Interview with nativemonster.com By Elizabeth Joyce
When I was younger, I was always aware that people were looking at me,” says Lisa Stansfield in her amazing can’t-take-Rochdale-out-of-the-girl accent.
“I used to worry what people thought of me.”
A pause. And then a glorious northern cackle.
“But these days I couldn’t give a s**t!”
This theme of self-acceptance runs through her latest hit album, Seven as a glistening defiant thread. Songs such as So Be It and Carry On are all about strength and belief – clearly something that’s important to the 48-year-old soul singer.
“Everyone has the right to that,” she continues. “As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you should be yourself. You should have room to do what you really want to do and feel the way you do.”
See also: My perfect weekend: Lisa Stansfield
But does she think that today’s fame-obsessed popstrels, the likes of Rihanna and Miley, are truly being themselves? Or are they just lost in a sea of selfies and social media? After all, Lisa herself has always had a very healthy, almost take-it-or-leave-it approach to the limelight.
“Well, there has always been different types of artists – X Factor types, very manufactured types, very poppy artists – and some you admire and some you don’t. But they’re all doing different things for different types of people.
“Artists like Rihanna or Beyoncé – who, by the way, I think is incredible – are just enjoying themselves and I think as long as they’re not hurting anyone, then that’s fine. And I’m on social media myself, I like to keep an eye on things; see what my fans are thinking, what they like and what they don’t. It’s amazing to look at your demographic closer.”
And it was looking at this demographic, and the other artists out there who catered to it, that inspired Lisa to make Seven – a full decade after the release of her last album.
“I waited for the right time for getting in there and getting into it. Music changes all the time but trends always come round again and I looked out at the other artists out there – the likes of Amy Winehouse, Emeli Sandé and Adele – and thought ‘these are my sort of artists, there is room for me out there’.
And the reaction I’ve received since has been amazing, incredible.” Famed for telling stories through song, Ivor Novello-winning Lisa has stayed true to her talents for this record.
“A lot of the album is about the trap that a woman has got herself into – an unrequited, doomed or mismatched love – and how to get herself out of it if she can,” she explains.
“I think we all suffer the same pain, all feel the same happiness and we all have the same emotions within us. My life isn’t very racy or exciting so I make things up, tell stories. I like telling stories.”
And she’ll be bringing those stories to life when she hits the road for a UK tour later this year, performing at Birmingham Symphony Hall on September 5.
“It will be all about the songs, all about the music. It’s no big extravaganza, no dancers bursting out and doing routines. People just want to hear me sing and I don’t want them to feel cheated or short-changed so that’s what they’ll get.”
The gigs will be a mixture of old and new songs, including the hits All Woman, The Real Thing and, of course, the monster that is All Around the World.
“I see these songs as really old friends: sometimes you get on with them and sometimes you don’t. But if it wasn’t for these songs, I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing so I’m always appreciative – they’ve helped me on the way, they’ve moulded me.”
Lisa, whose career started after winning the Manchester Evening News’ Search for a Star contest and then forming Blue Zone with school pal and now hubby, Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, will be hitting the road for 10 dates up and down the country with her trusty band.
“After all these years on the road together you just learn when not to speak to someone on the bus and when you can have a laugh with them,” she chuckles. “You learn who’s grumpy in the mornings and who’s moody at night. And I’m including me in that – trust me, I can be grumpy.”
In between albums, it’s been acting that’s kept Lisa satisfied, with roles in The Edge Of Love, Miss Marple and Goldplated.
As well as a high-profile stage debut in the West End production of The Vagina Monologues with Anita Dobson and Cecilia Noble, she was also offered the role of Corrie’s Rovers Return landlady Stella Price in 2010, which was eventually taken on by Michelle Collins.
She turned it down because it was a three-year commitment, saying at the time: “You get into a role and people see you as that character, so they’d be confused because they know me as Lisa Stansfield. It would freak them out if I was pulling pints at the Rovers.”
Music, she tells Native Monster, will always come first.
“You get acting offers all the time and, if the quality is there, you’ve got to go for it. But music will always be the priority. If there was an acting job that came up but clashed with a tour, there is no way I would do it.”
That said, Lisa is part of a major film due to be released later this year: Elaine Constantine’s Northern Soul, starring Steve Coogan and Ricky Tomlinson.
“I’ve known Elaine for ages – she grew up in the next town to me,” she says. “It was sort of a given that I’d be in the film, although only when I saw the script did I discover I was to be the naggy old mum! It’s a new role for me because I don’t have kids, but I enjoyed bossing my screen son, Elliott around. And I get to shout at my dad, Ricky Tomlinson, which was fun. He was hilarious, he never stopped telling jokes and we found out at the end of one of the days it was his birthday and he hadn’t told anyone – we got him a cake though.
“It’s such a great film, I’m only in three or four scenes but I feel really lucky to be a part of it. The film looks incredible but I knew it would. Elaine has wanted to make a film about Northern Soul since she was 14. She says she doesn’t know what she’ll do with her life when it’s finished, but when the film wins lots of awards, she’ll make another one. Well, I hope she does because she’s a great director. Her attention to detail is stunning and the emotion she captures is amazing.”
And for Lisa? What next for her?
“Simple really,” she smiles. “More touring, more acting and, hopefully, a new album out in the spring. It’s all go.”
The soul superstar talks to Native Monster about music, movies and being yourself
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