Reporter Gemma Sherlock speaks to Heather Small, formerly the lead singer of dance act M People, on her career, flooding and Beyonce Knowles, ahead of her gig in Lancaster.
The chart-topping singer will visit the city for the first time next year when she brings her tour to the Lancaster Grand Theatre.
Known for her instantly-recognisable voice Heather achieved a number of hits with M People including Search for the Hero, Moving On Up and One Night in Heaven, while her solo song Proud has been featured on the soundtrack to major events including the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Speaking to Gemma Sherlock ahead of her gig on February 6, Heather spoke about her career, fame and how she has been inspired by communities across the district during the Storm Desmond fiasco.
Born in West London, Heather joined her first band as a teenager before shooting to stardom as the voice of M People, a group put together in 1990 by Mike Pickering, a DJ at Manchester’s famous Hacienda club.
Heather was signed at the age of 21 with her first group Hothouse but was dropped by her label at 24-years-old, it was at that point she was spotted by Mike and M People formed.
Heather said: “I realised then I love singing, it wasn’t about making money or being famous, I was able to showcase my voice with M People.
“Your sound is your sound. I was told I have a sound but you don’t know you have one. My voice was like Marmite you either loved it or hated it.
“Fame was a gradual thing, we didn’t have fans that wanted to rip our clothes like with Take That, people wanted our music, it wasn’t that sort of level!
“I don’t think of myself as famous, Beyonce Knowles, she’s famous yes.”
Heather has always had a passion for music ever since she was an eight-year-old girl singing in the playground.
But the shy singer kept the dream to herself for a while until she wanted to do better for her family.
“I felt intrigued, if I didn’t give it a go I would have been thinking what if?
“I grew up on a council estate with immigrant parents, a lot of people thought this is not something to wish upon yourself (singing) but I knew there was something better, there was aspiration.
“I felt my mother had worked so hard, I wanted to do something to make it worth while but leaving family at 18 was hard, I would cry myself to sleep at night.”
The passionate singer also spoke out on the recent flooding chaos that hit the district recently.
She said: “What is so amazing is people are going out and helping each other in the community. That sense of community and being your brothers keeper in that situation is so inspirational.
“The timing of the flooding couldn’t have been worse, it is difficult when you are seeing it on TV.
“I have to say perceiver and keep doing what you are doing and taking your own future and plans into your own hands.”
Moving On Up and Proud are the two stand out songs for Heather – with her proudest moment being when Oprah Winfrey asked her to sing for her show.
The famous singer will turn 51 next year and can’t wait to perform at Lancaster’s Grand Theatre.
“The fact that I am still singing is great, I love to sing, I love to perform in front of a appreciative audience. The show is a very lively set, I want to see people singing and dancing along and feeling happy because happiness is not easily achieved in the months of February and March when the weather is not at its best.
“I want people to come and celebrate with me, I have earned my stripes.”
Tickets are £29 for The Voice of M People Heather Small and her musicians at the Grand. Visit http://www.lancastergrand.co.uk/shows or call the box office on 01524 64695 to book.