Melanie Chisholm needs no introduction; she is as talented as she is successful, with a career that spans an incredible 23 years. And that doesn’t even include the time she spent studying gymnastics, ballet, sports as well as singing and dancing as a child and in her teens.
The British singer, songwriter and performer has a list of accomplishments and achievements that the majority of us couldn’t even hope to achieve in one, let alone several, lifetimes.
As someone who has positively inspired countless women and men worldwide over the past two-and-a-half decades, I was keen to talk to Melanie about her own personal and professional influences, as well as what she keeps in her wellness arsenal that helps to ensure that she’s happy, healthy and motivated.
Melanie endearingly cites her own mum, Joan O’Neill, who worked full-time in the week and performed with her band at the weekend when Melanie was growing up, as someone who has always inspired her.
She also lists Annie Lennox as an inspiration: The astounding vocalist, songwriter and tireless humanitarian is someone who Melanie says that she has, “been lucky enough to meet a couple of times.”
The pair marched alongside Emilie Sande, Bianca Jagger and Natasha Bedingfield at the #march4womenevent for gender equality at London’s Southbank in March 2017, the day before International Women’s Day. They also performed in a line-up that included Lauren Pritchard and Alice Russell at an evening that was organised by Body and Soul, which is a charity that supports children, teens and families affected by HIV, and was held in honour of the late Dame Anita Roddick to celebrate strong, inspirational women in October 2010.
When I wonder what makes Melanie smile, she says quick as a flash, “my little girl” and adds that; “It can be difficult to get the Spice Girls into a room together, but when it does happen I can genuinely say that I really do smile,” although she acknowledges that they don’t get together often, due to five very packed, conflicting schedules which stretch across the globe.
I wonder, what is the best advice that she has ever been given and by whom?
Melanie says without hesitation, “my mum” who told her; “Don’t ever do anything you feel uncomfortable doing,” – which are wise words for people of all ages and in all situations to keep in mind at all times.
I asked what one piece of advice she would give her own daughter? It was similarly brilliant: “Hold on to who you are.”
She expands; “It can be very easy to lose the essence of who we truly are. When we’re young we know who we are and we’re not self-conscious. Then as we get older, we can lose that.”
We discuss our kids, and that there’s been a shift where the younger generation are really quite focused and studious, rather than into partying and going wild like everyone did back in the nineties.
Melanie’s hazel eyes light up and she laughs softly as she fondly recalls her daughter watching her perform one particular time this summer: “She knows the set list and the songs off by heart. But she was at the side of the stage and I looked over and she was sitting there reading a book! It really made me laugh to myself.”
Turning the conversation to her career as it stands, I asked Melanie if she has accomplished everything that she set out to achieve or if there’s anything else that she would like to do?
“I read this quote the other day, it was about never being too old to have dreams. I am very proud of myself and all that I have achieved. I’m satisfied, and I do love my life, but I would love to have some more chart success I think most artists would.”
I suggest that people are ready for something more substantial than a lot of the usual chart fare and Melanie says, “Music tends to be cyclical. And there does seem to be a change. Rick Astley is enjoying a comeback as well as Michael Ball and Alfie Boe.”
Astley has 59 upcoming concerts and is touring after the success of his most recent album Beautiful Life, and his 2016 album 50, which was his first studio album in ten years, and was named to mark his 50th birthday.
Melanie is recording music at the moment: “I’m working with a producer called Youth,” she explains. “He’s the founding member and bassist of Killing Joke and he also co-produced The Verve’s album Urban Hymns. At the moment I’m getting into doing a lot of covers of other people’s music, for example, I did a cover of Britney’s ‘Toxic’ and a lot of acoustic stuff.”
Youth, whose real name is Martin Glover, is an award-winning super-producer from Dundee who has a career that spans 41 years, during which he has worked with an entire list of music industry legends including; The Orb, Kate Bush, Guns and Roses, Howie Day, U2, Pink Floyd, Beth Orton and Paul McCartney.
Melanie describes his home, where he also records and produces, as an incredible hub of creativity: “I’ll be recording up in the attic, then he will have a couple of other artists recording in different parts of the house. It’s a really creative, inspiring environment.”
