that you have to look back on everything the same as Beverley does and we look at the bad as good you know it’s as important if not more important than the good because you just you learn and you get resilient you get strong and you toughen. Maybe not in the best way sometimes but you know, I think it drives you somewhere but then but then we’ve talked before then my mind goes somewhere else and I then think well actually, I wouldn’t mind grown up in cotton wool. Not having any problem.
Jan Gerber: Sometime you go through what you
James O’Keefe: Yeah.
Beverley Knight: And then what kind of adult would you have been?
James O’Keefe: I don’t know I might be really nice. I might be really sensible you know, we don’t know. We don’t you know, and I don’t you know, but you just _ we are what we are now, and we just have to accept it, love it. And just move on.
Jan Gerber: Your messages you know; you can’t change the past. You can learn from it. You can take energy from it and positive lesion.
James O’Keefe: It has to be.
Jan Gerber: But you can’t let it haunt you.
James O’Keefe: No, we both had, you know, not very nice things happen to us you know, equal in different ways and different.. and the other thing is everyone’s journey like people might watch this and go well, my situation’s worse than mine well to you yes and to me, mine was worse or you know your it doesn’t matter. It’s not a competition we just have to look at ourselves and go, it happened learn from it, accept it, love it and move on and just try and grow.
Beverley Knight: It’s the only way you can do; otherwise things can consume you. I watched the resentment of how my dad was treated and believe in me it wasn’t good the way he was treated. And I watched that consume him over the years as a child I get that now. As I’m growing up you know, I’m an adult now I understand that what was happening to my dad was this slow inner destruction of a man who was inherently a loving and decent and hardworking man but could not let go of his resentment for how he was treated when he came to Britain.
James O’Keefe: So, the other thing is, you remember so much of your childhood because.
Beverley Knight: But it was a good childhood that why I remember.
James O’Keefe: Yeah. And there’s so many chunks of my childhood. I’ve just completely I’ve got no idea. Absolutely yeah.
Beverley Knight: That’s how you coped, that’s how you dealt with it
James O’Keefe: Exactly that I think now that’s my coping mechanism that I just seemingly blocked it out. And I think there’s certain things I remember about my dad and my mom and you know, but I remember being loved by My mom. You know my dad I know he love me but you know it’s always that letting down and that impacted me the promising thing when we got together wasn’t it? it was one of the things that when we got married I finally could say to Beverley I promise you know to give myself to you because before that I struggled to say you know I promise because I just felt I couldn’t so that impacted me from my dad.
Jan Gerber: Yeah, because your dad made a lot of promises to you and he didn’t keep them.
James O’Keefe: I’m very careful about promise very careful.
Beverley Knight: I promise that you have a real thing about the word promise.
James O’Keefe: To my nephews and anything. If I say I promise I’ll be there and anything can happen. I’ll do my best to be there. If I could give any advice to parents and I’m not a parent. I would say don’t use the word promise.
Beverley Knight: Just in case.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, because anything can happen; you know? So.
Beverley Knight: I keep things really binary but they do not… You said you were going to be there.
James O’Keefe: Right.
Beverley Knight: Well there was a car accident.
James O’Keefe: Someone died in front. It could be anybody.
Beverley Knight: But you said you’re going to be there.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, that why I’m there.
James O’Keefe: That what’s kids understand.
Jan Gerber: I mean for kids, the parents are you know, the absolute reference points.
Beverley Knight: Absolutely.
Jan Gerber: Parents stand for the truth and parents can’t lie and parents come to wrong and then when you.
James O’Keefe: Until I do.
Beverley Knight: Then when you realize.
Jan Gerber: It really confusing them for children who are not yet at an age where they can actually may make sense of that.
Beverley Knight: How do we process it?
Jan Gerber: exactly.
James O’Keefe: I was super angry with my mom I hated my mom for a period, I hated my sister. You know, my brother I’ve been through all different you know, and then obviously, you know, my dad dying young I was so angry about everything I just angry all the time. And then you know, he kind of get into our kind of twenties and then my world problems died, you know with the _ I think with the self-torture was like what I need to get out and figure out my life. And drugs came along you know obviously drinking I was drinking from a young age from thirteen years old I was drinking you know and doing crazy things from that age upwards and then drugs at eighteen and then it got really bad you know you know twenty-one hours I was walking at the top of a multi-story car park thinking what’s the point? You know, and that’s genuinely that low has been, you know, and nearly dying of drugs two or three times, you know, I’ve been in that point where you, you know, and just not caring you know and it’s a tough so weird situation and.
Jan Gerber: There is a you know there is a very clear indications or correlations from research that substance misuse, addiction runs through generations. So, with nobody really knows, you know, is a genetic component or is it a learned behavior but when you saw your father you experienced your father and how he was that must have impacted you plus he said, you know, with low self-esteem and not really any positive outlook on life, turning to drugs to alcohol is also a coping mechanism not a good one but you were trying to cope.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, the other thing I had when I was young was I was always told because I was a fat kid as well. So, I always had that I’ve always felt like a failure, you know, and always, you know.
Beverley Knight: You didn’t have any teachers who really would encourage you.
James O’Keefe: I had some good teachers.
Beverley Knight: But mostly school and teaching was not a positive force in your life.
James O’Keefe: I was so naughty so I was so bad that they couldn’t do much with me because I was so angry and so violent and so feuded.
Beverley Knight: and no one thought to look beyond that and understand what was fueling that extinct to me anyway.
Jan Gerber: In a way in a vicious cycle.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, teachers got 30 other kids.
Beverley Knight: Yes of course.
James O’Keefe: I don’t think they you know, and I was the one kids they just send me out, you know, and that was it and I’d do crazy things at school you know, and I was yeah, constantly fighting.
Beverley Knight: You get that money.
James O’Keefe: You know, I had to steal school money and stuff, you know, and all sorts just bad. You know, I was that kid at school, the worst in the year, you know, I just had no and it’s the lack of self-respect I had but I didn’t know I just didn’t care. I was I didn’t care about any you know; I don’t care that was my you know.
Jan Gerber: So, you didn’t reflect or try to understand why you feel this way.
James O’Keefe: Just anger.
Jan Gerber: Just yeah.
James O’Keefe: Outward anger.
Jan Gerber: Anger.
Beverley Knight: I didn’t have that I didn’t have any of that I was
James O’Keefe: You loved to be told you are brilliant and I was told I was rubbish my whole school life, I was told I was just nothing.
