Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know who Melanie Chisholm is. Well, using her full name might not be fair. Perhaps you know her best as Mel C, or Sporty Spice. You might not recognize her anymore. Her hair is short and spiky and her sound is pop and rocky.
So what do you do when you get a call from a member of one of the biggest bands in the world? You try your hardest to keep your composure.
I sat and waited, trying to keep myself busy. I was agonizing over what I thought just might be a dreadful interview. Often there are rumors of big stars giving major attitudes. What could have been like pulling teeth ended up being a walk in the sun. From the start, Mel was giggling and carrying on like a kid in a candy store. Honestly, she is a kid in a candy store, and the whole world is her candy store.
How are you?
I’m good. And you?
That is good.
Where are you right now?
I’m at home in London. I just got in. I thought I’d work at home this evening. (she laughs seductively)
I noticed you did a mini-tour.
Yeah, I just finished, so now I’m recovering. (laughs so wonderfully that a chill runs up my spine)
You did your last show in London, right?
Yes, it was the other night. It was brilliant. I’m a bit down now and even though it was a short tour, it is always a bit sad when a tour ends. But I’ll be back on the road in (pauses and asks herself) February or March? So it won’t be long.
I was really curious about how the British press has excepted your solo album.
Well, it has been pretty mixed. They are pretty surprised now that it has come out. They had a lot of preconceptions about me. It is quite political over here and they aren’t really willing to except an album by a Spice Girl and it being quite different musically. But now it is out and doing quite well and people have seen the live show so they are eating their words.
They seem to love to hate everybody.
Yeah, it depends if you’re in fashion or not.
They just seem to hate everyone. I was surprised by something that I read about the Manic Street Preachers. At the same time they say how brilliant the album is, they’ll go on to say how much everyone hates them. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
Oh my God. The Manic Street Preachers are just so brilliant, aren’t they?
And like even today I was reading something in the same publication where one minute they praise you and then they’ll say ‘They’re so old.’
It is funny because when I’ll talk to a British artist they’ll tell me that they love to come to America just to get away from the scrutiny of the press over there.
I know. I love it in America. They just give so much more respect.
I was honestly really surprised by your album. It seems that is the same with everyone.
I know. At first I was a little offended, but then I realized that I have to remember that people only know me from what I’ve done with the Spice Girls. I mean, I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do and what my capabilities are, but no one else has seen that. So it is nice that people say that.
I think it is a huge compliment. The thing I liked most is that it is very diverse. Did you plan it to be so eclectic, or did it just happen?
I didn’t really plan the specific sound but I knew the areas I wanted to go into. Generally, I just went with how I was feeling that day. I was listening to the same thing I’ve always listened to, like the Manic Street Preachers, Blur, Stereophonics, Garbage. So I’ve always listened more to indie based rock, you know?
But I wouldn’t say that it was that influential on the record because you hear there is an R&B track on there. And I’ve always been a pop fan and I’ve always loved Madonna. So I think it is all combined.
Did each of the producers add their own sound to the album?
I think it’s funny because a lot of people were scared when we started making the album because it was so diverse. I think I chose the producers I thought would best fit what I wanted to do. Do you know what I mean?
That was very important to me. I also wanted a very modern sound. You know, with people like William Orbit and Marius De Vries.
I was wondering if with producers you had to adjust to their quirks?
Well, it is funny that each person you work with has their own way of doing things so they each work in a different way. And working with two people that are as different as William Orbit and Rick Ruben, but it was brilliant for me because it was such a huge learning experience. I think the album fits very well together, you know?
I have to agree.
I used Pat McCarthy to mix everything and he sort of made it all make sense.
I was curious about the writing. Did you come in with a bunch of songs?
I’ve been writing and getting my lyrical ideas down while I was away with the girls over the last year or so, but then more seriously I went into the studio and started putting things down at the end of last year. I came over to America in January and began. Sometimes I have an idea, sometimes just a theme for a song, and sometimes it comes from a drum loop and that will inspired me to write on a subject. It is quite a personal album. It is about experiences I’ve had and things I’ve seen.
You pretty much answered my next question about what inspires you to write.
I think especially over the past few years that so much has happened to me, I’ve gone through so many emotions and I was quite shocked about how much was coming out of me.
