TMF meets Texas
Sharleen Spiteri has been cooped up in the same room for two days giving an endless number of interviews in the build up to her band's comeback. TMF finds her engaged and upbeat. "It's not exactly manual labour, is it?" she drawls, smiling. "We've got 25 years out of it so far..."
Spanning three decades, Texas are a household name, enjoying the height of their fame in the late 90s but it was never an easy ride. "I know hard work. I've had a 9-6 job for my shitty little pay check. I know what it is to go to work. And when you're in Texas mode, it's serious graft. You don't get this far without that." Mention the phrase 'burned out' and Spiteri is anything but; the fire in her belly clearly remains fully ignited. "25 million records, yeah, you've really burnt yourself out!"
But Texas haven't done anything in eight or so years. "Well, I don't think you burn yourself out because everything was paced. There was a point with Texas where we were always on the TV, always on the radio and everyone got a bit blase about it - to the extent that [Texas] became invisible. It was time to take time out. We didn't plan to take eight years!"
It wasn't feet up time musically though, as Spiteri released solo material during the extended hiatus, although as she is keen to highlight, her solo material was written with every intention of being a new Texas record. "The solo thing...was more of a necessity than anything. I had split from my long term partner and I didn't realise that I had things to say." Songwriting can be like therapy, but it can take a long time to realise exactly where particular songs come from. Spiteri becomes more animated as she explains her reaction to any criticism of her songwriting at the time. "I would have ripped somebody's head off and stuffed it up their arse if somebody had said to me at that point 'I don't think it should sound quite like that'...". Ouch.
So with full creative control, why the return to Texas? Years have passed; many would barely have noticed the band's absence. Spiteri's honesty is striking. Tragically, guitarist Ally McErlaine suffered from a grade five brain aneurysm and everything, simply put, went "tits up". With an incredibly low survival rate, the forecast wasn't great. "You're thinking, 'If Ally wakes up he's going to be seriously brain damaged. Do we want him to be this person with nothing going on up there, or do we just want him to die in his sleep?'"
After three months, McErlaine woke from his coma and to the delight of his friends and family, he seems to be one of the lucky ones - although his short term memory was minimal and most of what he could remember was deeply rooted in the Texas heyday.
"He started making progress; he's walking and remembering and getting better. Getting better to the point where he says 'I've gotta get out of here, everybody's mental!'. He says he wants to go on tour and we're like 'Are you kidding?! You've just died - twice! They've managed to keep you alive and now you want to go on tour?' You'd think he'd just want to go on holiday. It was almost like he fell in love with Texas again, and that has really inspired me. When you see that person so excited about it, and they've nearly died, it makes you think 'Yeah! We can do it! Come on Texas!' So then in 2011 we started doing some dates, to see how he coped with a whole show. Once we started you'd see people singing along... the four original dates turned into 29... Then we thought we need to write the record!"
"There wasn't any desire for Texas, nobody knew it was coming so there was no expectation. We got the freedom - no record label asking questions and putting on the pressure. We worked with mates. It was a rarity. We've had three shots at Texas: we blew up in Europe whilst doing jack shit in the UK. It comes to 1997, we were writing White on Blonde, nobody cared. Then all of a sudden it went bang! You think every record is 'the one'... A lot of people say this (The Conversation) is a great record but... the vibe feels really good, but you don't know if it's going to translate into record sales."
It's clear that Spiteri has a new love for her band, and this time they are doing it on her terms. She's grown up from the fiery front woman who grew up in the public eye. "The older you get you get the more scared you get of change. But also the older you get the more rebellious you get, you just think 'Fuck it!' because you know things are gonna change anyway. And that's kind of where The Conversation is written from."
Has she ever been accused of something she didn't do? "Yes!" It seems like we've tapped back into that feisty side. "My sister! A plumber came to the house because the sink was blocked up. My mum got a plumber in, and when he opened it 200 fags came out. My mum shouted 'Sharleen!' and my sister came in and said 'You don't think it was me do you?' It wasn't even me! My mum didn't even clock - she'd been going for two baths a day!".
Conversation from here diverts to her sister stabbing a school friend in the arse with a hair pin, to her sister's "pikey" wedding and through to her hippy Dad walking in on a boyfriend "Stark bollock naked! He was like 'What the F...!"
Texas are back - and it seems like the most natural comeback TMF has witnessed in a while. There's no mention of money, the band are playing a few low key events over the summer and the album process hasn't been rushed. Spiteri seems relaxed and ready for the next chapter, and it's a refreshing stance for an artist of her calibre.
New album The Conversation is out on 20th May.