Beverley Knight: Exactly. And this is the thing I was told from my I was little from my primary school teacher Mrs. Barnard God love her, she’s still with us. And she told my mom and dad who would go to parents evening they both would turn up together but I was told Beverley special she has a very special voice. She’s very hard working, blah, blah, blah. She’s going to be she’s going to do special things. I was a young child, I was like, I’ll take that. I believed it, because I will. That’s what people said. And I had that all the way through school. So, I believed that I was going to do something special and I knew it was to do with my voice. You know, but what it did was made me, it drove me to be the best pupil. So, I became that bookish kid always reading and studying. I had the glasses to go with it. I looked every bit like the geeky student, that was me.
James O’Keefe: There’s also a lot of pressure on that as well putting all that pressure on a child as well. So, even though you could say all they were wrong for saying it to me, were they wrong for saying that to Beverley because there’s a lot of pressure to put on a child mentally because if she doesn’t succeed in that.
Beverley Knight: If I hadn’t had succeeded, or failed in my studies.
James O’Keefe: Exactly.
Beverley Knight: I would not have been very; it wouldn’t have worked out very well for me. There was an expectation that I would do well in school.
Jan Gerber: Luckily.
Beverley Knight: Luckily, I did.
James O’Keefe: But if you put that pressure on 10 kids, how many of them are going to be.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, that’s whereas I refuse to do homework, I didn’t want to do it. And I was like, that didn’t make sense to me. You know, none of it. I was like, but I think that’s just as hard sometimes to put all that pressure on a child. So, I don’t know where that balance is.
Jan Gerber: And that’s generally I mean, that’s with raising kids that’s with mental health as well generally, there’s no one size fits all.
James O’Keefe: Exact.
Jan Gerber: Everybody’s different. Different baseline resilience as well to cope with different things in life, and it will be an interesting thought experiment to you know, reverse your roles if you have grown up in an environment like James and vice versa.
Beverley Knight: Exactly.
Jan Gerber: Who knows what would have happened.
Beverley Knight: Who knows.
James O’Keefe: I’d never want to put that on Beverley though.
Beverley Knight: Imagine me always arguing with your mom oh, no.
James O’Keefe: No. When you are young.
Beverley Knight: When I was young, oh, yeah. I never shut up arguing. I was always arguing. I was preaching the gospel of Bev because I was always right.
James O’Keefe: Yeah. I use to.
Beverley Knight: Oh my God.
James O’Keefe: So the thing then, you know so into. So, it is funny then we look at we laughed sometimes when we look at _ when we were twenty-one let’s say let’s pick, you know, twenty-one-year-old Beverley and a twenty-one-year-old James, or the twenty-one-year-old Beverley was.
Beverley Knight: First album, finishing uni writing the first album, writing my dissertation, at the same time.
James O’Keefe: I was dealing drugs, taking a huge amount of drugs and basically fighting and being an idiot and going out seven nights a week that was it.
Beverley Knight: It was much but yet there’s so many things that we know each other obviously but there was so many things that we shared, you know, that were completely in common. Fathers that were tricky for silly things. We to watch the same kid programs, you know, we both loved you know cars and stuff and just silly things that we would have in common that even though our life seems so different, there was a lot of similarities. And I think that can give you comfort as well because you can see someone’s life has been so privileged and so far and so remote from your own, and yet there are still parallels with that life that you can draw because on the surface our lives nothing but love each other.
James O’Keefe: I love that.
Beverley Knight: There’s things that we went through that was the same.
James O’Keefe: But I like the fact that like you know, some people talk about when you’re with someone like Beverley doesn’t drink or smoke and she never has and I’ve done it, you know all of it. So it’s like, but I never want Beverley to do that. I never want her to experience all that because it doesn’t make you any better. You know, it’s not like oh yeah, do that and you’ve doesn’t make you any better doesn’t improve your life. And you don’t know where you can go. My problem with drink drugs, cigarettes, all of that you don’t know until you do it, what your problem is going to be is a very important fact and that I feel I’m not saying you know, it’s a fact of but how I feel about it. You don’t know until you take that first bit of it, how it’s going to affect you. Some people can do it and then recreationally some people like me were maniac and wouldn’t be the last one you know. And to meet someone like Beverley that didn’t do anything, it was like an absolute breath of fresh air to me because I’ve saw my God you know this.
Jan Gerber: Because it’s unusual and most people would have fair got share their experience in life.
James O’Keefe: It was inspirational for me as well and it really made me look at myself and think you know what, and it inspire me and she still does to be a better human being to be, you know, more caring and just to, you know, think better of people and not judging all of these things, you know.
Beverley Knight: But then I look, because I didn’t go through any of that I was raised in this. It wasn’t super strict. But you know, I had boundaries but it was defined by Christianity. My parents were both Christians and that was the way we were raised and that wasn’t the reason I didn’t smoke or drink because everyone in my family will drink but hardly anything but I just hated alcohol. I didn’t like how people were around it and and I certainly wasn’t going to smoke. I wouldn’t do anything that can damage my voice.. But equally when I look at James’s life and see what he went through, but still had enough determination to pull himself out of the Maya to do something because you had enough. You had the moments of clarity to know that either I sought myself out or get away from this druggie scene, or I’m going to be dead or in prison.
Jan Gerber: And there was a moment in twenties, James, where you turn things around? how was the process for you was it a moment of clarity? Did you wake up one morning after binge deciding that it can’t go on like this? How did you find the strength? What went through your mind at the time?
James O’Keefe: I mean it is difficult to say exactly what the catalyst was. And we spoke earlier and it is difficult for me to say what works and what doesn’t work because obviously, as we said, as well, we’re all completely different, but I think an important thing is separating yourself from the situation and I managed to land a job in London and goes back again to what we talked about : the law of attraction-esque type thing where I always used to say when I was young as a cocky like fifteen year old I’ll be back in London before I’m twenty-five and blah, blah, blah, because, you know, I was cocky because I was so insecure. So you know, I used to try mask it. And I managed to blog the job but I was seven thousand pounds in drug debt to drug dealers, who wanted to hurt me, who wanted to hurt my girlfriend at the time, their family, they were going to do something bad to the house, so I had to just get away. And I’d have been back full of clothes and I moved to London and that was nineteen years ago and it was a very slow process. You know, I was very unhealthy. You know, I smoked I drank I did drugs, crap, you know, all the usual. And I just joined the gym where I worked. And it just was a slow process. And then as I went, luckily I’m hundred percent or nothing person. And that’s what got me through it because I then focused on something else. And then with that focus, it walked away the other stuff. So and then.
