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Siobhán Donaghy of MKS on Sugababes, Christmas and the value of respect
MKS (Mutya Keisha Siobhan), the original Sugababes line-up, have just finished a tour and are about to announce their next single. In the meantime, they’re launching the Create Christmas campaign, in aid of The Prince’s Trust, in Cardinal Place, London, this week. We caught up with Siobhán Donaghy to find out what it’s like being back in a girl band.
Your tour has just finished. How did it go?
I was really nervous because it’s been such a long time since I did a run of shows like that, but I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it. I had laryngitis running up to the shows and you can’t really medicate your larynx so I had to just hope for the best, but I had a perfect run of it in the end.
The crowds were so amazing and supported the three of us. Every night left us feeling overwhelmed that you could be gone for such a while and people don’t forget you; they knew all the lyrics, even to the new songs.
What’s it been like performing songs you haven’t sung for a decade?
The first comeback show we did was Scala in August and it sold out in 14 minutes. The whole thing was a complete blur to me, to be honest, because I was so nervous. Performing again for the first time was really nerve-wracking and then you get used to it.
I had to learn the words again because I was getting the verses back to front and all sorts! I’m also singing songs from an era of the band that I wasn’t in and there’s a lot of pressure singing those songs for such die-hard fans who love the songs so much. I wanted to live up to their expectations.
Is the way the three of you interact with each other the same as it was a decade ago, or have the dynamics changed?
Very much so. When we were teenagers lots of things came into play: like three being a crowd. Young women are not always very nice to each other.
I also think the team around us back then was not that keen on us getting on. They’d try to divide and conquer. That’s how they’d try and keep control of what they saw as a brand rather than a band.
This time around it’s completely different because it’s three women. Mutya has a child, I’m married. Now we just have an enormous amount of respect for each other. We know we’ve all been through a lot and we don’t want things to be difficult this time.
How has each of you changed as a person?
It’s funny because sometimes I think we’ve changed so much and other times it just feels like you’ve gone back in time. For the first few months after we got back together I even found myself acting like a teenager again, giggling and generally being silly. My time-keeping started to get a little bit slack and I had to remind myself that I’m a grown up now.
Other things shocked me like that Mutya can drive! She’s so all over the place that to see her at wheel of the car I was like, ‘Who let her drive?’
We’re old enough to drink now too, so we can go to a bar. But in terms of our personalities, they are the same. I just think that we interpret each other differently now.
How has a decade’s more experience changed the sound of your music?
I was out of the industry for four or five years. I worked in fashion as a booker at Storm model agency. We’d have a radio station on all day and, for the first time in my life, instead of listening to the leftfield, alternative stuff that I’d found, I was listening to commercial music. I was listening to the top 40 all day long and I think that has affected my song-writing a bit.
I think we’ve made quite an eclectic album though and our first album, One Touch, was like that. It had some pop moments and some alternative moments but our three voices gelled it together and I think this album is similar in that sense. We’ve got some breakbeats and some R&B moments that are slow and some quite dancey pop moments, but it feels like it can live together on the album when we all sing together.
Anything you can tell us about your next single?
I’m not allowed! The only thing I can say is that the next single will be something we’ve held back, that no one’s heard yet.
There’s a lot of nostalgia involved in people’s reactions to your reunion. How do you feel about it? Do you want people to move on?
A bit of both. You obviously do get a lot of questions about the past. People ask me if I still get on with Heidi and Amelle and of course I never worked with them. People forget that for some members of the band that’s less relevant. For me, it only ever was the three of us.
We’re under a new name but, at the heart of it, I listen to the new album and I’m like, it’s a classic Sugababes album! There’s no getting around it. We’re all really proud of our heritage.
Would you like to reclaim the name Sugababes?
I think that’s kind of the point. People think we are The Sugababes anyway! But we wanted to make a statement that it wasn’t a changeable line-up situation.
We wanted to put emphasis on the fact that there’s such a huge amount of respect between us. It was an enormous move, emotionally, for the three of us to get back together. It was such a huge life change.
You were the first person to leave the Sugababes, did you ever think you’d be back?
No! I think I’d moved so far away from it though I realise now that, in the back of mind, I’d imagined what the album would sound like.
So many different things had to come together to make it happen and a few years ago it wasn’t even a possibility. It’s amazing to me that, when it did come together, it came together so easily and so happily. We’re almost waiting for something to go wrong and it hasn’t.
You’re switching on the lights at Cardinal Place on Thursday - tell us a bit more about the Create Christmas campaign you’re launching.
This is our favourite time of year and we’re really happy to be involved. We’re going to be singing three songs: Overload, Flatline and Too Lost In You. So some old, some middle and some new stuff. We’ll be getting dressed up and getting the crowd going.
I’m going to put some personal pictures into the exhibition. I’ve got a funny picture with my dogs – I’ve got two ten-year-old Yorkshire terriers called Elvis and Dolly.
What will you be doing at Christmas?
This is the first Christmas I’ve been married so my husband and I will be having both of our families to stay for five days. So there’s going to be about 14 souls sleeping under our roof, which will be interesting. I’m cooking with my sister to give my poor mother a year off!
On Thursday 21st November, MKS will launch a festive photography exhibition projected onto the side of a 10-storey building to celebrate how Londoners #CreateChristmas. To kick off proceedings, the girl band will switch-on Victoria’s lights, illuminating Victoria Street from the station to Buckingham Gate. Following the headline performance by MKS, there will be three nights of live entertainment and the chance to have your picture projected onto the façade of Victoria’s Cardinal Place by submitting it via Facebook. For each photo that makes it into the final exhibition, Create Victoria will donate £1 to The Prince’s Trust as part of its Christmas appeal.
Find out more at www.createvictoria.com