Undoubtedly, Heather Small – first as the powerhouse front woman of pop band M People and later as a successful solo artist – has one of the most distinctive and captivating voices in music.
Hits including Moving on Up, Search for the Hero, Proud and One Night in Heaven, defined the 90s and are still some of the catchiest tunes of the last thirty years.
This spring, Heather embarks on a UK solo tour, a celebration of her greatest hits and a showcase of her latest music. Fans will be treated to a series of intimate gigs, allowing them to get up close and personal with a heroine who laughingly describes herself as ‘a little woman with a big voice’.
YES Mag’s Carly Roberts caught up with Heather for a chat ahead of the highly-anticipated tour.
Carly: The solo tour starts on the 11th of April, what are you looking forward to most about it?
Heather: I’ve got a band that bring their A game and love what they do, and I love playing with them. That, combined with a live audience, that’s what I love! When it’s all going well, the interaction between the stage and the audience can be like a spiritual experience. It’s a celebration of what I’ve done but it’s also a celebration of what I’m going to do.
Carly: Physically, touring is very demanding. How do you prepare for so many dates?
Heather: I like to keep myself physically fit because I’m asthmatic. Early in my career, I changed my diet; I stopped eating meat and then I stopped eating dairy.
I became vegan, which is now about the trendiest thing you can be! People think you deny yourself a lot of things, but it’s not that, it’s about what works for you. For me, no food is tastier than singing on stage. Being vegan is something I do so I can do what I love.
Carly: With all your experience do you still get nervous before you go on stage?
Heather: When I get to my room, there are certain things that I like to have, and it helps to settle me because I am always skittish and nervous beforehand!
Carly: Do you have a favourite song that you love to perform time and time again?
Heather: For different reasons, I love them all. Proud, the first hit I had on my own – self-penned for my voice – has become something unique in my repertoire. The song seems to mean so much to so many people and that means so much to me.
Imagine: you write this song and it’s something that’s honest and true to you but then you realise that it’s become honest and true for others. That’s really humbling.
Carly: The William Aston Hall is an intimate venue, do you prefer that? Is it a different experience for you and the fans?
Heather: You get to a certain place and you can only play arenas because of the volume of fans but, given the choice, fans would choose to see their favourite person as intimately and as close up as possible. If it’s intimate, I try to make it feel like the most special place to be right now, like, “Aren’t we lucky we’re all here together?” My performance will always be big, because that’s what I do!
Carly: Which artist was the biggest influence on you growing up?
Heather: The person that made me say “I will sing!” was Gladys Knight. She really inspired me and there was something in her voice that made me believe a voice like mine could succeed. That was a lightbulb moment for me!
Carly: To be so successful for so long and to remain at the top, what does singing mean to you?
Heather: It meant everything to me until I had my son. When I had my son singing had to take second place, but in a professional capacity, obviously, it’s everything to me.
Getting a song and working on it, giving it life and making it mean something to me and others, that’s always going to be a highlight for me.
Carly: What can we expect from Heather Small in the future?
Heather: I have a new album out later this year, entitled Orchestral Greatest Hits – it will include reworkings of my greatest hits with M People and my solo material, but I’ve also written a few new songs.
It’s a celebration of what’s past and what’s to come.
Heather Small: the Voice of M People, comes to the William Aston Hall in Wrexham on the 15th of April – the only Welsh date in a packed UK tour schedule: