Corinne Drewery, singer songwriter with English band Swing Out Sister chats with Kevin Cooper about her love of Northern Soul, being the last person to swim at Bulwell Lido, Sir Paul Smith owing her friend a fiver and their latest album Almost Persuaded.

Corinne Drewery is an English singer songwriter and fashion designer best known for being the lead vocalist with Swing Out Sister.

Growing up in Nottingham and the Lincolnshire village of Authorpe, she was strongly influenced by the Northern Soul scene.

After studying fashion at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, she met fellow group members Andy Connell and Martin Jackson in 1984 and together they formed Swing Out Sister.

In 1986 the group achieved phenomenal success on both sides of the Atlantic with their hit single Breakout.

Whilst getting ready for the release of their latest album, Corinne Drewery took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.

Hi Corinne how are you today?

Hello Kevin I’m very well thank you and I have to say that you are very punctual, in fact you are exactly on the dot.

Well I will let you into a secret; I’m an ex-policeman so timing is everything (laughter).

(Laughter) well that’s good, in fact you could teach me a thing or two. I’m always running late but I have to say that I am getting better.

People often tell me that I really should be a drummer but I think that I am a little too intelligent for that (laughter).

(Laughter) you had better watch what you say about drummers, I find that they are much maligned. There is a lot more to them than you think.

I know a few drummers and I have to say that I tend to find them deep and meaningful people at heart.

I know exactly what you mean as I find them all to be very complex. Most people see drummers as being the simple acute end of things but believe me, there are lots of other things going on. Have you ever tried keeping time with all four limbs? To achieve it you have got to have perfect co-ordination. It really is complicated (laughter).

Very much so, I totally agree. Well at least that is something which we both agree on (laughter).

Yes it is, let’s see if it carries on (laughter).

Well before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. It’s great that you want to speak to me and find out just what we are up to. As you well know Nottingham is my birth place and that is where I spent my formative years. Nottingham is very close to my heart although I don’t get back there as much as I would like to these days.

And I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well I have to say that life at the moment is good. The sun is shining and after this I am off for a swim in the local Lido.

It’s funny that you should mention Lido swimming because a little bird recently told me that it was your Grandma who first introduced you to that?

(Laughter) that’s right. Just who have you been speaking to (laughter). My Gran, bless her, really did toughen me up to Lido swimming. She used to take me to the Highfields Lido which as you know was set in the university grounds just off University Boulevard and also there used to be a Lido on Station Road in Long Eaton. However, the one in Long Eaton has now been long closed and I am informed that they have built over it whilst the one at Highfields is now an arts centre. I personally find it sad that they have closed a lot of these open air pools.

Well they even built houses on the one at Papplewick without giving it a second thought.

That’s right, I can actually remember going to Papplewick Lido and me and my Granny were the only people in there, and in fact we often were (laughter). I can remember her saying to me “go on, get in there, it will do you good” (laughter). There I was, freezing cold in the icy pool, slowly turning blue but she never went in (laughter). She much rather enjoyed throwing me in but looking back I am so glad that she did. I swim throughout the entire year in Lidos, but obviously I swim in the heated ones during the winter months as I am a bit of a wimp (laughter).

And you have a claim to fame regarding the Bulwell Lido don’t you?

Well someone really has been talking out of school haven’t they (laughter). I was the last person ever to swim in the Bulwell Lido. I had gone to visit my Grandma who at that time was in the City Hospital but after a while she needed a rest so I thought that I would go for a swim in the Bulwell Lido. I am on a Lido Watch and I am trying to swim in all of the Lidos that are left in the country and at that time there were lots around the Nottingham area. So I thought that I would go and check out Bulwell Lido. So off I went, and when I turned up at Bulwell Lido they were just about to start emptying the pool as it was late September. The pool was full of suction pipes getting all of the water out and when I saw that I went running in shouting “please stop, I have come up all the way from London, please let me have a swim”.

To my surprise they halted everything so I went into the changing rooms which weren’t really being used anymore as there were now pigeons living in there. All of the old wire baskets, lockers and keys were all still in the changing rooms, so I managed to take a few photographs of a few of those things, although I don’t know where they are. I really should try to find them as they are quite historic now. I got myself into the Lido but it was so cold, and all of the lifeguards were standing around stopping them emptying the pool (laughter). At that point I started making gasping noises but I thought I couldn’t chicken out now as they had halted emptying the pool to allow me to swim in here so I swam a few lengths, climbed out and let them get on with it (laughter).

After that I later read in the paper that it never re-opened and that is so sad but I think that Lidos are finally catching on once again for people like me who were forced to go swimming when they were little; we were hardy. However, flights suddenly became cheaper and people went off in search of the sun; they went off on package tours and I suppose it was the poor Lidos that suffered. The local councils had to make their money from somewhere so they closed them and built over quite a lot of them. The good news is that if they have not been built on then some are being re-conditioned and in fact some have actually re-opened so there still might be hope for a few more.

The good news is that we are slowly but surely catching up with the rest of Europe. We are now seeing what can be done and what should be done.

Yes we are and you have to remember that the whole reason as to why Lidos were originally built was because between the wars people were suffering from rickets as they weren’t getting enough sunlight. Lidos were a healthy thing, and one of the pools that I go to in London, Parliament Hill Lido, I have to say that the place gets rammed on a sunny day. All of the kids are out strutting their stuff, jumping in the water and it is not heated. However, it is only like that for a few days of the year, the rest of the year I get it to myself (laughter). That is what it used to be like, people going out sunning themselves, checking each other out, having a picnic; it was all so very lovely.

I personally feel that you do get acclimatised. If you keep going every day then there comes a point where you don’t feel the cold. If people go just the once every few weeks then they will but it is good for you, you don’t get a cold if you go swimming in the open air every day.

Let’s just hope that common sense prevails and that they open a few more.

Yes, let’s hope so.

Anyway swiftly moving on, you and I have something else in common.

Do we, what’s that?

A love for all things Northern Soul.

So you are a Northern Soul fan too, that’s fantastic.

I’ve been collecting Northern Soul vinyl now for over 40 years and what I wanted to ask you is, just how did you get into the Northern Soul scene?

Well I grew up in Lincolnshire, and after my family moved there from Nottingham, it was supposed to be our retreat in the countryside. However, for me, I found it a bit of a shock to be moving from Nottingham to the wilds of Lincolnshire because there wasn’t really anything there (laughter). In Nottingham there were cinemas, music, the ice rink, and lots of other things to do. Then suddenly going to the countryside it really was quite a shock for me. I can remember my Mum and Dad showing me my new school and I said “that’s not a school, that’s a house” (laughter). It was a small village school which used to be a chapel.

I always wanted to go back to my townie roots really, although there are quite a few people from Nottingham who make the move to Lincolnshire, simply because it is nearer the seaside. Whenever you think of the likes of Skegness and Sutton on Sea, the day-trippers from Nottingham are always there (laughter). I can always remember the Wakes Weeks when the people from Nottingham would head off to Skegness because all of the lace factories were closed. So being honest, Lincolnshire really was like home from home as there were always people from Nottingham there (laughter). I first heard a few Northern Soul records because there were a few people at our school who used to go to All-Nighters and bought these rarities, and the nearest one to me was Cleethorpes on the end of the pier.

Me and my friend used to hitch there or get the last bus to Cleethorpes and then we would queue up on the pier; it was fantastic (laughter). The M62 went all the way direct from Liverpool, straight across The Pennines to Cleethorpes. Also all of the Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca DJ’s used to go and play at Cleethorpes. There seemed to be a direct link to the heart of Northern Soul especially with The Twisted Wheel in Manchester connection too. Who would have thought it but in Northern Soul terms Cleethorpes was well and truly on the map (laughter). So from the age of around fourteen I used to go there and I was just so blown away by this music.

I remember thinking ‘this is such a special thing, it will be remembered for years to come’ because the people who used to go there; the working class people who all had manual jobs, coal miners, factory workers and builders for example, were all dancing like ballerinas. It was kind of like Billy Elliot, to see some of these tough hardworking guys just dancing in an almost balletic kind of way. There would be dance competitions in the middle of the night; the floor would clear and there would be a dance off between these people who were, for all extent and purpose, pretty tough. They would be dancing in such a delicate way, and I remember thinking ‘this music is bringing out such a beautiful thing in everybody and is bringing all of these people together in the middle of the night on a pier almost projecting out into the freezing cold North Sea’. It was fantastic; it was a special time and also a very special moment.

Has that feeling stayed with you some 40 odd years later?

Yes it has, it really has. In fact I still go to the Northern Soul events at The Ballroom up there in Blackpool. I spend a lot of time in both Blackpool and Manchester so if there is ever anything going on up there I will always dip my toe in (laughter). I have very fond memories of going to an all-nighter in Cleethorpes and then heading down to The Palais De Danse in Nottingham to attend an all-dayer. After being up all night and dancing all day I thought ‘is the floor moving’ but of course it was (laughter). They had a revolving dance floor downstairs in the Bali Hi bar didn’t they (laughter). That really did mess with my head.

Putting you on the spot, do you have a favourite Northern Soul track?

(Laughter) that is so naughty. Thinking about it I would probably go for something like Long After Tonight Is All Over by Jimmy Radcliffe simply because it was written by (Burt) Bacharach and (Hal) David. At the time I didn’t know that it was written by Burt Bacharach but as I am a huge Bacharach fan and having grown up with all of those records, as I grew older I started looking into who had written what and to my surprise I found out that Long After Tonight Is All Over is in fact a Bacharach and David composition. It is such a memorable song as it was always the penultimate song to be played at the end of the night.

