Heather Small, the lead singer of M People with the big vocals, is back and in the midst of a solo tour. Here, she tells The Resident how growing up in Ladbroke Grove in the 70s gave her drive
Lead image: MP Productions/Koshimo Photography
M People was one of the biggest English dance music bands of the 90s. Lead singer Heather Small gained a strong reputation for her soulful lead vocals, and now she’s back, and in the midst of a solo tour.
‘I’ve been writing and recording new songs and material, which has been really fun, and I’ve been doing that with a young, new talent,’ smiles Small. ‘I’m getting myself prepared for the tour and festivals.’
So, how did the new tour come about? ‘I wanted to do some more live shows as I did some last year and really enjoyed it. I’ve got many more tools in my toolbox now some might say – my son is at university now and I feel that I’m a better singer than I’ve ever been,’ she says.
‘I owe it to myself to get out there and achieve my goals. I’ve learnt my craft and I love what I do, so I wanted to get out there and do it to to the best of my ability. Going on stage with a group of like-minded people to make music is so fun. Nothing can touch it.’
I owe it to myself to get out there and achieve my goals. I’ve learnt my craft and I love what I do
Small has been writing and recording new material this year, and clearly likes to keep striving forward: ‘Complacency is somewhere I don’t want to be, I want to get up and look forward to the day.’
Seizing the day is something that she clearly has always done, and her success as a breakout solo artist from M People clearly shows this.
Her solo album, Proud, and the lead song, which has the same title, received significant international acclaim for its positive message. The Oprah Winfrey Show even used it as its theme song.
Small credits her upbringing and life experiences with her outlook on life: ‘I grew up on a council estate in west London as a working-class immigrant, and it made me who I am, all of those things then shaped me,’ she says.
‘It wasn’t easy growing up and it was an overtly racist time, but I learnt from a very early age that life isn’t easy and that if you want something, you have to really fight for it.’
Does Small believe that there is a lot of support in west London for the arts? ‘Well you’ve got to think that I grew up in Ladbroke Grove in the heart of the funkies,’ she laughs.
‘I saw people that you would see on TV, and it inspired me. I saw people’s intention and creativity, which was special.’
I grew up on a council estate in west London as a working-class immigrant. I learnt from a very early age that life isn’t easy and that if you want something, you have to really fight for it
What does Small love most about the area now? ‘I still live in a community where there are all different types of people,’ she says. ‘I can still do London life and I like that a lot. I couldn’t live in an area where there wasn’t some type of diversity.’
Clearly passionate about community and the people, Small is also well known for her charitable work and she was recently made an ambassador for the children’s charity Barnardo’s, as well as lending her valuable support to projects around the country.
So what gives her the impetus to keep challenging herself?
‘If you get the feeling I do when I sing,’ she smiles, ‘then you would understand’.