On todays promotional agenda, Lisa popped into BBC Radio Lincolnshire to chat with Carla Greene.
Click on the audio link below.
Lisa Stansfield talks about her new single Billionaire and the forthcoming album Deeper together and the tour next month.
Lisa joined Janice Forsyth on BBC Radio Scotland discussing her forthcoming album Deeper and the upcoming tour in April. Listen back on the audio player below.
"Some women will shag anything to get anywhere": Lisa Stansfield on fame, Weinstein and the problem with Jeremy Corbyn
She was the biggest British female soul star of the Nineties. At 51, she’s back and ready to let loose.
By Kate Mossman
Lisa Stansfield likes to do an impression of Lisa Stansfield. Head down and shoulders hunched, she draws her arms in front of her and swings them in a simian manner, her entire body and baker boy cap vibrating as if she is caught in a chill wind. This is what she looked like, apparently, on the Pete Waterman ITV show Motown Mania in 2000, which she didn’t want to take part in because it was so “fucking naff”. And this is what she looked like at 14, singing in the working men’s clubs of Rochdale. Only, she had a huge perm then, which stuck out like this – her arms arc round her head – and made her look “like Kevin Keegan. No. Like a microphone”.
Lisa does the vibrating simian to express situations in which she wasn’t entirely comfortable. Earlier in the day, at a photo shoot in Kentish Town, she grabbed her glasses to examine the first run of portraits as they were delivered on to a laptop. She decided she looked “like John Hurt on acid”, so she threw some shapes for a different vibe, brandishing an invisible gun like one of Charlie’s Angels. She was tiny and wiry in her black leather assemblage – and she looked just like Lisa Stansfield. Fame is a science, she says. A cycle.
“There are elevators in East Germany that go round a loop rather than up and down, and they have no doors,” – she pushes her index fingers round to illustrate. “You jump in, and then you jump out again. That’s what I felt like.”
She was the biggest British female solo popstar of the Nineties: her debut album sold five million copies, she sang with George Michael at Wembley Stadium and cracked America too. Then she was gone for years, living in Ireland and walking around in a headscarf and wellies “trying to be a fucking farmer”. Now, looking back, she was an unwitting pop prototype: a self-taught soul star who swore like a docker and put her own twist on Motown decades before Adele or Amy Winehouse did; who won a local talent contest when such a route might still get you a lasting career in music; who wrote her own hits, when many would have assumed she came off the production-line of Stock Aitken Waterman. She is 51: the elevator is back and she’s about to step in. But at 23, promoting her debut album, she asked an NME reporter, “Why do people want to be famous?”
Stansfield tried to give up swearing as a new year’s resolution, shortly after Rochdale Council attempted a swearing ban in the town where she still lives. When I meet her in the bar of a London hotel, as night begins to fall, she has just spoken to a pop magazine. She would like to move to a different table for our interview, “Because if I’m asked the same question, and I’m sitting in the same seat, I think I’m going mad.”
She is known for speaking her mind. When Prince died in 2016, she was hastily brought on to breakfast TV for a celebrity tribute. She hadn’t known him well, and had heard about his death in the pub as anyone might. She recalled her mother meeting the funk overlord backstage in Rio and telling him what small hands he had – “like a little boy’s”. When the presenter, Naga Munchetty, admitted that Prince had once taken a shine to her, Stansfield winked and said, “The question is, did ya or didn’t ya?” – to national outrage, and suggestions that she had actually come straight from the pub. Collecting the award for Best British Female at the 1991 Brits, she was advised by the host, Jonathan King, not to say anything incendiary: she gave a little anti-Gulf war speech, which was cut out of the TV broadcast. These days, she can get away with more. She went on Good Morning Britain four years ago, wearing a necklace fashioned subtly from the word “Cunt”.
Her parents met working in the Era ring mill in Woodbine Street, Rochdale, in the 1950s. She – Marion – worked the cotton bobbins, and had come from Wigan: Rochdale was a step up. He – Keith – was something of a catch, being the mill electrician or “fixer”. Rochdale was, at the time, under the conservative tenure of Wentworth Schofield MP, who was high up in cotton and formed the Manchester Yarn Spinners’ Association. Stansfield’s parents, she tells me, were the kind who bought the Mirror and voted Tory and saw no discrepency between the two. “Working class people vote Tory because they think it makes them look a bit posh,” she says. “They don’t know that the Tories are going to shit all over them because they’re poor.”
