Lisa Stansfield is one of Rochdale’s biggest success stories. With three BRIT awards, two Grammy nominations and a number one single to her name, she’s set to release her eighth studio album, Deeper, in April. VIVA caught up with her to about her glittering career.Your new tour is coming to the Lowry in Salford on Sunday 15 April. Does playing to local crowds give you a different kind of buzz?
Yeah, definitely. We did The Ruby Lounge in December. It was a great one-off show, and hopefully a little clue of what the tour will be like. I think when you play on your own turf you’re a bit more apprehensive, but a bit more excited because you just want to do really well for everyone.
What can fans expect from the tour?
The most important thing is the music. I’ve got a really s**t-hot band. I’ve worked with them for a few years now, so we know each other really well musically. We’re going to do a mix of old and new stuff because I think it’s unfair to just play all your new stuff, especially when people don’t know it yet.
Of all your hits, do you have a favourite to perform?
Not really. As you go along, you rediscover songs. If there’s a song we’ve not done for ages, we’ll put it in there. Often, we’ll do the same set but jiggle it up a bit. Sometimes we’ll revisit songs but do them in a slightly different way to make it more interesting. I love to perform everything really.
VIVA last spoke to you back in 2014 when you were touring your last album Seven, so called because it was your seventh. This one’s called Deeper – is there a reason why?
There’s a song on the album called Deeper. It’s a love song, and it’s about something growing deeper as time goes on. I think that’s what my music has become because I’ve been at it for so long. I look at this album as a getting-yourself-ready-for-the-weekend album. One to listen to when you’re getting all geared up for a Friday night.
Which track on Deeper are you most excited about sharing with the world?
I can’t say yet because it’s too early. It’s like having to pick your favourite child. I don’t know what the response will be like when I get the new album out there. It’s still fresh in my mind, so I just love everything on there. I’ve not been this proud of an album for a long time.
You recorded your first album – 1989’s Affection – in your hometown of Rochdale. Are you still recording there?
Yeah. Well, we didn’t really record Affection in the studio. We told the record company that we did, but we were building the studio at the time so we made the record in our house. But we recorded this album in the same studio.
Having enjoyed so much success over the years, haven’t you thought to relocate?
Me and [husband and long-time producer] Ian live in London and we’ve got a place in LA, but we’re sort of like structured gypsies – we keep travelling around. We’ve travelled all the time since our early twenties. When you sit still for too long, you just get wanderlust and want to get your bags packed.
Thinking back to when you were starting out, was it easy to make a name for yourself on the North West music scene?
Has the music industry changed much since back then?
It has, because of social media and new technology. But instead of looking at it in a negative way, you just have to go with it because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
It’s been nearly 30 years since All Around the World shot to number one and made Lisa Stansfield a household name. Of all the things you’ve achieved since, what sticks out as a career highlight?
I think probably the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. It was just such a privilege to be asked to do that, and it was such an unbelievably special day. There were so many massive famous people there, and not one person was like “I’m more important than you! I want this! I want that!”
Everyone was just there for Freddie Mercury. It’s as if he was watching and you were like “F**k, I really have to do my best for him!”
You performed with George Michael at that concert. What are your memories of working with him?
He was a really lovely person. He got a reputation at one point for being difficult but, honest to God, I think that’s because of the people around him, because he wasn’t like that at all. He was quite shy, actually. I think people tried to protect him and that reflected on him – it does as an artist. But he was a lovely guy.
You won three BRIT awards back in the early 1990s and were nominated for a further nine throughout the decade. Paloma Faith recently criticised the BRITs for only booking one female artist – Dua Lipa – to perform at this year’s ceremony (since this interview, they added two more – Jorja Smith and Rita Ora – to the bill) …
Really? You would’ve thought they’d have someone like Mabel on there.
Neneh Cherry’s daughter?
Yeah. She’s really good, isn’t she? I was watching her recently, and then I read online that she’s Neneh’s daughter. My friend Lisa, who is a hairdresser, has worked with Neneh for years and I asked if she knew that Mabel was her daughter, and she said “Oh yeah, I used to cut her hair when she was a little girl”. You can really see the resemblance sometimes!
Manchester is your birthplace and also the birthplace of the suffragette movement, which turns 100 years old this year…
I can’t believe it’s been 100 years…and we’ve still not got equal pay! Women don’t have equality in a lot of things, and I think that does need to be changed. Women should have equal opportunities and be treated with as much respect as men. I think a lot more should have been done in those 100 years.
Do you think it’s a good time for women in music?
Yeah, well there’s enough of us around, ain’t there! I’m really quite shocked about the BRITs actually, because there is quite a lot of female talent out there now.
Before your last album, you took a ten-year break from recording to focus on your acting career. Does acting give you the same buzz as music?
It does. I suppose singing is like acting in a way, but you’re just portraying a song. Acting is just like singing on acid!
Have you any more acting jobs in the pipeline?
Not as yet, but I never really go out to get acting jobs. I never really think about it, and then someone comes along with one. I’d love to do more acting because I really enjoy it. I love meeting all the actors, but I get really star struck. I did an episode of Marple with Alison Steadman, and we got on really well but I was like “Oh my God, I’m acting with Alison Steadman!” I feel a bit like I’m interrupting everybody because I’m not really a proper actress.
I’ve always thought you’d be great in Corrie… have you ever been approached by ITV Granada?
Yeah, but they always offer me really massive parts and I can’t do them. I wouldn’t want a big part anyway – I just want to go in the Rovers and have a drink! Or play someone’s mate who’s in it for about a week. But they won’t do it. The first TV job I ever got was on a variety show on Granada though, so it’d be good to go back.
What are your plans for after the tour?
God knows! Probably just getting on with more promotion. Once it starts and you’re busy, it never ends!
The album, Deeper, is released on Friday 6 April. Click here to pre-order it.
Lisa Stansfield’s Deeper tour comes to the Lowry, Salford, on Sunday 15 April. Click here to buy tickets.
Interview By Harry Cannell