If you are a loyal reader of Electroqueer, you will no doubt already know that we are a big fan of Samuel – owner of fabulous blog The Hot Stuff Files. Unlucky for us, Samuel has decided to take a break from the blog, but that surely doesn’t mean that his amazing blogging is done and over with. Samuel will be guest blogging on EQ from time to time and injecting his one-of-a-kind wit and entertaining perspective into EQ in the upcoming months – and we couldn’t be any more excited. In fact, we are pleased as punch. So to commemorate this exciting collaboration, Samuel has agreed to let EQ host his amazing interview with the lovely Siobhan Donaghy. This interview is still one of our favourite blog posts to date and if you haven’t bought ‘Ghosts’ yet, you really are missing out on a great piece of musical art. Take it away Samuel…
Hot Stuff Files: Hello Siobhan. How are you?
Siobhan Donaghy: I’m very well thank you.
HSF: Does it ever feel a bit annoying that ‘Don’t Give It Up’ has failed to get into the top forty – and yet Mutya’s ‘Real Girl’ managed to go to number two?
SD: You’ve got stuck right in there. (Laughs). Not really, I think Mutya’s song is obviously a Lenny Kravitz and she’s spent much longer in the Sugababes and had far more exposure than me. And I’ve made a challenging pop record so I kind of quite expect it to be harder.
HSF: Is it annoying then at this stage to still be compared to Mutya and the Sugababes?
SD: I don’t think people compare me to them, especially not musically and I think people make comparisons in the sense of how I’m doing, but I don’t know what that means to me or if it means anything to me. I’ll make the records that I want to make and let the hits fall where they may.
HSF: So you wouldn’t be too concerned about how the charts go, then?
SD: Not the singles chart. I think it’s really important to get my album out there and I think I’m more of an albums artist than a singles artist. I think that’s not something I dictate, I think that’s something radio dictates for all of you and I could have made this much easier for myself and I could have made a throwaway pop record – but I didn’t want to.
HSF: Does it feel a little annoying that Radio 1 refuses to play you?
SD: Yeah they do! (Laughs) Um, what can you do? If Radio 1 refuses to play me what can you do? There’s nothing you can do. You can’t make them play you, so it’s something that you’re completely powerless to and I don’t worry about it. I take the rather zen approach.
HSF: Do you ever read the fan forums, on your site?
SD: Yes! A fan runs them and every so often I’ll go on and tell them what I’m doing and what not. And they can send me messages on there.
HSF: On the fans forums people are saying that there’s a lack of publicity for the releases…
SD: There is! (Laughs) But if radio don’t want to play the single – that’s missing – then me and my record label can plug away and Parlophone have been brilliant, doing everything in their power, but you just can’t make people let you come on their show. There’s not a lot of pop TV left and that’s one thing – so you’re heavily relied on by radio. But radio’s not the be all and end all.
HSF: Now on the BBC, you did a cover of Paulo Nutini: is this kind of because they don’t play you that you just play covers?
SD: No. It’s a shot on the Dermot O’Leary show and they do two. It’s pretty standard. People come and play their new song and also a cover version of something, so I did ‘So You Say’ – the new single – and Paulo Nutini – ‘Last Request’ so that’s what everyone does.
HSF: And does it show something about you as an artist that you’re on Radio 2, and not the Jo Whiley show where they do the single and the cover as well?
SD: I don’t know. I mean Dermot O’Leary really supports the project and he said he’d been trying to get me on for a while, so I guess that’s why we’re on Radio 2. But I don’t know, you know. I guess you just make the record that you really want to make and then, I don’t know. I didn’t deliberately try and make a Radio 2 record, just as I didn’t try and make a Radio 1 record. I think you’ve just got to try and make the best record of your career and then see what happens. And at the end of the day it’s a business – and not a predictable one at that. You just have to try and do your best.
HSF: Dermot O’Leary, he’s going to be presenting the next series of the X Factor. What do you think of shows like this where they judge talent as how you perform on the day, in the room?
SD: I think that for a genuine artist they develop over a number of years and I think it’s very hard to dismiss people in about thirty seconds. Obviously there are some people that are genuinely hopeless – there’s no two ways about it – but if you’ve got an unforgiving show then I think the one thing that’s good is that it does show the true nature of this business. And that’s what this business is about – it’s very cut-throat. It’s the reality of it. I guess it’s just a shame that it takes a bit of the magic away from people not knowing how a record is created and what goes on behind the scenes. It’s taking a bit of the magic away for the public.
HSF: So do you prefer the behind the scenes part of record making or the promotion side?
SD: I think no one prefers the promotion. (Laughs) I love being in the studio recording and I love doing the live performances, but I don’t mind the promotion at all. It’s just that I definitely prefer the writing, recording and live singing to everything else.