Her father became a draughtsman, and started working on the North Sea oil rigs: he was rarely at home during the week. Her musical interest came from her mother – like some real-life Little Voice, Stansfield would ape the songs of Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Diana Ross from the age of four. The competitions began in her teens, her mother driving her through sleet and snow as far as Newcastle, where she’d sing Motown classics in clubs, often accompanied by no more than an organ and its inbuilt drum machine. Wives would elbow their husbands and say, “shut up, Stan, she’s trying to sing”. She graduated to variety shows on Granada TV, and sang Randy Crawford’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” in a pink metallic space suit.
“I was quietly determined,” she says. “I’ve never been like Madonna, I’d never push people out of the way.”
Pop songs once held such power that any idiosyncracies in the lyrics or vocal style would swell to cartoon proportions in the national consciousness. Caroline Aherne did a Fast Show sketch about Stansfield combing the airports of the world for a mislaid infant (“Been around the world and I-I-I, I can’t find my baby”). She dissected the complex paradox, “I may not be a lady, but I’m all woman.”
Stansfield performed “All Woman” at a secret gig at the Village Undergound in London, before Christmas. That sad psychodrama between a wife and her husband rang out differently in a “woke” modern world: “He said, babe, you look a mess/You look dowdy in that dress.” In her songs, women long for kisses, search for men they drove away and feed off a particular kind of immersive love. On her new album, Deeper, she sings: “And if you so desire, I’ll treat you like a king” – in any album you make at this stage of your career, she tells me, “you’re sort of pastiching yourself”. There is something gloriously unreconstructed about the feminity her songs express – and classic, in a Sixties way: a side of love, and love affairs, that is unfashionable in an age of pop alter-ego and fierce individualism. The emotional honesty might be an explanation for her huge gay following: “Perhaps it’s because I say eggs is eggs,” she suggests. “Falling in love is an absolutely beautiful to go through, and why people shouldn’t talk about it is beyond me.”
Stansfield wasn’t aware that songs like hers are quite rare nowadays and says she’s glad she didn’t know, because she might have thought twice about writing them. Her music comes from a little creative Brill Building of two: it is co-written with her husband Ian Devaney, whom she met in a school play at the age of 14. They were in a band together, Blue Zone, when she was billed as featured vocalist on the 1989 club hit “People Hold On”, by Coldcut, and her name was launched. When she and Ian started going out, she tells me, the love was “urgent”: the new album is named after the deeper feeling that comes after many years with the same person.
It is with Devaney that Stansfield creates these songs of romantic co-dependency. They influence each other, and they “catalyse” each other, too. They can be good or bad catalysts, she explains. “We’ll have a period of time where we’ll drink, and then one of us will say, ‘Oh well, we won’t drink today’. And then one of us will smile [she gives a wink]... At the moment, we are being good catalysts. Trying to be as naughty as we can without being naughty.”
There was a clutch of them in the 1990s, these neo-soul women: their songs ruled the charts long before soul was said to be the dominant pop style. Everyone just “got on with it”, Stansfield says. She talked to Neneh (Cherry) a bit, and Mica (Paris). People compared her to Dina Carroll – “I didn’t like that!” She didn’t see much of Gabrielle or Des’ree, though she met them “afterwards”. Fame is talked of as a happening, a thing that took place, with a before and an after.
Stansfield has turned down invitations to judge The Voice and The X-Factor in recent years. Her reasons? They select winners they consider the easiest to manipulate, she says; “they wreck lives and the whole process is psychologically damaging.” But she concedes that the music industry has always been this way.
“You’ve got people with no integrity whatsoever who will look at a person like me, fresh off the boat and go: ‘Yeah, I can have a bit of that, I can fuck that right up. I’ll make as much money out of it as I can, and than I’ll shove it to one side.’”
Stansfield has sold 20 million records. Her tough streak developed when, as a teenager, her parents no longer chaperoned her. At 15, she went to modelling school on her mother’s suggestion. She was invited to the office of the director, who pulled her on to his lap, put his hand on her leg, and told her that if she played her cards right she would get on the cover of the teen title Blue Jeans. Stansfield slapped him, but continued going to the school – the compromise, perhaps, of a certain generation.
“It happens in the record industry,” she says. “There are women who will shag anything to get anywhere. But there are men who will shag anything too.”
