Sugababes: “This time, we’re taking ownership”

Some 20 years after they burst onto the scene, Sugababes are back and ready to take total control

As I wait in the hotel lobby before meeting the original trio known as Sugababes, I listen back to some of the hits that soundtracked the moments of my life. The phrase ‘back-to-back bangers’ was invented for groups like this, whose back catalogue spans over 20 years and still hits just as hard today.

In 2020 2021, Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan celebrated the 20th 21st anniversary (thanks, Covid!) of their debut album One Touch and got fans excited at the prospect of a proper reunion. This summer, the ladies confirmed they would be heading back on tour across the UK and even managed to fit in festival appearances at Mighty Hoopla and a packed-out Glastonbury.

Bursting into the room and immediately filling it with chatter, they explain they’ve been busy making content for TikTok ahead of their big announcement. Nearly sharing the post ahead of time, they panic as they rush to ensure they’ve not let the cat out of the bag. With the coast clear, they greet me with a hug.

They couldn’t be more excited about the future of the Sugababes – and neither could I.


Who sent the first text? How did that conversation come about?

Mutya: I think we reached out to Keisha? I think it was a bit touch and go. Obviously we also knew what Keisha’s situation was, just coming out of the group, as well.

Keisha: Yeah, I think I was probably a little bit reluctant at first not because of the girls or anything, but because I think I’d been in a girl band for so long by that time, I thought “I’m done with it. I’m tired of it.” But I’m glad I didn’t listen to that voice. I always had a curiosity and wondered what would have happened after the One Touch album. I’ve always thought that way.

This is going to be your first tour together as the Sugababes in two decades, how does your appreciation for it all now compare to when you were teens, and what is it like performing those earlier songs now?

M: It never feels old, to be honest. We’re kind of blessed that everyone still looks at us. We’re still very current with the flow of things and I think that’s because we’re not old ourselves. I think the music has aged really well and I think we’re lucky in that sense. I think when we were first performing together, you know, we were teenagers and we were kind of being awkward and self-conscious and so in that sense, we were kind of just like everybody else at that age. But we’re grown women now and it’s time for us to just really enjoy it.

Siobhan: I’m someone who gets terrible stage fright, although I should put that in the past tense now because we went out to the Mighty Hoopla gig and I didn’t feel like that anymore. I don’t know if it’s a post-COVID thing or we’ve finally got the lane back and kind of put any negative stuff behind us, but it just felt like good times. I felt like I was in the audience, part of the party to be honest. I was loving it.

I was at Mighty Hoopla and there was such lovely energy there and a real excitement for the bands and solo artists that were performing, many of whom started out in the 90s and 00s like yourselves – how does it feel to see many of these acts that you would have been on the scene with earlier in your career back? And what does it mean to see the fans so receptive to it?

K: Sometimes I feel like we’re back in that scene with all the Smash Hits tour people, you know, like even when we were doing the rehearsals for Mighty Hoopla, Steps were next door.


And you supported Westlife this year too…

K: I know, I think that’s like the trick when you come into it, I wish more people would tell you that the goal actually is to be remembered – to do something substantial that, you know, you can come back to and you can always say that’s your music. How awesome is it that we can actually say that and we can go and tour our music ten years later? Like, that’s what you want, rather than just having one or two tracks, and then you’re not getting that opportunity.

So we are aware that not many people get this and you know, we’re just grabbing it with both hands really. And even though we have performed those tracks many times, it does feel different, especially when you’re working with a new team. The band have a whole different take and some of them are younger than us as well. It was nice coming in and just going, “Right, let’s see what you’ve got”.

M: The drummer was saying that he saw us on Top Of The Pops when he was a kid and he was like practicing along while watching.

The back catalogue is extensive and you’ve known each other for such a long time, I imagine this time round feels quite different and you’ve all changed a lot. Who do you think has changed the most from the early years?

