Lisa Stansfield: 'If people want me, I'll stick around'

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Image source, EarMusic
Image caption,
Lisa Stansfield: "Everything that happens to me now is just completely beautiful."

Lisa Stansfield is sipping a diet coke outside Television Centre; a building that was practically her second home at the start of her career.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, she made almost weekly appearances on shows like Top of the Pops and Going Live, performing hits like All Around The World, All Woman and Time To Make You Mine.

These days, the BBC's former home has been turned into a plush apartment complex, centred around a stretch of upmarket restaurants and the newly-refurbished TV studios - where Stansfield has just filmed an appearance on ITV's This Morning.

"The dressing rooms are a lot bigger," she reveals. "You used to have to get changed in a shoe box.

"And Top of the Pops was one of the longest days. They would not let you leave. Ever. They were so paranoid you were going to abscond like a naughty child.

"So the only place you could go was the BBC canteen. But I used to like that, actually. You could spot all the EastEnders while you got your school dinners."

The star's back at TVC to promote her eighth album, the lithe and funky Deeper - co-written, as usual, with her husband Ian Devaney, who she met in a school play at the age of 14.

One of the best-reviewed records of her career, it's also spawned a single, Never Ever, that charted in the Top 10 of the US club charts.

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"I never expected this," she exclaims. "I'm 52 years old and I'm still being welcomed into people's homes.

"I just think if they still keep wanting me, then I'll stick around!"

Ahead of her performance at Radio 3's Proms In The Park this weekend, the Rochdale-born singer sat down for a wide-ranging chat about Bond, banana bread and Bake Off.

You're playing at Proms In The Park this weekend with one of your musical heroes, Gladys Knight. How does that feel?

I'm really looking forward to it. I met Gladys Knight once, years and years ago in New York. It's so weird, saying hello to someone who basically taught you to sing, do you know what I mean?

Yeah, there's no sane way to communicate how much they mean to you.

You just seem like a complete deranged idiot! I was fortunate enough to meet Aretha Franklin but I was so overwhelmed that I just burst out crying. I made a complete tit of myself.

You've described the title track of your new album, Deeper, as the "truest love song you've ever written". In what way?

We've been together 30 years and married for 20 and, when you're with someone that long, you go through very bad times and very good times. With all those experiences, love changes. So what was a frivolous, fizzy butterflies feeling becomes much more profound.

The relationship deepens. The love actually grows, I think.

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Were you ever worried about mixing work and romance?

Yeah, definitely. We thought we were going to ruin everything. But so far it's going alright.

In the past, you've written more about other people's lives than yourself.

Yeah I'm an observer. I've got a good imagination, so I can see someone arguing over a parking ticket and imagine they're getting a divorce or something.

Is it true your backing singer, Andrea Grant, is in the Strictly Come Dancing band?

Yeah! She's been doing Strictly for a long time now.

So what happens if you're on tour while Strictly's on air?

It's funny because Andrea and her best friend Lorraine dep[utise] for each other. They've been friends since school, so they know nobody's going to steal their place. Lorraine will be with us in Hyde Park.

Have they tried to get you on the show?

Oh no, I'd never do that! I'd sing on it but I'd never dance.

You're an accomplished baker, so you could always do Bake Off instead.

That might be nice, actually. I do really good banana bread. And I make a chocolate cake with fudge icing that's bloody delicious.

Could you stand Paul Hollywood criticising your shortcake?

Oh that doesn't bother me. But when you do things at home it's different, isn't it? I'd probably produce just a load of mush on the plate.

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I read in an old Smash Hits interview that you once filled your wellington boots up with mud and stood in them for a dare. True?

Yeah, my sister made me do that. She was always doing things like that and, because I loved her so much, I did all these stupid things for her approval.

Then, when we got back home, she'd say, "Mum, look what Lisa has done," and I'd be the one who got in trouble.

Does she still play pranks?

Actually, we had a real laugh on my second tour. We look really similar, so Karen would dress as me and she'd have her hair cut with a curl - you know, the way my hair used to be? And some nights, she'd stand at the top of the stage, miming. Then I'd walk up the back stairs, give her a kiss and she'd take off. leaving me on the stage to start singing. It was like saying, "This is the new me".

So you weren't a fan of that look?

It just went on for too long. It was a very stylised haircut and I got sick of it. In fact, in the American video for This Is The Right Time, I cut the curl off.


Well... One of the crew had the same hair as me, so we just kept cutting his hair and pretending it was mine. He was bald by the time we finished!

Image caption,
The dreaded kiss curl - on Top of the Pops, 1989

You took a 10-year break from music in the 2000s, and said: "What's the point of putting anything out if it's going to be ill-received?" That's quite a bold statement.

I'm an incredibly privileged person in the sense that I've always had about a four-year gap between each album. Ten years was a long time - but I wasn't just sitting around, baking banana bread.

Right, you had a few acting roles... and didn't the producers of Coronation Street ask you to play Stella Price?

That was the landlady, yeah. But they wanted me to do that and nothing else for three years, so I said no.

You could have compromised and had a regular karaoke night in the Rovers.

Yeah, every week! That's not a bad idea, actually.

Image source, EarMusic
Image caption,
Stansfield records her albums in her Rochdale-based studio, Gracieland, which is named after Grace Fields.

Your first hit was on Coldcut's People Hold On. Have any of the current dance acts - like Calvin Harris or Rudimental - approached you about working with them?

No, but I wish they would. That would be gorgeous. God, I'd love to work with people like that.

And you worked with Bond composer John Barry on the Indecent Proposal soundtrack - was there talk of doing a Bond theme?

Well, that song we did was very Bond-y - but nobody has ever approached me about doing the real thing.

So the campaign starts here: Rudimental and Lisa Stansfield to make the next Bond theme.

Lovely, lovely! Do you think they're going to kill off Daniel Craig so Idris Elba can play him next? That would be so cool...

Lisa Stansfield's album, Deeper, is out now. She plays Proms In The Park on Saturday, 8 September. Highlights will be broadcast on BBC Two and BBC Radio 3.

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