I ask if there’s any release date planned, but Melanie explains that she’s in no rush and they will release their work when she feels that it’s truly ready: “I’m enjoying the process and want it to be right and let it happen and evolve at its own pace and really get it right” she says.
As well as recording, performing at music festivals and a charity concert this year, Melanie also played a jazz club residency. She also tells me that she learnt to DJ this year – which is something that she had always wanted to do but had, “never had the courage!”
Melanie has been remarkably honest about her own struggles with depression in past interviews, which must have encouraged people going through similar issues to seek out help. I wonder if she has a bit of a depression weather vane of physical symptoms that serve as a warning alarm, so she can detect ahead of time she’s starting to become depressed, before she feels emotionally down.
Melanie immediately nods in recognition; “If I say, ‘I’m just going back to bed’ for me, that’s a sign.”
I ask if she has things she does when she starts wanting to go back to bed and she reels off a list; “Working out regularly, no alcohol, making sure I get enough sleep, eating healthy food, drinking lots of water…”
All of the above can be a near impossibility to manage to build into your day when you’re struggling to even get out of bed, and it’s a brilliant arsenal to have to hand and follow if you notice those early signs appear – rather than relying on quick fixes like booze and sugar-laden junk food which only make you feel worse long-term.
I wonder about her exercise routine and she insists; “There’s no super-secret. I am an active and physical person and I enjoy and like being active and have done since I was a kid. I work out at the gym 3-5 times a week doing circuits, strength training and core work. I love going out on my bike, swimming, or getting out and running and yoga. My thing is triathlons. But I have had a few injuries.”
Melanie agrees when I suggest that working out can be a form of active meditation and says that, “a lot of problems have been solved while running on Hampstead Heath.”
The subject turns to beauty. Melanie says that adult acne in her twenties was helped significantly by visits to an LA-based specialist skincare doctor, but she doesn’t get out to Los Angeles often now.
These days she trusts her skin to the talented hands of Nilam Patel, who was the original founder of HD Brows, and went on to found Dermaspa in Milton Keynes along with her husband Peter Holmes in 2008.
She says: “I go to see Nilam Patel at the Derma Spa in Milton Keynes for a Collagen Wave and Hydra Facial once a month. She is absolutely brilliant. I love trying things like clay face masks too – there’s some really funky products out there now.”
Nilam and her team have a long list of devoted clients, and glossy beauty magazine Editors have hailed Collagen Wave as ‘the new Botox’ – swearing by the 60 minute, non-invasive, skin tightening treatment that encourages the production of collagen and stimulates healthier skin cells.
Melanie also recommends IQMS Medi Cosmetics whose products are available online and points out their Foaming Facial Mask to me as she scrolls through their website on her ‘phone as one to try. The LA-based Dr Lancer’s products are also available to buy online and his, ‘The Younger Revealing Mask Intense’ even comes with a special magnet for when you want to remove it.
When I joke that beauty’s not like it was when we were in our teens when it was pretty much just a dab of toothpaste for stubborn spots, she laughs adding, “and Clinique soap.”
We talk about diet briefly and Melanie says that she doesn’t believe in fad diets, “I always say don’t deny yourself, but I do try to stick to healthy food. It’s important to look after your gut heath too. Besides if you do go off and have a whole pizza you feel terrible after anyway.” I say that I know someone who calls the traditional ‘junk’ style comfort food, ‘dis-comfort food’.
Melanie agrees, saying that, “It’s going back to that depression toolkit we were talking about.
“At this time of year especially, it’s really important to get out there in the fresh air and really let it open you up.
“We can do anything and can cope with almost anything, but health is our best tool.
Melanie has struck a chord: As she leaves I feel uplifted and vow to approach health, wellness and beauty as inter-connected, essential armour that you use every single day to feel and do your best – rather than as afterthoughts.
She’s also right that you’re never too old to dream – age is currency nowadays. Surely, we can all aim high and do that which feeds our soul, rather than settling for ‘less than’ and doing things that don’t make you feel comfortable? It’s inspiring food for thought.