On behalf of all the fans around the world, here's wishing her an amazing day fully of good health and happiness. Thinking of you during these bizarre times. Hopefully once this current Covid19 chaos that we are all living through is finally over, we can all have one massive party to celebrate together!
Looking back over the past year, 2019 in itself was an incredible celebration for Lisa and all the fans in so many ways. With the 30th anniversary re-release of Affection and a successful sellout tour last Autumn, I wanted to take this opportunity to share an interview that we did together before the Affection 30th anniversary tour got underway. This was initially printed exclusively for Affection tour brochure last year.
Most recently I had the privilege to sit down with Lisa and we somehow chatted selflessly, not just about her life and career, but with interest and compassion she showed about mine as well. Talking about the aches and pains of growing up and what life has been like through the years, as an artist, daughter, sister, wife, friend and fan. Quite honestly, we could have spoken for hours, but Lisa had a pressing engagement and I had a flight to catch. So where best to start off with, well of course where it all began…as a gymnast!
BEV: Now this is not something that many of your fans might be aware of, however I remember you once saying that your very first public performance was as a gymnast. Tell me about that time.
LISA: Oh yeah, that was in Blackpool.
BEV: How old were you?
LISA: My God, I was probably about 6 or 7, not any younger than that. It would have been around then, because at the time, Olga Korbut was really, really famous and so I wanted to be her. I just thought to myself that she was the most beautiful little thing I had ever seen. I was physically very similar to her and I just remembered that I used to love doing backflips. It was totally rubbish what I did, but I just had this thing inside of me that I wanted to go up on that stage. So I thought to myself, “What can I do? Oh I know what, I’ll do gymnastics!” I didn’t even think about doing my singing back then because that was something which I did all the time. Then after the gymnastics thing, I went up to perform for the second time, which was with my singing and I remembered that feeling that I got from it felt totally unbelievable.
BEV: I daren’t ask whether you can still perform any gymnastic manoeuvres.
LISA: Well I have been known to do forward rolls when I’ve been very drunk! (Laughter)
BEV: Do you remember your very first musical audition?
LISA: I never did auditions as such; it was more like little singing contests at holiday camps.
BEV: So who used to encourage you?
LISA: I did…! My mum and dad would look at each other as if it will all be over in a couple of years or so. They thought I would get bored of it, so they would humour me; “Oh go on then, we’ll take you to up the road to Southport or wherever and you can do this contest”. And so it was completely driven by me.
She wasn’t a pushy-pushy mother, but she really loved it more than I did. My mum became more of a local celebrity than me. She was the ‘Queen of Rochdale’ and a self-publicist, because she even had “LISA’S MUM” written on her car number plate. She was so proud of me!
BEV: That’s so lovely. Your mum also loved to sing as well. Did she want to be a performer when she was younger?
LISA: My mum came from a very poor background. She was from Wigan and was one of 6 kids. Her dad died when she was very young. So at the time, to be a singer or to be an entertainer or to come from that kind of background when my mother was young, was tantamount to being like a prostitute. So when she tried to do contests, which I later found out about, her own mum would hide her clothes so she couldn’t do it. And so I suppose, there was really something inside of her. In a way she was vicariously living through me and I understand that. It was really beautiful that she did it, because she was so proud of me and it sort of gave her an opportunity to be half in the limelight.
BEV: When you were growing up, how did your sisters Karen and Suzanne react to the fact that you were perhaps a bit different, in the sense that you were gaining public attention from such a young age?
LISA: When we were growing up it wasn’t a question of that, because I didn’t get any more attention than my sisters. I was just into what I did, and pardon the pun, but I didn’t make a big song and dance about it. My Mum and Dad took me to places because I couldn’t drive and or get around. So I did loads of social clubs in the evening. It was my mum that mainly used to take me, as my dad was working away. So she would usually ferry me backwards and forwards, which I will always be grateful for.
It was just a thing that happened. I wasn’t really getting loads of attention, because even from that age doing social clubs and stuff, it was a sort of means to an end. It was a real job at 14 and so my sisters saw it as that. They didn’t have any less respect for me, they weren’t jealous of me; it was just the way it was, as it is with any other family. Everyone’s family is much the same, but we didn’t really question it at the time as I was just this singer at 14 years old and performing at social clubs and nobody really thought or cared about it at home. I went onto present on TV and I suppose that I didn’t really gain massive attention until the ‘Blue Zone’ thing took off.