I also love Better Use Your Head by Little Anthony And The Imperials. I can remember thinking that song was like a Tango. It was kind of strange to hear people stomping away to that particular track (laughter). In fact I actually saw Little Anthony at The Blackpool Soul Festival and I have to say that they were great (laughter). Obviously the singers came over from the USA and the backing band and singers were from here in the UK and I have to say that some of the band had been on tour with Swing Out Sister a few years ago now (laughter).

I was fortunate enough to actually interview Burt Bacharach a couple of years ago now and I asked him if he was aware of the Northern Soul Scene here in the UK and he had no idea.


So in the time that we had I tried to explain the concept to him.

What did he say to that?

Well he played the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham a few weeks after the interview and he stopped the show and said ‘my young friend there at the back of the Hall has been educating me about something called Northern Soul, does anyone know what he is talking about’ and the whole place erupted (laughter).

That is brilliant. Well done you for telling him that. We finally met Burt Bacharach back stage at The Royal Albert Hall here in London because Swing Out Sister supported him. We were on tour at the time and our agent called and said “how do you fancy supporting Burt Bacharach at The Royal Albert Hall, you most probably don’t want to do it” to which I replied “you what, of course we do” (laughter). Our agent didn’t realise that I was such a huge fan. So off we went to meet him before we went on, and I kept thinking ‘I have got to tell him about Long After Tonight Is All Over’ but then of course when I met him I forgot all about it (laughter).

When I mentioned the title to him he immediately remembered that Jimmy Radcliffe had recorded it but had no recollection of him writing the song with Hal David.

Really, well I suppose when you have written as many great songs as those two have it is hard to remember each and every one of them.

That is perfectly correct. He was so thrilled when I mentioned it to him because Jimmy sadly passed away in 1973 but his son is now working tirelessly in order to keep his father’s legacy alive.

That really is fantastic, that is so good, well done you. I remember thinking ‘I must mention this to him’ because I started to wonder if anyone over there in the USA actually knew anything about the Northern Soul Scene here in the UK. The artists may have only cut one disc, made one record and not even have had a hit with it in America, and then they come over here and see just what a welcome they get form their British fans because they love the record and really can’t wait to hear the person actually sing it. The artists simply can’t believe that they are getting such wonderful receptions wherever they go here in the UK when this particular record may have been at the back of a warehouse somewhere in America for many years and someone has finally unearthed it and it is a hit (laughter).

That is exactly what the Northern Soul Scene here in the UK is built upon, so-called flops from the States, B Sides which were never played or one-offs that were shelved never to be heard from decades.

Yes it is; that is perfectly correct. I recently did an interview about Tina Turner because there is a new musical coming out about her life in music and River Deep Mountain High was one of the very first records that I can remember ever playing on my Mum and Dad’s stereogram in a flat in Beeston wondering where all of the echo was coming from and sticking my head inside the stereogram (laughter). I was looking at the history of the record and that wasn’t a hit in America although it was a hit here in England.

The strange world of Northern Soul (laughter).

Yes, indeed (laughter). Having said that it is a fantastic world, even though I know that it has got a lot more popular, they have now even got Northern Soul clubs in Japan and over in America. I find that quite funny that we are selling it back to America (laughter). I can remember going to a Northern Soul club in Los Angeles and although I haven’t been to one in Japan I just know that if I ever get to go to one they will be spinning and doing backdrops together with all of the moves that go to makeup the scene. They wear the thirty two inch parallel trousers, because in Japan they get everything right down to the very last detail.

I have been too many Northern Soul Clubs over in Italy and I have to say they are all fantastic. The funny thing is that I have met people over in Italy at The Leaning Tower Soul Club in Pisa and then I have met them again over here at an all-nighter in Blackpool (laughter). They really are all into their scooters too; it really is a Vespa country. They really do embrace the whole Mod way of life and they all have scooters. Even if they can’t ride them to a Northern Soul event the other side of Italy they will take them all in the back of a van and ride them for the last two miles (laughter). It really is outrageous.

It is our very own Sir Paul Smith who is helping the scene grow in Japan. Anything connected with Northern Soul that he can get his hands on, he sends it over to Japan including the old Raleigh Chopper bicycles which as you know were made here in Nottingham.

That is fantastic and I have to say that Paul is so popular over there in Japan. He used to live up the road from where my Grandparents lived in Beeston; at the top of Peveril Road. I know that Paul Smith still owes a friend of mine a fiver for plastering the basement of Birdcage on Bridlesmith Gate in the city centre (laughter). So if ever you bump into him tell him that he still owes my mate a fiver for plastering the basement at Birdcage; he has never paid them (laughter). Let’s see his face when he works out the interest rate on that, it could very well be worth a bob or two.

From a musician’s point of view, why do you think that Northern Soul is a popular today as it was back in the 70s?