Jan Gerber: So, the focus was exercise.
James O’Keefe: With exercise, and then wanting to become then to self-educate myself because I wasn’t educated when I’m still not but I tried to _ I started reading more and I started to try and read self-help books and try and educate myself and strive for better things, you know, to try and buy some property and these little incremental steps I was making. You know, I still had no one theoretically helping me because I didn’t you know, my mom was just doing her thing, obviously we still have a contact but in a lot of years we didn’t. And you know, I just worked all I had was hard work and I just did that and that was what took me through you know, there’s no magic thing I can think that… was but I think it was just not wanting to be in that situation anymore.
Beverley Knight: Well, I think the minute you knew you come down to the wire, you know, it was either I leave now or I’m never leaving, because I’ll be in the jail or.
James O’Keefe: I do remember because I know at twenty-two I think I nearly went to prison anyway. And I think then, you know, with a couple of other things that happen and the you know, the bad stuff, it was a very toxic environment. So you know, but I think you have to look at yourself later but it’s hard when you’re young as well because the friends and that’s your group and that’s what your mind knows that’s all it knows and you know and I’m so used to being in trouble and doing stupid things and you know driving around with like thousands of pills in the car it’s crazy things, you know, I had no care at all for anything and you know but the positive side was I think that comes from my mom. I think that was my mom’s voice was always in my head I think if you’ve not got that, you know there’s probably kids out there now or who haven’t got at least one person given them something and even though I wasn’t talking to my mom that voice was still there that good you know that good and bad. My mom was there, you know, and it was my mom. And that’s important you know.
Beverley Knight: Your dad was a grafter as well.
James O’Keefe: Well he was.
Beverley Knight: He was when he you know because he was doing his _ when he was working he was doing his carpentry, he did really good work.
James O’Keefe: He did great work but he enjoyed the pub more. He used to say that the best work is done in the pub, I’m pretty sure for the people out there, that’s not true.
Beverley Knight: His work was great work.
James O’Keefe: It was amazing, an amazing journey.
Beverley Knight: And I think you have that same thing of if you’re going to do something you’ll do it and make sure it’s damn good.
James O’Keefe: Definitely.
Beverley Knight: And the detail.
Beverley Knight: So you have inherited that from your dad.
James O’Keefe: And my mom.
Beverley Knight: You know and you are like oh God and your mom, your mom is definitely a details mom.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, it’s funny because you listen to this and think oh, yeah, Beverley’s life was fine, a few problems with your dad but where it went a bit wonky woo for me, was I chose, when I say horrible relationships, but I got myself into rubbish.
James O’Keefe: That was around the same time, wasn’t it when you were, you know, in our early twenties when you.
Beverley Knight: Early twenties you know; I didn’t do the whole dating thing all the way through school because my focus was like I said it was on the gig.
Beverley Knight: Boys weren’t.. I was not really.. I was interested in this, the book.
James O’Keefe: me on other hand that’s not true.
Beverley Knight: Yes, exactly. But you know, my first serious relationship was a man who was much older than me and at seventeen that’s a big deal. Who was charming and manipulative and could be very aggressive. He tried it once to be physical with me and never again because I had enough character to fight back and saw what it was and thought okay, this needs to end.
James O’Keefe: That why I don’t mess with her
Beverley Knight: And then the next the next thing, the next relationship was worse than that I literally went out of a frying pan into a fire chose someone who was so possessive. And so jealous of, I think the fact that I was a popular person and could get on easily with people and he just wasn’t that kind of a man because he had his own issues with his own.
James O’Keefe: How old was that again.
Beverley Knight: When I jumped from the frying pan into the fire I was at uni.
James O’Keefe: Right.
Beverley Knight: So, this was during.
James O’Keefe: How old was he then
Beverley Knight: He only two years older than me.
James O’Keefe: And I think that’s something we forget as well, that when boys at that age, you’re still a boy, whatever you turn things.
Beverley Knight: Oh yes obviously when I think back now he was still, he had no clue.
James O’Keefe: That possessiveness is just insecurity. And that you know, and it would be one of the things I’d love to do in the future is to work with younger men, children, young, you know to.
Beverley Knight: insecure men.
James O’Keefe: Yeah.
Beverley Knight: It is a tough one.
James O’Keefe: But we all are at that age. And so when there’s a woman we want to control her because we’re insecure, and we all do it, I think most men do, you know, most boys do. And then that then makes the woman or the girl insecure as well sometimes.
Beverley Knight: Well, what I was going to go on to say is that, in that relationship, something quite unique happened to me, which has only happened maybe once since that time again since that time, and that was in order. Instead of looking at this guy, I’m thinking, oh, you have issues with your family setup, which is why you are the way you are. I accommodated his behavior by trying to appease it. So, oh, I’ll be home at eight I would break my neck to be home from wherever I was at eight o’clock and this is in my uni years so you know you’re at uni you are out with your mates you maybe have studied late with some friends or not or you’ve gone out for a meal or whatever I’d be I do everything to be home at eight and it became pathological. I must be home at eight because if I’m home at five past eight, there’s going to be problem. And I’m going to be accused of being here there and everywhere with people I was not with so and my character started to change, I began to withdraw and began to be what people said not when I was there, but people describe me more like you became a mouse you were like a mouse. Me who was always confident and always, you know so forthright with my views and you know and happy go lucky became this mouse and it took me signing my record deal which happened in my final year of uni when I got spotted singing in the club at home very brief story got spotted before I went to you need singing in a club. I was offered a deal. I turned down the opportunity to sign there and then because I said that I knew I was good, precocious. I knew I was good. And if you thought I was as good as you claim, you say, then you wait for me to finish uni.
James O’Keefe: And they did.
Beverley Knight: And they waited. Oh my god. Well, they waited till my final year and
James O’Keefe: You forget on how you had your struggles with your own images.
Beverley Knight: Oh yeah oh ,no I’ll go into that. It didn’t really manifest until a bit later like badly but yes with this guy the thing that got me away from him was my first single that I had written and was released while I was in my final year of uni took off like a rocket in the clubs you know in the specialist clubs, underground, which meant they needed an album which meant I needed to write one, which meant I needed a hurry up finishing my degree, get my exams done, get to London and get writing. He still had a year to go because he was training to be a teacher. The minute I was able, I was gone to London back.
