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Lisa Stansfield talks to Andy Welch about her latest album Seven and her comeback tour
Considering the motto 'the show must go on‘, there‘s something pleasingly refreshing about an artist backing away from it all to simply put their feet up.
When Lisa Stansfield released her debut album Affection in 1989, it went on to sell more than five million copies and spawned the single All Around World, a No 1 smash, well, all around the world.
The success carried on throughout the ‘90s – gold discs, top five singles and albums, sell-out tours and even a burgeoning acting career.
As the 21st Century began, however, Stansfield‘s career started to slow, and by the time she released her 2004 album The Moment, she couldn‘t break the Top 40 (it peaked in the UK at No 57). With that, Stansfield and her musical partner-turned-husband Ian Devaney decided to take a break.
“I didn‘t think anyone was going to listen to what I had to say, so why bother?“ she says, quite sensibly.
She and Devaney were writing most of the time, at their homes in Rochdale or Hampstead.
“I always had the material, I just didn‘t think I fitted into anything that was happening in music,“ she says, going on to explain how she believes all art to be cyclical, and if you wait long enough, everything comes back around eventually.
The first time she noticed the charts might once again favour the sort of emotional, modern soul songs she‘d always specialised in, was when Amy Winehouse released Back To Black. Then in her wake came Adele, and more recently Emeli Sandé. For Stansfield, that was enough. “I thought, ‘If I don‘t do it now, I never will‘, so I started getting ready to release the album.“
The album in question is Seven – it‘s her seventh – and it was released in January. It soon went to No 13 in the album chart, proving her theory right.
“This is the best album I‘ve ever made, so I didn‘t want to put it out when no one was listening,“ she says. “I was hoping the change in musical taste would mean I could get a foot in the door, but I was quite prepared to not bother, too.
“I don‘t want to sound arrogant but if I don‘t want to work again, then I don‘t have to. I don‘t have children, I don‘t have a lot of other responsibilities in my life, so I don‘t have to keep treadmilling.
In the ten years Stansfield‘s been away, the ways in which people listen to and get hold of that music have shifted dramatically, but she believes that – as she releases her music independently – is only a good thing.
“The changes in technology and social media have given people like me the opportunity to self-promote.
“Doing all this second time around, I felt like I‘d got more to prove,“ she says. “At the same time, I‘m older and more mature, so I don‘t care as much. I feel I can be bolder in my choices because I don‘t have as much to lose. There‘ll always be part of me that‘s... not afraid, but anxious. Not nervous, but not sure what to expect.
“People ask why I haven‘t had an album out for ten years, and I could‘ve done an album a year, but it would have been ten albums of rubbish. Also, I have sat on my arse for a portion of that time, let‘s be honest.“
While the comeback has been successful – and she can‘t wait to get back on the road with her band Stansfield will never be able to escape the earlier part of her career.
“People come up to me and sing, ‘Been around the world and I-I-I-I...‘ to me, all the time,“ she says. “When someone says, ‘Hiya Lisa, I love your record‘, I think they mean the new one, but then it turns out they mean All Around The World and I think, ‘Oh b****y hell! I can‘t shake it off.
“But if that‘s the way it is, that‘s the way it is,“ she reasons. “I‘m not complaining. You can‘t get rid of your past, and if it wasn‘t for that song, I wouldn‘t be back here now.“
Lisa Stansfield‘s album Seven is out now. She is performing at London Royal Festival Hall on September 10. Details: southbankcentre.co.uk