Maybe there is an element of discovery with it because it has not been overexposed and people always love the thrill of the chase in finding something that is rare or unheard of. Even now it is not so much about buying the vinyl, because as you know there are only three vinyl copies of Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) by Frank Wilson. I can remember seeing that on the TV and thinking ‘I’ve got that record’ but obviously mine was a cover-up on a bootleg pressing supposedly by Dave Foster. It was definitely the same recording but not one of the original few. There were a couple of test pressings going around at the time and I believe that Pete Waterman owned one of them.

So I think that it is the thrill of finding something that other people don’t know about, but also it is such great quality music made of the time. Half of it you will never get to know who has recorded it because the DJ’s who found these records covered up the labels. A lot of the musicians from Motown were moonlighting on a lot of those Northern Soul gems; they weren’t allowed to work for anyone else but when Motown was riding high, who could stop them playing on a record for another small record company. The strings and the harmonies were just sublime and I think that it was at a time when music was progressing from an almost classical, quite privileged and restrained way of singing to R&B but it was combined with a kind of classical expertise.

What you have to remember is that a lot of the players on these records were classically trained so you would have a string section together with the harmony’s which were almost operatic. You only have to think back to The Andantes on all of the early Motown recordings; they bought with them all of the harmonies that came from the church. So it was kind of a crossover with the rawness of R&B together with the refinement of classical; they were like little pocket symphonies. I think that is a Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys term when he described Good Vibrations as a pocket symphony; he wanted to cram everything in there and make it the best.

I’m glad that you mentioned the music and the whole Northern Soul scene being underexposed because my theory is that if the Wigan Casino had continued to exist and function on the scale that it did, I personally feel that Northern Soul would have probably died a natural death. Would you agree with that?

God that’s hard, maybe, I don’t know (laughter). Thinking about it I suppose yes, whenever you lose something or someone then it always leaves something behind with a legendary status but there are still to this day a hell of a lot of events happening all around the UK, plus it is a lot of the original DJ’s who are keeping the scene going. Plus there are a lot of newer, smaller scenes bubbling under from the mainstream events. I can remember when I first came down to London and they used to hold Northern Soul all-nighters at The 100 Club, and I would say “that’s not Northern Soul, we are in London” (laughter).

A lot of the original Wigan DJ’s would come down to London and play there. That kind of gave it a revival, moving from the North to the South, enabling people in London to hear songs that they had never heard before. I personally think that they feed each other; it creates healthy competition and it establishes something all the more so I think that it would have most probably carried on regardless if Wigan Casino was still there or not. There would have been some other competitor fighting for the crown; they would have got it for a while and then it would have come back.

You have previously shown your Northern Soul roots when you covered Barbara Acklin’s Am I The Same Girl on the Get In Touch With Yourself album back in 1991. And I have to say that I think your version is absolutely fantastic.

Ah thank you for saying that. It’s funny; in America they thought that we had written the lyrics to that song, and that the vocal version was purely ours (laughter). The Barbara Acklin version was not known at all over there in America which is another example of something being a hit here but not in America. They knew the Young Holt version but not the vocal version.

That’s right, Young-Holt Unlimited released the record back in 1968 but as an instrumental called Soulful Strut.

Wow, just where do you get all of this knowledge from (laughter). I can’t even remember what I did yesterday (laughter).

All that I can say is that it is most probably all down to a miss-spent youth (laughter). Anyway back to the job in hand. Moving on to album number two, Kaleidoscope World, you worked with legendary producer Jimmy Webb who arranged and conducted the orchestra for Forever Blue and Precious Words. How was that?

What an experience that was. Jimmy came to work with us at a time when people would come and go. He was going through a relatively quiet period and when we met him he said “right, what do you want me to do” (laughter). He was such a lovely man. He came to the studio that we were working at in North London and we were all like ‘Jimmy Webb’s coming, what shall we do’ and I remember being so nervous about meeting him. When I saw him the first thing that I did was ask him if he wanted a cup of tea to which he replied “oh sure” (laughter). He had just arrived and we were waiting for the orchestra to come down to the studio.

So as you can imagine there was a lot of chaos going on whilst everyone was getting seated and Jimmy said to Andy (Connell) “is Corinne going to come down to the studio at all today” and Andy said “that was Corinne who has just gone to make you a cup of tea” (laughter). Jimmy smiled and said “well I have never had Barbara Streisand offer to make me a cup of tea or Frank Sinatra” (laughter).

Moving onto 1992 and album number three, Get in Touch With Yourself, what was it like working with the late Frankie Warren Knuckles?

(Laughter) to be totally honest with you we didn’t actually get to work alongside him. In those heady days of remixes and stuff we did actually spend a lot of time over there in America but the Frankie Knuckles thing was arranged by our record company. They said “Frankie will do a mix for you” and he just did it. We went to a DJ Convention where we met Frankie, Dave Morales and a whole host of other DJ’s and I have to say that Frankie was such a lovely man. To be totally honest with you we were not that keen on having remixes done of our album because we thought ‘what’s the matter with it’ (laughter).

