Sharleen Spiteri: ‘It was always supposed to be about the music’

Sharleen Spiteri is back.
Sharleen Spiteri is back.
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How many bands make it to 25 years? Not many, but Texas have and tonight they’re playing at the Portsmouth Guildhall.

When we catch up with the group’s lead vocalist, Sharleen Spiteri, she is midway through Texas’s national tour and eager to promise fans going to the shows that it’ll be a night to enjoy.

‘There’s a good mix of everything,’ Sharleen assures, ‘from the beginning right through to the new stuff, and the good thing is that the newer tracks have mixed in perfectly.’

For anyone who listened to Texas in the 1990s (most of Britain it seemed), it’s still remarkable how fast time has gone – the band are now celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Since making their performing debut in 1988 at the University of Dundee, the group have had 11 top 10 singles and sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.

Their first single from the 1989 album Southside, I Don’t Want A Lover, got them started when it reached the UK top 10. But despite this initial burst, Texas’s next two records – Mothers Heaven and Ricks Road – struggled to find the same audience.

Then everything changed in 1997 with the release of the hugely successful White on Blonde album, which debuted at number one on the UK album chart and included the international hit Say What You Want.

The follow-up record, Hush, also did well, as did the noughties’ albums Careful What You Wish For and Red Book.

But in 2005, Texas began a hiatus, which was to last eight years until their latest album, The Conversation, released back in May this year.

When we speak, Sharleen seems to be thoroughly enjoying the benefits a lengthy music history brings.

‘We have gathered some more new fans, younger 20-year-olds, and it’s kind of weird seeing all these different generations in front of us.

‘You get the original 1989 fans from the very beginning and then you’ve got the 1997 fans from White on Blonde.

‘And now there’s these new fans that know all the Say What You Want/White on Blonde songs from when they were about six years old and heard them.

‘This is their first chance to see us. It’s a nice feeling.’

Amazingly, Sharleen also seems genuinely surprised by how well the band’s return has gone.

‘It is going really very well. You don’t put a record out for eight years and then when you do it does amazingly well, in the top five of the album charts.

‘You never know what to expect and what people are going to want, but it’s been good.’

In fact, she puts the success of The Conversation down to Texas’s decision to take a break: ‘I think having the gap, for the public, has been great. I think it’s made people kind of go “They’ve got a lot of great songs”.

‘We seem to be one of those bands that people suddenly think, “I know a lot more songs than I thought I did.”

‘And do you know what? Even I Don’t Want a Lover feels new because it’s been such a break. We’re enjoying everything so much that it all feels fresh.’

It may be a new decade for Texas, but Sharleen says they still have the same range of influences and inspirations driving them forward.

A mention of cinema, long known to be a big inspiration, opens a floodgate of specific influences.

Sharleen explains: ‘I like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, I am a big David Lean fan. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is another.

‘I love musicals as well like A Star Is Born with Barbara Streisand and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.’

Anyone who has heard a Texas record, including The Conversation, will know that Sharleen’s musical pulls are a little easier to spot.

She adds: ‘Al Green, and then there’s the rock groups like the Stones.’

‘I was listening to Echo and the Bunnymen, The Pretenders and Dexys Midnight Runners. Those were the kind of bands I grew up listening to.’

From her influences, it seems Sharleen is interested in the idea of the musician as an artist, as opposed to a packaged product.

It’s unsurprising then that during the band’s eight-year hiatus she agreed to be a judge on Sky’s musical talent show Must Be The Music, which was open to all musicians who were allowed to play their own compositions.

‘I was really happy that I did it,’ Sharleen says.

‘In the beginning I did think “have I just made the biggest mistake of my life?” but then the programme found its groove. It all slotted in.

‘I think it was influential for the X Factor to make a change. I mean, X Factor is the main way music is found now, but I think Must Be The Music gave them a song-writing path.

‘You know, they got Gary Barlow in and it became a lot more music-based. The criticism is a lot harder, rather than looking for some ridiculous life story.’

Speaking of talent shows, which seem to increasingly dominate the charts, Sharleen has some encouraging thoughts about the type of industry Texas will find themselves in the future.

‘I think the music industry, as far as record companies go, has always been very arrogant, but without the music and the writers they’re basically nothing.

‘Now there is a whole new bunch of artists, of new young musicians coming through who are making their own videos, their own records and distributing themselves.’

She adds: ‘It’s always supposed to be about the music. Always.’

WHERE AND WHEN

Texas are performing at Portsmouth Guildhall tonight, with doors opening at 7pm. Tickets: £37.50 to £47.50 on (023) 9387 0200 or go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.