Interviews are featuring all over the web and in newspapers about the announcement of M People's 20th Anniversary Greatest Hits Tour. Here is a summary of Heather Small's responses printed in the press so far:
Heather Small reveals that it was a traumatic operation on her vocal cords last year that made her determined to get back on the road with M People:
“I had to have an operation to remove a growth from my vocal cords last year, not a lot of people knew that. They were bleeding, it wasn’t pretty and it was scary. This time last year I was told I couldn’t speak for six weeks. I decided then that I owed it to myself to sing a lot more than I had been after the operation – I guess the thought of my voice being taken away from me it really did make me think. The thought of it being taken away from me without my consent was awful - it’s one thing deciding not to sing as often, but when that decision is taken out of your hands it’s terrible.”
Thankfully, the operation was a success and Heather believes she is in stronger voice than ever. She admits she can’t believe it’s 20 years since she and the band hit the big time with Elegant Slumming, which spawned hits like Moving On Up and One Night In Heaven. Although Heather, 48, hardly looks a day older than the first time around. She laughs:
“I look after myself. I don’t drink or smoke, and the payback for that is no wrinkles!”
Heather will go out on the road in October to play all the hits with bandmates Paul Heard and Shovell – although founder member Mike Pickering won’t be involved. Heather says:
“Mike was fine with it, if he wasn’t fine with it we wouldn’t go on tour. We’re all proud of what we achieved. We’d all been in bands before M People, and they didn’t come to anything, but together all the elements just seemed to work."
How does it feel to be announcing another M People tour?
"Because we know each other so well, when we get on the road together it's just so much fun. And because we don't do it that often, we never tire of it. We get on stage and give it our all. I don't want people to ever say "they were better the last time"; I always want them to think "oh my gosh, they should do this all the time. It’s been eight years since we last toured together and we always have such fun, you can expect a big party on that stage."
"I love the live element, the connection you have with an audience. You do the same set every night, but you don’t know what the audience reaction will be and songs take on a different meaning. It’s never boring. I always tend to give 110% - or at least I try my best to! I’m in good health, I feel good, I’m energetic, I still have that same joy. My son is 16, so he wasn’t even born when Elegant Slumming came out. It is crazy because I don’t do it all the time, when I sing those songs it is still fresh to me and my voice is that much more able and capable. I find new ways of expressing those songs. I never am upset at singing them.”
You must have seen some changes in the music industry since you started 20 years ago:
"Yes, they don't really sell vinyl anymore, it's all downloads now. But ultimately the format doesn't matter, as long as there is good music being produced. I think the desire to buy music isn't as strong as it was, though. When I was younger there was a real anticipation. You wanted to be one of the first to get your hands on an album."
Who were you listening to when you were growing up?
"I remember when Luther Vandross released his first album over here. I went to the record shop every day for three weeks until they had it in stock. He is one of my inspirations. He was fantastic; his arrangements, his vocal ability and his sensitivity. I still listen to him religiously."
How was it breaking out of the band and going solo?
"You have to know that much more on your own, you don't have the others to rely on. You have to step up. As a solo artist, for me it isn't so much about record sales as growth and creativity. I have always pushed the boundaries vocally. Being a solo artist means you can be a bit more experimental. And that's good because people don't know what to expect, although that means you have to exceed their expectations and that creates pressure."
How do you cope with that pressure?
"I've gotten a little better but I do find it very difficult. The tour doesn't start until October but I'm already worrying about it. After all these years I've learnt how to manage nerves to my advantage, rather than go so over the top until I can't perform. When I get on stage I do feel great, although I'm not a show-off. I'm actually very shy."
How have you found juggling a family and a career?
"Well, something has to give. I became less of a singer and more of a mother and that suited me because I had this beautiful child. My son is my gem, he's my everything. My proudest achievement."
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
"I remember one audience member saying to another that I was sweaty. People should know that I'm going to get hot when I'm out there performing. And people have talked about my clothes, but it's not a fashion show!"
How was Strictly Come Dancing?
"Every Saturday night was hideous. Dancing live was hideous. But the actual process of learning how to dance was good fun. There was a lot of pressure throughout the week, but I loved it. Then on the Saturday the nerves kicked in and somehow it sped up my dancing, so I'd finish like a minute before the routine was meant to end!"
Which are your favourite M People songs?
"That's really hard. I think Moving On Up was a good one as it was different to what we'd done before. The band loved it but I thought that, if it fails to chart, it's because I've changed styles. It seems to be an enduring one; people sing that to me in the street."
Was it a special moment for you when Proud became the official song of London 2012?
"Yes, especially because I was really behind the bid seven years ago. Everyone around me was against it, but I thought it would be good for all of us. I know the British public love their sport and it was a fantastic event. Everything can't be counted by how much it costs. It's all about the experience. It's these experiences which make you feel good. To see what people could achieve was inspiring. When I see a superhero effort it makes me really happy."
As well as the tour you'll be appearing at the Flashback Festival in Notts this summer under your own name, with Tony Hadley, Rick Astley, Jimmy Somerville, Roland Gift, Go West and T'Pau
"Yes, I did this last year and had such a ball that I wanted to do it again. I hadn't been performing for a few years and the reception was so warm. The sun was shining and I loved it."
M People are on tour in October 2013 with their 20th Anniversary Greatest Hits Tour!
Thursday 10 - Manchester Arena
Friday 11 - Bristol Colston Hall
Saturday 12 - Bournemouth International Centre
Monday 14 - Guildford G Live
Tuesday 15 - Ipswich Regent
Wednesday 16 - Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Friday 18 - Sheffield City Hall
Saturday 19 - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
Sunday 20 - Liverpool Empire Theatre
Tuesday 22 - York Barbican
Wednesday 23 - Newcastle City Hall
Thursday 24 - Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
Saturday 26 - Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Sunday 27 - London Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Tickets are available to buy now!