Jan Gerber: You got the lifeline through that.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, that was my lifeline. And I was gone and left him behind.
James O’Keefe: That’s another thing about my situation it’s getting yourself away from it sometimes.
Beverley Knight: And some time you have to remove yourself physically.
Jan Gerber: That’s the only way to do it. When you’re in such a relationship, and you know, the way that you describe these partners very charming and manipulative at the beginning, you were taken in by.
Beverley Knight: Completely.
Jan Gerber: And then over time, very subtly, some character, you know started.
James O’Keefe: That how you got through to me honey.
Jan Gerber: But it’s really hard to put the finger on it. So, it becomes a bit it becomes kind of a new normality. And when there are issues in a relationship, you doubt yourself, you question yourself, you question your own reality.
Beverley Knight: That is exactly what happened. I was doubting myself and I was managing my own behavior to a peace of mind which was troubled.
Jan Gerber: You often see that in relationships where partners are narcissist for example. Beverley Knight: Yeah.
Jan Gerber: And It’s really hard to get out of that because in one way you still love that person you try to accommodate you always anxious because you don’t know how they will react if you do this so that.
Beverley Knight: Absolutely.
Jan Gerber: So, you know some people at some point they realize okay I have to leave others don’t survive such relationships.
Beverley Knight: Exactly.
James O’Keefe: It’s also having the option of going somewhere.
Beverley Knight: Where else do you go.Exactly, and that why?
I had some where to go I had all.
James O’Keefe: But that why these women show in some case.
Beverley Knight: Exactly.
James O’Keefe: You know.
Beverley Knight: That’s why I had the future I had a life and I had this thing in the back of my head. You do not factor in the long term because this behavior isn’t going to work. When I’m touring the world because I’d already been far as I’m concerned. I’d planned all of that and that was going to be my life at the end. So, I knew if I got away, I could see the road was going to be much clearer for me and I did.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, that’s where I have the huge respect for my mom you know she work through with my dad.
Beverley Knight: Your mom did the same thing
James O’Keefe: Three kids no help. Moved away and had to start off a new house, absolute rat whole and she just worked hard and grafted. And we had nothing and no food, jumble sales you know, for clothes all of that and that you know that stuff stuck with me right now isn’t it .
Beverley Knight: Well you still know you won’t go through a sale when you got a view this through the rails.
James O’Keefe: I can’t go through a sale mentally I can’t.
Beverley Knight: Because it brings you right back to.
James O’Keefe: In the kitchen, I had to make two fridges and have stuff in there because when we’re young I have gone in the fridge there nothing in there and it’s still stuck with me. It’s weird. It yeah.
Beverley Knight: And I never had that, that so fortunate so.
James O’Keefe: It’s way to go. But yeah, that whole moving up taking yourself out of something to you know, Beverley did it. I did it. My mom did it. People couldn’t do it.
Beverley Knight: My mom and dad did it, they had to take themselves from Jamaica because Jamaica was not going to at that time, was not going to give them the life that either of them wanted. And the British government was saying, please come to Britain to help build the mother country up. But of course, they both made huge decisions at very young ages to leave everything they knew to come to Britain and give it a go. And the result of which is, I’m sitting here, you know, I’m grateful for, but that thing of, okay, this is it. It’s crunch time, I have to stay in this situation. And life will never get better never improve, or I must leave, I must go. Luckily, I had something to go to. And I knew what it was.
James O’Keefe: It very scary.
Beverley Knight: It’s just scary.
James O’Keefe: You know, for everyone, it’s even hard to leave a job or to leave, you know, for the unknown, always the unknowns worse than what you think it is. And that as far as if that’s one takeaway I can say, because I’m still the stuff I’m doing in this day and age, Beverley is doing some great stuff. And she’s still doing stuff that she hasn’t done before and, you know, some amazing stuff and putting ourselves new things. And that’s scary for Beverley and I’m doing the same thing when business and trying to start new things. And that’s scary, at forty-three you know, to be going on to try this again. And it’s mad, you know.
Beverley Knight: I had this core belief and you had the core belief that it was going to work out but you didn’t see what the plan was. There wasn’t a set plan or a set journey.
Jan Gerber: Uncertainty.
Beverley Knight: It’s uncertainty, and initially to carry on about the recording contract and everything that first deal didn’t work out the way I wanted, because I had creative differences with the record label. And then eventually left the label. But it was a protracted situation legally and I had to start all over again. And there were times where my family were like Beverley forget just come home. Come home you’ve always got home.
James O’Keefe: We are talking about the late brother in law and sister in law we wanted her to come on she said no, I’m staying here.
Beverley Knight: They wanted me to come home and just forget it. I’m like I’m not doing it. I’m staying here. I have to tough it out.
Jan Gerber: They want you to come home because they were worried about you.
Beverley Knight: They are worried and sick about me.
James O’Keefe: They were worried and tired you know she had enough you know; it was literally start again with you know.
Beverley Knight: I had to start again with everything
James O’Keefe: Living in someone’s house that was just putting her on tough times and she just toughed it out with the strength of mind.
Beverley Knight: And you know, my mom and dad wanted me to come back home my family they will. But I didn’t want to go back home because going back home meant I had failed I hadn’t achieved what I set out to do. And that was music and inside of me that still small voice said but that’s your destiny. That is what you’re meant to do. You can’t go home you’ll be throwing destiny off course.
James O’Keefe: Question for you I’d probably haven’t asked.
Beverley Knight: Go on.
James O’Keefe: But is there any one that you wanted to prove that to apart from yourself really is it did you? Because me there’s some people I think back my life my mom or I think I want to prove that I can do you know you didn’t really have that did you?.
Beverley Knight: You know I don’t that so, I didn’t because everyone around me knew that I was capable of making a success of my career, everyone and no one doubted that I would. But the only thing for me was I knew I needed I knew I had a whole road ahead of me, I knew there were going to be obstacles because of my sex because of my race because I was British and not American making music which ultimately started its roots in America. I knew I had hurdles and I just wanted to keep going.
James O’Keefe: I think that is the immigrant way as well because my you know, my dad Irish so, I’m part of the immigrant as well and beds of immigrant you know, family so I think there’s a certain work ethic.
