Sharleen Spiteri isn’t one for raking over the past. ‘I never go back, ever,’ the Texas frontwoman says firmly, when Waitrose Weekend idly wonders how her life might have shaken out if she hadn’t formed a band with a bunch of guys she met while working as a Glasgow hairdresser three decades ago.
Similarly, ask her for her defining sense of her first 25 years in the spotlight and she states: ‘Probably the overriding thing is, okay, what’s the next song?’
And yet look back she must because, let’s face it, it’s not every day a band gets to celebrate a quarter of a century of hitmaking.
‘It is pretty amazing that people are still interested, and we’re still here,’ she concedes. ‘I feel pretty damn chuffed, to be honest with you.’
The rock and roll battlefields are littered with casualties but, at 47, Spiteri exudes a breezy self-assurance that suggests she’s managed to keep her famously well coiffed head firmly screwed on over the course of those 25 years. ‘I’ve never been a self-destructive person in any way or form,’ she says. ‘It’s just not in my nature. And those others… well, were they not just destructive before they became a rock star? And that gave them a licence to be even more destructive?’
Texas have traced an unusual career trajectory. Based around the songwriting partnership of Spiteri and bassist Johnny McElhone – formerly of Altered Images and Hipsway – the band found success right out of the blocks with the worldwide hit I Don’t Want A Lover, from their debut album, Southside. After which everything went a little… quiet.
‘You’re trying to be really polite there, aren’t you?’ Spiteri smiles. ‘It went dead. That’s the word you’re looking for!
‘Basically, we went on the road for two years, and then suddenly Britpop hit, and we were so far from that, you couldn’t even imagine. Luckily, we were still selling a lot of records in Europe, so we were allowed to continue. And then eventually when Britpop went’ – here she approximates the sound of a musical movement disappearing down a plughole – ‘who was there to pick up the pieces? You thought you’d got rid of us, but we’re back!’
A key factor in reviving the band’s fortunes was the patronage of one Chris Evans, then at the height of his mid-90s pomp with the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and, on TV, the zeitgeist-defining TFI Friday.
‘Chris was a big champion of ours,’ nods Spiteri. ‘We’d known Chris since he was a tea boy on Manchester local radio. When we went in with our first record, I made him a cup of tea. He said “I normally make tea for everybody else” and I said, “Well I’ll make you a cup of tea”. He never forgot it, and we became friends. It was the most valuable cup of tea I ever made!’
Two decades and countless chart forays later, Texas have racked up a cool 38 million record sales. (‘It’s a nice number isn’t it?’ grins Spiteri. ‘A nice, big fat number. I like it.’) It hasn’t all been plain-sailing: in 2009, guitarist and fellow founding member Ally McErlaine collapsed with a massive brain aneurysm, spending nine weeks in a coma. But, against all doctors’ predictions, he recovered to reclaim his place in the band.
To mark their silver anniversary, Texas decamped to New York to re-record their greatest hits – along with four new songs – under the tutelage of hip East Coast production team Truth & Soul. The album, Texas 25, was trailed by a single, Start A Family, featuring a memorable contribution from Alan Rickman, who appears in the video reciting the lyrics in his trademark velvet tones. It’s the actor’s second appearance alongside Spiteri – the pair previously danced a rather raunchy tango on a petrol station forecourt in the video for 2000’s In Demand.
‘Ah, my on-screen husband,’ she says. ‘I called him up and said, “How do you fancy making a record?” He just laughed and said, “What are you talking about?” But he said he’d give it a shot. And when he did it, it was goosebumps.’
Rickman isn’t the only celebrity chum Spiteri has on speed-dial. When her daughter Misty Kyd was born in 2002, her friend Thierry Henry dedicated a goal to the new arrival by revealing the words ‘For the new born Kyd’ under his Arsenal shirt. She is also close to Peter Kay, who she describes as ‘one of the most magnificent, fabulous people I have the honour of knowing’ and with whom, she reveals, she recently spent some quality time conga-ing around the kitchen island to ELO’s Don’t Let Me Down.
Born in Bellshill but raised in the Glasgow suburbs, Spiteri – who can claim Maltese, Italian, Irish and German descent – has been singing since before she can remember. Her mother was also a singer, while her
father was a merchant seaman with a gift for the guitar. What is it about Glasgow, does she think, that has resulted in such an extraordinary musical heritage?
‘It’s that romance of escape,’ she says. ‘Not so much escaping from Glasgow, as having a romantic view of the rest of the world, and a romantic view of life. We dream of things being warm and dry, rather than grey and cold and wet.
‘I absolutely love Glasgow. Glasgow is a massive part of who I am, of my attitude, of my strength, and also of my big fat gob.’ It’s true – Spiteri can talk. ‘And it’s done me well,’ she adds. ‘Glasgow has served me very, very well.’
Spiteri split from her Misty’s father, magazine editor Ashley Heath, when her daughter was two years old – a messy and somewhat public uncoupling that she has admitted left her reeling. Since 2008, she has been in a relationship with Bryn Williams, the Welsh chef-owner of London’s Odette’s restaurant – but that doesn’t mean she gets triple AA rosette cuisine every night of the week.
‘I do most of the cooking,’ she says. ‘I love cooking – it’s a big part of our family life. That moment of all generations sitting around the table, sharing food and stories – that’s really important to me.’
Earthy, unshowy – and heroically sweary – Sharleen Spiteri is terrific company. She wears her rock star status very easily – but insists she doesn’t take success for granted.
‘I’m very aware that it won’t go on forever,’ she says. ‘That doesn’t bother me – I feel comfortable with that. What I’ll do next I don’t know, but it doesn’t scare me. And neither should it – I’m 47, I’ve had a good old innings at it, so I don’t have any right to be scared.’
Published in Waitrose Weekend, February 26, 2015
(c) Waitrose Weekend