Belinda Carlisle … renowned lead singer of the popular all-girl group, the Go-Gos and equally well known as a soloist, with hits including Heaven is a Place on Earth and Runaway Horses, Belinda will be stopping in at Port Panthers on her 2012 Summer Rain tour.
Hi Belinda. Considering your earlier performances with the Go-Gos, which then led into a hugely successful solo career, how much do you think your music has evolved over time?
Over time, when you listen to the music, you can see how it’s evolved. The Go-Gos were a Punk band.
When I was growing up, I listened to the California radio. Through the ‘60s and ‘70s, there were things like the Beach Boys – lots of melody, lots of romance and lots of guitar bands. Music was really rich and varied.
When the Go-Gos were formed, a lot of the music I listened to growing up, and the music the other girls listened to as well, influenced the writing of our songs. Although the Go-Gos sounded like a Punk band, there were always those Pop overtones – the rich melodies and that California sound.
Moving from the Go-Gos to my own career, it was more about the influences of what I listened to sitting in front of my speakers as a young girl … although it all transitioned and it all made sense. I was always true to who I was at the time, and I’ve always basically had the same musical taste.
What is it that inspires you in terms of the music you choose to sing? There’s such a sense of freedom and vitality in many of your songs …
Music always has to be fitting and appropriate for me. Even If I’m happy with the sound of a song, I still have to relate to it lyrically. Melodically, I either like something or I don’t – I’m pretty black and white. I don’t really vacillate on whether I think something’s good or not. How I feel about a song is the true question, really.
Your first solo album was in 1986. You must have experienced some huge changes in the music industry since then?
Slowly but surely, I guess. Women singers of that time, from the time the Go-Gos were signed … at the start, no-one would sign us because we were female, had our own band, wrote songs and played our own instruments.
From then on, though, there were more and more women in music doing that – like The Bangles, and we all began to do very, very well.
You’ve moved from your native USA and have lived in France now for quite some time. How has relocating to another country affected your career – has it inspired you to move in another direction musically?
I’ve lived in France now for 18 years. I released a French album, Voila, a few years ago – and it went very well critically and was very well received. So, the move did have an impact in that respect.
I had to get that out of my system – I was learning about French music and French Pop. There are a lot of great artists here – and I wanted to indulge the bit of the chanteuse in me – and that’s what went into the album Voila.
Logistically, me being here makes a lot more sense than being in the States, as I work a lot in Europe and in India.
Some people probably aren’t aware that you wrote an autobiography, Lips Unsealed, in 2010. What made you decide to try your hand at writing?
I felt I had a story to tell. It was like a Rock ‘n’ Roll story. I think it’s an inspirational story that may be able to help a lot of people … people who may be struggling with their demons and conditioning and lots of other things.
With a little bit of distance from my past, I felt I could write clearly and with a little bit of wisdom.
It was something I’d always wanted to do and when I wrote it, it just seemed like the right time. It took a good year and a half to do. I got it out of my system and I don’t know if I could do it again, but it was very satisfying.
What’s been the most challenging thing for you in being involved with the music industry?
Probably the very frustrating beginning of my career. Obviously the Go-Gos became a success, but having to deal with the whole gender discrimination thing was really challenging. It’s been good and bad though … things have always kind of been perfect timing for me; I’ve been very blessed in that way. I’ve always followed my intuition with my career, and I have no regrets about the choices I’ve made.
And the most rewarding thing?
The most rewarding thing for me was being recognised last year on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard.
That was an amazing, amazing point in my career! Even though it may seem kind of silly, but having grown up in Southern California – it was the Hollywood dream!
Sum up the show you’ll be presenting for us here in Port Macquarie? Will you be singing a broad spectrum of hits from across your albums?
Yes exactly, and a few obscure songs as well. Fortunately for me, I have a lot of songs people will recognise and relate to, but there will be a few new songs I’ve recorded.
I’m very excited about the tour. I’ve been to Australia about 8 or 9 times now, and I always look forward to coming back.
Interview by Jo Atkins.