Louise is celebrating being Louise, and what a woman she is.
With a career spanning 30 years, the singer, songwriter, actor, fashion icon, and television personality has done a whole lot that sometimes feels goes under the radar. For starters, she has made history several times.
Debuting as one-fourth of pop/R&B girl group Eternal, the soulful stars became the first girl group to sell over a million copies in the UK with their 1993 album, Always & Forever, and were also the first ever girl group to be nominated in the British Album of the Year category at the 1995 BRIT Awards.
Following her time with Eternal, Louise went solo and immediately became the poster girl for boys and girls everywhere. In 1997, she was the first female pop star to grace the cover of GQ Magazine and was named the “Sexiest Woman of the Decade” by FHM in 2004. Her back catalog is STACKED with bangers, which is why she joins the list of artists who have had the most top 10 hits in the UK. And as she embarks on the next chapter of her career, it was announced that Louise will be the first woman to professionally play Teen Angel in the musical Grease later this year in London.
On June 2, Louise will be releasing a new compilation, simply titled Greatest Hits, to honor all her musical accomplishments. In addition to her classic singles, she is treating fans to new material. In October, Louise kicked things off with the 80s-infused “Super Magic” before putting out the re-imagined versions of “Naked” and “Just A Step From Heaven.” This week, Louise arrives with a brand-new single, “High Hopes,” a glamorous ballad that showcases her gorgeous vocals.
In an interview with EUPHORIA., Louise discussed the new material, being a pop star in today’s climate, her idol Janet Jackson, unreleased music from the archives that could be released, and a whole lot more.
This week you dropped your new single, “High Hopes.” Tell me more about it. It feels special as it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever released.
Do you know what, I think this song, like “Super Magic” was totally up my street as far as the style of music that I love and listen to, and that really excited me doing that. I feel sometimes when you start sort of working on songs, you never know where they’re gonna end up. And for me, this kind of just went down that kind of road of being quite a bit of an anthemic type song, like a hand in hands in the air, sun shining at a festival. It’s also a really positive song. I think a lot of people will get the lyrics and to me, it’s a real feel-good song.
You mentioned “Super Magic,” which came out late last year. That song was obviously very ‘80s inspired. If I had to describe it to anyone, I would say it’s a mix of Prince’s 1999 and Janet Jackson’s Control eras. Were those two direct references?
I’m a fan of both of those people. I wanna carry on obviously making music after the greatest hits and already I’ve sort of gone back into the studio to start writing. And I think I’m now at an age and at a time in my life where I say I’m really just gonna work on music that I love. And naturally, your musical influences hugely come into play with that. Everyone works differently in the studio and I think one thing people don’t know about me is it doesn’t start with the lyrics at all, it always starts with the baseline. That’s the part of songwriting that I love, the baseline and the funk guitar. I think with “Super Magic,” the music that I’ve been listening to, especially loads through lockdown and all of that stuff, I feel that really did play a part in how I’ve desperately wanted to make the music that has come out.
Do you have favorite Janet and Prince songs that stand out to you?
Gosh, bits of everything! I always love to cover a Janet song. I’ve not been brave enough to cover a Prince song. I mean, it’s because it’s a harder cover to pull off, but if everyone’s kind of doing a gig and I’ve got a bit of extra time, I always say to the band and my MD, “Could they put like ‘Together Again’ or ‘Escapade’ in there?” Actually, in lockdown, I did a cover of “Escapade” with my band, which was so much fun.
Prince, oh god, where do I start? I find his music much harder to cover because I think his sort of vocals are so unique in how he delivers. But god, I mean the whole Purple Rain days, it’s just everything. I could go on for both of them but as far as Janet goes, I knew every dance routine she did growing up. I mean, I could literally roll out the whole janet. album routine after routine. If I’m ever at a photo shoot and Janet comes on, I start doing routines, which is very annoying for anyone that’s trying to take my picture [laughs].
In addition to releasing new songs, you have reimagined some of your biggest hits. What inspired you to do that?