Beverley Knight: There is a certain psychology there.
James O’Keefe: There’s.
Jan Gerber: There’s a resilience coming.
James O’Keefe: There is a need to strive and, and I think the whole we talked earlier about the journey, you know, in life is very difficult a young age to think of, you know, the journey is the important thing, but it really is and, but you’ve got to have that goal, but you’ve got to live in that moment as well. So, you’ve got all these contrasting views and opinions and things you’ve got to think about when you’re young, very difficult to be granted enough to go or I’ll think of the future and set my goals so high, but I’ll just bring it back to now. So, it’s very difficult.
Jan Gerber: It’s always said that the dynamic between the journey and where we wanted to lead us, you mentioned, you know, music as your destiny and you felt that from a very early age.
Beverley Knight: Absolutely.
Jan Gerber: So, music as your destiny but then how far was music also, for you a tool or an outlet or mechanism to actually see you through, you know, that journey with its struggle, some of which we’ve talked about was it’s a source of strength for you that you could harness.
Beverley Knight: Music has always been the cathartic it’s always been where I’ve gone to work. it all out. If I need to sort it out, there’s a song for either I’m going to write it or someone brilliant has written it for me, and I’m going to sing it. And I’m going to take their words and I’m going to put it into my voice and I’m going to sing it and it’s going to somehow help me to figure stuff out.
James O’Keefe: Words have always meant a lot to words to you.
Beverley Knight: Words are so important. Melody has always been there because that’s always been my go to I was singing before I was talking. So, everyone tells me my mom, my play school teachers, everyone says, yeah, Beverley was singing before she was talking. But then the power of the lyric took over. I first saw the power of the lyric, I guess through my religious upbringing, because people would always read out the lyrics to hymns and songs. I listen to this, and this is so important, you know, and this is the message that God wants to tell you and putting all that.
Beverley Knight: You know, putting all of the god’s stuff aside the power of the word and the message and you couple that with a melody, and suddenly you’ve got something that can reach far beyond what we can easily explain and so music was my go to when I was happy, it was music when I was sad, it was music, everything and it wasn’t just music to listen to, it was what I would sing. So, I started to write when I was around thirteen. The minute I could really get some sense out of the piano. Then I started to write songs, rubbish songs, but it was my way of trying to.. it was my catharsis, you know, it was where I went to work everything out and so.
James O’Keefe: So different than mine.
Beverley Knight: Yes you, turn to other things, I always turned to music. And I again, I’m fortunate that I had this gift that, you know, landed in my lap at birth of music because if music wasn’t there, what else would I have turned to? It was always there and it was so immediate. All I had to do was open my mouth and just sing. And I realized just how lucky you know, I was and I am to have that. But what was important to me was that I could share that with other people, that in writing my songs I could then, while I’m working stuff out for myself, maybe I’m making sense to somebody else out there. That was my hope.
James O’Keefe: And you have I mean the letters Beverley gets and the well wishes and the love that she gets and you know, impacts me because I see that and I’m so proud that my wife is doing that for people that.
Beverley Knight: You don’t always realize it, you think sometime.
James O’Keefe: Honestly all these little things have made me a better person and I get some real warm through that when I read someone’s you know, the letter Beverley gets or you know a card and it’s beautiful.
Beverley Knight: All these Tweets.
James O’Keefe: And it’s a nice thing you know.
Beverley Knight: It’s funny because I always felt and again along with the bad choices of relationships. I started to I when I first came to London and you know, it was with my deal and everything and my second deal that is and things really started to take off commercially, you know, into the mainstream. That was when I really started to feel like I was a square peg in a round hole. So, I didn’t think like I didn’t look like a pop star. I didn’t speak like a pop star, there was so many prejudices and stereotypes that fed into that. I wasn’t an American.
James O’Keefe: Looking back now do you think that, obviously that being in the public eye, you know, just made that two hundred times bigger? So that was your…
Beverley Knight: Yeah.
James O’Keefe: Right.
Beverley Knight: When I was.
James O’Keefe: So, people don’t realize that we go through these insecurities when we’re young , they’re big enough, but then when you’re thrust into the public eye, people then looking at you as.
Beverley Knight: They’re looking at you. They’re examining you from head to toe.
James O’Keefe: And your record label telling you stuff and you know, do this or do that, or you need to be sexier and that was one of the things that I respected about Beverley when I met her that she didn’t give into any of that she was her own woman, good or bad, detrimental or not to her career. She has been who she is.
Beverley Knight: It was detrimental.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, it was detrimental that she wasn’t taking drugs. That she wasn’t going to the parties that she wasn’t out, you know, having sex with everyone you know all of these things and wanting to do all the skimpy outfits and flaunt herself that.
Jan Gerber: That’s staying true to yourself.
James O’Keefe: Well that’s so difficult.
Beverley Knight: It was so hard to be that square peg in a round hole.
James O’Keefe: So, you process that in a song with the same men, right?
Beverley Knight: That’s why I wrote that song.
James O’Keefe: It’s powerful.
Beverley Knight: I wrote that song because that’s all I could do. I was part of this industry that I just did not feel that I easily slotted into. There was no doubt of the musical ability, I never doubted that ever, and I never have but there was no tribe into which I fit. And there is still no tribe into which I fit but.
Jan Gerber: Did that feel quite lonely?
Beverley Knight: it was lonely, it was.
James O’Keefe: I felt that in different ways in my childhood, and that’s one of the things that we talk about the synergy in our life. We go why didn’t fit in there, I didn’t feel quite good enough or this enough or you know, and that came out in different ways then, you know, for each other, it’s an interesting thing.
Beverley Knight: It’s true.
Jan Gerber: We’re talking about life in the spotlight. It’s a lot of people: singers, actors, even politicians, people who were in public spotlight, always feeling that scrutiny judgments because, you know, not everybody will love you. It’s just how it is. And that creates a lot of pressure and outside pressure and a lot of people in the spotlight will internalize that and you know, it can feed their own insecurities. So, again, if you talk, about research, statistics, and all that and somebody who lives a life in public spotlight, like you do is purely statistically much more at risk for mental health issues for drugs and alcohol, prescription medication often also.
Beverley Knight: I’m not surprised.
Jan Gerber: Just you know to come down after a gig to deal with adverse press even if it’s a tabloid just making something up out of context.
Beverley Knight: We’ve been there.
