Her songs have been haunting our ears and blasting through our souls for years. Her music has been the life and soul of the party ever since her singing debut. Now, thirty years on from her musical debut, the party goes on as Heather Small, the iconic voice of M People, prepares for her upcoming UK tour and looks forward to her special performance at Louth Town Hall in March.
Heather’s early singing origins are not widely known and it would seem even less likely that they would be connected to such a celebrated singer.
“The truth is, I was a very, very shy child,” Heather admits. “I never sung once publicly during my childhood not even in a choir or in front of my parents or relatives. I always wanted to sing, I knew I needed to. I always liked music, the feeling it gave to me. I was often late for school or work because I was trying to squeeze in listening to the records before I really had to go out! During my teenage years, I was greatly influenced by singers who had that way of conveying things, it was a journey, a style, just embedded into you.”
It was not until the age of eighteen however that Heather could finally unveil both her passion and her gift and make her long-overdue singing debut. “I saw an advert to audition for a singer in a music newspaper called Melody Maker and I just went for it,” Heather says. “I was very nervous and I had to take two of my friends with me for some much-needed moral support. I was extremely surprised when they asked me back and told me that they liked my style. They signed me on and I joined my first band called Hot House.
“It was great! I thought I had arrived and I didn’t know for how long it was going to last. As a teenager growing up, I knew that a nine to five job wouldn’t be for me, I was prepared to work hard for what I wanted. I just wanted to earn something more for myself. I wanted to be happy and be successful in doing that. You have to have a vision for yourself.”
After achieving a little recognition for her distinguished singing style, Heather left Hot House to join M People with whom she attained her greatest success. Initially, the founding member of M People, Mike Pickering and fellow member Paul Heard had decided to have various lead singers singing different songs but they spotted Heather and were keen to sign her to become the voice of M People.
“A very important song to me is ‘Moving on Up’,” Heather says. “It was an unexpected hit. I thought it was a big risk but nobody else did. In a band someone is always strong for you. Because the style was only M People that song really seemed to represent me and my own personality. I could use my voice the way I wanted to. The song has gumption and courage.
“I think that Search for the Hero is also a very poignant number and many people have said me to that it meant a lot to them as well. It is very encouraging and it certainly took me back to my own shyness and how I had to dig deep even to find the courage to tell my Mum that I wanted to be a singer. She was very supportive by the way so I learned that if you do search for that something extra inside you will find it.”
After enjoying a fruitful career for several decades and still counting, Heather loves nothing more than to go on tour and enjoy a night of the hits with the audience. “I love being on stage!” Heather enthuses, “If people come to see the show then their on your side and that makes me feel great and that really does help me to give the best performance I can give.”
This year marks a grand total of thirty years since Heather was officially signed to her first band and she is celebrating the achievement with an extensive tour. “I’m really looking forward to the tour,” Heather says, “It’s been a little while since I was last out and I’ve really missed it. I really feel I wanted to celebrate my fortune. I’m still singing, I still enjoy it, in fact, I’m still very much in love with it and every single gig is still exciting!
One extremely special date in Heather’s diary is her upcoming appearance at Louth Town Hall on Saturday March 26.
“I have a soft spot for Lincolnshire,” Heather admits, “It’s beautiful and I always particularly enjoy the gigs whenever I’m in the area. Music has been good to me in that it has afforded me some truly fantastic travel experience and Norfolk really is no exception. It is a wonderful place. I was born and bred in West London so getting out into the countryside of Lincolnshire is really a breath of fresh air.
“I have been to the county before but never to Louth so I am really looking forward to it and especially since Louth is the last date on my tour, it is going to be a big party night. I enjoy driving so I shall be driving myself to the Town Hall and that means that I shall be able to enjoy the countryside all on my own. I have heard that it is one of the market days as well so if I can get there in good time I’ll hope to have a good look around the town. I have been told to look out for the food shops so I might spoil myself. I can’t wait.”
• Tickets for this show on Saturday March 26 at 7pm are available now at www.eventbrite.co.uk. Get yours while they’re still available.
Search for Louth, Lincolnshire Events. Telephone 01507 354336 for further details.