When I ask her about Hollywood and the #MeToo campaign, she says, “I’m going to have a wee before that, then I can let go”, and she runs off. Her manager, sitting a few feet away, starts to button up her coat and move a bit closer. Then Lisa returns.
“I’m sorry. But if I was an 18-year-old girl in Hollywood, and nothing was really working out for me, and Mr Harvey Weinstein asked me to come and watch him have a shower, I’d fucking watch him have a shower!” she says. “I’d watch him do anything as long as he didn’t touch me! There’s a lot of women who would do that. When they complain about things like that, they’re trivialising everything that those women who seriously have been abused have been through.”
She is on the side of Catherine Deneuve. “When you can’t go into a bar and be chatted up by a man, but you can go on Tinder and get raped, there’s something wrong.”
In 1992, having just turned 26, Lisa Stansfield was one of only three women to perform at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert (and the only one in her twenties), in a line-up of hoary rock legends – Roger Daltrey, Elton John – and American rock bands such as Metallica: “Ultra-famous people with big, big egos.”
“At rehearsals I’d be thinking, this is very morose, and everyone felt they had to be very serious because of the gravity of it all, and because of the Aids thing, and because of the enormity of Freddie Mercury.”She decided, for her rendition of Queen’s “I Want To Break Free”, to take to the stage with a Hoover and rollers to recreate the song’s famously camp video. The audience was an estimated one billion that night. She has remained friends with the band.
Fame grew throughout the Nineties: she wrote a song for the Bodyguard soundtrack and the theme song for Indecent Proposal. Along with George Michael, she was one of the few white English exports to break the US soul market when her debut album went to number one in the American R&B chart. In the words of Rolling Stone, “Not since Teena Marie has a white girl pulled off the pure joy and emotionality that Stansfield does, and without the downside of trying to sound authentically ‘black’.”
She does a routine about being mistaken for her own PA on press trips, being a small white woman. She was cool and aloof, the American critics said, but never cold.
Alongside Peter Gabriel and Neil Tennant, she gave substantial sums to Tony Blair for his 1997 election campaign, and went to meet him at the Labour headquarters in London.
She throws her legs wide, like a man, to recreate the scene.
“He’s like you would imagine him to be. That good, he’d eat himself. He asked me, ‘How’s it going?’ I said, ‘The tour’s going really well thanks.’ He said, ‘I’m talking about me!’ I gave him a lot of money but I’m not going to fucking do it again! Mind you...”
She takes a sip of her diet coke through a straw and reconsiders.
“Looking back, I would love Blair to take on the mantle again. I’ve lost hope with politics. I do hope Labour get in, but I see Corbyn as someone who plays guitar in a church and is down with the kids. One of those people who’s always talking to young people because he’s afraid that if he talked to a peer he might, you know, get it a bit wrong...?”
For four years at the height of her fame, Stansfield flew over the Atlantic once a week, promoting one album in the US while touring its follow-up in the UK: “I did not have time to think.” By the time of her third album she was unwell, but afraid to stop because sales were flying: “I know it’s bad to think like that.” She and Devaney moved to the Dublin suburb of Dalkey to slow down, possibly encouraged by the country’s rockstar tax exemption laws. They found themselves living in a Stella Street of exiled musicians: she regularly saw Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in the local SuperValu, buying bananas, though she never spoke to him. She bought a riding crop, new boots and jodhpurs, but only went on a horse twice.
The tabloids, which had always found rich pickings in Lisa Stansfield, started to report that something was up in Ireland, noting her rapid weight loss. She said she had developed an allergy to her own saliva: an autoimmune condition called herpetiformis.
“It imitates the herpes virus,” she says now. “Everything you ate, no matter how neutral tasting, burned like hell.”
For twelve months, she says, she would eat soup through a straw as the weight fell away. She’d been on 30 cigarettes a day for years by that point – she’d already “killed” her own tonsils by singing from her throat rather than from her diaphragm. A doctor looked for them once, she told a newspaper, but couldn’t find them – then he saw two little nubs the size of lentils.
At the Village Underground last year, singing old tracks and new with the accompaniment of her slick neo-soul band, Stansfield sounded strong – but she still wakes in the morning next to Ian, she says, coughs, and tests out her vocal range in a string of puny little exhalations.
