WHEN Sonia Evans makes her début at this year’s Rewind Festival in Henley it will mark the 25th anniversary of
WHEN Sonia Evans makes her début at this year’s Rewind Festival in Henley it will mark the 25th anniversary of a gamble that changed her life.
Aged just 17, the Eighties singer bluffed her way past bouncers to confront music impresario Pete Waterman and persuaded him to give her an audition on the spot.
She had a record contract within weeks and her first single, 1989’s You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You, reached the top of the UK charts less than a year later.
After a year of relentless touring, a début album and appearances on major TV shows like Top Of The Pops, she was snapped up by a then-unknown Simon Cowell for her second release.
On the strength of these achievements she was picked to represent the UK in 1993’s Eurovision Song Contest, where her song Better The Devil You Know was narrowly pipped to victory by Ireland.
Those heady days are more than two decades behind her, but Evans told the Standard she looked back on them fondly — and credited her success on that moment of fearlessness.
She said: “I was always singing, even when I was a kid. I went to drama school and was making demo tapes from when I was about 13.
“When I read that Pete Waterman was holding auditions in Liverpool, I knew I had to go for it. He was writing all the hits for Kylie Minogue at the time so he was the one to be in with. He was the biggest music maker of his kind.
“I approached his bouncer and said: ‘It’s OK, I know him’ and got through. Then I went straight up to Pete and said: ‘If you don’t sign me, you’re going to miss out because someone else will.’
“I think he was so taken aback by the cheek of it that he invited me to come and sing live on his radio station — and I had a record deal soon after that. I had no nerves at all. I was just a kid back then and I had the front for anything. I just thought, ‘If you’re so determined then go for it’.”
Evans also recalls her early dealings with Cowell, which left her in no doubt that his career would be equally successful.
She said: “Simon has always been Simon, even when he was working for a little record label. He was so charismatic and full of life. He stood out as soon as he walked into any room.
“I always thought there was a certain ‘something’ about him. He felt like a celebrity in his own right. He was very flamboyant, very genuine and very funny. He would always make me laugh, but he was also extremely determined and had a strong belief in himself.”
However, she said reality television shows like The Voice and Cowell’s own The X Factor were making it harder for budding performers to build a lasting career.
She said: “There’s a surge of these reality TV winners and runners-up coming through but the problem is they only seem to have one song and then you never hear from them again.
“They don’t seem to invest time in nurturing them because there’s so much pressure to find more winners and the next big thing. The performers are a flash in the pan and then they have to go back to their normal lives.
“I do really enjoy watching those programmes, though. I can’t help it they’re very addictive. I think the people taking part have to try and just enjoy it for what it is.”
Now aged 42, Evans still lives in her native Merseyside with husband and tour manager Mark Moses and their three-year-old daughter, Gracie Rose.
She remains in demand at Eighties-themed events around the UK. Last Christmas, she performed alongside Kylie Minogue and other big names from the decade at the O2 Arena in London.
The show was a reunion for stars whose careers were launched by the famous Stock, Aitken and Waterman songwriting partnership.
She said: “I think the Eighties are so popular purely because of the music. It’s about the sounds and the costumes too. Artists used to really dress up so their appearances on Top Of The Pops felt like really special occasions.
“I’m always gigging all throughout the year. I do all kinds of stuff from corporate work to festivals and concerts. I’m really looking to Rewind because things like that give me a chance to catch up with all of the gang from back in the day.
“The great thing is that once you’ve been on, you can just relax and enjoy the rest of the festival with a glass of wine which is fantastic.
“We tend to bump into each other throughout the year at various events. Only the other day I was catching up with Leee John from Imagination and Billy Ocean. It doesn’t really feel like a job at all — it’s an absolute dream.”
* Rewind Festival takes place on Temple Island Meadows near Remenham from Friday, August 16 to Sunday, August 18. This year’s line-up also includes The B52s, Kim Wilde, The Pointer Sisters, Chesney Hawkes, Heaven 17, Billy Ocean and ABC. The last few adult tickets are still available at £100 each. To book tickets go to www.rewindfestival.com