She’s conquered the West End and the world of TV, now Melanie C is back with a brand new album, an intimate tour and a fresh outlook on life.
Every so often there comes a time when you speak to someone who’s genuinely lovely. Someone who embraces what they do with their heart and soul, and speaks of their career with such passion that you feel like you’ve known them your whole life.
Melanie C is one of those people. I only get a short time to chat to the former Spice Girl who has, it’s safe to say, left the days of Sporty Spice behind her – despite telling me that “there’s a time and a place to party” – but it’s enough to allow me to get to know the real Melanie Jayne Chisholm, not the tank top, pony-tailed, tracksuit Mel C that I grew up listening to.
Now, following the release of her sixth studio album Version of Me, the 43-year-old is preparing to embark on a seven-date whistle-stop tour of the UK and Ireland which will head to Birmingham’s O2 Institute on this Sunday before she jets off for further dates in Germany. “I’ll be having a bit of fun that night,” she playfully giggles.
So, how’s life treating Melanie now she’s back on the road? She’s just returned from a weeks promotion for the album in Germany, but it won’t be long before she’s back on the tour bus and doing what she loves most – performing live.
“I’ve always felt comfortable on stage,” Melanie says. “It’s funny when I’m up there because I’m not really extrovert, I’m not someone in an everyday situation. Some days I might feel a little bit uncomfortable or a little bit shy, but on stage, I always feel quite courageous. Being a bit older I do definitely feel like I care less about what people think.”
Back in the 90s when the Spice Girls were the queens of pop, Melanie performed in some of the biggest venues in the world to millions of people, but having matured she now prefers the more intimate venues to share her music with her fans.
Being a bit older I do definitely feel like I care less about what people think.
“Don’t get me wrong, playing places like the O2 and Madison Square Garden was phenomenal and so exciting, but I prefer to experience the smaller venues where you just feel more of a connection with the audience, you kind of feel like it’s more fulfilling for the crowd as well,” she explains.
A mother to Scarlet Starr, Melanie tells me that she decided to keep her tour short and sweet to remain closer to her daughter. “I’ve been really spoilt in the last few years because I’ve been able to take her to school most days but I do miss her when I’m away.
“I love my job, but I also want to teach my daughter to have a good work ethic just as my mum taught me. It really is about learning that balance of getting out there and doing what you love but not neglecting your role as a mum,” she continues. “I’m trying to juggle the same life as all mums.”
It’s been five years since Melanie released her album Stages, which would lead many to think that she’s simply taken the time to put her feet up and enjoy life with her daughter, but the truth is she’s barely taken her foot off the breaks.
What Melanie calls a break was simply a chance to take on other projects, or, as she explains has “given her the chance to live” in between recording her album and all the other exciting opportunity’s that have come her way.
“Previously I’ve just dedicated a year to going to the studio and writing loads of songs and I think sometimes when you do that you can repeat yourself, you start to feel like that you’re losing a little inspiration and enthusiasm,” she tells me.
“I’ve had so many experiences over the last few years; I played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar in the UK and Australia. We actually did two nights in Birmingham and it was filmed for the DVD. I’ve toured with Jools Holland and been a judge on Asia’s Got Talent. It’s just been really nice to have new things to talk about and express on the album.”
A busy lady she’s been indeed. Coming off the back of one of the biggest girl groups of all time was never going to be easy, yet Melanie has gone on to become one of the most successful girls in the group dabbling in TV, stage work in the West End, not forgetting landing two number one singles and two top 10 albums in the UK charts. She is, in short, a sheer talent.
I’ve found solace in music, it becomes your friend in the darkest of times.
No stranger to penning incredible songs and duetting with some of the biggest names in music, including the legendary Brian Adams for the 1998 hit When You’re Gone, Melanie has created what has to be the bravest album of her career that has seen her step away from her traditional pop sound, crafting an electronic album inspired by her love of artists Jack Garrett, Massive Attack and MØ.
I’m curious as to what made Melanie make such a drastic change with her music for Version of Me. Her signature pop style has never let her down before, so why take her sound in a completely different direction? “When I started working on this album I wasn’t sure what I wanted to achieve. I knew I wanted to produce something different because I feel very different.” she says.
“I feel like I’m at a new chapter in my life and I wanted to express myself not only lyrically, but with the way that my music sounded as well. I’ve always wanted to create an electronic album in my career but there’s never really been a right time to do it until now.”
Stepping into a different style of music has opened many doors for Melanie. Whilst she continued to work with Peter Vettese and Adam Argyle, three tracks from the album were actually co-wrote with Sons of Sonix, a young production duo who have previously worked with artists including Ariana Grande and Tinie Tempah.
Melanie tells me that she wasn’t sure if working with Sons of Sonix would be the right fit for her, but after heading into the studio she quickly changed her mind. “We come from such different parts of the music world, the boys’ focus is very much in grime and R&B and I’m from this pop background, but our common ground is that we just love music.
“We got talking about what we wanted to express and we just hit it off. It’s probably the only time in my career where all the songs we wrote in three sessions made it onto the album.”
The mother of one has never been one to shy away from her inner demons and personal life in her songwriting, making sure her lyrics are truthful is something that remains key to her. “I’m a bit of a drama queen,” she laughs. “I’ve found that people really identify with a song if it’s honest.
“I find if I’m singing a song on stage and it’s a very real emotion that comes from a situation I’ve been through in my life – even if it’s a difficult time – it’s so fulfilling to be able to express yourself, sing those lyrics and relive those emotions.
“It’s so nice to hear from fans how your music has helped them and that they can identify with something that you’ve been through; I’ve done that myself, I’ve found solace in music, it becomes your friend in the darkest of times.”