After a period away from the musical limelight, multi-million selling artist Lisa Stansfield is back, with a new album on the way in February and a European tour to follow. George R Vaughan caught up with the BRIT Award winner from Lancashire to discover what has motivated her return.
Anyone who can remember the eighties will no doubt be nostalgic for a time that saw TV dominated by the likes of Hill Street Blues and Minder and musicians such as Michael Jackson, The Human League, The Police and Wham! all sharing space at the top of the music charts.
And for those purists who bemoan the demise of music today one should not forget that this decade also threw up “classics” from Tight Fit, Joe Dolce, Jive Bunny and Renee and Renato!
Still, one artist who certainly made her mark in that era and also for the next two decades to come was Lisa Stansfield, enjoying one of the biggest hits of the decade with “All Around The World” and the album it came from (Affection) going on to sell over five million copies worldwide.
The 90s were equally successful for the young artist from Lancashire, although unlike many of her contemporaries, her output was not that prolific and whilst the critics continued to praise her work, chart success proved more elusive.
By the turn of the millennium with six albums under her belt, Lisa Stansfield took a break from music to focus more on the other love of her life, acting.
But as 2014 gets underway, the singer-songwriter returns with a new album, Seven and a European tour that is set to bring her back into the limelight.
“I have never been a prolific writer – seven albums in 20 odd years is probably testament to that,” Lisa Stansfield declares as we begin our interview. “But the thing with me is that I won’t do anything I don’t want to and it has to be right to really grab my interest.
“Seven has been a long time in the making. It’s been a work in progress and part of the reason for the delay was I that didn’t feel that there wasn’t a niche my style could fit into for a while. That has all changed and I sense the moment is right, now.”
Whatever the reason, the recent resurgence of 80s artists making comebacks certainly had something to do with it and the sound of that decade is certainly in vogue again.
“Technically I’m more a girl of the 90s, I actually released “Affection” at the tail end of 1989 but I was certainly a product of the 80s.”
Hailing from Lancashire, Stansfield was always interested in music and her career began in 1980 when as a 14 year old she won the singing competition, Search for a Star. Citing the likes of Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson as some of her biggest influences growing up, it wasn’t until her association with Ian Devaney and Andy Morris as the band Blue Zone in 1984 that things began to take off in a serious fashion.
“I featured on a song called “People Hold On” and after this the three of us decided to focus on my solo career.”
When “Affection” and subsequent single “All Around The World” came out in 1989 it provided her with global recognition and was the launch pad for huge musical success.
“It was an amazing time for me but it didn’t come without a lot of hard work. That’s what a lot of people seem to forget when they go into this industry. It is above all else a business. Of course you go into because you are creative, you enjoy it and you have something to say but at some point – whoever you are – the bottom line is going to come into play. That’s part of the trick of keeping yourself grounded.”
So what were the themes behind her new album Seven?
“Some of the themes will be familiar to a lot of people but this album reflects a very personal part of my life because it is about someone who falls in love, loses that love and then finds it again. It centres a lot on the general turmoils of a relationship from a woman’s perspective.”
And as a woman, has she found the industry a tough environment to work in?
“As I said, music is a business and gender doesn’t really come into it – at least it never really has for me. My experiences have always been quite positive and I think that if anything, there are more women in positions of power in music now than at any stage before.
“The “fan facing” space is populated by some great female artists and behind the scenes that is just as evident. Of course image and appearance – with the rise of the Internet and YouTube – is more important than ever and I don’t think we should shy away from taking advantage of whatever we have to achieve recognition. As long as what you are doing isn’t hurting anyone I can’t see the problem.
“I can remember all the scandal with some of the stunts Madonna used to pull but would you say she helped or hindered the empowerment of women in the industry…?
“There has been a lot written about the so called “sexualisation” of Miley Cyrus but that girl knows what she is doing. Was she really going to be Hannah Montana for the rest of her life?!”
With music occupying such a big space in her life, what prompted her to take a break from her career and turn to acting?
“I’ve always loved to act and as a performer on stage you are always acting in some form. From around 2005 until last year I made several movies and did some TV and really enjoyed the experience. It is something I would like to do more of but only if the right part comes along.
“I do get sent a lot of material but I’m only going to say yes to something that really grabs me. I have a motto and that is you always need to be prepared to say no. In fact if I could give anyone a single piece of advice to anyone looking to make it in this business it would be always say no before you say yes. You have to learn to be selective. If you say yes too many times to too many things people will stop asking.”
So when she does say no and decides just to hang out at home how does she like to spend her spare time?
“Oh! I’m a terrible role model in this respect,” she giggles. “If you’re expecting me to say I jog 10 miles a day and eat only healthy meals then you’re going to be disappointed. I tried that for a period in my life and ended up with the physique of boy and a very irritable disposition.
“These days my ideal scenario is to lay in bed all day watching junk TV and ordering in similarly junk food to go with it!
Seven is released on 10th February and the first single “Can’t Dance” is available now on iTunes.
If you would like more information on Lisa Stansfield, Seven and her forthcoming tour then visit her website at http://lisa-stansfield.com
George R Vaughan