By Sarah Goodman
By Sarah Goodman
Rabat- Scottish singer Sharleen Spiteri took the stage during Rabat’s Mawazine Festival, performing with her band of almost 30 years, Texas. However, the Glasgow-native is quick to correct any misconceptions that listeners may have about the origins of the musical group: “there’s nothing about Texas that’s got anything to do with us.”
Speaking to a press conference at Rabat’s Villa des Arts and in a conversation behind the scenes, Spiteri spoke about the band’s 2017 record Jump on Board, reflected on her atypical Scottish upbringing, and answered Morocco World News’ questions about the #MeToo movement.
You said that you’re proud of your 30 years or more of Texas. Would you tell us how you started Texas?
Spiteri: I met Johnny, who is the bass player of Texas and my songwriting partner, one week before my 18th birthday. So I was 17 years old. To be really honest, I’d never ever thought of being in a band. Everyone in my family played music, but everything was self-taught. I always imagined that people who were musicians were from another world. I just didn’t thank that’s what I would do. I was going to art school and working as a hairdresser.
I met Johnny and he said to me, “Do you write?” and I said “yeah,” the way you do when you’re this young. And we started writing. […] We wrote together for one year and we started trying to put a [record] deal together and we did all the demos, “I Don’t Want a Lover” and “Everyday Now.” That was how it started. And we signed to Universal Records. And we were signed to Universal for [over] twenty years.
And would you tell us about your inspirations for your last album, Jump on Board?
Spiteri: Jump on Board was very influenced by a lot of Glasgow rock bands like Orange Juice and Hipsway, and their jangly guitars. What we wanted to do when we wrote Jump on Board, we wanted to make a record that would make you feel happy. We wanted to make a record that basically helped you escape from everyday life, and just have that moment of forgetting when you get home from work.
We wanted to make a record that basically helped you escape—something that made you feel happy inside and like you want to dance. And that was really what we were trying to achieve for ourselves, first of all. And luckily enough, it’s been successful.
What does it feel like to be here in Morocco for the second time, and the first time at the Mawazine Festival?
Spiteri: It’s such a beautiful country. We got in late last night. We arrived just as Bruno Mars was doing his last song. There were a lot of young people dancing in the streets and the atmosphere was just fantastic.
Have you prepared anything special or different for the audience tonight at Mawazine?
Spiteri: There’ll be a few surprises. I think the most important thing about going to a show is that we entertain—that the band and the audience come together and [make] a big fantastic mood and that people are just happy and enjoying themselves.
We have a big catalogue, we have a lot of songs from over the years. [The setlist has] a mix of everything, some old, some new. Maybe some covers. Hopefully it’ll be entertaining!
I see that you’re drinking Moroccan tea. What do you think of Moroccan food?
Spiteri: I’m going to be honest, I haven’t eaten since I got here last night. I literally got out of my bed 45 minutes ago.
Was this because you were tired or because you were stressed?
Spiteri: Oh, I’m not stressed! I’m 50 years old. Seriously, I don’t do “stressed.” When you become my age, you don’t give a shit. I don’t need any of that bullshit in my life. It’s one of the great advantages of getting older. The things that you care about [now] are so different from when you’re young. Life is shorter, so want to enjoy every single minute that you have. And that’s all I really care about.
Do you listen to “Arabic music” or to any Moroccan singers?
Spiteri: I grew up with so much different music as a child because both my parents aren’t British. I have a French grandmother and a Maltese grandfather. My father grew up in Egypt and came to the UK when he was eight or nine years old. So there was lots of different music that I heard as a child from that side [of the family].
And then on my mother’s side, our family are Norwegian and Irish. So, I grew up very differently. Even just the food was different at my home and my friends’ homes. I didn’t grow up with typical British food. Maybe that’s why I’m still alive!
Can you tell us about the band’s name, Texas:
Spiteri: So the band was named after the movie Paris, Texas. When Johnny and I first met, we both loved Wim Wenders, the director of the movie Paris, Texas and who has made many great movies. But the thing that really stood out to us as well was the opening sparseness of the movie and the soundtrack that Ry Cooder had made for it. We were obsessed with that slight guitar sound and it really inspired the first record we made.
If you had to rename the band—
Spiteri: Put it this way, if we had to rename the band, it would not be Texas. Because when you’re 17 years old, and you’re like what are we going to call our band? I had never been to Texas, I had no idea what Texas stood for! We were only referring to the movie.
And it’s weird because suddenly you realize what Texas stands for: there’s great things about Texas, but there’s really shitty things about Texas as well. Then you travel and people think you’re some country rock band. And then you have the moment where people you meet go, “so you’re American?” And then they can’t understand why you’re not American and would call yourself Texas. And you spend hours on end explaining to somebody, “No, I’m not from Texas; the band is called Texas.”
There was a great moment years ago with Lionel Richie. I went to this Universal [Records] dinner that Lionel Richie was at. And the lawyer from Universal Records says [to him], “This is Sharleen Spiteri from Texas.” And he went, “ahh, you’re from Texas?” And I said, “No, I’m from a band called Texas.” And Lionel Richie could not get his head around this at all. He would go away for 10 minutes, and then come back to me and ask, “Are your parents from Texas?” And you’re speaking to Lionel Richie, who’s one of the greatest songwriters, and you’re saying “Listen, Lionel, seriously, forget Texas, it’s just a name.”
“At the end of the day, the connection was Paris, Texas the movie and Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas. Apart from the that, there’s nothing about Texas that’s got anything to do with us.”
MWN: What do you think emerging artists today are up against? Do you have any advice for young female performers?
Spiteri: I always feel like such a fool giving anybody young advice. I was up against something different in the 80s. It’s easier to make records nowadays, so you can make records with no money. But the amount of records, you have to fish through so much now to find the people that are really good at what they do. But most of the good stuff rises to the top and sticks.
MWN: I understand that you’re reluctant to give too much advice to the young people, but particularly for young women performers who are trying to break on to the music scene. What kinds of things do you think they’re up against, and how have you worked against that in your career?
Spiteri: As far as young women coming up and coming through, times are changing. They’re changing slowly. The only thing I would say to young women is, remember what it is that you’re trying to change.
The #MeToo and Times Up movements it’s about, for me, it’s about when my daughter says, “I’m not prepared to do that, I don’t want to do that, that’s not right,” that she’s not going to be ostracized or looked down upon or not employed or not able to do something because of that.
Men are important in my life, and them being different from us [women] is important. I don’t want to water them down. But for the bad ones that are out there – it’s not just against women, it’s violence against young men as well, and that’s important.
You’re hoping that you’re creating a society where young women can say ‘no.’ And the fact that women in Hollywood are not paid the same as a man is fucking ridiculous. If you’re grossing at the box office more than he’s grossing at the box office, why are you not getting paid more?
I just hope that young women now feel that they can speak out if they’re in a situation where they’re uncomfortable or in danger.