Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri talks celeb friends, inspirations and why she’ll never be Miley Cyrus. Words Peter Feely.
Having sold 35 million records over the course of their career, the popularity of Scottish band Texas – behind hits such as ‘Say What You Want’ and ‘Inner Smile’ – is indisputable. The band’s frontwoman, the feisty singer and songwriter Sharleen Spiteri, 46, is set to bring the group to Dubai for the first time with a performance at The Irish Village on January 23. Time Out caught up with her on the phone in Brussels ahead of a performance at the Belgian equivalent of BBC’s Children In Need charity campaign.
Despite her reluctance to describe her music, instead insisting that ‘I express everything that I feel in my songs,’ Spiteri’s key inspirations for her tunes she says are classic US pop and R&B. ‘The artists from Motown were a huge influence with that in-out method [of recording in the studio very quickly] and the Phil Spector big, open sound. We’re very raw live and it’s just a case of trying to capture that – which I think we’ve got better at as we’ve got older.’
Most of Spiteri’s lyrics, which she prefers to scribble on sheets of paper in a traditional fashion rather creating memos on her iPhone, are mainly devoted to human relationships.
‘It’s about life – it tends to be about love and relationships and I don’t just mean romantic relationships; I also mean friendships and those you have with people in general. That’s pretty much the thing that I write about. There will be situations that you’ve been in and sometimes it’s not even necessarily you – moments where you’ve just seen something and it’s affected you.’
At one point in the late ’90s and early ’00s Texas were at the top of the pop pile and Spiteri became a bona fide celebrity. Yet this fame is something that the singer clearly doesn’t recognise. ‘Fame – I’m not really aware of it. People come up and chat to me whether they know me or they don’t know me.
I’ll chat away to people. I was once a hairdresser, I have the chat – I’ll talk to anybody.’
Despite this, she does admit to the band’s privileged status at the time, reminiscing: ‘I went to some unbelievably great parties and met some really amazing people but that’s kind of what happens when you’re in a successful band and Texas at that point had a lot of massive press all over Europe.’
In comparison to some of the provocative pop figures of today, Spiteri’s image was firmly planted in the leather jacket and jeans brigade. This was a deliberate but also natural decision. ‘Record companies try and push you in that [more vamped-up] direction but I wasn’t having any of it.’ Asked if she would ever consider the Miley Cyrus route, she unleashes an expletive-laden refutal.
One of the benefits of celebrity is that you can hang out with other famous faces, in the case of Spiteri, Beatles legend Paul McCartney. ‘He’s someone I met on a TV show. He’s a great, kind, funny man who, at the end of the day, is one of the greatest songwriters ever. He’s just so down to earth and true and his lust for life is still so full – it’s really inspiring to be around. To see Paul McCartney learn to play the mandolin and how he pushes himself – you just go “wow”.’
Texas took an amicable hiatus in 2008 – a time where, ‘it just felt a little bit like a sugar overload and that people needed to take a break. To do that you’ve got to be prepared for the fact that if you do come back it [fame and success] may not be there for you. We were aware of that.’
At the height of their heyday, Texas’s hits, such as ‘Say What You Want’ were played to the point of excess on UK radio. This isn’t problematic to Spiteri however, who quips: ‘I don’t hear it like you. The fact that you’re standing in front of thousands of people and they’re reacting to something that you’ve written, that’s so intimate and personal when you’re writing it. That’s something that’s really great about music – you share an emotion and then that causes a million different feelings to different people.’
Texas perform at The Irish Village, Garhoud, 9pm January 23. Tickets Dhs175. www.timeouttickets.com.