HSF: And when you were in the studio, is there any song that you made that you thought was amazing that didn’t make it on to the record?
SD: Yes! There was a song called ‘When Silence Breaks’ and that didn’t make it on to the record but it didn’t kind of sit with the general vibe, and at the end of the record it was the last piece of the puzzle, but for me I wanted a really cohesive piece of work that, not necessarily told a story morbidly, but I kind of had a story in my head throughout the whole thing and this particular song just didn’t fit. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it for something else.
HSF: Are you already looking at the next album? Or is it right here – this album!?
SD: I think I have to concentrate on this album for now. I’ve been in the studios for quite some time: on and off for a year and a half for the last two years and its a long time to be in the studio and I think that I just want to concentrate on this record for now and then after three or four months start doing a day a week or three days every two or three weeks but I definitely don’t want to go back in to it just yet. It’s hard to concentrate on that and anything else – I like to just be focused in on making a record if that’s what I’ve got to do.
HSF: And when you’re in the studio – do you find it easier to be in complete isolation rather than having a swarm of people around you?
SD: The best thing about this record for me is that we wrote and recorded this where he lived – he’s got a five hundred year old manor in the North of France and that was just about as isolated as you can get, with no neighbours and we didn’t have any TV or radio and it just seemed like a really kind of idyllic place to make a record. In London you’ve got studios above and beneath and to your left and to your right, and I think there’s a lot of cross pollination and I mean, that’s fine, but for the kind of record I’m wanting to make, I think this is the way forward and it was just nice to be making it out of leisure. And I made half of this record without a record deal, so it was a really relaxing way to make a record.
HSF: So do you see music as being really fun?
SD: I think it brings out all kinds of emotions, really intense ones as well, so it’s why I love it so much. It’s no secret that James Sanger – who I made the record with – has got a bit of a reputation and his mum died and he became a heroin addict before I came out to work with him, so that made for a really intense experience making this record – moving out and living with his family. It was very difficult, but I think it really was the making of this record. We didn’t really see eye-to-eye a lot of the time and that’s why we made the record that we did.
HSF: And so a bit of that went in to ‘Med-e-ac’…
SD: Yes (laughs and explains how to pronounce it) absolutely, ‘Mediac’ is probably the main song that came out of that subject matter.
HSF: But what does the title actually mean? ‘
SD: Mediac’ is a military term for a medical evacuation usually in a helicopter airlift.
HSF: If you hadn’t gone down the pop route, what career do you think you would have followed?
SD: Well I’ve always seen myself as a landscape photographer, but I don’t know. I’ve always been fascinated with David Attenborough and his work – and that’s sort of everyone’s ideal job, isn’t it. I’ve also had a subscription to New Scientist magazine for about six years – so maybe I would have looked to having a job with them.
HSF: Is it every hard for you to look at people like JoJo – coming from the Sugababes at such a young age – and then do you wonder why are they doing it?
SD: I don’t know, when I was in the Sugababes I wasn’t particularly driven. It just happened that my best friend’s brother-in-law founded the All Saints, and she told him I could sing. And I was like twelve years old at the time. I was just like how most kids were, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, so I just went along with it. It’s kind of what I’ve always done until I really got the music bug when I was sixteen and that’s when I knew it WAS what I wanted to do with my life and as I left school at fourteen and was home tutored – it’s not until much later on that you realise exactly how ridiculous it was. It’s not the average upbringing but even at that young an age you do realise what you’re doing and my parents were completely against it – but I was having none of it. At the end of the day they didn’t want to completely hold me back if that’s what I wanted to do and as it was what I was planning to do, they just had to let me do it and I most certainly don’t regret it.
HSF: So what’s the best thing that’s come about through the career then?
SD: I think just the interesting people that I work with and the fact that essentially I am self employed and have been able to travel the world with all my friends. And I feel that I’ve been able to have so many opportunities at a young age. It’s brilliant!
HSF: What’s your favourite place that you’ve been to?
SD: Probably Thailand. It’s getting quite well travelled now and I probably won’t go back but I’ve been there a few times – and for three months I’ve been there – and I stayed in a bamboo hut on a lake and trekked up mountains and through underwater caves. Plus we partied a lot, did stuff that young people do…
HSF: But staying in places like Thailand, do you think that you’re an ordinary English person – not going to Spain and sunning on the beaches as is the ‘norm’…
SD: No! (Laughs) My friends are all ordinary people; I had a normal upbringing, went to a state school on the edge of London and I think it’s a sign of the times that we can afford to go further afield, and of course, we stayed in £1.50 a night beach huts which made it more accessible.
HSF: Are you worried about global warming?