I read a handful of reviews and I noticed everyone commented on how surprised they were about how good your voice was, even though you’ve had two albums before.
(laughs hysterically) Gosh. I haven’t really had a chance to really sing in the Spice Girls, I suppose because there was always five or four of us, so a song gets split up quite a lot. I think that is one of the best things about doing your own work, is that you can get your own story across. It makes more sense when you are singing the song because you can get your own dynamics instead of just joining into the chorus. That has been the most exciting part, especially with touring. I love to sing and I love to experiment and use my voice in many different ways.
Is there a part of you that is really happy you can showcase your voice and people are gushing over it?
It is nice to be acknowledged in that way, but I’ve always sung. (gives another sweet laugh)
I had to say that the one song that I loved, because I’m a huge Oasis fan, is “Suddenly Monday”.
(screeches) Yeah! I love that song too. You know what? That is one of the best songs to play live. The audience loves that one. It goes down really well.
I have to say I really dig that song. Are you an Oasis fan?
Yeah. I’ve always loved them. I can’t wait for their new album.
They were really my first introduction into British music.
They are fantastic. You know I was just at the Q awards, you know, Q magazine? They just had their awards show this afternoon and I was a nervous wreck. I was in this room and like Ronnie Wood, Blur were there, Stereophonics were there, Travis were there. So I was just sitting in the corner going ‘Oh my God.’ (laughs)
I was curious if there was a song on the album that you enjoyed most or even one that you enjoy playing live a lot?
I think onstage I love doing the rocky stuff, but I love doing the acoustic stuff too. And at the end of the show we do a couple of numbers completely acoustically. We do “Closer” and an acoustic version of “Going Down”. That is really good fun. What is my special fave from the album? hmm. It changes from day to day really.
Why did you name the album Northern Star?
Here in England it is a play on words because I’m from up north. So I’m the northern star. It’s just a silly joke. (laughs)
Are you working on a Spice Girls album?
We are half way through right now. We’ve done nine tracks and we are going to finish off that next year because we’ve got some live dates and a big book launch tomorrow. It is a nice book actually from our tour last year. It is like a little photo album.
Is it going to be released in the US?
I’d imagine. There are a lot of pictures from the US, so I would imagine.
Since you are always working, what do you do to relax?
Ah ha. (laughs) Good question. I’ll tell you when I get some time off. (laughs) I like going to the movies or just chilling out. I like to spend a lot of time in the gym. I find that quite therapeutic. It helps to relieve my stress.
It is great, isn’t it? Yeah. And it is great when you have your headphones on because no one can speak to you.
(we both laugh)
What would you be listening to?
Stereophonics a lot. Also Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their new album is brilliant.
What are your plans for New Year’s?
I’m going to be in America, actually. I think I’m going to be in LA and be with my family and have a little quiet celebration because it is also my brother’s birthday.
So you are going to be touring next spring. Is that going to be with the Spice Girls or solo?
Solo, to push the record. I think the Spice Girl dates will be in the summer.
Is it going to be a tour or just radio shows?
I actually want to tour quite extensively. We were thinking about maybe doing a radio tour and doing acoustic sets.
Yeah, and I want to do some little venues as well. I’m really into doing the little theatres and stuff. After doing all those big venues with the Spice Girls, it’s nice to play smaller shows.
You get to feel the intimacy with the audience.
Yeah. There is so much more energy. You can feed off of the crowd. It is actually nice when you can see the people onstage and not have to watch them on a screen.
Well, I really enjoyed speaking to you. I have to say that I really honestly liked the record. I told my friends and they didn’t believe me, but I really like it.
(laughs) They’ll see for themselves.
But I say to my friends, ‘But you like Madonna.’ And I think that this album will sort of be the same, where no matter what you are into you can enjoy this.
Well, that is the thing. That annoys me when people are like, ‘If you listen to this, you can’t listen to that.’ If it is good and you like it, who cares what genre it is?
It shouldn’t matter.
Sometimes I love rock, but it just gets me down. So I like to hear some music that is brighter and poppy.
I think the cool thing now is to just be able to admit that you like a band like the Manic Street Preachers and you like a bit of Britney Spears as well. (laughs)
I think that is what is happening to music now, you listen to music without a real border.
+ charlie craine