Monday, 11 May 2009

Croydon Today Interview

Music: Heather Small
Monday, May 11, 2009,

"Star Interview
"What have you done today to make you feel proud?" asks Heather Small's most famous solo hit.
This has become the maxim she lives her life by, but it's also inspired everything from sports teams to cruise liners since it was released in 2000.

The singer with the big voice and even bigger hair was part of one of the country's most famous bands of the 90s, M People.

With hits like Search For The Hero, Sight For Sore Eyes and Moving On Up, M People had huge success over seven albums with Small's distinctive voice making each song instantly recognisable.

They've recently played a few gigs in European cities and still make one off appearances, but Small says it's unlikely they'll reform.
"Sometimes you think about it, but in the cold light of day I always think 'no, we did what we did and we'll leave it at that'.
"But it was an amazing thing to have been part of, and to go out on stage, sing one note and have the audience know the song and sing it back is a lovely feeling."

Despite these great memories and still being good friends with her bandmates, Small says at the moment she's enjoying being a solo artist.
Her first of three solo albums, Proud, was released in 2000 and included the Tom Jones duet You Need Love Like I Do.
She's no on her latest solo tour which visits Fairfield this week.

"Live is live so I always love performing, but the thing I prefer about being on my own is that I'm not just singing M People songs.

"I can do different songs by different artists such as Abba and Elkie Brooks.
"I performed at the O2 recently and the venue was lovely - modern, beautiful and made for purpose.

"Really I'm just happy people come to see me! And it's nice to go to places like Croydon where people don't have to trek all the way into London."

Small also performed at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Cafe last year as a solo artist, and at the Cardiff Millennium Stadium to celebrate Wales' success at the 2008 Grand Slam.

Rugby and Heather Small? It's not as unlikely a combination as you might at first think.
Proud, from the album by the same name, has become Small's signature solo tune and has been adopted by the Rugby World Cup 2003, the VE Day 60th anniversary celebrations and the launch of the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship.
Most recently, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic committee have taken on Proud as their theme song.

"The song has taken me to so many different places, from schools to sports grounds to churches, so it symbolises music as a unifying force.
"For me, I wanted to write a song that I could sing wholeheartedly - if you have a modicum of success you have to be careful it doesn't become about the trappings of fame, and that you're still bringing something to the table.

"But Proud has grown out of my hands now and when I saw the video that had been put together for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics it was very emotional. To be chosen for that theme song is so fantastic."

Even those too young to remember M People's hits will know Small from her recent stint on the BBC celebrity dancing contest Strictly Come Dancing.

Along with professional dance partner Brian Fortuna, she stayed until a very respectable eighth week before being voted off the show by viewers.

"My family are huge fans and I love to dance, so even though I said no at first I had to do it.
"It was hilarious! I had such fun with Brian and we're friends for life.
"I wasn't in it to win it, but even if I was I think the judges had other ideas!"

Small almost found herself up in front of notoriously tough judge Arlene Philips once before while she was still at school.
"I was very, very shy and my teacher said I was good at dancing so I should audition for Arlene Philips - I couldn't go because I was just too nervous."

She may be famous for her huge, confident voice, but Small says she still suffers from nerves.
"I'm always a bit nervous because I always want to do my best.
"With the first band I auditioned for you can hear the paper I was holding rattling on the audition tape.
"When I see young people auditioning on TV programmes now I think 'Oh my goodness'."
Small has an 11-year-old son who she's encouraging to be more outgoing.

"You try to encourage them not to be shy when you are because if you don't put yourself forward, people think you're not going to deliver.
"It's the people who talk themselves up who get the gig, even if they're not the best."
Once her tour is over Small is looking forward to a relaxing holiday with her son.

She's also performing at Gay Pride in London this summer.
"I'll be doing lots of M People stuff there. I always have fun at Pride because the audience like my voice and it's just a really fun atmosphere."
Heather Small is at Fairfield on Tuesday, May 19 at 8pm.
Tickets from £24, call 020 8688 9291.

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