Less well-known is she’s also a successful song-writer and actress. Yet there’s no airs about this down to earth star and her Rochdale accent is as strong as ever.
“Folk always think I lead a glamorous life but when I was starting out I often had to change into my stage clothes in a toilet and wait to be called on stage in the hotel kitchen - but that’s showbiz for you,” Lisa chuckles.
Deeper, Lisa’s brand new album, sees her embark on a European tour after first touring the UK. She’s delighted she’ll be visiting Liverpool and Salford on the way to the London Palladium. “I love The Lowry as the acoustics are great and the audiences are warm. I also can’t wait to return to the Liverpool Philharmonic as that was my biggest gig when I first started my career. It’s always great to meet new audiences as well as loyal fans.”
Lisa’s meteoric career began in 1980 when at 14 she won Search for a Star, a Manchester Evening News competition, at the Talk of the Town nightclub. At 15 she released her first single, Your Alibis, and a year later appeared on ITV Granada and signed the first of several recording contracts.
“Everything happened so fast,” Lisa recalls. Writing and recording music is what I still enjoy the most. But back then with the publicity machine of interviews and photo shoots - I never had time to sit back and enjoy it. Now I can!“ While she was still at school, Lisa was co-hosting children’s television shows, Razzmatazz and The Krankies. After several television appearances, Lisa, and fellow school-mates from Oulder Hill School, Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, formed the band Blue Zone in 1984.
“We shared a love of music and I’ve always enjoyed acting - so now I get to do that on stage when I sing. Back then I appeared in a couple of pantomimes: Puss in Boots in Winsford; and Cinderella in Stockport. I went to the ball in a golden coach pulled by a lovely little pony who left a ‘present’ on stage every night! I told you showbiz wasn’t glamorous,” she laughs. The Blue Zone released several singles, including Thinking About His Baby. After the success of People Hold On in 1989, she continued writing most of her songs with Ian and Andy.
Her first solo album, Affection, and its chart-topping lead single, All Around the World, proved a major, global break-through. In the following years she released Real Love, which went Platinum in the UK and Gold in America, So Natural, and Lisa Stansfield. Lisa made the Live at Wembley video and two charity recordings – the AIDS charity compilation Red Hot + Blue and earlier Band Aid 2’s Do They Know it’s Christmas? As we reminisce about George Michael and Freddie Mercury, Lisa pauses thoughtfully. “Talking about the people we’ve lost, I may include a tribute to them in my concert tour,” she adds.
Once known as the Rochdale songbird, Lisa was actually born in Crumpsall Hospital to Marion and Keith Stansfield. The family lived in Heywood, finally moving to Rochdale when she was 12. She and her two sisters grew up listening to their mother’s music collection which included Barry White - a major influence on young Lisa who never dreamt one day she’d record with him!
“When I first arrived in the States they were in shock. Because of my voice they were expecting a large, soul singer and this thin as a drink of water, white girl turned up! Barry White was my hero and proved a larger than life character. When we recorded All Around the World together, we shared a bottle of wine between us and that’s why we both look so happy on that video shoot!”
In 1992, Lisa co-wrote and recorded Someday for the movie and the theme song for Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. She released two singles in America : Make It Right, from Beverly Hills 90210 The College Years; and Dream Away from The Pagemaster movie. She also wrote the Dionne Warwick hit, Friends Can Be Lovers, and recorded Ive Got the World on a String for The Mona Lisa Smile. “My next few albums included Face Up, Biography: The Greatest Hits, and The Moment. But I still had the acting bug and in 1999, I appeared in my first film, Swing, and recorded the soundtrack. I then took a bit of a break from music to focus on a stage and film career.”
Lisa’s stage debut was in The Vagina Monologues in London’s West End with Anita Dobson and she appeared in the comedy series Monkey Trousers. Drama series followed like Goldplated, Agatha Christies Marple and The Edge of Love starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, and Cillian Murphy. She starred in the documentary Dean Street Shuffle and in Elaine Constantines film Northern Soul, about the social phenomenon of Northern Soul music. “It was way before my time but my mum loved all soul music. She met my dad when they worked in the same cotton mill and thought she’d done well to marry an electrician. But singing was her great love and she lived vicariously through me. I’m just proud she was able to see I’d achieved a bit of success.”
On 25 July 1998, Lisa and Ian finally married in a private ceremony in New York with her parents and his mother present. The sad death of Lisa’s mother brought them back after an extended stay in Dublin. It was the right time to come home and be with family. Ian’s mother has since passed away and we’ve inherited the house and our old recording studio in the grounds.” Lisa confides. “We recorded here years ago with the Seven album. Now we’re back with Deeper and it still has that slightly fusty smell. So when my husband leaves for work in the morning, I don’t make him sandwiches, but I do make sure he’s wearing a warm coat!”
Lisa’s Live in Manchester album and video were filmed at the Bridgewater Hall back in 2015. But now she’s raring to go on the Deeper tour.
“This is my most personal album yet. Not just because it was recorded in Rochdale but it’s like my own musical journey with echoes from the past. I suppose it’s a culmination of my career and we’re very proud of it. Of course I’ll also be singing all the hits on tour but I do hope audiences enjoy our new work as well.”
During her successful career Lisa has won numerous awards, but is there a favourite?
“My mum was proud of every award I won but her favourite was the BRIT Award - if she was still here that would definitely be on her mantelpiece!”
Lisa Stansfield at Liverpool’s Philharmonic, 10 April and The Lowry, Salford 15 April 2018.