BEV: Do you remember signing that first record deal as Blue Zone with ‘Rocking Horse records?
LISA: Oh yeah, Rocking Horse, it was with Jeff Gilbert. He was the first person that ever noticed or had any faith in us because nobody wanted to sign us.
BEV: How did you end up finding him?
LISA: Just by going through every channel we could find. We were hungry and like I said, from coming out of the womb I just knew, I can’t explain it, but it’s like from ‘So Be It’ “If I can see it, I can be whatever I believe” and that was like the foresight that I had at the time. I didn’t know what it was, but I just kept on going and Ian was exactly the same as was Andy too at the time. We were just really steadfast and relentless.
BEV: Between you, Ian and Andy, who was the main driving force?
LISA: I think equally it was Ian and I. We had the same passion and it was unfair to Andy really, because he didn’t share the same passion as us, especially as Ian and I became a couple. Andy wasn’t ousted as such, but he just wasn’t there as much because Ian and I were together all the time. We became a very powerful force, even now; it’s very much a joint venture between the two of us.
It’s like we’re talking about the future and next year, we want to work on different projects because it’s not all about this. It’s exciting and that’s the way we sort of stimulate each other in that sense because we are equally creative and we do allow each-other to be creative and that’s a really lovely thing.
BEV: You talk about doing your own projects in the future; however you have already done your own thing with ‘The Moment’ and I know this might seem controversial to the other fans, but if I’m really honest, that album wasn’t one of my favourites and I’m not sure that it was really one of yours. Am I right?
LISA: Well it was like a pop album and no, it wasn’t really me. Initially Ian said to me why don’t you just work with somebody else as an artist? Then Trevor Horns’ name came up. On paper it’s sort of like a dream come true. We had all the best people and musicians involved on it and you know sometimes it just doesn’t work. Trevor and I were just too different as individuals, and so we just didn’t gel. We did the album, it was a project and we sort of enjoyed each other’s company but we weren’t similar people. So I suppose it was disappointing, because it should have been a really good thing. Anyway, it’s not a big deal really, and you obviously do know me as it wasn’t one of my favourites.
BEV: From a creative perspective, does your current mood tend to drive the direction of the type of songs you end up writing?
LISA: Oh I can write at any time. If something pricks me emotionally or I see something, or hear someone say a phrase or whatever, then that could spark an idea. So I can be ecstatically happy when I write a song and I can be morosely sad and write a song. Writing is a very cathartic thing in itself. You’re pulling things out of yourself and that’s a job as a writer and as an artist. That’s the most painful thing about it; sometimes you’re constantly questioning what’s inside of you. So you’re constantly battering your own psyche all the time because you’re pulling all of this shit out of yourself.
Some people don’t want to go there, but as an artist and as a writer I have to take myself to some places, whether I’ll be ecstatically happy or very sad. I really do love this process about writing.
BEV: When you’ve got an idea that comes into your head, whether that’ll be a hook or potentially a great line to a song, what process do you have to go through to perhaps eventually get it recorded?
LISA: If I’ve thought of something, I will always consider what I do. I don’t just go “Oh that’s nice” I ask myself, “Oh but IS IT nice, or is it shit?” I then record it into my phone. You know that I have to be my own worse critic as there is always going to be someone else who will say the worse thing. So if I’ve thought of it already, then they can’t say it! So I’m constantly questioning the way everyone might be looking at it from the outside. If I slightly modify something, I can only question what people are thinking from the outside once I have completely, utterly and emotionally finished it. I think to myself, “What is everybody gonna say about it now?” It’s only then when I go “Shit, what have I written?” I do wonder sometimes if people could react quite weirdly to what I’ve done.
BEV: Do you trust everyone around you to be that honest though?
LISA: Yeah I do, but I have to trust myself as well. Even if someone says that they don’t like something, if I feel very strongly about it and it makes me want to get up and dance or something makes me want to cry, or laugh, then I know that there’s something in there. So yeah, I’ve got to just judge it first for myself before I ask anybody else.
Even before I put an idea to Ian, if I’m alone in the day and I think to myself, “Right, I’ll leave this for a bit, but I keep on listening to it.” And then I start to think of it as a song. I start and I do little bits, then after I will say to Ian, “So, what do you think of this?” And by then it’s already starting to work itself out into the next thing.
