Songstress Alison Moyet has a unique voice that first caught attention with the duo Yazoo. That teamed her with Vince Clarke of Erasure fame creating several hits like "Only You," "Don't Go" and "Situation."
She went solo afterward. Her debut album, Alf, was named after her punk-rooted nickname. It reached number one in the UK thanks to the single "Invisible," also a U.S. Top 40 hit. Other hits over the years include "Is This Love?" and "Whispering Your Name."
Her ninth studio album, Other, was released this past June and she is presenting it live for her loyal fans. She reunites with John Garden and Sean McGhee, who accompany her on The Other Tour. Moyet talked about Chicago, Adele and Sambuca in a recent interview before hitting the road.
Windy City Times: Hi, Alison. Finally coming back to Chicago! Any fun plans while you are in town?
Alison Moyet: The gig will be fun. This is the biggest tour I have done in 30 odd years at my ripe ol' age. If I go out and have too much fun then I lose the voice and the gig gets canceled. I have to get through three months of touring without blowing it. I've got to be hard on myself.
WCT: Do you drink a lot of tea to help your voice?
AM: Sambuca! We do drink a little tea then a shot before we go on. I have found that drops the larynx a bit. It helps me relax and not come out fully stressed.
WCT: What will the live show be like this time out?
AM: It will be an electronic set-up. There will be me and two guys. One of the guys plays bass, but mostly it is electronica music. My set goes from Yaz to this new album. The dominate albums will be Other, The Minutes, a couple of songs from Alf, some Yazoo stuff with hits that come up the middle. There won't be "Invisible." It will be quite euphoric, dark and irreverent.
WCT: I like "Whispering Your Name." Can you do that one?
AM: We definitely will.
WCT: There is a big range to that song.
AM: Well, I am a big-range singer!
The reason I don't do "Invisible" is not because it has a big range. It's that I can't get with the sentiment of it anymore. As a young girl I was impressed by Janis Joplinthe whole "he's done me wrong and my life is over" thing was quite appealing, but as a middle-aged woman I don't sing anything I don't engage with.
WCT: Do you tell stories about the songs?
AM: Sometimes I do. Nothing is that planned out. Sometimes I tell stories, sometimes I react to heckling, sometime I stop and start a song again. This is not a glossy show with choreography and costume changes. It has a punk sensibility to it.
WCT: Talk about the new record, Other, and working with Guy Sigsworth again.
AM: Other is the second album I have made with Guy, after The Minutes. It is me returning to an electronic backdrop. I like working with electronica because I have found my voice is so woody that if you put me with other instruments that you lose the shape in-between the cracks of the material. it is a bit like dropping water on formica. You get the different colors and the shapes become more evident. it also allows tying the material together with this sonic sound.
This is a lyric-based album. It is written around poetry as opposed to the lyrics being edited to fit a typical song structure.
WCT: It makes sense. Guy has worked with Bjork using electronic music and lyrics as well.
AM: I don't look to work with someone in terms of becoming a mainstream act. I am looking for someone to follow me along a creative path. Guy does that. He wants to see where the music goes.
WCT: What is the story behind the song "The Rarest Birds?"
AM: The town of Brighton, on the south coast [of England], is full of diversity of every kind. I moved there about five years ago after being in a town with no culture or community. I wrote the song for the LGBTQ community, which is very prominent in Brighton. I wrote the song after seeing someone feel small and lifting their head to be out for the first time. It is a song for that.
I am taking someone by the hand and saying, "We belong here together, and I love you."
WCT: Such a wonderful gift for your gay fans that have followed you forever.
AM: I have been the other, too. My gay fans have done that for me also when I felt small in a bigger place. We live in a world that is so turning on one another. We find places where we can all be different and all be the same. We are all just people.
WCT: Your daughter is in the video?
AM: She is because she is my little go to mate when performing. She is always game. She doesn't want to be a pop star but, she is happy to indulge me when I need it.
WCT: Weren't you recently in college?
AM: Yes. I have taken a sabbatical for the tour this year. I have been doing sculpture. It has been an interesting life. I get up at 6 a.m. and commuting to London. I then go to another part of England to make the record, and writing on the weekend. Suddenly, at 56, I am less than a couch potato that I ever would be in my twenties.
WCT: Would you ever have a sculpture art showing sometime?
AM: I may at some point. This is still early in my career. I just had a few pieces at a college exhibition. I had a few people wanting to buy pieces, which was affirming. I am also slightly aware that I have a bit of a name so people might want it for that reason, which takes away my glee a little bit.
The fact of the matter is that I know I've got ability, but a long way to go.
WCT: What is your opinion on being compared to Adele?
AM: When I first saw her I knew we would be compared because we were both fat. Then I got it in a musical sense because we both had a plaintive template. There is a yearning and darkness to it, that we both expose our heart uninhibited in songs.
On the other end she went to college and has a whole stagecraft to her music that I didn't start with. I started in punk bands. I have never been particularly well turned out onstage. She has always looked the part.
She comes from a different era than I did. There are stylists now. The whole package is more commercial.
Do you remember the song "Take My Breath Away?"
WCT: Yes, from the group Berlin.
AM: I was offered that song. I didn't want to be that big so I turned it down.
WCT: Wow. Would you do another musical like Chicago?
AM: Yes, I would. It is down to the music and character for me to decide. When I first heard about Chicago the idea did not appeal to me at all, being an ex punk. It was not a genre that I was interested in whatsoever. I loved Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady since they were iconic and from the '60s. Modern musicals didn't do it for me. I didn't really get it. I only saw the film versions and didn't see them live.
When I was asked to do it this was a time that my record company refused to release me from my contract or release my album. I was at a complete impasse. There was nothing I could do. I had suffered from agoraphobia before, and could see myself tipping into that again. The fear of auditioning made me want to do it. I went to see it and saw Mama Morton. I could see what they had in mind for me. I did like the two songs. The part wasn't too big so I wouldn't take on too much.
As it turned out I did eight months of it in the West End. I had a brilliant time. I loved being a part of the community. I got to know the whole show and became very familiar with it. I loved the whole experience. It eradicated my stage fright. Before that I had only played to my own audiences. With this sometimes I would go on with Chinese tourists who didn't know me from Adam!
WCT: It may not be easy for you to perform live here in Chicago, but I know fans are excited about it.
AM: I love to perform live. It is expensive to take a band abroad. It is difficult to get promoters interested in doing it. I would have come loads of times but it has taken a while to go for it. I am going to put in every ounce of singing I can for this show!
Visit AlisonMoyet.com to find tickets for the Sept. 19 concert at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., at 8 p.m.