Jo Lawry carries aunt Tina Lawton's spirit, from Sting backups to star in her own write

Jo Lawry was featured in the documentary film 20 feet from stardom with other iconic backup singers Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer, who have both appeared at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Jo Lawry has carried the South Australian musical spirit of her aunt Tina Lawton around the world as backing singer for Sting and a vocalist and song writer in her own right. Lawton, a nationally acclaimed Adelaide folk singer, died in a plane crash in Kenya in 1968.

As her niece, Lawry grew up in her family’s Willunga almond farm home listening to Lawton records. After a child role in Les Miserables, Lawry considered a musical theatre career before studying classical singing and then jazz at Adelaide University’s Elder Conservatorium and New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She reached the 2004 semi-finals of the Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition and next year was second in Australia’s national jazz awards.

With a Fulbright scholarship, the George Murray fellowship from Adelaide University and an Australia Council grant, Lawry completed her master’s degree in New York, where she formed her own quintet and was noticed by jazz greats Bobby McFerrin and pianist Fred Hersch, who invited her to join his Pocket Orchestra. She also joined James Shipp's jazz quartet Nos Novo, where she sang and played fiddle, mandolin, and melodica.

In 2009, Lawry auditioned for a one-off gig with Sting to promote his album of traditional songs, On A Winter’s Night. This led to her being his tour backup singer as well as featuring on his Live in Berlin and The Last Ship albums. (She also appeared with Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel.) Sting encourage Lawry in her song writing and even offered to be backup vocals on her first first album, I Want to Be Happy (2008). Lawry and Sting performed a duet of “Impossible”, one of her 10 compositions on her second album, Taking Pictures.

Lawry was featured in the documentary film 20 feet from stardom with other iconic backup singers Darlene Love and Lisa Fischer, who have both appeared at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

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