How did the Angels In Chains single come about?
I was a George Michael fan and I always liked him when I was young. I befriended him at an awards show and when I left the Spice Girls he offered me the use of his home. I’d go round with my music and he’d tell me when he liked it or when he thought the songs were crap. So I went from fan to friend and when he died I felt very lost so I wrote a song about him and my feelings. It was just to exorcise my feelings.
What happened next?
I presented it to the record company as part of an album I’m working on and they said they liked it and wanted to release it. I wasn’t sure as it’s quite vulnerable and usually I’d ask George when I wasn’t sure about something, so I talked to a producer who’d worked with him and he said he loved it and wanted to work on it. Then we got some of George’s backing singers involved. It was an amazing experience.
It’s for charity as well…
I talked to George’s sister, who said one of his favourite charities was Childline, so the money is going to them. George was an extremely generous person. He gave all the money from Jesus To A Child to Childline so I thought I’d do the same for my record for him.
What did you have in common?
I just had a connection with him. He was a very kind person and warm and funny. I was blessed to know him.
Are you still working on your album now?
I’m still in the middle of it. I’d been trying to go through a musical transition — I no longer want to prance around in hot pants — and George told me to leave a gap after my last record. I’ve certainly done that but it’s been through procrastination and fear. It’s been 12 years. I’ve been writing music, some of it got leaked, then I started again last year. I’ve got around five songs I really like and I’m still writing. This song has given me a push and I’m going with it.
Have you missed being a pop star, then?
That’s an interesting question. Am I bothered about doing all the stuff that comes with it? I don’t know. It can be challenging. I’ve been procrastinating so long I’ve been getting on my own nerves. I just love making music.
You seemed to want to be famous early on in your career. Is fame all it’s cracked up to be?
When we’re young we all have a childish perception of how something will be. It’s like The Wizard of Oz — you pull the curtain back and realise it’s just a bloke with a megaphone. Our value systems change. What does fame mean? It means recognition and validation. It has its advantages but it’s quite empty if that’s what your self-worth depends on. It gives you a way to connect with people but it’s just a vehicle for me to share my music with people.
Is the Spice Girls reunion postponed indefinitely?
I watched Liam Gallagher at the One Love concert in Manchester and it’s great he did that but I thought, ‘Where’s Noel?’ I understand why people have that longing to see groups sing together. We’ll see. I’m always happy to perform with those other girls.
You’ve got a new baby. Are you getting much sleep?
Boys are very different to girls. The energy is different and they’re quite demanding but I suddenly understand Andy Murray’s mother — you know how she shows up at every match and seems quite territorial? I understand it and I didn’t get it before. I suddenly understand mothers and their sons now.
Do you have any unfulfilled career ambitions?
Singing with George Michael’s musicians was a bittersweet moment. I closed my eyes and thought I wouldn’t be doing this if George hadn’t passed away but it’s such a gift to be able to make music with them. It’s been a career highlight, having been able to do this. I’ve definitely got more music left in me I want to share. I just love being creative. I love writing. I think I lost touch with that slightly over my career but I’ve come full circle. It felt like this at the beginning of the Spice Girls and again when I did my first solo album, and now I feel that way again — just being very honest and wanting to connect and unify and inspire. It sounds cheesy but I really like doing that.
Angels In Chains is out now