K: I think everyone has gone on their journey. I think that in general, just in life, if anyone is the same person they were as a kid, then obviously you’ve got a problem, you just haven’t matured. But I do feel like I’ve changed the most, only because I think I’ve found out more about myself. I feel like I’m way more empathetic, I’m way more understanding that what I did was because I’ve had a lot of trauma, or I didn’t know what this situation is.

M: After everything that you’ve been through, you’ve had to kind of grow up a lot quicker as well.

K: Yeah, we’ve all had to deal separately and analyze so much stuff. And I think my experience of the Sugababes is very different. We’ve all had different experiences of it. And I think, you know, the girls have gone out and they’ve had more time away from the lineup and I think I’ve had a shorter space of time. With the different lineup changes, you know, you’ve got to be able to get your head around it and adjust.

S: I mean, I probably had only just finished my healing by the time we got back together and I’m not kidding. I got to a place of peace and then I was like, “let’s do it again!”

K: Yeah and when you’ve always been within the group, and within the Sugababes, if you don’t have a second separately to that, sometimes there’s a lot of trauma and a lot of things that you carry when you don’t get to express yourself artistically.

S: And when you’re interviewed about it, and you have to talk about it, and we’re comfortable talking about it, but yeah, you are kind of reliving a lot between the legal stuff and other things.


The culture has changed, though, hasn’t it? When I think of that time when the press scrutiny was just so intense and it was constant talks of in-fighting, I feel like that culture is not as widely accepted now. Would you agree?

S: I think people have to be quite careful if they go down that road with that narrative because people have woken up to it. Because it’s like everyone’s talked about every girl band member and linked them to a narrative like that.

K: And obviously people, even with your own sisters or whatever, don’t always see eye-to-eye. Life ebbs and flows but unfortunately, when you’re in a girl band it’s highlighted. And what makes it really twisted is when you’re talking about children. Because when you do that, that’s when it becomes like, oh, something’s really odd here versus adults who have differences of opinions…

M: Or should know better!

K: It’s a completely different thing. The rumor mill when you’re older versus when you were younger. But like Siobhan said, you know, girl bands do get a rough time with it and even if it was the case for some girl bands the point is that you have ups and downs but there are clearly successes through those things. Some amazingly creative moments.

M: But people don’t like talking about the good stuff and how well everything is going, they always want to pick on the bad, the negative, and then go “Oh, well, but you’re amazing”.

S: We can see in hindsight how damaging that is. Because all it does is take away from the work and what you’re doing. And for the industry to accept that women can be their own boss and can run their own businesses. And I think that that is slowly changing, but unfortunately, you still hear about all the people being shelved and their careers being suppressed.

K: And that’s why it was so important for us to fight for the name that we did. And we shouldn’t have had to but we did and we got it back. This time around, we want to make it really clear that we are the underdogs coming back taking ownership, getting the name back, reclaiming our value, and moving forward positively and just enjoying it.


The tour is coming later in the year – it must feel very exciting to have that legacy and see that response but also to get the chance to show what you can do now as grown women, with a different lived experience, coming at this from a different place in your lives?

M: Mighty Hoopla was such a buzz, and then obviously doing Glastonbury… which was so much bigger for me because I feel like not many people get to do Glastonbury and we packed it.

S: Someone asked me a few months ago, they were like “You doing a show anywhere I might know?” and I was just like, “Yeah, Glastonbury!” It’s amazing and it’s funny.

M: I think that’s what’s so nice about the fact that we can step into those territories that people would never think we could. We’ve been doing it since day one, you know, and we were able to carry on.

K: Yeah, and I think for new music, we haven’t actually had the chance because we’ve just come out of lockdown, we did the anniversary last year which was actually the 21st anniversary of One Touch. So our main focus right now is the tour so we need to sit down and work out the creative for that. But of course, we would love to have new music out for everyone really soon.

Sugababes are playing Standon Calling festival on July 21 and Margate Pride on August 13, before their full UK starts in October. Find tickets for all available dates here.