After sort of 30 years, I thought to just put the greatest hits out and expect sort of fans to partner their money and buy it just didn’t quite sit comfortably with me because there are songs that they can download and get. I didn’t want people to feel like we were sort of trying to just sell artwork basically with an odd remix or something. I made the decision that if I was gonna do a greatest hits, I would do it and offer a lot of difference to it so it wasn’t all of the normal songs that are just out there circulating already. I did some new versions and rerecorded some of my songs and have rerecorded some of the Eternal songs. I just felt it was the right way to put a greatest hits because even though it is a greatest hits, it isn’t the end of music for me. It’s something nice to do as it was 30 years. But at the same time, the newness and bringing new life to those tracks, I think especially as I still go out and do the festivals and do shows, I think it was important to put those versions on the record to reflect how I was performing them on stage as well.
You must be so happy with the reception everything has received because it’s been incredibly positive.
Do you know what, yeah, super. I could not be more grateful, thankful, and excited to come back into music after a long time away. I’m getting older and no matter what you put into it or how well you want something to do, you’re in the hands of the way you are received and the goodwill towards you. It’s been incredible. I mean, “Super Magic” went down a storm. From Radio 2 to the fans and the press, people were really, really positive and really supportive, which was so nice to say you’re totally up against it. There are enough things in life, especially when you’re putting music out, you’ve gotta kind of barge through, let alone after such a long break. For it to be received so well and for the shows to be selling and for there to be a little goodwill out there is amazing.
What’s it like being a pop star in today’s climate? Your solo career initially existed in an interesting timeframe before the digital and streaming era kicked in.
It’s really different and it’s really hard to get your head around it because I’m used to just selling records and that’s it. But obviously, I did have Heavy Love out before this, which gave me a real insight into just how things have changed and how the world of TikTok and streaming and downloading plays such a big part in it. I’ve been really fortunate that what helps me is my fan base still does go out and buy the records which keeps you chart eligible and keeps you there. So for that part, I’m grateful that I still have an audience that is happy to take home a bit of a hard copy but it’s like anything, you’ve just got to keep up with the times. I just take everything a little bit in my stride. What will be will be and I know the world of streaming and social media and all of these things are a completely different platform to where I started off releasing music. But it’s like anything, there’s good in it and there’s bad in it. The nightmare is, it’s a different audience you’ve gotta grow. But, the good is you can get your music far and wide, which was always a lot more difficult to do when I started out.
Is there anything that was so prominent in the ‘90s that you really miss?
Oh, the good old days of the Smash Hits roadshow, Top of the Pops, and CD:UK, they were all such fun times. I feel like in the ‘90s, a pop star was really a pop star, it wasn’t a flooded market by any stretch, it was sort of like one lane. There was sort of one route to go with TV and radio, whereas now, it’s so open, there’s so much out there and the good thing now is there’s so much choice. Sometimes my sons play music that has had billions of streams and I’m hearing it for the first time and I think, “Oh, I missed this, I’ve never heard of this person.” You are always discovering newness and new artists and different generational things, but there’s something pretty magical about the ‘90s, but maybe that’s just because that’s where I started and that was my magical time. There’s something about how you just all knew each other. You were very much all in it together and that was a fun time.
During that time, you worked with choreographer Jamie King, who was known for working with many stars from Janet Jackson to Madonna. At the time, did you know how much of a big deal that was?
Oh god, yeah. Even back then as a young girl, I loved Janet and Madonna and what they were doing. So when I got to work with Jamie, I just remember going to LA for the first time and sort of walking into the dance studio and being completely in awe. He turned out to be a great friend and we ended up working together over a number of years. I knew it was a big deal, completely. I always remember doing the big Smash Hit shows and we were about to go and do “Naked,” and he was there, the dancers were there and I remember looking down into the auditorium and there were loads of other of artists sitting there watching. I remember there being under a lot of unnecessary pressure on a Tuesday morning [laughs]. Of course, they were all there because they wanted to see what Jamie King was doing and what choreography he was bringing, but yeah yeah, I knew working with him was a massive deal.
Since you’re in a space where you’re reflecting on your career, are there any songs from back in the day that you wish were released as a single?
