A little time with Alison Wheeler
Lead singer with British pop band The Beautiful South is on tour with new line-up The South – and the first stop is Yeovil
The Beautiful South, with their catchy tunes and ironic lyrics, were one of my faves back in the day. Remember Don’t Marry Her, Perfect 10, Rotterdam and their number 1 hit A Little Time? Alison Wheeler was the band’s third female vocalist, joining in 2002 and completing three albums before they all decided to split in 2007, over what Paul Heaton called ‘musical similarities’. Now Alison, TBS original Gaz Birtles and seven others have formed The South, coming to Yeovil this Saturday. Muddy grabbed a moment…
What was it like joining a super successful band like The Beautiful South?
It was a dream come true and a real honour. After years of knocking on doors, one finally opened. It was strange to be shoe horned into an already successful band but amazing none the less.
You were following in the footsteps of two great female vocalists – how did that feel?
Brian [Corrigan] and Jacqui [Abbott] were both strong successful singers in their own rights. Of course it was daunting stepping into their shoes but the fans were supportive from the beginning. I hope I bring something new to the songs with my own style. I still get called Jacqui every now and again but I take that as a compliment.
The band called you Lady Wheeler – why?
I’m not cool enough to be Northern, I’m not southern enough to be Southern. I’m a comprehensive educated girl from the Midlands. The boys found it funny that I’d gone to Cambridge University to study Law and Japanese. That’s what the Lady Wheeler reference springs from I think. I suppose there are worse things to be called.
Who are your musical influences?
I’ve always been about the vocals. Big diva voices like Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Beyonce, Whitney Houston and jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Billie Holiday. Fronting a big jazz band would be my dream job. Just call me Mrs Buble!
What’s been your proudest moment?
As a child I aspired to perform on Top Of The Pops and I was fortunate to do this with The Beautiful South. A moment I will never forget.
To perform it would be a toss up between Don’t Marry Her and Perfect 10. To listen to, my favourite song is The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Dionne Warwick. Such a simple beautiful tune.
Do you ever get bored singing The Beautiful South’s hits?
Not at all. The gigs are always audience stand up and dance affairs. We love to see the audience getting up and letting go. It makes singing all the songs come to life.
Lots of the songs are about relationships – do fans tell you their stories?
A lot of people relate to the stories Paul [Heaton] penned over the years. That’s the beauty of his songs and one of the reasons they’ve stood the test of time I think.
What’s it like being on tour?
Great fun. Tour bus or hotels, its a chance to get out and see the country meet new and old friends and just have a laugh.
What’s in your rider?
Lots of lager. Crisps, chocolate wine and Guinness. All the food groups!
Is there another album on the horizon?
I do hope so. It’s been way too long since our last album Sweet Refrains. We just need to get our heads together and get working.
What else are you up to?
I play bass and sing in a band called Topers. It’s a fun project I set up with a few friends from university which takes me out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been comfortable playing an instrument and singing. I also write pop songs about washing hands and brushing teeth for pre-schoolers for a woman called Action Amanda. Apart from that I’m busy bringing up two children and learning Spanish.
Where to next?
Yeovil is the first date of the tour but we’re looking forward to zig zagging over the country until April and then out on the road doing summer festivals again in July/August.