Lisa Stansfield was one of Britain’s biggest female stars of the Eighties and Nineties. On the eve of her return to music she tells Neil McCormick about the creation of her most famous song.
Back in 1989, you couldn’t escape the sound of Stansfield’s soulful hit, All Around The World, with its insistent hook, “been around the world and I – I – I – I can’t find my baby.” It was number one in the UK, and number three in the US, and led on to a career in which she sold over twenty million albums and scored a dozen international hit singles, including Change, All Woman and People Hold On.
The Manchester born singer and actress had been making records since 1980 but didn’t achieve success until she hooked up with an old school friend, Ian Devaney. It was he who came up with the music for Been Around The World but couldn’t think of any words. “We came up with ‘been around the world’ and I just couldn’t think of anything else,” recalls Stansfield. “So I kept singing I-I-I and we all started laughing ‘cause it was so ridiculous. Then after a while we just said, ‘It’s actually quite good.’”
The irony is that, while she became a star singing about searching for love, it turns out the love of her life was in the studio with her. “I had him along,” she says. “It’s (like) a great work of fiction.”
Stansfield and Devaney attended the same secondary school in Manchester, along with future band mate Andy Morris. At the age of 14, Stansfield won a singing competition and signed to Polydor but her solo career never took off and she became a children’s TV presenter on ITV’s Razzamatazz and The Krankie’s Klub. “Ian was the person who made me realise I could write songs,” recounts Stansfield, as she tells the tale of how they met again. She was on a date with a man she had met in a club “and, I’m really sorry to say this, but he was one of the most boring people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s showing me his holiday pictures, it’s so vile when people do that!” Devaney and Morris happened to walk into the same pub where Stansfield was enduring her date from hell. “I’d not seen Ian for maybe five years. And I just went ‘help!’ So that night we all got talking and I think the guy left and we didn’t even realise that he’d gone.”
Devaney and Morris were struggling musicians and when Stansfield told them she wanted to get back into music, Devaney suggested she write her own songs. “I said, ‘I’ve never written a song in my life.’ And then I went home and I thought well, I can at least try and see what happens.’ She wrote her first song and later sang it to Devaney, who enthused about how great it was. “And I thought he was taking the mickey and I just stormed off!” laughs Stansfield. Devaney had been genuinely impressed, however, and made a backing track on his home recording system. “I’d never heard anything like it, it was incredible,” says Stansfield. “And that’s basically when we decided to make music.”
Stansfield, Devaney and Morris formed Blue Zone in 1984, releasing a series of dance single before deciding to concentrate on Stansfield’s solo career, to great success. Stansfield married an Italian designer, Augusto Grassi, in 1987 but the relationship was short lived and a new romance blossomed behind the mixing desk. “(Ian) was living with someone, I was married. There was always this sort of sexual tension between us, and when we both got prospective partners we let our guards down, we really did get a lot closer, we talked about our own relationships and ended up completely falling head over heels for each other.” The couple were married in 1989.
After a hectic decade of stardom, which she admits she didn’t always enjoy, the couple moved to Ireland and took some time off, a break that stretched into nearly ten years. Stansfield has been acting (appearing in the film The Edge Of Love with Keira Knightley and various TV and stage productions) but says she “always wanted to come back.” This year, she began performing live again, and this month released a new single, “Can’t Dance’. A new album, Seven, her first since 2004, will be released in 2014. Stansfield admits to being a bit nervous about her return. “I’m looking forward to it hopefully working out. I don’t want to continue if people don’t want me. I really want to enjoy it this time.”
Now watch the interview with Lisa