Jan Gerber: You’re experiencing that. How does this affect you emotionally? Because we’ve established that you’re staying away from mood altering substances. You have a strong, you know, resilience, I can sense that just by sitting next to you, I feel that power, but it must affect you.
Beverley Knight: It did, it was a kind of chipping away the longer I was in London the more I felt as though I just didn’t fit in I was you know, a black woman who was the wrong type of black I wasn’t light enough I wasn’t European looking enough. So, that was an issue. And you know, I was pretty singular at the time coming out in my early years in making the music I make there were very few people from Britain making that kind of music Britpop was conquering the world and then there was me. You know, it was an odd time I didn’t do all the mood altering things. And then I didn’t look like my American counterparts. I wasn’t the tough girl like Mary J. Blige, who was having phenomenal success. Equally, I wasn’t the sexy girl like the SWV girls or, you know, like TLC or, you know, Ashante, or any of those kind of girls. And I was none of those. So, because I didn’t fit into any of those tribes easily or neatly, I was subject to a lot of ridicule. And some of that was in the press. And after a while for someone who always had this strong sense of self, that began to chip away. And it was a period in my mid-twenties where I just I look back now and I’m like, I can’t even believe that was me but I started to eat badly and not train. I’d always been so fun. so full of fitness and soul fitness as fun and all of that and I just stopped and then put on weight and then that became an issue because the record label said, well now you’re far too heavy, far too heavy, size twelve but far too heavy. And, and to be fair, I looked at myself and I didn’t look like the me that I had known all my life and.
Jan Gerber: Life in the spotlight started to take a toll.
Beverley Knight: It started to really take its toll. And that was difficult to.
James O’Keefe: And also you had you know, you had obviously things going on as well behind the scenes that will make me unhappy and it was all it was a perfect storm wasn’t it.
Beverley Knight: It became a perfect storm of how do you pull yourself out of it?
James O’Keefe: How did you?
Beverley Knight: Well, I was lucky because at that time I started to gather some decent people around me some of which are still my friends today, but one particular person who I met at that tricky time was a guy called Tyrone. Who was this flamboyant, gay; man, black man who just always smiling, always happy what I didn’t know is he was also HIV positive he didn’t tell me at the time but we met and I want to say fell in love but not in a romantic sense we just connected so quickly and so firmly and I credit Tyrone from pulling me out of that slump because he saw the real me behind all the you know, trying to put up with the press and their nonsense and the spotlight he just saw Beverley and..
James O’Keefe: He would be very light straight as well I didn’t not say he was like.
Beverley Knight: Yes, he does because.
James O’Keefe: You know, like just fix yourself up and get skirt on and just get out .
Beverley Knight: I used to wear trousers because I didn’t want anything to distract me, I wouldn’t wear a skirt because I didn’t want anything to distract from my music. I wanted to be taken seriously as a musician because oh my god and they’re just going to subjugate me and I’m a woman, the new girl, and he was like, you can be both get your pins out their great pins, get them out, you know, relax for God’s sake, relax.
James O’Keefe: And it was only a short time.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, he was only in my life, relatively speaking for a short time.
James O’Keefe: But it was huge.
Beverley Knight: From 1998 and then he passed away in 2003. But that was the period where I changed from, for the first time in my life beginning to doubt myself because I didn’t fit in the London scene and all the rest of it. Into saying, I absolutely fit in. I’ve just created my own little area for my damn self. And it’s just me on this lane. I’ve got my own lane and I’m staying in it and whatever to everybody else’s lane. And he really was instrumental in helping me to find me again.
James O’Keefe: But it also was then one of the hardest times in her life. Which is what you go through in life like, we always talk about it, it made her way stronger at the time it changed her life. And then when he died, obviously, really actually killed her but she then had to fight back from that again.
Beverley Knight: Absolutely.
Beverley Knight: Tyrone his HIV was advanced. I became his carer. I had, you know, a bunch of Fair-weather type friends. He had some great friends as well. Who my friends to this day as well, but you know how it is, on the crisis the Fair-weather people disappear. The really great people stay with you. And so we had a network of us who just helped him through. I became his primary carer we live together and he just his health just declined and declined while I might and this is _ it was this weird juxtaposition of my career began to really take off my third album, which was my second with my second deal. So, it was album number three for me album, number two for that record label, which was Parlor phone. That album absolutely took off. I was firmly in the mainstream and everything was going right but behind the scenes Tyrone, I was losing him and I knew there was nothing I could do. Nothing I could do to…I couldn’t save him, you know and but he had saved me. And that was the hard thing.
James O’Keefe: she tried everything, she did, she was amazing to me.
Beverley Knight: I tried ultimately.
James O’Keefe: And that was the thing you know, you had to go through that. And sometimes, you know, in life, you have to go through that hardship to become a better person, you know, to be a boss, you have to. And that’s what Beverley went through. And that was his role. And you have to take that in life sometimes as people come and go, and that’s their role in life just like you are part of someone’s journey. And if you can enrich someone’s life, I said to you earlier about trying to add value to every situation. I have worked so hard to try and do that, because I can be a bit of a nightmare sometimes. And I always say that, you know, there can only be one devil in a relationship and that’s me, you know, so, you know, it’s the journey, it’s that again you have to have the set things happen, you know, put them in a box and go that was that was amazing or terrible or whatever. But I learned and I grew and then and then, you know, and that..
Beverley Knight: His purpose, I’m trying to find my tissue, his purpose in life, I got to find it somewhere. I believe that he was there, I was there to help him fulfill his dreams. He wanted to be a TV presenter, he ended up being a TV presenter because, you know, I managed to connect him to certain people and there he was, he can YouTube him and there he is. And he enabled me to be the very resilient and strong woman that I am now, which meant I was in the right place to meet James. And you know, we met a few…
Jan Gerber: You went through another..
Beverley Knight: Yeah, I went through another cycle of nonsense, but it didn’t _ it wasn’t quite the same nonsense when I was young, we didn’t have that same dangerous thing. It was just nonsense. But um yeah, it’s just funny at the, what was the most wonderful part of my career at that time was also the hardest part of my life.
James O’Keefe: It’s also a beautiful thing of it. And that’s the journey in that.
Beverley Knight: That’s it.
Jan Gerber: What is the notion of paying it forward from what he did for you and I mean, you’re very engaged in charitable work and make a huge contribution for you know, a lot of people out there.
