Melanie C: 'People think I'm mouthy, but I'm really quiet and gentle'

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This time last year, Mel C was bouncing around the UK's football stadiums, bringing the Spice Girls back to life for a celebratory run through their biggest hits and craziest outfits.Then, as soon as she stepped off the stage with Geri, Emma and Mel B at Wembley, she jetted off on a global tour of Pride events with LGBTQ collective Sink The Pink.And once that wrapped up, she went straight into the studio to work on her eighth solo album, and kept going until lockdown hit."If you compare my 2019 to my 2020, you couldn't get more different," she says. "You know, I was travelling all over the world, I was playing stadiums with the Spice Girls, and now I'm barely ever out of my pyjamas."
Today isn't one of those days. The singer joins us from her home in Hampstead, North London, surrounded by scatter cushions, hair scraped back to reveal her earbuds, and wearing a chic, marble-effect t-shirt."It's another day in Zoom-land," she sighs. "Oh my God, I'm so over it."Her Zoom ID, incidentally, isn't Sporty Spice or Mel C or Melanie Jayne Chisholm. It isn't even Melanie C, as she styles herself these days. Instead she's stuck with Scarlett, her 11-year-old daughter's name."Agh! I have to change it back every time I do something," she laughs. "I don't know how you get it to stick."
The singer has released seven solo albums
Like many families, they've struggled with home school during the quarantine. Chisholm confesses they've managed "the bare minimum"."I hate it," she says. "My little girl's pretty smart but she just can't be bothered."And you know, someone said quite early on in this whole thing: 'Think about how difficult it is, as an adult to motivate yourself at home - so imagine being a kid.' "After that I thought, 'OK, that's good. As long as she's doing something, it's better than nothing.'"It was only when school resumed on a limited basis at the end of June that Chisholm fully understood how lockdown had affected her daughter."She got so moody and uninspired. It was hard even to motivate her to go and have a walk, which is so out of character," she says."When they had the opportunity to go back... having a routine, socialising with her friends, I got my little girl back."
'Plain one at the back'
It might seem like a trite comparison, but rediscovering yourself after a period in the emotional wilderness is the theme of Chisholm's new album. The 46-year-old has always sung about her issues with self-acceptance, from the title track of her 1999 solo debut Northern Star to her 2017 album Version Of Me. This time, though, there's a newfound strength and resolve."When I look in the mirror, I finally like who I see," she declares on the opening track, Who I Am. Over the next 35 minutes, she sings about letting go of old hang-ups, having nothing left to hide and refusing to conform to expectations. "I don't want to be your acceptable version of me," goes the refrain of roller-disco jam Overload.
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It was a relief, she says, to be doing something outside the house."I hate videos sometimes. They're so bloody boring and exhausting. But this one was quite magical, I think maybe because it wasn't in my living room on Zoom."Attentive listeners will hear nods to Rozalla's 90s dance classic Everybody's Free (To Feel Good) as well as Dua Lipa's retro-pop anthem Don't Start Now - but Chisholm knows it'll be hard to compete in the current pop landscape."Obviously, I'm making a pop-dance record and I'm a mature artist, so I have to accept that some radio stations are not going to be playing me anymore. That's something to overcome. "But I want people to enjoy this album, I want people to dance to it, I want people to be empowered by it. And when coronavirus has finally done one, I want to get out there and perform it live."
The singer has a tour planned for 2021, lockdown measures permitting
She's also open to another Spice Girls tour, saying the band are "talking about it constantly", although fans shouldn't hold their breath."Trust me, it's a miracle we ever do anything, because we're impossible," she says, "but when we do, it's like the stars align and magic happens".There are good reasons to put the band back together, too. Not least because Five became Four for last year's shows."Not having Victoria on stage last year, you know, it was bittersweet," she says. "The shows were phenomenal but there was someone missing."Besides, the band realised too late they should have filmed the 2019 tour for posterity."We shied away from having a DVD, because people came from all over the world and they saved and they spent all this money to see us, so there's part of you that wants it to be a unique experience, this magical moment in time. "But so many people have been upset about it - and we are too, actually, because it'd be lovely just to look back and enjoy it all over again. "So hopefully, if we get our act together, we'll make another time to get up there and get it recorded properly."Melanie C's self-titled album is out on 2 October.
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