Soul survivor Lisa Stansfield talks with Marion McMullen about singing, acting and how she finally quit smoking after more than 30 years.
There's no mistaking the strong northern accent of Lisa Stansfield.
She sounds like she’s been brought up on a diet of black pudding, back-to-back episodes of Coronation Street and cobbled streets while her throaty laugh is loud and infectious.
She’s the northern lass with the smoky voice who topped the charts in the mid-eighties with hits like All Around The World, People Hold On, Never Going To Give You Up and Someday (I’m Coming Back), from the original soundtrack of The Bodyguard movie.
It’s been 10 years since her last album, but her seventh – appropriately called Seven – has been worth waiting for.
It sees the 47-year-old sounding better than ever and, she says, one of the probable reasons is because she’s quit smoking.
“I gave up smoking just over three years ago and I’ve sort of got back the voice I had when I was 25,” she says.
“I’ve not had any cravings, I’ve not even been tempted, and maybe if I do in the future I’m still not going to give into it because I love singing and touring too much.”
She grimaces: “I used to smoke 45 cigarettes a day. Before my eyes were even open in the morning, I would reach for a cigarette.”
Lisa started smoking when she was about 16, but says she had dabbled even before that. “It’s just an addiction and everything in your body gets used to it,” she explains.
She had tried to quit several times over the years without success and then went to see a hypnotherapist. “I’ve not had a cigarette since,” she declares.
The advantages of a cigarette-free Lisa can be heard on Seven, which she recorded in Los Angeles, New York, London, Ireland and her own studio in Rochdale.
She will also be doing what she does best when she takes to the stage for a new European tour that includes 10 UK dates, starting at Birmingham Symphony Hall on September 5 and stopping at Gateshead, Manchester, York, Glasgow and London’s Royal Festival Hall along the way.
The dates will see Lisa and her band performing songs from Seven as well as classic hits from throughout her 25-year career. “We’ll be doing it all,” she promises.
The Grammy nominated, multi-BRIT, Ivor Novello and Silver Clef Award winner can boast sales of nearly 20 million records and a string of international top 10 hits.
She returned to the studio to record with her husband and long-time partner Ian Devaney and says: “It is a soul record and while it is eclectic there is a thread running through it. It was basically me and Ian doing everything… but we also had a team of amazing musicians in the studio with us.”
That team included John “JR” Robinson, known as the most recorded drummer, and Grammy award winning orchestrator Jerry Hey, who have both worked with Lisa for over two decades.
“Buy the album, don’t nick it,” she urges with a laugh, “I never nick music or films online.”
It’s been 10 years since the last album, but Lisa says she’s never really been away from music and has been busy with other projects, including playing a mum in forthcoming independent film Northern Soul alongside the likes of Steve Coogan and Ricky Tomlinson. “It was nice not playing a singer for once in Northern Soul,” she laughs.
It’s left her with a desire to do more acting in the future, but she says it would have to be work she was passionate about. In the past she has appeared in a Miss Marple murder mystery with Geraldine McEwan, but turned down a chance to appear behind the bar of the Rovers Return in Coronation Street.
Lisa herself grew up listening to the music of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Brenda Lee and Patsy Cline and says she would love to bring out a jazz-swing album one day.
“We were only talking about this earlier and I said I would do it, but only if Quincy Jones would produce it.” She chuckles and quickly adds: “So Quincy if you’re listening...”
The straight-talking singer has sung with Barry White and George Michael during her varied career and has travelled the world. So what would she rate as her greatest achievement? “That people still want to hear me sing,” she says modestly. “This is what I want to do for a long time to come.”