Beverley Knight: I honestly believe that, yes, we will have our struggles and I’ve had mine but I am in this privileged position of gratitude for it, but I am in this privileged position whereby I have a platform, and I will use that platform as much as I can. You have to pay it forward because you have to, you know, Tyrone, even at his weakest physically, was enabling magic to happen for me because of how he really helped me to just reignite my self-esteem and my, and gave me a confidence in my physical being that I didn’t have before.
James O’Keefe: And you and I have heard about the magic thing, the value thing, isn’t it?
Beverley Knight: Yes, it is magic.
James O’Keefe: And that why I just wrote a book, you know, Creating Magic Jason. So, you know, it talks about that is just, you know, looking beyond yourself and trying to do good for other people, and it’s hard, particularly when you’re going through a tough situation yourself to try and look out for other people. And we’ve, as I said, we’ve both been through really tough times. And I’ll probably be more selfish because I always when I was younger thought I was the victim of everything, you know, but.
Jan Gerber: It is also a coping mechanism.
James O’Keefe: You have to come out of that. And the big thing I do now through reading and trying to grow my mind and you know, is extreme ownership, you know, is to look at yourself and to go well, it’s my doing, you’re not blaming yourself, but it’s my doing and I’ll deal with it and I can, you know, progress everything, you know, if someone cuts you up, it’s not them, it’s you reacting. So, you just got to you know, process it and that’s what you know, but as I said, is a daily struggle to sometimes you know, again, Beverley is a naturally as we said at naturally happy kind of, you know.
Beverley Knight: It’s my disposition to be _ I’m to be happy.
James O’Keefe: To be positive and yeah, but me, I think through the, I’ve got friends who’ve had similar upbringings and you just have that kind of it’s a weird it’s like a defense mechanism is all the time. You know, it’s almost going back to when we’re cavemen you think there’s a, you know, something around the corner going to kill you. And it seems that my brain is wired more for that. So, I have to work at it, you know, I go cold water therapy and, you know, and I try and keep my thyroid in check. And, you know, an underactive thyroid and obviously, that affects me it affects, you know, it is a difficult thing to regulate.
Jan Gerber: An underactive thyroid, it can really severely and sometimes suddenly impact your mood.
Beverley Knight: Yeah.
James O’Keefe: I can get very _ sometimes I get very dark very quick.
Beverley Knight: Very quick out of nowhere. To me, it seems like it’s come out of nowhere. It’s been anything like I’m junking and laughing and then you’re not. And then I’m like wow where is that coming from it’s like a dark cloud is just set on your head and it’s zoomed in out of nowhere, it’s just sat on your head, and then you have to fight to get out of that blue.
Jan Gerber: But I think that’s an important point as well is you know, without knowing that there is this physical underlying thing on the functioning thyroid, such a sudden mood change it can have severe repercussions for both yourself and also your partner and the relationship. And I think it’s important to keep in mind also that we as human beings, our emotions, they’re also results of chemical processes in our brain. And sometimes it is very much a physical underlying issue. And so feeling in a dark place, feeling sad not coping.
James O’Keefe: It the fog as well, it’s weird
Beverley Knight: Sometime you can’t think clearly.
James O’Keefe: The health implications of an underactive thyroid, if you read them, you might go jump off a building, they’re horrific you know, it’s like suicidal thoughts this blah, blah, blah, right. So, I just put that away and think no and you know, weight gain and I’m like, no, I’m not going to believe that and this is again, I’m probably because I’m probably just obstinate. You know, I just want to like, you know, you call me.
Beverley Knight: Cooksey James.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, well, now you also call me contrary because I’m like, I don’t want to be the norm. I don’t want to just you know if underactive thyroid is this, no, I’m not going to be that. I’m going to try and get in good shape. I’m going to eat right. I’m going to… because all of these things impact. I’m going to use cold water. I’m going to use breathing I’m going to use meditation … And all of that stuff was so hard for me to do and I try to do them on a daily basis.
Jan Gerber: That seems to really help you and keep you.
Beverley Knight: It does.
James O’Keefe: Hundred percent.
Beverley Knight: It completely does. From standing watching you I can say that when you in the morning when you go out, you take our dog out and you do that whole thing.
James O’Keefe: And I’m up early, nearly at six and I’m out and I do my thing before then come back and then do my day. I’ve achieved something.
Beverley Knight: But that also centers you.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, hundred percent.
Beverley Knight: It writes you
James O’Keefe: The colder the water, it does.
Beverley Knight: The colder the water the happier he is.
James O’Keefe: Yeah.
Beverley Knight: When he hasn’t done that. The difference in the day you always feel as though you’re just a little bit discombobulated, energy under par. This is not quite you.
James O’Keefe: I’m mixed up taking my thought my liver thyroxine and I took twenty-five micrograms too little. And I felt horrific for three days. And I honestly I’ve never had that much of a different I then switched up again to one- fifty a day. And I was instantly, I could think again and I was like, it was that quick. And it just that surprised me because it catches me out still, you know, and it’s that’s a very difficult thing to deal with. But I’m not going to bitch about it. I’m just going to get on with it. I’m going to have to process it and I know I may know about stuff. Sometimes, you know, like the blinds at home. Sorry, honey. You know, as I said, I’ve got my processes. I’ve got my systems and you know.
Beverley Knight: You have this system.
Jan Gerber: But that’s the coping mechanism.
Beverley Knight: It is a coping mechanism.
James O’Keefe: She just lets me get on with it, she knows the house is spotless. I’m like
Jan Gerber: That not too bad is it.
Beverley Knight: Yeah, there are upsides in everything the fact that James has, is like has to have control of certain things and has to have things exactly in the right place and all of that means the house is always clean and tidy and.
James O’Keefe: When we met, she first came out to my flat for the first time she thought I was the American Psycho guy because everything was in its place. All my clothes were lined up, ironed and everything she was like Oh look great and I liked to have things in a certain . Beverley doesn’t have that. It’s like it has to feel right.
Jan Gerber: I’m sure that makes her interesting dynamic environment. But then again, you know you describing how you build a structure for your everyday life. You know, you get up at that time early in morning, almost ritual and it gives you that sense of victory. achievement already in the morning that sets for a positive day. And I think that’s also an important message because having a structure either because it’s given or imposed on you, or, even more importantly, when it’s not and you need to build your own structure, but actually having a daily structure is something very, important
James O’Keefe: It is, but it’s equally though. And again, this is always where my mind goes to there is sometimes I wish I didn’t, because exactly, you know exactly what I’m going to say because it’s you have the structure then when you break the structure, you then feel bad or you stop beating yourself up. And one of the big things I did and I’m better now and this is some of Beverley help as well, she has helped me to overcome this, is to stop beating myself up when I don’t do things right or in my mind.