We had already written the song, recorded the song, and produced it as we liked it and thought ‘what’s the remix for’ but looking back, I think that whole dance thing, and although I love Northern Soul, I don’t think that the four on the floor house thing is that inspiring when you get all of the remixes and they take all of the music and everything out of the record when you have gone to the trouble of putting arrangements, harmonies and vocals on the record for them to totally strip it down to just vocals and beat (laughter). To me, that is just a little boring. Having said that, I think that Frankie Knuckles’ had much more finesse. He had a total appreciation of music.

He appreciated the time and effort that had gone into the arrangements and the fact that we didn’t want them to change, well not that much (laughter). I have to say that I think that Frankie did a great job and that really spread like wildfire in America and kicked it off as a club record; it worked. We were so lucky to have worked with him; we even had a few mixes in the bag which we didn’t use. We turned them down because they weren’t, in my opinion, even musical (laughter). I think that if it is in the right hands and someone has an appreciation of the music, then it tends to work and I think that is why that particular record did work.

I have been surfing the internet and I saw a YouTube clip of you performing Laura Nyro’s Stoned Soul Picnic which then breaks into Jr. Walker’s Walk In The Night. There really is a soul theme running through your work isn’t there?

Oh yes (laughter). What happens is, when we are rehearsing, and let me tell you we spend more time rehearsing than we actually spend being out there on tour; we love the experimentation, we love being in the studio together so once we get in there with the band and we start playing, something will come into somebody’s head and the rule is that we will just put it in there (laughter). We are always putting references and tributes to people who we love in there. Recently whilst we were on tour Andy and Derek our bass player have been playing a short homage to the late Jaco Pastorius and I had no idea what they were playing.

After a gig in Japan some of the audience said “we love the tribute to Jaco Pastorius’ and I just thought what’s that” (laughter). Japan is the one place where they pick up on every single thing that we sing and play. Also in Japan some of the audience said to one of our backing singers “we love the Jr Walker bit in the show” and she asked them “where’s that” and I said to her “you have just sung it” (laughter). We have so many things that drop in and out of the show; it is easy to forget where you are. We have a little bit of Isaac Hayes in there, a little bit of Michael Jackson, in fact one of the sweetest things that I can remember is that we were doing a gig the day after Michael Jackson died.

So we decided that at the end of Breakout we would add a small section of I’ll Be There which then went into a capela, and that was the end of the song. It was a great idea until someone said “are we going to be able to do this without crying” which was very true as they were moving times and very sad times. Anyone who grew up in the 70s with The Jackson Five together with all of the stages of Michael Jackson’s development, couldn’t help but be moved by his death. Anyway we decided to give it a go and as I began singing I’ll Be There one of my friend’s sons who was six at the time, came to the front of the stage and started Moonwalking (laughter).

I had only sung one line of the song, but I don’t think that anyone else in the audience quite got it at that point. I have to say that made me smile because he was obviously a real Michael Jackson fan and as soon as he started Moonwalking, everyone started clapping. He got it before anyone else, and I think that is the power of music, how it affects people and how it can bring so many different people together from all different realms of life.

I have recently been listening to your version of the old Delfonics track, La-La Means I Love You, and once again there is that nod to your heroes showing through. At the start of the song you are clearly heard to say “L.A. Is A Great Big Freeway” which are lyrics from Do You Know the Way to San Jose which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick in 1968.

(Laughter) wow, you really do know your stuff don’t you. To be honest with you that was just a warm up, and it wasn’t really intended to be on the record. Before you start singing there is always going to be a count in, a giggle, a cough or something and on that occasion I was simply trying to clear my tubes (laughter). So I just sang L.A. Is A Great Big Freeway and our producer decided to keep it on the record. Dionne (Warwick) was and is still one of my favourite singers and that is a song that I can remember hearing when I was first becoming aware of music. I can remember loving the sound of her voice and again it was most probably because of the brilliant songs.

They were Bacharach and David songs, and I think that you often don’t know why you like a song; is it the chords, is it the tone of the voice, is it the melody, but I feel that it is a combination of everything. If you have a good song then it doesn’t really matter who is singing it, the music is simply infectious isn’t it.

Taking you back to 1987 and the release of It’s Better To Travel, I have to say that I have recently been playing the album and it sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

Thank you for saying that. It is always nice to hear that your work is still loved and appreciated. However, I would have to say that from my own personal point of view some of the technology is a bit of a giveaway; some of it now sounds a little dated, in particular the drum machine and some of the keyboards. Having said that, a lot of that is back now, 80s Electro is once again back in vogue. Given time everything can come round full circle. When we recorded that album we were only just really getting to know each other. When I think about it I hadn’t even sung in a studio before and I most certainly had never recorded anything. It was quite a new situation for me to be in.

Andy and Martin (Jackson) had both been in bands before and were old hands when it came to producing but I was new to all of this and to be fair, they had to be quite patient with me. I think that a lot of it was a learning curve from the writing of the songs to the recording, especially the recording as a group. We hadn’t really created things together before and I always think that album firmly established what we were trying to do but we hadn’t quite achieved it yet.