I always liked the stuff always that wasn’t the most obvious stuff, if you know what I mean. I always liked the B-sides and things like that. I think back in the early ‘90s, I think record companies and A&Rs really went for the radio-friendly stuff, it was very much about pop. I always like the slightly more sultry, kind of Janet vibe songs that for me, being a young girl always seemed to kind of get pushed to one side and they’d become album tracks or a B-side. I sort of like things like “I’ll Fly Away” and songs that slightly had more influence on music that I really loved.
“How You Make Me Feel,” that was a great B-side.
You see! The B-sides, they all had a little something that was always a little bit sexier, a little bit more laid back. That’s what I felt represented the music taste that I had. Maybe more so than some of the big ones. My music taste doesn’t naturally lend itself to the popular songs.
I know you’ve been taking requests for your upcoming show at Shepherds Bush Empire on June 2. I would love “Egyptian Queen!”
Oh, I’ve had a lot of requests for “Egyptian Queen.” I actually sat down with my MD on Sunday and we were going through it all. I was like, “Okay, so the popular ones are ‘Egyptian Queen,’ ‘The Best That You Bring,’ and ‘New York Moon.’
What about “For Your Eyes Only?” That was initially planned to be the third single from Elbow Beach, wasn’t it?
Yeah, that was a little bit kind of Five Star moment, wasn’t it? Yeah, that was going maybe more so in that vein of where the next step was and the whole photoshoot was kind of a little bit naughtier. But yeah, it ended up obviously not being a single.
It was going to be released with a Chic remix, right?
Yeah, I think by that stage, towards sort of the Elbow Beach time, I actually recorded a lot of music after it, which I have dug out and there are going to be little surprises along the way of this whole greatest hits journey. By that stage, I was starting to really have a bit more sort of involvement in the writing and element of the music. We talked about Janet, I loved Motown, and I loved the whole Chic sound. I loved anything that was a little bit of old school and I think “For Your Eyes Only,” the remixes and the way that was gonna be put out definitely went down that road.
You mentioned digging out unreleased music. Are you referring to the songs that were going to be a part of your unreleased 2004 album?
Yeah, there are a few little songs that I worked with some great producers in America. So yeah, down the line, I’m sure over the next few months, they will get a little air in just for good time’s sake.
There are two new songs we have yet to hear from the upcoming Greatest Hits – “Feel” and “Right Now.” How are those sounding?
It’s weird because all four songs do have slightly different elements to them. I think doing a greatest hits, I didn’t particularly want the songs to be completely cohesive in an album sound because I wanted to save that for the next album. I wanted these songs to just all bring an element of music that I loved. Like “Super Magic” was very Janet. I feel that “High Hopes” is very much about that gospel choir at the end and that big kind of thing. “Feel” is one of my favorites. It’s just a little bit sexy and a little bit cheeky, very laid back. It’s got that more “That’s the Way Love Goes” vibe. “Right Now” is an Ibiza, summer vibe.
You’ve mentioned another studio album a few times. What sound do you think you’ll lean into with it?
I like there to be a cohesiveness to it. I’d really like it to have that “Super Magic” old-school feel to it, from the whole early Jam and Lewis kind of days. I want it to sit in that world and try and make it really flow as an album.
Maybe you can support Janet on her current tour if she brings it over to the UK!
Oh my god! I wouldn’t be able to sing. I was actually once doing a charity show, it was her charity, and I was performing and I just started to sing “Arms Around the World” and she walked in, it was like the second song and I literally thought nothing was gonna come out of my mouth. The opening of that song was us trying to recreate her song “Runaway” so I thought she’s either gonna get up and clap or she’s gonna sue me [laughs].
How was meeting her? That must have been a moment!
She was so friendly, she was lovely. She was sweet and someone said, “Oh, Lou’s a big fan of yours.” And she went, “Yeah, I know!” She was everything you’d want her to be. And it’s so nice when you meet people that have inspired you musically and I think more than anything, not just musically as an artist, just as a performer. I just love her.
This was lovely! Thank you so much for your time today.
Thank you so much! If you’re coming to Shepherds Bush, I’ve gotta do “Egyptian Queen.”