“The fact is, there’s always certain notes that are going to fuck you right up.”
Perhaps that is a driving thought for any singer – all part of the rush. In her fallow years, when her music did not fit in with the times, Stansfield had a few successful turns as an actor – alongside Anita Dobson in The Vagina Monologues, in a Miss Marple episode, and as the lead character’s mother in Northern Soul, the film about that Seventies Lancashire music scene. She was asked to be in Coronation Street too but the crossover of life and fiction felt a bit too much: when she started out, many British reviewers would compare her to Elsie Tanner, as she liked to do her interviews in curlers, fag in hand.
She enjoys the imitation of emotion and the suspension of belief that acting requires – she considers both things to be a feature of singing. But her favourite thing about acting is the nerdishness of the process: the science of blocking on stage, hitting your marks, getting to the right spot at the right time. It’s just like singing with an orchestra, she reasons. It’s all about being the one who could effectively screw it up.
Lisa Stansfield vividly recalls the moment she knew she would be famous, going to get a sandwich on Tottenham Court Road on one of her first trips to London to meet her record company. Passing the cinema, she saw a billboard for her first single “This Is The Right Time” – a giant red poster that just showed her eyes. She recalls a feeling of fear: “Everyone knows.” As her career began it took her a while, being stared at in pubs, to realise that people were not trying to “start” on her.
She may not have thrived on being told she was fabulous; fame may have made her unwell, but like many famous people, the alternative proved to be just as difficult and she waited for public interest to come round again. Which brings her back to the old-fashioned lifts in East Germany. Paternosters, they were called. They were outlawed in the Seventies because people kept misjudging their footing and falling down the shafts.
“People compliment me,” she says, “and if I ignore them, it doesn’t mean I’m rude. It just means I’m embarrassed. And I’ll aways be embarrassed, I think.”
“Deeper” is out in April on earMusic. Lisa Stansfield tours the UK in April and May
Rochdale singer Lisa Stansfield's first hit All Around the World was released nearly 30 years ago.
Lots more best-selling music followed - along with a stack of awards. But it's now been nearly four years since her last album.
Now she's back in the recording studio. Our entertainment correspondent Caroline Whitmore went along for an exclusive chat as she records her latest music video. (watch below)
Correspondent Caroline Whitmore for ITV Granada
Lisa's Interview with Chris Park at Northern Soul - talking about her forthcoming gig at Haydock Racecourse in August.
“I’ve been dossing around. Well, I’ve been dossing for a bit but not most of the day.”
So laughs Northern powerhouse Lisa Stansfield as the sun beats down on Manchester city centre. Anyone who was around in the late 80s and 90s will remember Stansfield’s powerful voice and personality, so it’s refreshing to see that none of that has diluted over time, not least her Rochdale accent. Of course, she never stopped making music except for a recent self-imposed break. Next up is a huge show at Merseyside’s Haydock Racecourse in August.
“It should be good, I think it’s gonna be great,” she tells me. “I’ve never done anything like that before so it should be quite an adventure. We’re gonna do stuff from the last album, Seven [the name is a nod to the fact it’s her seventh studio album]. It’ll be nice to do a bit of the new and a bit of the old really.”
Think of Stansfield and you’ll recall her many hits, including Change, All Woman, The Real Thing and, of course, All Around The World. But will Stansfield play it safe at her next concert with crowd-pleasers?
I don’t ever do that. You need to look at yourself before you look at everybody else and look at it the way you would respond and feel the way the crowd would. Of course you have an obligation to the crowd and to your fans because they’re holding you up there and if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be where you are. It’s very confusing in how much you’re treating your audience and how much you’re indulging yourself. You have to really, really balance it out because you can be a bit selfish sometimes but you have to do something for yourself otherwise you wouldn’t want to do it anymore.”
I wonder, after almost 30 years in the spotlight, is stage fright still a problem?
“I do get stage fright just before I go on the stage,” she admits. “It’s really funny because I’m always very, very organised before I go on the stage and it’s like, if you look at me on the stage you’d think I was a complete idiot and people think ‘Oh my God what’s going with her, they’re gonna take her away in a van’ but before I go on stage I’m completely there. I focus and get my microphone and I pull my dress up or whatever I’ve got on and I go up the steps and I go straight on the stage and I do it. I might look like a complete idiot but I know what I’m doing, I do it on purpose baby.”
