We talk to Melanie Chisholm about life post-Spice Girls, coping with depression and teaming up with Emma Bunton again ahead of her Abu Dhabi performance.
Melanie Chisholm at Beats on the Beach
The year may be coming to an end but Melanie “Mel C” Chisholm continues to notch up many firsts.
One is the Spice Girl’s forthcoming Beats on the Beach performance on Thursday alongside the Egyptian pop star Tamer Hosny and the rapper Missy Elliot.
“It is my first time in Abu Dhabi,” she says.
“I heard so many great things and to get the opportunity to perform there on a beach and with great artists as well, I am just very excited.”
The 38-year-old’s concert caps off a year where she landed her first television role, as a judge on the talent show Superstar, and embarked on her debut theatre tour in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (Superstar has contestants competing for a role in the theatre production).
“You know, as you get older you realise you don’t know what is coming around the corner,” she says. “I find that this is great for me because it does keep my work and life more exciting.”
Chisholm’s move to embrace new opportunities stems back a decade, when she overcame a crippling bout of depression and an eating disorder.
She admits her battle with depression extended even further, back to the glory days of the British girl band where her personal life was far removed from the brash “Sporty Spice” image projected to the world.
“I did have some tough times for a couple of years,” she says. “A lot of the times where people are performers they have a persona that you put on to hide those insecurities.”
Chisholm explains the media spotlight and the constant whirlwind left the Spice Girls drained when they first broke up in 2000.
“It was a huge life change for all of us and we were all very exhausted,” she recalls. “We all dealt with it in different ways and it took me a long time to get well and feel positive about the future.”
The underlying melancholy perhaps explains Chisholm’s first post-Spice Girls album, 1999’s Northern Star. As well as the catchy yet frivolous pop of her former group, the successful debut exhibited a darker side, heard on the moody hit Never Be the Same Again, starring the late TLC singer Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, and the almost gothic Going Down.
Chisholm relished the reaction from a surprised public and critics, who renamed her “Indie Spice”.
“I tried to rebel and shed my Spice Girls image,” she says. “We were all trying to find ourselves in a way. People are so familiar with me as a Spice Girl that they are quite surprised when you are capable of doing other things. So I am really loving showing people that there is another side to my personality and to my performing.”
Chisholm continued that adventurous streak this year with her sixth album Stages.
Released on her own label Red Girl Records, the album is a collection of musical theatre standards from Cabaret (Maybe this Time), The King and I (Something Wonderful) to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Both Sides Now).
Chisholm explains the selected songs were largely responsible for forming her as a performer. “I really loved musical theatre when I was growing up. I went to perform at an arts college when I was 16 and these are songs that I learnt and auditioned with,” she says.
“These songs almost picked themselves. I had a big list and it was quite obvious which ones were great and the ones that didn’t work so well.”
Chisholm used the new album to reach out to the former Spice Girl, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton for the forthcoming single I Know Him So Well.
The song would be Bunton’s first musical foray since her 2006 album Life in Mono.
Chisholm says it’s no mistake the duo’s harmonies evoke the best of the Spice Girls.
“Emma was really the obvious choice,” she says. “She is a great friend, a great singer and I know our voices work well together. I hope the song will encourage her to get back to music more because she has such a fantastic voice.”
Whether Bunton returns to the music spotlight or not, the memory of the Spice Girls is set to live on with the musical Viva Forever, based on the group, set to premier at Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End on December 11.
With the Spice Girls closely consulted for the project, Chisholm promises the show will add another hit to the group’s canon.
“Rehearsals have just started, we have a great cast and the story is fantastic,” she says.
“The music works beautifully within the story and we have great new orchestrations of all the songs. All the posters have gone up outside the theatre so it is really an exciting time.”
While not promising a bevy of Spice Girls hit during her Beats on the Beach performance, Chisholm says the show will be “a high-energy” affair.
“It will be a really good mix of all my hits and music over the past 10 years,” she says. “We do pop, rock, dance and acoustic. It will be loads of fun.”
• Melanie Chisholm is performing on Thursday as part of Beats on the Beach at Al Sahel Beach, Corniche Abu Dhabi, from 10pm-11pm
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