FORMERLY REMEMBER THE EIGHTIES.COM
MARI WILSON INTERVIEW [2008]

I HAVE TO CONFESS THAT I'VE KIND OF LOST SIGHT OF WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING SINCE THE 'JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED' PERIOD IN THE 80S... CAN YOU GIVE US A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WHAT YOU'VE BEEN UP TO?

Well, I left the pop arena for a while as I wasn't happy with where I was heading and the second album in the eighties was a bit of a disaster - too many chiefs... as I'd asked the record company to release me from my contract, it took a while litigation-wise. Of course, usually, the record company drops the artist but this was the other way around!

As I couldn't record for anyone else, I decided to put together a jazz quartet. The thing about jazz is that it's really a live medium, it's all about the performance not the product. So I went out and did my apprenticeship after I became well-known. So I was up for a lot of criticism - the jazz world considered me a pop singer and the pop world said I'd become a jazz singer so it seemed I couldn't please either camp.

I stuck with it and worked with some amazing musicians. The better your musicians are, the better you become. So I worked hard for years and got my chops together and it was worth it, because it really taught me not only how to sing, but how to write, as when you sing songs written by the greats, you learn so much.

I also did a bit of musical theatre; a fringe production of Sweet Charity, Dusty the Musical and Taboo with Boy George. A bit of radio presenting too on GLR, now BBC London and I still do the odd show for them...

I HAVE LISTENED TO YOUR NEW ALBUM 'EMOTIONAL GLAMOUR' A LOT THOUGH, AND I'VE BEEN REALLY ENJOYING IT, IT FEELS LIKE A VERY 'UP' ALBUM, WAS IT FUN TO MAKE?

We had a great time. I wrote all the songs with Adrian York, we've been working together for a long time now. The idea for the songs came because I decided to write a one-woman musical. It was actually Dave Stewart's - of The Eurythmics - idea. I gave him a copy of my album, 'Dolled Up', which came out in 2005 and he said "this is a concept album for broken hearts and divorcees - you've got to write a musical around it!" He was right, as Dolled Up was written after breaking up with my partner after 18 years. So I got together with a great TV and theatre writer, Pete Lawson, and we wrote the script. Then we realised we needed more songs, so Adrian and I started writing and by spring of this year, we had an album's worth of songs!

I found that we were writing material similar to what I'm known for - kind of retro, fun, emotional songs. The one-woman show will take longer to get on the stage I think, but meanwhile, I wanted to get the album out and I'm loving singing the songs live.

THE COVER OF THE ALBUM FITS THE MUSIC REALLY WELL I THINK, IT HAS THAT KIND OF CLASSIC SUMMERTIME FEEL, BUT I HAVE TO CONFESS THAT I WAS EXPECTING TO SEE YOUR HAIR IN A BEEHIVE... DOES IT DRIVE YOU MAD WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT AND EXPECT YOU TO HAVE BEEN IN A KIND OF TIMEWARP FOR THE LAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS?

I don't mind really, because everyone is famous for something. I'm still very much into glamour and dress up constantly. I do still do my hair rather glam and sometimes quite bouffant, if there is either the time or a hairdresser to hand! I've had a lower profile, let's face it, so people don't necessarily know what I'm looking like these days. But I'm still gorgeous, let me tell you!

I BET YOU STILL HAVE TO PLAY ALL THE 80S HITS LIVE THOUGH DON'T YOU? 'JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED' AND EVERYTHING?

I never think of 'having to play' anything. I only sing the songs I really want to sing and 'Just What I've Always Wanted' is a great pop song. 'Cry Me A River' is a classic too. What's great about my live show now is that there are some good things about getting older and now I have quite a repertoire to draw from. I do some of my eighties material, and some from my various albums, 'Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps' from the TV show 'Coupling', which people love and all my new songs from the new album. It's camp, emotional, glamorous, fun and I have a spectacular band.

DO YOU STILL KEEP IN TOUCH WITH ANY OF THE OLD MEMBERS OF THE WILSATIONS OR THE MARIONETTES?

I've been spending a lot of time with Michelle Collins lately. We have daughters the same age too. Julia Fordham lives in Los Angeles and I spend a lot of time there myself as my fiance works there a lot of the time. I see Hank B. Hive, Cary, Jim, Janey Lee Grace, oh yes, I would say I see pretty much all of the Wilsations from time to time.

IT'S FUNNY... IN THE 80s YOUR RECORDS STOOD OUT BECAUSE THEY SOUNDED DIFFERENT... NOT IN A RETRO WAY EXACTLY, BUT YOUR INFLUENCES WERE PROBABLY VERY DIFFERENT TO A LOT OF THE ACTS AROUND YOU IN THE CHARTS, AND NOW THEY STILL SOUND FRESH FOR EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS. THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD TRICK ISN'T IT?

Actually that's a real compliment thank you, but yes, I don't really know how that happened but they have aged well. Some records from that time haven't dated so well. Maybe we just got the ingredients right, the songs are good and performed with honesty and conviction.

I'M SURE ALL YOUR SONGS ARE SPECIAL TO YOU, BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL FAVOURITES?

There's a song on the new album called 'Right For You', there's something about it, a certain atmosphere and I look forward to singing it every night. Also, 'Getting There' from 'Dolled Up' is a fave.

YOU'RE ON TOUR AT THE MOMENT AREN'T YOU? HOW IS THAT ALL GOING?

Oh I'm having such a fantastic time! I have a fabulous band, they're such brilliant inspiring musicians and all absolutely hilarious so I'm having great fun on the tour bus as well as onstage. The show has evolved into I think, the best live show since I was touring in the 80's with the big line-up. Without sounding too corny, it's a really emotional journey....

ANY ONGOING LIVE PLANS? OUTSIDE THE UK PERHAPS?

Looking into that right now as it happens, hopefully, Europe next year and some festivals.

I GET THE FEELING THAT PLAYING LIVE IS SOMETHING THATS VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU, WOULD THAT BE RIGHT?

You know, playing live is just the best thing for me. I'm so relaxed onstage. I never think about what I'm going to say to the audience, I just chat about whatever I feel at that moment, like I'm sitting with a friend having coffee, it just feels so natural to me. Then, having spent so many years performing jazz, mixed with the musical theatre experiences and my pop career, I feel like I'm just totally 'me' up there. I love it.

YOU'VE DONE QUITE A LOT OF MUSICAL THEATRE TOO HAVEN'T YOU? WHAT DO YOU PREFER, PLAYING CONCERTS OR PERFORMING IN A MUSICAL?

Oh definitely playing concerts. The musical theatre thing is a great discipline and it taught me how to use my voice properly and my body for that matter. But I'm better without a script and I don't like the restrictions. Some nights when I did Dusty, I so wanted to play another chorus or something, but you can't do that, it has to be the same every night. Whereas when I'm playing with my band, you never know what's going to happen, there's always an element of danger. I don't like playing it safe.

YOU MENTIONED THAT WERE IN BOY GEORGE'S 'TABOO' MUSICAL? HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

I can't quite remember. I must have got a call or something from my agent as I don't seek these things out as a rule. I remember the audition and George was there. It was the first time I'd seen him since the eighties.

WHAT SORT OF AN EXPERIENCE WAS 'TABOO' FOR YOU?

It was great actually because it was a bit more acting than singing. Dusty was the other way around - 23 songs a night!. Taboo was about 2 or 3 songs for me in all as well as the songs with the whole company. It was at a theatre called The Venue in Leicester Square which has now been refurbished but back then it felt like a real 'fringe' type venue - one dressing room for girls and one for the boys so you couldn't have too many egos floating around the place, which is always healthy. It was great fun and it was only for three months which for me, is long enough. I could never do a musical for a really long time, as some people do.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT COMING UP AFTER THIS TOUR?

Well, I'm working on a Christmas album for next year so I want to get on with that. I have to write it all before and around Christmas as I can't imagine doing it in the summer! Also, I have three nights at Ronnie Scott's Club on the 8th, 9th and 10th of December and then on the 13th at The Gulbeinkian Theatre in Canterbury. Sorting out the one-woman musical. The title for that at present is 'The Love Thing'.

I've put out three albums since 2005 - 'Dolled Up', 'The Platinum Collection' and now 'Emotional Glamour'. I'd like to think that I can keep putting out an album a year. that's my goal - making up for lost time!

OCTOBER 2008

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