Donna Lewis reflects on 15 years since I Love You Always Forever
Fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1996, I was working my final stint of hard labour at an independent record shop before moving to Cardiff for university. Among the songs that soundtracked that summer was I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis. It seemed to be everywhere that year.
And it wasn't only in Britain: this was a song that really began its life in America, where the Cardiff singer had based herself and had got a record deal. It was the most-played record on American radio for 13 weeks that summer. That fact makes her unique among Welsh artists.
No-one else from this country has come close to achieving that kind of commercial success for a single song, and its parent album, Now In A Minute, went platinum in the US.
Watch a clip of Donna Lewis performing I Love You Always Forever on Top Of The Pops:
I decided to ask Donna about her memories of that time, and what she's up to since. Here's what she had to say:
"It was seeing the rapid growth of the 'adds' at radio in America was when I first began to feel that I Love You Always Forever was becoming successful, then performing at radio shows where the whole audience knew every word of the song.
"I had to explain the title of my album, Now In A Minute, all the time. I thought it was a great title for my record and it was always a talking point.
"The promo work for the album and the single was madness. Flying into a different country most days, arriving at TV studios at 4am to sing live then off to radio interviews then flying off again. During the making of Now In A Minute we based ourselves in New York and because the album took off in America we spent very little time in the UK. It was difficult being away from my family but every time we flew in to the UK for promo we would all meet in the same hotel and grab a couple of days together.
"The craziest moment of 1996 was probably being asked to perform at a stadium show in Chicago and when arriving there, realising that I was the only non-R&B artist! I remember thinking ''what am I doing here?' The radio guys said 'most of the people have come to see you,' and as soon as we played the song the stadium went nuts!
"I Love You... just seemed to work on American mainstream radio at that time. I had tried to get a record in the UK and wasn't successful but I tried America and fortunately my dream came true. It's all down to the right place, right time and a little bit of luck.
"I do look back at that time with affection: it was my dream and an amazingly exciting time, and even though it was incredibly hard work I loved every minute!
"The airplay for that song has been good to me over the years. At that time, in 1996, I never paid much attention to the financial side; I was too busy doing what I love. But it definitely gave me the opportunity to do whatever musical projects I wanted to do.
"I didn't have any pressure from the record company, Atlantic, for the second album. Blue Planet was actually raved about by Atlantic, but there was a clichéd scenario at the label - the top execs left, which was ironic as I signed to them because of the longevity of Doug Morris and Jason Flom. Fifteen years they had held their positions, but they were replaced by people with different agendas. I wasn't on their radar. However, I did have a number one on the US Billboard dance charts with Love Him from that record. After that we decided it was in my best interest to leave the label.
"Following that, Be Still was my acoustic record for the fans, released solely through my website but In The Pink [released 10 years after Blue Planet] was the first commercial release. Of course, when it's your own label there's much less money spent on marketing: major labels have their marketing arms all over the world and working independently is very much a cottage industry by comparison. Even though you don't have that power behind you it's a good feeling to be in complete control of your own work.
"At the moment I'm working on a project with a small string section which I'm hoping will be part of the next record. Maybe we'll be able to bring the performance to the new auditorium at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
"I'd like to thank everyone in Wales for their support over the years. Even though I now live across the pond, I'm still very proud to be Welsh and my Welsh flag always flies here in New York!"
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