Beverley Knight: In your mind.
James O’Keefe: You know, because it’s only my mind, you know, or I don’t achieve what I want to achieve or I’d mess up something, I make a problem or I react badly I beat myself up for so long. But again on the flip side, it gives me the balance of to be able to look in the mirror and go no sort yourself out if you’ve been acting an idiot or you’re doing this or you’re not, is to try and fix that so.
Jan Gerber: I think the ability on reflecting on your own emotions and your demons, your fears, and I think that’s a very important skill that you’ve been able to hone over time.
Beverley Knight: James does it all the time and does it brilliantly because James will face himself in the mirror and say, I need to work on this. I need to do less of this more of that and will have that conversation with himself and then put it into action with me sometimes it feels like you’re pulling out of myself. I’m so used to being on my own and just writing the words down and in a song or singing it and I’m in a relationship you know, I am one half of this relationship and I don’t always verbalize what the processes that are going on here.
James O’Keefe: That’s from my dad.
Beverley Knight: And that is from his dad.
James O’Keefe: And that’s you know, and I’ve got things you know.
Beverley Knight: James will always do that James will always speak these things, will always illuminate what is in his mind and me not so much.
James O’Keefe: It gets me to a calm point straight away. If I just say, and when I was young I used to bottle up and then just explode like a maniac and it’d be in any situation.
Jan Gerber: That’s not the way to handle it.
James O’Keefe: You know, and now I just have to get it out straight away and say right, that made me feel bad or this you know, or I’m worried about this at the moment I even do it now, probably yesterday. I didn’t feel like I achieved what I want to be you know, and I’m still doing it, but then I talk about it. And I don’t want anyone to fix it or I just go right it out, I then go, okay, I can then now I can deal with it. Now it’s out there to the world that I haven’t felt this in a certain way. I’m not exactly where I want to be. And I don’t mind saying that, you know, I’m not exactly where I want to be in my mind in life. You know, I’ve got an amazing life and I’m happy. But you know, we talked about success or whatever. And, I don’t know where that is, and it’s exciting and scary still, and I’m forty-three. But I still feel like I’m twenty-two. So, I would never go back to that. Even if you can pay me all the money in the world, I wouldn’t go back to that.
Jan Gerber: Some people say I would pay all the money the world to go back to that.
Beverley Knight: No way.
James O’Keefe: Honestly, I’d swear my life, you know, you could offer me a billion pounds. I wouldn’t go back to that and live through the last… I wouldn’t do it. I would only want to go back twelve years and live through that because that’s my massage for you.
Jan Gerber: There’s a very valuable message I think is that with self-reflection and really getting to know you and what you need, based on past experience, to tackle all the emotions and you know adverse situations that life sometimes throws at us and you know, most likely still will, to build that resilience based on that reflection. It can be a very powerful way of navigating life.
James O’Keefe: Yes, I think so.
Beverley Knight: It’s important to look at yourself.
James O’Keefe: You do.
Beverley Knight: You have to because you have to learn the patterns, so that you can see the danger zone.
James O’Keefe: Our brains will try to do what isn’t the right way to do as well. So, we will try
Beverley Knight: to convince ourselves,
James O’Keefe: We try and go for the easy option, you know.
Jan Gerber: So you have to be honest.
Beverley Knight: We have to be honest.
James O’Keefe: You really need to be honest, but you also have to you have to go through hard times as well. So, you have to go through a level of uncomfortableness, or stress, a stressor, to then grow from it to become better. And that’s why I think all of this, what happened in our lives, it can only make you stronger. And I say to my nephews now because they’ve been through some tough times, and you know, and I say to them, you don’t see it now, but you will be a stronger man for what you know, you will be stronger for it. You just have to believe that and you have to self-reflect, like you said, and grow from it. And I think if you can do that you’re on a winner, whatever you do, whether you’re been men or you know, Jeff Bezos, you know, I mean, it doesn’t matter. I think if you can find happiness in yourself and what you’re doing, it’s the Holy Grail.
Beverley Knight: That was a tough thing. That was hard for my dad. You know, in the end, my dad died in 2010. He was beginning to find his way back. He had a breakdown when I was just as I was going off to uni. And then all those years of resentment and difficulties with the white people, particularly white people, because of you know, like my choice of James and my sister choosing Christopher and you know, that was difficult but just towards the end of his life, he started to I think he started to analyze himself and, and it was a crisis that did that for him. My sister got very ill was rushed to hospital, it frightened the life out of him.
James O’Keefe: Sometimes that’s the catalyst
Beverley Knight: Sometimes that’s what it takes.
James O’Keefe: Again we talk about the catalyst bar.
Beverley Knight: That’s what it took.
James O’Keefe: With health and wellness and all that thing, you can’t wait for that.
Beverley Knight: You mustn’t, I wish my dad hadn’t
James O’Keefe: All this mental health, the health the wellness, it’s so strictly linked.
Beverley Knight: It is.
James O’Keefe: You know, and that’s I think the takeaway I would say to anyone is to go to try as much as they can holistically you know, cold water therapy, good diet, you know, not beating yourself up but being hard enough on yourself.
Beverley Knight: Or truthful enough.
James O’Keefe: Yes, exactly.
Beverley Knight: That not always been part on it is been truthful with yourself, you know, what I mean, that’s always the best way.
Jan Gerber: It’s being prepared, building that resilience prevent things bit you know physical ailments speed, emotional crisis, in such way yeah, by preparing for it. And you can only prepare by constantly reflecting and you know, taking away the positivity from, from your experiences. This has been a very powerful and insightful conversation.
James O’Keefe: Thank you for that.
Jan Gerber: Thank you so much for sharing some of your very personal stories.
Beverley Knight: Thank you.
Jan Gerber: I really appreciate that.
Beverley Knight: We loved the opportunity to be here.
James O’Keefe: Yeah, really appreciate it.
Beverley Knight: Thank you so much.
Jan Gerber: Thank you Beverley, thank you James.
Beverley Knight: It’s a pleasure.
James O’Keefe: Thank you.
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