Music Q&A:
Alison Limerick

The house music star will perform Where Love Lives and more hits at Classical Uproar, Gorton Monastery, Manchester, 25 August

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What informs your music and songwriting?
There’s no fixed formula to the way I work. Inspiration can strike in the middle of the night and drive you from sleep or be the product of determined effort in a studio with others. I write what I know, from what I’ve experienced but never set out to create a narrative of my life. Real life can however sometimes insert itself into a song, as it did when writing Sister, Mother, Child, a song that has the imprint of my mother embedded in it.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
Every experience teaches you something. I am more able to deal with what the music business throws at me having been through the mill once or twice. That said I still get just as excited about a new project as I did when I started out. I love what I do – that has never changed – but I now know that there has to be hard graft too. Relentless determination has to become part of your armoury – as important as practising your craft – and learning to suffer early flights and late nights if you want to make making music your career.

I was born to be on the stage – my school teachers all knew this even before I did – but in order to continue to do what you love you have to keep embracing the new: new technology, new ideas, even when those ideas lead back to familiar places or people. The Brooklyn Funk Essentials are a funk band for the 21st century and l’ve been working with them for less than two years but have already toured through places in Europe I had never been to before. The confidence to embark on a project so different from what I’d done before comes from years of being a solo artist. You cease to be afraid to try something new, even when you know there will be little rehearsal time.

I guess I am braver than I was back in the early 1990s when I was newly signed but even then I probably had a little more self-possession than the average newbie, as I had already experienced performing on big stages in front of people, having done my first theatre show aged 15. That girl is still inside me and I never want to evolve so much that I lose the joy, the nervous delight she felt every time she stepped out in front of an audience.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I’ve been working on lots of projects but the bands I have been recording and working live with most are the Brooklyn Funk Essentials and Eat Logic. Very different projects! One based in England and the other I work with mainly in Europe with new songs coming out shortly. Added to that I have a dance track, made in collaboration with American producer Lenny Fontana, in the final stages of production.

What’s on your rider?
Nothing special although I always ask for a bottle of champagne. Fruit, including clementines and grapes, still mineral water, fresh orange juice, Coca-Cola (full fat, none of that Diet/Zero malarkey) but more important than those things, a warm, clean dressing space in which to prepare before a performance. I’m fairly easy to please and am never surprised when I don’t get all that’s on the rider. On those occasions when I get none of the rider – which happens – or when the mic fails to work or the sound is horrible or the organisation is a shambles, I chalk it up to experience. Life is too full of good stuff to dwell on the crud.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
My most embarrassing moment on a stage happened in my “previous life” Going arse over tit in the centre of a West End stage in front of a full theatre of folk has to rank high.

For the surreal I did a show in a gay club in Osaka. It was a boys-only night, a special occasion that the promoter had flown me all the way from London to be part of. As I looked out into the audience, who were very appreciative except for an odd pocket of peeps who were pressed up against the front with caps pulled down low. I also noticed a few very pretty boys, smaller than the main body of punters.

It was only when I came off stage and remarked on the cuteness of so many of the peeps in the audience and the capped folk at the front that I was told that a lot of girls had come dressed as boys so that they could get in to see me perform. Everyone knew that the girls were girls but as long as they dressed like boys and behaved appropriately they got to stay in the club despite it being boys night. I was very flattered but couldn’t figure out why. If it was cool to have girls in the club on a boys night – and every one knew that the girls were girls – why there was the need for the pretence. The club had alternating nights for men and women so maybe they did not want to upset their regulars. Whatever the reason I had a great night and it was good to know that the female fans were not excluded.

What song do you wish you’d written?
The list of songs I wish I had written or lyrics I wish I had thought up – turns of phrase that speak to me – is as long as my arm. No point trying to pick out one.

What’s your worst lyric?
My worst lyrics never leave the studio. I may have let a few dodgy scribblings slip past me but the worst get excised. There have been one or two projects that I have sung on where I have been a hired gun – just a voice, no other input – and once or twice I have had to sing a thing or two that I would not have penned.

However, I’ve never been one to shy away from the weird or the unusual, as evidenced by my rendition of Drugs from the album Filigree and Shadow by This Mortal Coil. I believe one phrase runs “I’m charged up with microwaves.” Not something I would have thought to write but I know that there are still a lot of This Mortal Coil fans out there who got it.

The flip side to the out-there lyrics of Drugs from the same album is the song My Father. Very ordinary words, conversational phrases and yet I had to work hard to deliver them in away that satisfied Ivo Watts-Russel, the producer and mastermind of the This Mortal Coil project. Music is a subjective thing, likewise lyrics. You like what you like. Things I find pleasing others may hate. My favourite songs, my best lyrics will not be liked by everyone. I try not to worry about it and continue to do what I do whenever I can.

Alison Limerick performs Where Love Lives at the Classical Uproar concert, featuring a 25 piece orchestra and live guests, on Friday 25 August at Gorton Monastery, Manchester. Tickets: £30 in advance from skiddle.com/classicaluproar and more on the door. More info: 0161 223 3211, classicaluproar.com and facebook.com/classicaluproar. Here’s Suddi Raval’s blog

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