“If you’d have asked me when I was 16 or 15, when I started ‘when you’re 66, can you imagine yourself writing an album of new songs and going on tour’ I’d have said ‘shut up! Don’t be so ridiculous.’”
It’s safe to say that I was a bit in awe of meeting Lulu. Mainly because the pint-sized singer behind that rocky, impossibly powerful voice has become a national treasure; not to mention provided 50 years worth of musical highs, from her film debut and vocals in To Sir With Love and her Bond theme The Man with the Golden Gun to one of the all-time best collaborations with Take That for Relight My Fire.
But what most people think when they hear the name Lulu is that now iconic opening roar from her 1964 cover of the Isley Brothers’ Shout, which is all the more impressive when you remember that it burst out of a diminutive 15-year-old at the time.
After 10 years, Lulu is off on a UK tour again and is releasing a new album.
I managed to pin the dynamic performer down for a quick chat to find out which young singers she worships, what it takes to survive in the music industry – “you have to be very lucky, honey” – and all about her brand spanking new tour and album…and no, in case you were wondering, there’s no chance Lulu is going to pull another Boom-bang-a-bang and do Eurovision again.
This will be your first solo tour in ten years, what made you want to get back on the road?
Last year, when I was in America, I was doing blues clubs; wearing a hat, not getting dressed up, but dressing down. It was all about the music, the band, the songs and I was loving it.
So many people at B.B. King’s in Manhattan were asking me “are you on tour?” It just came up and at that moment it felt like a good idea, it sort of feels right and then I started on an album – not that the two of them were planned together – but sometimes it just feels right and it comes together.
You’ve always done a lot of touring, what is it you like so much about performing live?
I am basically a singer. I have become a songwriter , I sort of became a bit of an entertainer if you like, but bottom line I’m a singer and I love to sing. My family said I came in singing and I’ll go out singing, that’s probably going to be on my epitaph, but I’m not going out yet!
Your new album has hinted at a ‘return to soulful roots’, what is it about soul music in particular that inspires and influences you?
I would say it’s probably a return to what influenced me, what made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
When I listen to young people today, the ones that kill me, the ones that knock me out…I mean I’m very enthusiastic about new music: everything Calvin Harris does, everything SiGMA does, everything that Bruno Mars does.
I love Labyrinth, I love Jessie J, but every single one of those people are influenced by the music I was influenced by.
I saw Bruno Mars in concert in the summer and it was like a Motown review. I watched Labyrinth on Later with Jools Holland last weekend and he was like Ray Charles, and he was my God.
You listen to Sam Smith and you can’t say he sounds like anybody, but listen to the strains of his melodies and what he sings – that’s what I’ve always loved. And you listen to Jessie; I used to go to clubs to listen to her and say this kid is the most talented thing, but you know that the kind of music that stirs her soul is the same kind of music that stirs my soul.
Like your first hit with Shout, you mean?
Shout was the Isley Brothers. It has always been black American music. That’s it. Finished, dot, period, the end.
You’ve survived in a tough business for 50 years, what advice would you give any young musicians just starting out?
First piece of advice is don’t give advice. I was very fortunate to have an amazing manager who managed me for 25 years. She was a women who had children of her own and she really thought that I could do anything so she protected me and she killed herself and worked hard for me and convinced everyone else that I was the most talented thing.
Today you need an army of people to promote you, to believe in you, because if you get a record deal and it’s not a hit straight away they drop you like a ton of bricks. You go on to a big television show and you win it and then nines times out of ten you’re never heard of again.
“If you love it, in spite of all the sh** that comes with it, then do it.”
You yourself have to have a very strong work ethic, you have to become tough if you’re not tough to start with because the knocks cannot hold you back. I’ve had success but I’ve had a lot of failure. You have to be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and today I love what I do, but I’m not doing it to be famous, I never did do it to be famous. I do it because I love it.
Image: Facebook/Lulu Official
If you want to see Lulu doing what she loves, find tickets to her UK tour here and, just in case you needed reminding what makes Lulu a bona fide singing sensation, check out a playlist of her best tracks below.
May 2015 UK tour dates:
10 – Salford Quays, The Lowery
11 – Liverpool, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
12 – Glasgow, Clyde Auditorium
14 – York, York Barbican Centre
15 – Gateshead, Sage Gateshead
17 – London – Theatre Royal Drury Lane
18 – Cardiff, St. David’s Hall
19 – Birmingham, Symphony Hall
21 – Southend-On-Sea, Southend Sea Cliffs Pavilion
22 – Nottingham, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
23 – Sheffield, Sheffield City Hall
25 – Ipswich – Ipswich Regent Theatre
26 – Bournemouth, Bournemouth Pavilion