Credit: Annabel Newell

Insomniac's Playlist

"We are the most famous singers you’ve probably never heard of" - Gina Foster and Tessa Niles

The Unsung Singers, aka Gina Foster and Tessa Niles, have sung backing vocals for the likes of David Bowie, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner – here they take us through a playlist of the tracks they've most loved performing

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Great backing vocals transform a song. Injecting the chorus and verses with that all important sing-along element. Imagine if you will, Aretha’s Respect without the ‘Just a little bit - just a little bit’ response. Or Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends without the female voices. Backing singers elevate the ‘hook’ or memorable bit of a song. We are the vocal shapeshifters who provide the crucial element of alchemy to your most loved tracks. Gina and I have had the good fortune to have worked with some of music’s greatest stars. In the studio and on some of the world’s biggest stages. We are the most famous singers you’ve probably never heard of!

- Gina and Tessa

Gina Foster:

Love's in Need of Love Today - Stevie Wonder

There is life before Songs in the Key of Life and life after. And the journey starts with Mr Wonderful’s backing vocals.

It's Gonna Take a Miracle - Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro is sadly underrated. I found myself singing this one day on the way to rehearsals with the fabulous Nona Hendryx . Forgetting that she sang the backing vocals with Labelle!

Too Much Heaven - Bee Gees

It was such a thrill learning this for a gig with Robin Gibb. Masters at work.

Cold - Annie Lennox

Annie Lennox is a unique artist and a gorgeous person. This one gave me shivers, it was a pleasure to work with her.

Three Babies - Sinéad O’Connor

On tour with Sinéad O’Connor, she moved me to tears every night. Incredible.

Stronger Than Before - Chaka Khan

Like Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan’s backing vocal arrangements are sublime. Another who taught me so much.

This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) - Natalie Cole 

I had to polish up my high notes to sing this live with the late, great Natalie Cole!

TESSA NILES

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT - TINA TURNER 

Singing the backing vocals on this track was one of the many ‘pinch me am I dreaming moments’ I’m grateful for.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN - MAMAS & THE PAPAS

As a young kid I dissected and sang every harmony part with my brother. This song is now deeply etched into my D.N.A

RHYTHM OF LIFE - OLETA ADAMS

Oleta’s voice is exquisite. The daughter of a preacher man, she was discovered singing in a hotel bar by Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears. This song was from her debut album and I loved singing the backing vocals on it.

SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM - GRACE JONES

An iconic track with La Jones signature half sung/half spoken vocals. Produced by ’80’s supremo, Trevor Horn. It was proper fun working on it. 

SLEEPING SATELLITE - TASMIN ARCHER

A one hit atmospheric wonder. The backing vocals are there, but not there. I always enjoy working on tracks that require the background singers to be part of the soundscape, such as this.

SUPERSTAR - THE CARPENTERS

Karen Carpenter offers the listener a masterclass in vocal control and performance. Full of yearning, the track is beautiful with multi layered voices bedding down the chorus. Inspirational to this youngster.

LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER - CAPTAIN & TENILLE

This was the song I sang into my hairbrush. We’ve all got one have’t we? Happy and catchy. Turn up the volume and sing with me ‘ I will, I will - I wiiiillll'.

Gina Foster and Tessa Niles will appear as "Unsung Singers" at the Festival of Sound, 29 September 2018

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