Stansfield released her comeback album, Seven, in 2014 to great reviews and a top 20 position, and she is currently in the process of finalising the follow-up. She may have had a ten-year hiatus but she was busy in those years.
“I’ve probably got enough material for about ten albums. It’s ridiculous, you write all the time, you just keep writing and writing so you sift through what you’ve got and you see what’s appropriate for what you’re feeling is an album. The album that you want to make – but we’re not gonna reveal any of that yet.”
Stansfield’s no-nonsense attitude is unusual in a world where divas make requests for puppies, candles and green fruit pastilles. I get the impression that she’s the same Rochdale lass no matter where she is. But what does being a Northerner mean to her?
She says: “I think it’s important for anybody to recognise where they come from and to come from the North is such a privilege. I feel privileged with this beautiful sense of humour and a real understanding of soul, not just music but of people and I think just a common interest in humanity. It’s a bloody beautiful place to live in and I think our humour comes from that fact that we have had a lot of shit to deal with and that’s why we all just take the piss out of ourselves really. You can do loads in your life but whatever you do you should always take the piss out of it, no matter how serious it is.”
It’s amazing to think that Lisa Stansfield recently celebrated her 50th birthday. Has reaching this milestone changed her approach to life?
“I don’t let things like that affect me,” she laughs. “I don’t care. It is weird thinking I’m 50-years-old but I really don’t feel 50-years-old at all, I completely don’t. Once I start feeling 50-years-old then I’m gonna stop.”
The interview is drawing to close. I finishing by asking her this: if she could have ten minutes with the 18-year-old Lisa Stansfield, what would she say to her?
“I wouldn’t say anything at all. I’d tell the 18-year-old me to do just exactly what the fucking hell she wanted.”
And with the infectious laugh that has peppered the whole conversation, she’s gone.
By Chris Park @ NorthernSoul
Lisa is appearing at ‘An Evening at the Races with Lisa Stansfield’ on August 5, 2016. For more information, click here.
Getting into the Christmas spirit, todays Throwback Thursday takes us back to December1992. Lisa performed 'Winter Wonderland' on The Word (which used to be a popular late night youth entertainment show on UK's Channel 4) the second clip is of Lisa chatting to Terry Christian
By Beth Allcock at The Wharf
The 49-year-old soul singer takes the Indigo stage on the festival’s opening night alongside Mica Paris and Imelda May for the ABC of Blues and Soul
Lisa Stansfield says she’s always been a soul girl.So taking her place as one third of the opening act for Prudential BluesFest , at The O2 , is something she’s likely to relish.The bubbly singer will take the Indigo At The O2 stage alongside Mica Paris and Imelda May for The ABC of Blues and Soul on Friday, November 6.
The smooth sounds of Diana Ross inspired the singer in her childhood and Lisa’s secret set list of four songs will celebrate top female vocalists on the jazz and blues scene.
But this has meant an intense few weeks of lyric-learning.
“I haven’t sung any of the songs before, so it’s like learning lines,” said Lisa. “You constantly think: ‘I’m never going to remember any of it,’ it’s really weird. “Even the best actors are constantly peeing their pants thinking they are going to forget their lines. “You’re learning new material but material that people know. “It’s like doing a favour for a friend – you want to do your best. “If you’re doing it for yourself you’re more relaxed but when it’s for someone else, everything hinges on the one thing.”
Lisa, famous for the vocal track on 1980s dance hit Around The World, released album Seven last year.
With it came an accompanying tour and while homesickness blighted her memory of travelling across the country for various gigs as a budding performer she said she’d now overcome that.
She said a younger audience was also being drawn to her soul vibe and she was excited by the prospect of an eclectic crowd at The O2 ’s smaller venue.
“The hardcore jazz and blues people are taken as read but there’s a new generation of people that are intrigued about it,” she said. “It’s really refreshing to bring different types of people together. “So hopefully there will be a young crowd getting into that stuff and it’s lovely to be able to interest people in stuff you don’t want to get lost.
“It’s nice to do stuff like this now and again and it’s nice we are all characters, so we will have a really good time.” The three-day BluesFest is the largest event of its kind in the UK.
Headliners on Saturday, November 7 include the Dave Matthews Band while Sir Tom Jones and Van Morrison will perform a joint gig on Sunday, November 8.
There are also a number of free concerts throughout the festival.
Tickets various prices.