In the early 1990s Rochdale’s Lisa Stansfield was one of the country’s biggest artists – with her first four albums selling in excess of two million copies in the UK alone.
So it seems amazing that until the release of her latest album Seven last year the singer, who takes the main stage at Love Supreme Jazz Festival on Sunday, hadn’t released any new music for a decade.
“People assume that you just write an album in a week,” she laughs about the follow-up to 2004’s The Moment. “You sit down for ten years and do f*** all, but it isn’t like that. “There were a lot of other things to think about if you haven’t made an album in a while – you need to get a team of people together as there is nothing to propel it into the world. You may as well flush it down the toilet if you don’t.”
Her seventh album has been co-penned with her husband Ian Devaney, who was in her first band Blue Zone in the 1980s and has worked with her on all her albums since her triple-platinum-selling debut Affection.
“I have ideas independently of Ian, and he of me,” she says. “Sometimes we will sit down together and write songs, but we generally look at each other’s ideas and work from there. “I write stuff every day, I’ve got stuff on my phone, there’s stuff coming out of my ears. “To get ten songs we might be sifting through 100 ideas.
“It’s a beautiful thing to actually analyse what has been going on in your head for the last ten years. It’s quite scary actually. It’s a little bit like a diary entry, but it digs a bit deeper. I could have been seeing a psychiatrist for years and saved so much money!”
She admits that when she digs into her back catalogue she can’t remember the origins of the 25-year-old songs.
“You make it up for yourself,” she says. “It’s beautiful to write songs – they can mean so many different things in different ways at different times.”
Last year saw the release of an 18-disc box set covering her first five albums with the Arista label in double CD and DVD versions, plus remixes and rarities. “I left it all to them,” she says. “The thing I really did look at was the Greatest Hits collection which was quite weird looking back. I never listen back to anything I have done. I found I had written songs that I couldn’t remember.
“It’s a nice part of your soul you give away – songs are like children, they go away to college or leave home, and you see them again from time to time, some more than others. Others go away forever.” Recent years have seen Stansfield launch into a parallel acting career, with roles in The Edge Of Love, Miss Marple, and the West End version of The Vagina Monologues. She sees the two careers as different worlds though.
“Singing is acting in itself to a certain extent,” she says. “You have to make somebody understand what you really mean. There is a subtlety to everything hopefully, I see them as different things, acting and singing.”
Her most recent role was in writer/director Elaine Constantine’s docu-drama Northern Soul, as central character John Clark’s mother. “It’s lovely Northern Soul is being recognised again,” she says. “It was such a powerful medium embraced by the north of England. It went all the way from Detroit – literally from one s***hole to another!”
Her burgeoning acting career in the 1990s also led to one of Stansfield’s proudest moments.
“When the screenplay for Indecent Proposal came out the director Adrian Lyne wanted me to be in the film,” says Stansfield who contributed the song In All The Right Places to the 1993 movie. “It was never to be – me from Rochdale in a major Hollywood movie. “Viz Comic did a million pound shag tombola where they said as I never got a part in the film they wanted to see how much one of their readers would pay for a night with me. “If it didn’t make a million they would see how much they got and how far I would go. I think it came to about £50!”
Lisa will be performing at Love Supreme on the Main Stage, Sunday, July 5th at 6.30pm
Interview by Duncan Hall for The Argus