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From TV stardom to temple town

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CONTESTANTS on reality TV music shows usually follow a well-trodden career path after the show finishes: a three-part act which consists of signing with a label, releasing an album, and then fading into graceful obscurity.

But sometimes the exposure generated by the show can take the performers to unusual places, as is the case for 2002 UK Pop Idol contestant Zoey Jones. She will perform every night until July in the Explorer Tales bar at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap.

Sofitel general manager Charles-Henri Chevet said the unusual decision to hire Jones on an ongoing basis was made on the strength of her performances at the Cambodia Open golf tournament last December, and a New Year’s Eve party at the Sofitel.

Chevet said: “It’s unique in Siem Reap to have a singer perform for this length of time. We chose Zoey because her voice and style fits in with the atmosphere of our bar and the environment we want to create.”

She was originally booked to perform at Sofitel from February until April, but Chevet decided to extend her tour until July.

“Zoey knows how to entertain. When she left after appearing in December a few couples asked where she went – the atmosphere of the bar was missing something.”

For her part, Jones says she enjoys the challenge of entertaining hotel guests night after night, performing classic pop songs accompanied by pianist Wilbur Dauz.

“We try to project a very classy but relaxed atmosphere for the bar. Generally I choose my songs based on my sense of the people so I’m not just singing sweet girly things all the time. I try to do a nice mixture.”

Prior to appearing at the Sofitel, Jones was based in Lisbon where she appeared at the Rock in Rio concert and recorded vocals for several tracks by DJs including Jesus Luz and Mastiksoul.

Jones originally met representatives from the Sofitel while performing at the jazz club Studio 182 in Phnom Penh last September. She said she was contacted by Studio 182 over
the internet.

“They were looking for new artists, and I’m always looking for stimulation. When the offer came along I thought it was a bit different and crazy... they asked me to fly there from Lisbon the next week.”

Jones told The Phnom Penh Post she is enjoying her time in Siem Reap and prefers the calmer atmosphere to living in Phnom Penh. “I look at Phnom Penh as this crazy, hustling bustling city, lots of pollution. But it’s so calm here, it’s such a contrast.”

On her days off, Jones spends her time painting and working on her first album, which has a tentative release date of sometime next year. When asked whether she would consider returning to the region to perform, she said the decision will depend on the timing of the album release. “There’s quite a bit of work to be done, but maybe once it’s finished and released, then maybe I’ll come back here at the end of the year. I’d like that.”

Chevet believes the decision to hire Jones is working well, and notes that employees from competing hotels have come to watch Jones perform.

He said she is the right singer because she is “spontaneous with clients, she’s not shy. You can’t have high quality entertainment without being prepared to put money in.”

Jones is glad the concept of nightly live hotel entertainment appears to be taking off in Siem Reap. “Maybe the other hotels will start to provide live entertainment now. It’s nice to know I was here first.”

Zoey Jones is appearing from 6:30pm to 10pm weeknights and Saturdays until July 17, at the Explorer Tales bar at Sofitel.

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