It’s lovely because Ian’s very honest with me, sometimes he can be brutally honest, but I am with him as well. If you listen to some of the things that we actually say to each other, and the way that we are in the studio together, we get quite angry with each other. We pick holes in everything we do, but it’s completely on a working level and that’s because I think we’re really good at what we do and whatever we put out there to the public we just want it to be brilliant.
BEV: When looking back at your own music catalogue, can you pick out one ultimate favourite album of yours?
LISA: Well not really, because they all represent different aspects of my life, so it’s not easy to choose one. However I would imagine thinking objectively as a hard-core Lisa Stansfield fan, I would say that I like ‘Affection’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Lisa Stansfield’, Face Up and Deeper. Am I right though?
BEV: Yes, I would agree with that. Although I really liked ‘Seven’ but ‘Deeper’ took me full circle back to why I loved your music in the first place. When ‘Affection’ came out I couldn’t hear enough of it and would repeatedly play it over and over.
Talking of ‘Affection’, as this current tour is mainly celebrating its 30th Anniversary release are there any tracks that you’re really looking forward to performing again?
LISA: Yeah, we’re going to perform some tracks that we’ve not performed in years! It’s really quite exciting, I don’t want to give any surprises away, so you’ll have to wait and see. It’s going to be really lovely.
BEV: Over the past 30 years you’ve achieved so much success. You’ve won dozens of awards, and sold millions of records. Is there anything left for you to achieve?
LISA: I suppose if I’m looking to add the last piece of the awards puzzle for music, then the Grammy would be in the equation. I’ve been nominated for a Grammy, but I’ve never won one. But I think at this stage of my career I’m never going to get a Grammy now, unless I write something that is a soundtrack or something like that. That would be amazing, if that would happen before the end of my career.
I would also like to take my music a little further though, so it’s not just about the music it’s about other things as well. I’ve got this sort of semi-idea I don’t really know what it is yet, but it will work itself out. I get these ideas and I really don’t know what they are. Like when you have 5 stories in a movie and then they all piece themselves together at the end like a jigsaw.
BEV: Do you have any wish or desire to do something else at this stage of your career?
LISA: I would really love to do more acting and I would really love to write a drama or some other stuff like that.
BEV: You studied at a film school in New York some years back. Tell me about that?
LISA: We did film school, learnt lighting, direction, every aspect of film really. It was a very concentrated course. We had to fit into a month what you would have to do in just under a year. So there was quite a large proportion of it that didn’t sink in because it is physically and mentally impossible. Well it is for me anyway, you’ve got to have a super brain to take all of that in. So yeah, some things have stayed with me.
I would like to sit down when I’ve got more time and completely let my imagination run riot because I love telling stories, I mean all my songs are like mini stories. This period of my career is lovely, it’s very open. It’s like the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another and it’s beautiful because it’s like, “where do I go from here?” and I still think there’s so much more to do.
BEV: In the past couple of years we have seen a number of Biopic movies on Freddie Mercury, Elton John, and Judy Garland and there’s even one in the pipeline for Boy George. Can you imagine a film or TV drama made about your life? If so, who would you get to play you?
LISA: I’m not famous enough for a Biopic. I don’t know who would play me? Ooh perhaps Anna Friel would be really good, because she’s from Rochdale. But honestly, I’m not vain enough and I never really think about things like that. I don’t sit down at home and think to myself (self-mockingly) “Ooh, who could play me in the movie of my life?”(Laughter).
BEV: How would you like the fans and your public to remember Lisa Stansfield? What would you like your legacy to be?
LISA: I think I would like fans to remember me as somebody who does what I do, because I love doing what I do. I hope that they will understand that if I have said no to certain things during my career, it’s because I have always valued and still really value what I do.
There are certain rules in my rule book, of me as an artist that I just cannot step over the line, even for my own self ego. There has to be a rule book, because you just can’t put everything out there otherwise it gets too confusing. So there’s no point in doing it is there? It’s channelling things and ideas and hoping that it’s retaining a sort of truth that you had from the very beginning.
I don’t want to ruin a dream, if that was my dream, which has also become other people’s dreams as well, especially if it figured very prominently in their lives. Therefore I don’t want to take that and dirty it in any way or make it cheap, I never want to do that for any of my fans.
In a way, I do hope that they would realise that I’ve always tried my best to retain much of the integrity that I had from the very beginning and I think that I’ve done quite a good job of it.
BEV: Oh yes you have, if only more artists would think in the same way as you. Thank you Lisa!
Interview by Bev Nathan - Copyright all rights reserved