Mari Wilson has long been regarded as one of the UK’s best pop singers, with a distinctive voice that affords her a unique place in the annuals of music history. With a new album out, George R Vaughan caught up with “The Neasden Queen Of Soul” to find out more about the inspiration behind her latest release.
When I first heard Mari Wilson it was as a teenager back in 1982, being quite besotted by the beehive and her infectious hit “Just What I Always Wanted”, which was rising steadily up the charts.
Of course that was a long time ago when songs still climbed the charts and vinyl was king.
“It’s a completely new world,” Wilson reminds me when we meet. “I look back on it now and it seems almost completely indistinguishable from the music industry today. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career and to be still performing and releasing material 30 years on is something I am really proud of.”
So what can she tell me about that new release?
“This is an album I have thought about making for a long time and it stems back to my spell in Dusty The Musical. Ever since that opportunity I have always been asked why I didn’t do more Dusty Springfield material. Even my husband was encouraging me.
“My biggest fear was somehow becoming typecast, even if I was putting my own spin on things. My approach was to expand on the repertoire of songs and singers. So I looked at some of the biggest British icons that I love alongside Dusty including Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw and the late, great Cilla Black and decided to make an album that celebrated their music.
“Of course I needed to change the compositions because in many cases these were written for younger singers. I hope I have put my own stamp on this – it certainly has been a positive year of my life that I invested. “
With a new album out does she intend to tour and does she enjoy performing?
“I’m always on tour and I love it. To be honest the music industry has changed so much and the emphasis is now on performing instead of material sales. The multitude of ways that we can now access our music means the only way we can really make a living as an artist is through live shows.
“Pop music has changed. I believe it used to reflect a place in time. The 60s, 70s and 80s really provided a snapshot of those decades. It was a reflection of art, literature and fashion. It was also more about love. In some ways today’s music is all about image and sex.
“There is also an obsession with fame and celebrity at the expense of a real musical experience.”
How else has the industry changed for you since the 80s?
“The biggest change is technology. From social media to the Internet it is all about bringing music into the 21st century. If you don’t embrace it then you risk losing your identity in a very competitive and diverse musical environment.”
Why do you think there has been such a resurgence of interest in 80s music?
“It was a great time to make music and I have been involved with the Rewind Festival – in fact I am performing this year with Heaven 17. As a singer you need to keep singing.”
And as a singer is there anyone she would like to sing with?
“I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake. I would loved to have sung with John Lennon and it would be great to do a duet with Nick Lowe.”
Outside of her work does she have any interest or hobbies?
“I love baking, swimming and yoga. On the food front I have to be aware of what I eat because I have Type 1 Diabetes. For me now it is a way of life and everything I do – from eating and sleeping to working and relaxing – is based around this.
“I can eat pretty much whatever I like but I tend to stay away from meat and gluten. I also have a regular column where I write about living with the condition.”
Mari Wilson’s new album Pop Deluxe is out now and if you would like more information then visit her site here.
George R Vaughan