When the album was recorded and finished did you ever listen to it and think that you had something special on your hands?

(Laughter) it’s funny you asking me that because we didn’t actually record the album as a whole. At the time we were on a two singles deal. We had recorded one song which was Blue Mood which was the first thing that I had ever written or recorded. Having said that I put my vocals over a track that Andy and Martin had written previously because they had a project going on called Street Sounds UK Electro, which was all instrumental dance tracks. So when we all got together we started playing around with drum machines and samplers and it was their manager who suggested that they should bring in a singer because, as I say, they were writing all instrumental dance tracks.

They really didn’t want to work with a singer but eventually they ended up with me (laughter). So what you hear is me singing over one of their instrumental workouts (laughter). With us being on a two singles deal if we hadn’t have had a successful second single we were going to be dropped so with Breakout the pressure really was on. Judging by your music knowledge you will probably know that I nicked the title from the old Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels song (laughter). At the time I wasn’t aware that I had nicked it but then I thought ‘oh god I have heard this title before somewhere’ and then I remembered (laughter). It must have been at one of those all-nighters somewhere; it had obviously gone into my brain.

I just needed something to fit. I couldn’t think of anything and so it was all done in a bit of a rush. The song finally became Breakout. It was a bit like Paul McCartney’s Scrambled Eggs when he was writing Yesterday (laughter). I call them skeleton lyrics; you think of something and when another thing comes along, hopefully the right thing, you replace it but just for the sake of singing a guide vocal, if you have a melody then you need something to help you remember it. I have to say that the demo for Breakout really was A Certain Ratio crudely put together. In fact I did the vocal in my bedroom in a squat in North London because at that time Andy was on tour with A Certain Ratio and Martin was doing something up in Manchester.

We got a call from our record company asking “where’s that demo, if we don’t have it by six o’clock for the A&R meeting you are dropped” so I just had to send them this little cassette recording which I had just recorded of me singing the song in my bedroom (laughter). But anyway, they took it and the version which became the single was a more lavish affair because we had arrangements by Richard Niles who had just produced Slave To the Rhythm with Grace Jones. Richard was responsible for the horn arrangements on Breakout. Andy had come up with a keyboard line and he wanted it to be a World Cup theme in the flavour of Weather Report (laughter).

I wanted it to sound like Thriller, and I even tried to song Thriller backwards in order to make Breakout but I don’t think that I was being faithful to the original Thriller rhythm with my inspiration of trying to sing Thriller backwards (laughter). I’m not sure what Martin wanted to do with it (laughter). However, we all agreed that we would have liked it to have been a James Bond movie theme. We were all heavily into Bond themes at that point and the last track on the album, the Theme (From It’s Better To Travel) probably gave the clue to where we were coming from, with movie soundtracks and film scores, which we were all inspired by.

How did it make you feel because you couldn’t go anywhere on the planet without hearing Breakout?

To be honest with you at first I never even noticed because after the album was released we were extremely busy with promotion and doing lots of interviews. We were literally all over the place. However, I can remember going over to America and being stuck in a traffic jam on one of the freeways and there was a woman waving at me, asking me to wind my window down. I thought ‘what’s wrong with that woman over there’ but I wound down the window and she shouted “Swing Out Sister right” (laughter). I had never been to America before and I thought that it was cool that someone recognised me in a faraway place.

The first time that I heard one of our tunes being played on the radio, I was seeing my dentist having my wisdom teeth removed. I had been given an injection and had various clamps and gags in my mouth and I was going ‘argh argh’ so the dentist took everything out of my mouth and asked “what’s the matter, is there something wrong” and I just said “no, they are playing my song on the radio” (laughter). It’s great that you can reach such far flung places. We found out about this because people now get In touch with us online. You can now reach these far flung places from the confines of your own front room. Music certainly has travelled and It’s Better To Travel was such an apt title. In fact I think that we are still travelling (laughter).

Coming right up to date I have been playing the new album, Almost Persuaded for the past couple of weeks and I have to say that I think that it is fantastic.

Well thank you. That is so nice of you.

And I have to say that in my opinion your voice is sounding every bit as good as it ever did.

Well it is interesting that you should say that because this is the first album that I have recorded most of the vocals myself. I have got up to date with the technology; I have been sitting in the studio behind a producer for long enough, or getting Andy to help me out with the recording, and I think that I have taken a bit more control over my own voice. Whenever you record with a producer it is a performance, so you have to have everything ready, you have to get yourself into the studio, and you have one take, two takes, three takes, if you are lucky and after ten takes your voice is going or everyone is bored. So a lot of the time the producer will say “okay we will make do with that”.