SD: I think everyone’s worried about global warming and the number one thing is aviation fuel and obviously they write about it a lot in the New Scientist. A lot has to be done and no one wants to be the government that starts taxing everyone to compensate for the way we’ve been living for the past hundred years, but at sometime, someone has to do it.
HSF: Going back to the album: does it feel a bit annoying that the album was leaked on to the Internet so early before the release?
SD: I think again that’s a sign of the times that you can put as many restrictions as you want on the record, but it’s going to leak and sometimes it can be to your benefit because we’re really proud of this record and I think that the main thing – when radio can be so difficult these days – is just getting the exposure and sometimes that means leaking your album and the hardcore people that love your record will still go and buy it.
HSF: So you don’t physically have any problems with the people that are leaking it on to the Internet?
SD: It’s such a massive problem, with something like 12 billion pounds worth of music downloaded last year, it certainly wasn’t JUST my record. You’re talking about a hell of a lot of artists that are losing out financially because of this and the record companies in particular are really suffering. And who knows what will happen? It’s a transitional period for the record companies – and things will change – I just don’t know how yet.
HSF: What would you say to the people who are leaking YOUR records on to the Internet?
SD: I don’t think it’s a personal vendetta against me, so I wouldn’t say anything. I know it’s not a personal thing. They’re not saying ‘we hate Siobhan so we’re going to leak her record’, they’re saying ‘they own it, they love it and they want other people to listen to it’ so really there are pros and cons to this but then, it’s not an ideal world in general, is it (laughs).
HSF: Last week Big Brother started – would you ever think of going on Celebrity Big Brother?
SD: No! (Laughs) I’ve already said no. I got asked to go on The Games as well and it’s not me. At all. Most artists are quite insecure and I’d be the first to put my hand up and say I’m not perfect; quite funnily I don’t want that televised.
HSF: What about Celebrity Masterchef?
SD: I’m quite interested in cooking. I’d probably go on Gordan Ramsey’s The F Word, but I’d be literally going on there to cook and study under someone who I think is brilliant, but other than that I’m not interested in shoving myself off on to a reality TV show… …though maybe I should, it would make it easier for us (laughs)!
HSF: Mika seems to think that big girls are beautiful with his latest single…
SD: Is THAT the title of his latest single…
HSF: Yes, ‘Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)’…
HSF: Is everyone beautiful?
SD: Well not everyone. But I look at it in a different way, is everyone beautiful on the inside, and, no. But aesthetically, of course, it’s the imperfections that the most interesting about people.
HSF: Do you think there’s an element of patronisation with the title of his song?
SD: I have to say, I haven’t heard the song – and I don’t know anything about it but there is a general thing where people jump on the bandwagon and go ‘power to big people’ and of course that shouldn’t be the point. The whole point is power to everybody. Everyone to their own. We should be embracing everyone of all shapes and sizes and not just one thing, where before when people sang about skinny people we shouldn’t now be singling out skinny people. The whole thing is we should be promoting a healthy lifestyle.
HSF: That’s a great view of society… (Laughs)… And back to music and what’s your favourite song on your album?
SD: I think it’s a song called ‘Goldfish’. It kind of seems to be kind of like a grower that when people get it – they REALLY get it. And for me it is a good representation of the whole album. It’s also my favourite vocal take that I’ve ever done, so I like it for that reason as well.
HSF: Would this be your third single, then?
SD: No. (Laughs) The favourite single is never one of the singles… I don’t know what the next single is going to be. It will either be something like ‘Sometimes’, ‘Coming Up For Air’ or ‘Medevac’.
HSF: Will there be a tour on the back of the album?
SD: Yeah. We’re looking at a couple of supports at the moment that are happening in the autumn and also a tour of my own in the autumn. We might also be playing G.A.Y. Kelis is playing and we’re looking at supporting her.
HSF: Is there anyone in the world of pop that you’ve met and quite dislike?
SD: To be honest, not really. I’ve always been surprised because everyone I’ve met has been very friendly. And I remember the first TV I did with the Sugababes, and that was CD:UK and Victoria Beckham came up and said hi to us and she was so funny, down to earth, and lovely. And ever since then I’ve never understood why people dislike her. I’ve never got it. She’s just so easy to like when you meet her.
HSF: You mentioned CD:UK. Is it a bit sad how we’ve got Popworld leaving us and how everything pop – seems to be evaporating?
SD: There will always be pop music but it is a shame. Those shows were great and people loved them but they are finishing and that’s that. There will be a new wave of shows that pop up, I guess in their place.
HSF: So everything isn’t bleak then?
SD: Of course not!
HSF: Thank you Siobhan Donaghy!
Originally posted at The Hotstuff Files – a now defunct pop music website (but still muched loved and missed by EQ and readers alike).