Soul survivor Lisa Stansfield talks with Marion McMullen about singing, acting and how she finally quit smoking after more than 30 years.
There's no mistaking the strong northern accent of Lisa Stansfield.
She sounds like she’s been brought up on a diet of black pudding, back-to-back episodes of Coronation Street and cobbled streets while her throaty laugh is loud and infectious.
She’s the northern lass with the smoky voice who topped the charts in the mid-eighties with hits like All Around The World, People Hold On, Never Going To Give You Up and Someday (I’m Coming Back), from the original soundtrack of The Bodyguard movie.
It’s been 10 years since her last album, but her seventh – appropriately called Seven – has been worth waiting for.
It sees the 47-year-old sounding better than ever and, she says, one of the probable reasons is because she’s quit smoking.
“I gave up smoking just over three years ago and I’ve sort of got back the voice I had when I was 25,” she says.
“I’ve not had any cravings, I’ve not even been tempted, and maybe if I do in the future I’m still not going to give into it because I love singing and touring too much.”
She grimaces: “I used to smoke 45 cigarettes a day. Before my eyes were even open in the morning, I would reach for a cigarette.”
Lisa started smoking when she was about 16, but says she had dabbled even before that. “It’s just an addiction and everything in your body gets used to it,” she explains.
She had tried to quit several times over the years without success and then went to see a hypnotherapist. “I’ve not had a cigarette since,” she declares.
The advantages of a cigarette-free Lisa can be heard on Seven, which she recorded in Los Angeles, New York, London, Ireland and her own studio in Rochdale.
She will also be doing what she does best when she takes to the stage for a new European tour that includes 10 UK dates, starting at Birmingham Symphony Hall on September 5 and stopping at Gateshead, Manchester, York, Glasgow and London’s Royal Festival Hall along the way.
The dates will see Lisa and her band performing songs from Seven as well as classic hits from throughout her 25-year career. “We’ll be doing it all,” she promises.
The Grammy nominated, multi-BRIT, Ivor Novello and Silver Clef Award winner can boast sales of nearly 20 million records and a string of international top 10 hits.
She returned to the studio to record with her husband and long-time partner Ian Devaney and says: “It is a soul record and while it is eclectic there is a thread running through it. It was basically me and Ian doing everything… but we also had a team of amazing musicians in the studio with us.”
That team included John “JR” Robinson, known as the most recorded drummer, and Grammy award winning orchestrator Jerry Hey, who have both worked with Lisa for over two decades.
“Buy the album, don’t nick it,” she urges with a laugh, “I never nick music or films online.”
It’s been 10 years since the last album, but Lisa says she’s never really been away from music and has been busy with other projects, including playing a mum in forthcoming independent film Northern Soul alongside the likes of Steve Coogan and Ricky Tomlinson. “It was nice not playing a singer for once in Northern Soul,” she laughs.
It’s left her with a desire to do more acting in the future, but she says it would have to be work she was passionate about. In the past she has appeared in a Miss Marple murder mystery with Geraldine McEwan, but turned down a chance to appear behind the bar of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street.
Lisa herself grew up listening to the music of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Brenda Lee and Patsy Cline and says she would love to bring out a jazz-swing album one day.
“We were only talking about this earlier and I said I would do it, but only if Quincy Jones would produce it.” She chuckles and quickly adds: “So Quincy if you’re listening...”
The straight-talking singer has sung with Barry White and George Michael during her varied career and has travelled the world. So what would she rate as her greatest achievement? “That people still want to hear me sing,” she says modestly. “This is what I want to do for a long time to come.”
Amy Westlake reports for Rochdale Online:
With the release of her first album in ten years, Lisa Stansfield talks to John Freeman about 13 albums that each occupies a little piece of her heart.
"I love David Bowie - but he's never made me cry." Sat in the bar at Manchester's Cornerhouse cinema, Lisa Stansfield is explaining why her very favourite music has to touch her heart, and not just her head. "He makes me think, but never makes me cry."
By this point, we've been chatting about Lisa's favourite albums for over an hour. It's been an hour punctuated by Stansfield's glorious guffaw (she can silence a bar with her laughter) and a number of faintly libelous stories about globally-famous musicians.
And while she's hugely fun company, 2014 is a seriously big year for Lisa Stansfield. Our Cornerhouse meet up is convenient – later that evening is a screening of Northern Soul, a new film celebrating the rise of soul music in nightclubs like Wigan Casino and Manchester's Twisted Wheel in the 1970s. Stansfield plays the mother of one of the lead characters and is not looking forward to seeing herself on screen ("I look like shit.") It also means the bar is rammed with a mix of Mancunian glitterati (Mani and Ian Brown are in attendance) and very old school northern soul aficionados. There are many 'Keep The Faith' fist tattoos on display.
But, perhaps more significantly, February saw the release of Lisa's first album in a decade, Seven. Written and produced by Stansfield and her husband (and long time songwriting partner) Ian Devaney, Seven is ten songs of sophisticated soul and a perfect pedestal for Lisa's rich vocal.
However, while Lisa asks me what I think of Seven - and it is genuinely wonderful to hear her voice again – I need her to crack on with explaining her album selections. Before we begin, Lisa informs me that she in not a "mega music geek" and I shouldn't expect her to know "every last detail about an album's production credits," which is more than fine with me. We then canter through a list that contains some pretty formidable characters – Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, George Clinton, Prince and Tracy Chapman all feature.
After we've discussed Lisa's list, I ask her what connects her choices. For perhaps the only time, her voice drops and she goes all serious on me. "It's about heart and soul. I love the fact that a piece of music can impact so many people and make them feel differently and maybe even help them. I love that people can find solace in music because they can identify with it. Someone can have a shitty day and come home and listen to a song and know that someone else is singing about the way they feel. I feel that's what music is for."
Check out below what these 13 albums mean to Lisa
Note: This article has been re-published with the kind permission of John Freeman and "The Quietus" link "HERE"
Marvin Gaye was born on April 2, 1939 , he would have been 75 years old this week. Sadly , it was thirty years ago this week since his father tragically ended Marvin's turbulent life, just one day before his 45th birthday in 1984.
Word spread late Monday about the death of the pioneering DJ who described himself as a "man of music, citizen of the universe, friend to everyone, enemy to none."
Apart from the mixes he made for Lisa , here's just a small selection of his work (below) which still remain as some of the hottest dance tunes of our time: