INTERVIEW | Lisa Stansfield31st March 2014
This is the first time I’ve had to interview someone I feel like I grew up with, that I shared some of my most intimate moments with, that made me laugh and cry, made me shake my tushie round the living room – and still wanted to meet up and have a pint with.
I should point out that when I say sharing the most intimate moments with, we weren’t actually in the same room, town or probably country… but you get my drift, I do mean as a soundtrack.
The lovely Lisa Stansfield is back. After a brief recording sojourn, she’s here with one hell of an album and is working that whole media circus in her inimitable way. “Seven” (this is her 7th album) is chock full of tracks you feel you know but don’t – her style is here in full force, those vocals, that initial breath before she launches into a track that’ll tear your soul out and stomp all over it, and then make you dance like no-ones watching with the next track.
I got the chance to chat with Lisa (I still can’t believe it!) and ask the Rochdale chanteuse what she’s been up to and what makes her tick.
First up, I asked about the influences on this album…
LS: Same as they always have been really, they are the reasons I got into music, Motown, R&B, Northern Soul.
So, on this album, any favourite tracks?
LS: When you make an album, it’s all very personal emotionally. An example is the track Conversation which makes no sense and everyone asks me what it’s about and I can’t tell them – but it makes them cry with its raw emotion.
It’s been a long time since the last studio album, why the gap and what’s been happening?
LS: I don’t see it as a gap. I’ve continued working, biding my time. Why bother making music if you have to compromise? These days it feels like if you’re not in the spotlight 24/7 then people forget you. I prefer to make work that’s timeless, doesn’t date, rather than something that’s trendy.
So how does it feel to be more Radio 2 than Radio 1 these days?
LS: Things shift and audiences change or grow older. Radio 1 isn’t the same as when I was younger, it seems less mainstream – that’s more Radio 2 these days.
How do you feel about the current state of the music industry?
LS: There are 2 sides, manufactured versus integrity. It’s always been like that though. You can feel empowered by taking your time, owning your work, putting your stamp on it rather than being told what to do and with some Svengali in the background.
Lisa’s personal sense of style has always been a talking point – remember the kiss curl and bakers boy caps back in the day? For Jools Hollands Hootenanny, she showed how to grow up and look classy and still relevant (lisa-stansfield.com/lisa-on-jools-hollands-hootenanny)
I asked her what input she had on this?
LS: I’m in control of what I wear, I have to be comfortable with it and not wear something that’s simply given to me. I work with a fabulous stylist called Johnnie Blue Eyes. He understands what I like and I’ll ring him and say “I’m thinking of wearing this with that and those” and he’ll come back with “yeah, but add that too” and it works.
It’s part of being who I am.
With it being 25 years since the release of All Around The World, I asked if she still listens to her back catalogue?
LS: No! Do I f**k! Once you’ve done an album and done the promotion and tour, you tend to move on to create the next. It’s funny but Ian and I (husband and co-writer/producer Ian Devaney) did a Greatest Hits a few years ago, and we had to listen to the back catalogue to choose the material, and when we were done, we looked at each other and said god, we’re good! You forget some of the material you’ve created and hearing it together was unusual.
Some may be surprised by Lisa’s acting career – having appeared in several films and TV series already, she is set to star in the upcoming title: Northern Soul (imdb.com/title/tt1837613/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_1), an uplifting look at the world of all-nighters, flares and American soul music via a town up North. She stars alongside Steve Coogan, Ricky Tomlinson and John Thomson.
LS: Love acting, it’s looking at a character, getting inside them, finding their identity. I’m very excited about this film.
I asked if she had plans to do more?
LS: I’d love to, and might once my schedule calms down.
As the clock was ticking, I asked Lisa why she thought she was so popular with a gay audience? Was it her torch song prowess? Her ability to convey emotions so strong in her music? With typical Northern bluntness:
LS: Honestly, I don’t know but I think it’s because I don’t take shit from people and I stick up for my friends.
You have to love this woman, she tells it like it is!Feeling daring, I asked if she had an inner Diva she hid from the public? Was she the kind that demanded only yellow M&M’s in her dressing room?
LS: I think everyone has an inner Diva but to be truthful I’m an inanimate object first thing in the morning, I’m just human! I tend to live with whatever’s given on tour, no major demands – except for monkey balls!
Forgive me here dear reader, I had to ask….
LS: It’s a Chinese herbal medicine for your throat. I had a sore throat one morning and couldn’t see me going on that night, and was given one of these and it worked. Now I take them with me on tour. It’s this tiny herb that you put in water and it swells up to the size of, well, a monkey’s ball but it soothes your throat!
And on that note, I’ll leave you to purchase a copy of the wonderful new album, “Seven”.
Me? I’ll be off down the pub with the lovely Lisa to bitch and gossip the night away… ∎