Sometimes you will even go back to the studio another day if it is not right. However, if you record your own vocals you can sing when you are in the right frame of mind and your voice is warmed up and sounding good, and you can just keep going until you get the right sound and the right vocal. I also think that I am now being more intimate especially when I am singing into a mic in the middle of the night, in the dark, on my own after a few pints of Guinness (laughter). Whenever you are in the studio with an engineer, the producer and the rest of the band, it then becomes more of a public affair. I now think that I have got the vocal sounding more the way that I wanted it to be especially now that I have had more time to experiment.

Are you happy with the album?

Erm, I think we are now. I don’t think that you are ever one hundred percent happy with anything that you do, because what is there to tell you that it is finished. Once the album is finished it is rather like a painting; you can keep going back to it and go on forever perfecting it. I am always happy that we have finished what we are doing, I am always pleased and proud that we have been able to put these songs together but there is always something that you could have changed, you could have added or you could have done differently (laughter). I have kind of forgotten about it now. It could go on forever, especially with this album as we were producing it ourselves. With good old Andy was at the helm on the production, it was a bit difficult to actually say when the album was finished (laughter).

Now that the album is finished and you are waiting for the release date to come around, can you switch off or are you climbing the walls?

(Laughter) no I’m not climbing the walls because there is always something else for me to do. The album is being released in other places, in fact we have just been given a release date for Japan. We are looking at the possibility of releasing the album in the USA. We have interviews and promotion to do, plus we are busy rehearsing for an intimate showcase gig, together with some live radio slots. We are also looking into doing a few intimate gigs later in the year so we are onto the next thing now (laughter). There is a track that we didn’t get to include on this album which may be an indication as to where our sound is moving, a bit Jazzier, and a bit more abstract.

Because we released the album ourselves, it was originally meant to be a double album; an album of songs and an album of instrumentals some of which became the songs and some of which didn’t. Andy has done a few film scores for independent films and TV themes and some of the music on this album sounds as though it should stand out in its own right and not be songs. I don’t feel some of them as being songs; there is enough there for us to have two albums, one of songs and the other instrumentals. However, I then had an accident; I fell over and broke my leg which then cut everything short. Everything came to a standstill for three months which meant that we were then under pressure to finish the album.

There wasn’t time for anymore indecision; do we turn the vocal up or do we need a little more reverb here, so that was it. We had already spent three years making the album so that was enough. But the instrumentals are still to come. So the album isn’t really finished, it was supposed to be a double album and we will probably offer this as another album via PledgeMusic first and maybe see if it gets released later. It will most probably be a Special Edition, more for the collectors because we have already told people about it on PledgeMusic. So we are not quite finished yet (laughter).

I currently have two go to tracks on the album, they are Don’t Give The Game Away and Which Wrong Is Right? I think that they are brilliant.

Now that’s interesting. I thought that you might have gone for All In A Heartbeat because that is more Northern sounding (laughter). Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is fantastic that you like the two tracks that you have chosen. Everyone who has heard Don’t Give The Game always says that it is a Bond theme in the making to which I reply “oh yes, well we had better make the film then” (laughter). They most probably wouldn’t want us on there; they only want Sam Smith or Beyoncé (laughter). We always seem to have a theme tune for a film and I think that Don’t Give The Game Away is that song. With this album we have embraced the whole YouTube thing because that particular song sounds great with some visuals.

It’s not quite a promotional video; it’s just a little piece of film showing the work in progress which we have previously posted on our PledgeMusic page. Sometimes we have even used a piece of film of me doing some Northern Soul dancing in the café up the road (laughter).

Do you have any one particular favourite track on the album?

I don’t know, I think that it changes from time to time. I really like the feel of the whole album because I think that it has captured some of my inspiration, and it is maybe the album that I have always wanted to make vocally. Hopefully I have perfected my technique a bit more, getting closer to some of the all-time greats who have inspired me, like Dionne (Warwick), Dusty (Springfield) Shirley (Bassey) Petula (Clark) and Sandy (Shaw) all of those 60s singers were the ones that shaped me. They were all the kind of singers who I noticed first when I was a girl. I know that I have mentioned Tina (Turner) but I think that was the sound of the record; I don’t think that it was the kind of singing that I could attempt.

Dusty was one of the first people that I can remember seeing on Ready Steady Go! and thinking ‘wow her voice is like velvet’ but then you have to remember that she was influenced by Motown. She bought all of her favourite Motown artists over to the UK and I think that she was instrumental in getting the Motown Appreciation Society started here in England with the late Dave Godin. I think that Dusty was very instrumental in getting the Society started. I have seen a photograph somewhere of Dusty in an East End pub with Dionne Warwick. She took Dionne down the East End to show her a bit of London (laughter). So two of my favourites were like me, they both like a few drops of Guinness down the old Bull And Bush (laughter).

I have to ask, why has it been ten years between Beautiful Mess and Almost Persuaded?

