WHISPER it quietly, but some might say one of the stars of this weekend’s Eighties pop
WHISPER it quietly, but some might say one of the stars of this weekend’s Eighties pop festival at Temple Island Meadows is more of a leading light of Nineties and Noughties pop.
When it comes to Rewind, of course, M People singer turned solo star Heather Small has been here before. Literally, in the case of Henley, which she played back in 2012.
Promoter David Heartfield said at the time: “I am fairly liberal on the meaning of the Eighties — Heather Small had a hit in the Eighties but she is better known for her songs in the Nineties. It is really about whether we think the band or individual fits into the event.”
Heather’s Eighties hit, Don’t Come To Stay, came with her first band, Hot House, in 1987. Fast-forward 25 years to 2012 and Proud — her first solo hit in 2000, which became her signature song — was chosen as the official anthem of the London Olympics. Not a bad career landmark by anyone’s standards.
“Not at all,” says Heather, who has just returned to the UK after playing in Russia. “And, you know, I sang outside Buckingham Palace in The Mall for thousands of people when they did the handover from Beijing. Those sort of things you don’t forget. That’s the thing about some of the things you get to do — money can’t buy those experiences, so it’s very, very special, you know? Lives with you for ever.”
The Rio Olympics being on our screens has served to remind everyone what a memorable summer 2012 was.
“Ah, it was fan-tastic!” enthuses Heather, 51. “I remember the games makers, the young people. I mean, I went — I saw Usain Bolt, I went to the Games. So I saw those young people in action and, you know, it made you feel really, really, dare I say it, proud.
“The good humour, the bonhomie — it was brilliant. I mean, two weeks where we had spectacular weather — this was unheard of! I mean, I’m British and I live in London and when you saw some of the places that were shown on TV you thought, oh, that’s going to be my next summer holiday! Some of those venues just showed Britain in its best light. It was a real positive. And then seeing how well our young Olympians and Paralympians did — and the support they got! That was it — that whole thing of coming together, I like that.
“And that’s what I like about playing live. You have all different types of people coming together and you see that energy when you’re on stage — you see that positive energy, and what you’re given you feed it back into the audience, so it’s really simpatico. When it all goes well I always feel like I’m flying!”
Proud may be Heather’s most successful song, but many people with an awareness of her work might not realise quite how successful it has been.
The first TV show to use it was Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk. Then Heather got a call from none other than Oprah Winfrey, who used it as the theme song for her top-rated US talk show, on which Heather appeared as a guest in 2005. That same year, the song was also licensed as the theme song for the original US version of weight-loss reality TV series, The Biggest Loser.
Closer to home, from 2009 the comedian and actress Miranda Hart began using Proud in her hit BBC sitcom Miranda — something that led to Heather’s back catalogue sales increasing by 73 per cent in the final quarter of that year.
In the show, Miranda’s overly competitive friend and colleague Stevie, played by Sarah Hadland, regularly sings the line “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” while holding a cardboard cut-out of the singer’s head when she is feeling especially pleased with herself. Given the personal nature of the lyrics, did Heather mind how the song was used?
“I couldn’t watch the programme the first time it was on, but my son watched it and recorded it. It was comical and it was respectful, you know?
“If you’re on a show and they don’t have to mention your name, they just have to talk about your songs and people know who they’re referencing — I was thinking ‘I’ve done it! I’ve permeated the British psyche!” she laughs.
“I’ve appeared on the show a couple of times as well and was in the actual last episode. They’re a lovely, talented bunch of people so, you know, any association.”
Heather said the idea of using Proud had come up when Miranda was being workshopped prior to filming. “They were bouncing ideas off each other and I think at one stage she came up with that Proud kind of line — and it just took off. People enjoyed it in the programme and it became like a catchphrase!
“You know, when you write, you start from your experiences, but when you release it and you’ve got it out there then people have to digest it in their own way. That’s the beauty of music, you know, because it touches us all in very different ways.”
What is the song about, for her?
“Proud was written from a real-life experience — my own experience. That’s why when it comes to singing that song I never tire of it — never, never, never — because it means something to me personally and it will always mean something to me personally.
“And to me it’s, you know, it is about how you measure success — people think you’re in a successful band and that if you’re outwardly successful that you’re meant to be successful, but that’s not always where our success lies. You know, being in command and control of your own destiny, that’s success for me, ultimately.”
Heather Small plays Rewind South on Sunday (August 21). The festival is virtually sold out, but a spokesman said there may be some tickets available in some categories on the door, subject to availability.