Interview from the Manchester Evening News:
‘My Kind Of M People’ - Marion McMullen finds out why the band still makes Heather Small feel proud as they prepare for a new tour.
What have you done today to make you feel proud? Miranda Hart and Sarah Hadland like nothing better than belting out the famous line from singer Heather Small’s 2000 anthem in TV sitcom Miranda... and it’s boosted record sales of her back catalogue.
The international star with the epic voice has even appeared in a Miranda special for Comic Relief and is quietly chuffed that Proud was picked by American chat show queen Oprah Winfrey as the theme tune for her show and also featured in the finale season of the US version of Queer As Folk.
Proud has become Heather’s signature song and she has every reason to be proud of it. It was the official anthem of the London Olympic Games last year and she sang it at the 2012 Pride Of Britain Awards as a tribute to Team GB.
But now Heather is preparing to enjoy what makes her feel proud – her time with the Manchester band M People as they prepare to go back on the road.
M People will tour the UK, including a huge homecoming gig at the Manchester Arena, later this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of hit album Elegant Slumming.
Songs like Moving On Up, Search For The Hero, One Night In Heaven and How Can I Love You More? have become part of people’s lives and strangers often approach Heather to say they played her music at their wedding.
“They think I’ve heard it all before and it’s cheesy, but these are momentous days in people lives and to think you’re good enough to be part of those positive days is very special,” beams Heather.
“Honestly, I feel it is a shortcut to people’s hearts. I feel it is such an honour to be part of people’s lives like that and their happy memories.”
M People emerged out of the club scene in Manchester in early 1990 and became one of the world’s biggest dance acts selling more than 10 million records.
Their first album, Northern Soul, was re-released in 1992 and was hailed as one of the best dance albums of the year and spun their first top 10 single How Can I Love You More?
The Mercury Prize winners, who have sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, will be hitting the road in October.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road with the guys again”, says Heather.
“It’s been eight years since we last toured together and we always have such fun – you can expect a big party on stage.”
The 48-year-old mum has strutted her stuff on Strictly Come Dancing and works-out to keep fit.
She’s a non-drinking vegetarian and smoking has never been a temptation because she has asthma, but laughingly says friends describe her as the “soberest drunk” when it comes to partying. She will be touring with fellow M People members Paul Heard and Shovell, although founder member Mike Pickering won't be joining them - but has given his blessing.
Heather admits the build-up to the tour is already making her nervous.
“I’m well-known for getting nervous before going on stage”, she wails.
“Everyone will be saying ‘Oh, here she goes again’ but even after all these years it hasn’t got any better. I’m terrified before I go on stage. I spend the day in blind terror, but when I’m in front of an audience singing I’m fine.”
Heather says she was shy early in her career and people thought she was moody, but it was just difficult at first being in the public spotlight.
“I found it very hard to give of yourself. I’ve never done much talking on stage, but it’s all about the performance.”
Singing live has never been a problem, but she says there’s no feeling like pre-show nerves and it’s the whole build-up that adds to the butterflies in the stomach.
But audiences can expect all the hits and some showstopping performances on the tour.
“I want to get out there and play to people and give them the best experience possible”, says Heather.
“I want them to hear live the music they’ve heard on the albums or iTunes and go away having had a great night. Music is universal and like sport it can really touch our lives.”
M People play the Manchester Arena on Thursday, October 10.
Visit the tour page for more information.