Heather Small reveals she has experienced racism since the age of seven: ‘There isn’t a week goes by when something doesn’t happen’ ..Entertainment

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Entertainment - heather small has released her first album in 16 years picture ash knotek rex shutterstock the singer for m people .. Heather Small reveals she has experienced racism since the age of seven: ‘There isn’t a week goes by when something doesn’t happen’ , Now to the details.

Heather Small has released her first album in 16 years (Picture: Ash Knotek/REX/Shutterstock)

The singer for M People, 57, on her songs resonating with people, working in a charity shop and facing racism.

Your songs have resonated with people for 30 years and have been used as motivational anthems…

When you record a song and it’s released, it’s out of your hands how well it does. First and foremost, you write something that means something to you and hope it resonates with others.

Kids aged eight come to our shows knowing Proud because they’ve either been force-fed by their grandparents or parents or they’ve been singing it in assembly.

People say, ‘We used to sing hymns in assembly and now we sing Proud’. My work here is done!

You’ve said you’re not prepared to say anything more about Liz Truss making the band ‘livid’ after using Movin’ On Up at a Conservative Party conference. How did you feel when Boris Johnson also used lines from Search For The Hero in a Covid speech?

I was sat down watching that speech and I’m thinking, did he just quote M People? It was the most bizarre thing. We found it funny because here I am of immigrant stock, black, female, working class, grown up on a council state. And he’s quoting my words.

Boris Johnson quoted Heather during one his speeches when prime minister (Picture: Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

When you performed with Hot House, you were so nervous you couldn’t open your eyes…

The first time I went on tour was an arena tour and it was terrifying. And because I wasn’t an extrovert, I got the songs out but didn’t move around much. I did my first TV performance on music show The Tube with my eyes closed, too. But it’s about having confidence in yourself. The way I overcame it was to make sure I was as professional as possible, especially because I’m asthmatic. I was the lead singer,
I couldn’t stay in clubs all night because it would show up in my voice.

Did you enjoy going on The Masked Singer?

I did. It took me weeks to untrain singing like myself. The vocal coach was saying, ‘Heather, you sing with an oval mouth, see if you can flatten and widen.’ I sang so differently that 99 per cent of people had no idea. I sang a song people wouldn’t think I’d gravitate towards but it got me knocked out week one. I didn’t mind because everybody was talking about it – they just couldn’t believe it was me.

Are you writing a sitcom?

I wrote a sitcom in lockdown with a friend and I think it has legs. I’ve been told it has. It’s a comedy set in a charity shop as I volunteered in one for a few months when I wasn’t touring. I sing for lots of charities but I wanted to do something within my community that 
I gave time and effort to.

You had a sell-out UK tour earlier this year. How was it?

Going from A to B is a tiring thing –first-world problems. But when you get on stage and get love, appreciation and acceptance, it’s wonderful. I haven’t always been accepted so to get up on stage and do what I do, looking the way I look and being celebrated for that, it’s gratifying. Because I haven’t had to change me to be successful.

Have things changed since you started?

It was actually starting out in my life, because I faced racism from the age of seven. So I know when somebody’s trying to offend and denigrate me. There isn’t a week goes by when something doesn’t happen because of my racial makeup.

But I always deal with it head on. School years were difficult because there was never an even playing field and that’s all anyone wants – being treated as an equal human being. It should be a given.

Is the music industry more of an equal playing field?

A lot of artists, especially African-American ones, just started their own labels, becoming all-round entrepreneurs within the music business.

Somebody like Stormzy has followed that template of ‘I am able to do everything’. I applaud that kind of business acumen because they’ve taken control. Women aren’t always allowed to do that. They often have to compromise themselves visually to do what they want musically. But I was never asked to do anything like that and I’ve never been good at being told what to do.

Alfie Boe has collaborated with Heather on her new album Colour My Life (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Colour My Life is your first album in 16 years. How did it come about?

Somebody asked me and I thought it made sense. I only do things I love. 
I won’t do anything for the money, it isn’t enough to me. If you do anything creative and your heart’s not in it, you’ll be found out.

What’s it like working with Alfie Boe?

We did our recording separately but we did a charity fundraiser together for the Invictus Games in Sheffield, and when I heard Alfie sing live in rehearsals… he has a beautiful sound and is a lovely man.

I asked somebody else who might be the usual person to sing a soul ballad but that work didn’t come off and Alfie said yes straight away. My son says it’s his favourite song on the album. It’s given it a rock-opera feel.

Heather Small’s latest album, Colour My Life, is out now

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Heather Small reveals she has experienced racism since the age of seven: ‘There isn’t a week goes by when something doesn’t happen’


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