Well it hasn’t really taken ten years. I think that this album has probably taken, on and off, around three years. We have done two tours in those three years so if you can imagine all of the rehearsals and preparation involved for those tours of Japan and America. We have also recorded a big band album and performed at a few Jazz Festivals so we have kind of been on the move. Before that we were putting together our live album so this latest album has in fact taken us ten years to get around to doing but we were only actually making it for three. The problem is that we have got all sorts of other things that are currently on the go and hopefully they will come to light in the not too distant future (laughter).

Will you tour the album here in the UK?

We will most probably do a few dates, but as you know, touring is getting more and more difficult as time moves on. To find the right kind of venue for a band like us is getting so difficult; we are not a stadium band or a pub band. I feel that we are somewhere in the middle. To cover the costs of getting a band together and touring with them is so very hard. To be able to jump onto a tour bus and go all around the country would be fantastic but it is not that easy to be able to do that anymore. It has to be a more organised affair nowadays. But to answer your question, yes we should be playing a few more gigs towards the end of the year. That is what we are currently working towards. I don’t know just how big a tour it would be but yes, a few dates at the end of the year.

You have mentioned working with PledgeMusic, how was that experience, did you enjoy it?

Yes I really enjoyed it. It was Andy who decided to do that and he didn’t even tell me, I was away at the time (laughter). He just said to me “I have put the album on PledgeMusic” and I have to say that in the absence of a record company, you then have your audience to urge you along and I just thought ‘oh thanks’ (laughter). At first I didn’t know what I thought about the whole experience because I wasn’t really prepared. You can put the workings of an instrumental piece of music online and have people listen to it but I really didn’t feel that happy about putting unfinished songs on line where the lyrics weren’t finished. Let’s just say that it took me a while to get used to it (laughter).

Our audience are quite kind and they really did enjoy us sharing a few bits and bobs with them and were quite happy to throw their two penneth into the mix (laughter). It is really great to be able to connect with your audience. We have got to know quite a lot of them, some of them who we know from coming to gigs and we have met them before, some of whom we have got to know online, there really is a Swing Out Sister community out there or as I call it a Swing Out Sister network (laughter).

You say that you have got to grips with modern technology, so tell me, why is there currently a huge demand for cassette tapes (laughter).

(Laughter) all that I can say is that it must be a nostalgia thing. In fact I have just bought myself a cassette player so that I can listen to some of our old demos (laughter). There are some of our early things that were only ever recorded on cassette and I’m sure that there will be a few lost gems amongst them. That is if the tape doesn’t snap while I am trying to listen to them. I think that the kids now want something tactile, they are fed-up with pressing a button to down load something and there it is. To people of a certain age, there is nothing to have and hold, and the reason why we are putting the new album out on vinyl is because my niece and her friend were helping me to pack and mail out some CD’s and she asked me why we weren’t doing vinyl.

I immediately said “why would anyone want vinyl when they haven’t got a record player” and she replied “because we love it” (laughter). So we threw the question out there to the potential buyers through PledgeMusic asking them if they would buy the album on vinyl and immediately we were bombarded with people saying “yes, please put the album out on vinyl”. I think that for people of a certain age it is getting back to the golden age of having something to have and to hold, and maybe making the time to listen to a record from start to finish. Downloading a couple of tracks from an album, or putting it on shuffle or whatever you don’t get that feeling of progression of a story running through an album. We still put things together as if it is going to be listened to as an album. It is nice to have it in that format. All of this jumping around simply scrambles your head.

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) I would like to say that it was something cool but it was actually Rupert The Bear but it turns out that the singer on Rupert The Bear is a lady called Jackie Lee who also sang the White Horses theme. She also cut some Northern Soul songs for both Decca Records and Polydor when they were doing their own British version of Northern Soul. She was one of the Mod singers back in the 60s. However, the first record that I can remember acquiring was a Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers 78 rpm of my mums and it was the first record that she ever had (laughter). I can remember playing it and thinking ‘this is fantastic’.

A Do Wop record on a 78 rpm was actually the first record that my mum bought and I loved it too. After that I started to get into the Trojan stuff but thinking about it, the first real grown up record that I bought after Rupert The Bear was Baby Love by The Supremes because my brothers had the bedroom next to mine and every time that they heard me playing Baby Love they would both flinch and moan “oh no not that again” (laughter). As you will know you could set the old record players to repeat and I played Baby Love over and over and over again (laughter). I would put it on repeat all day and all night. All day Christmas Eve it had to be Baby Love (laughter). My love affair with Motown was sealed.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That would have been yesterday and it was River Deep Mountain High by Ike And Tina Turner. I remember that being one of the first records that I played out of my mum and dad’s collection and it always reminds me of being really small and really sad. I think that it is a very emotional song. When you think of all of the things that Tina Turner had gone through, together with all of the emotion that is crammed into that song and the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound, it is just a powerful sound. It really did bring a tear to my eye.

Corinne on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s been absolutely fantastic.

Not at all, it’s been great talking to you Kevin and thank you so much. I hope to get to see you at one of the shows and bye for now.