Pop icon Belinda Carlisle said goodbye to the States and goodbye to super stress
- Credit: Archant
Belinda Carlisle talks about quitting the States, the 30th anniversary of Heaven on Earth, new album Wilder Shores and shares some yoga advice.
Living in Asia was always in Belinda and her husband Morgan Mason’s minds. Donald Trump becoming president may’ve hastened the move.
“I remember having the conversation about Thailand probably about 25 years ago, it was just a matter of time. We raised our son (James) in France and after he went to live back in the States we thought maybe it’s time to go home and it just didn’t work,” she laughs.
“It’s horrible, after the election waking us every day. There was just really super high stress and you can’t escape it. We didn’t want to be in the States any more so thought ‘okay, let’s give up LA and see if it’s time to go’.”
They packed everything up, put some of it in storage, gave more of it away.
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“As soon as I was on the plane I had no more headaches, neck aches. It’s not fun, it’s very strange times there that’s for sure.”
She recently spoke about how her son James, who is gay, has made her more politically active when it comes to LGBTQ rights. How she worried about him when he came out, especially with the way the world’s going. I wish I’d had the time to ask her what she thought of Trump’s views on the topic.
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Belinda’s been based in Bangkok, Thailand, pretty much since the end of last year although she’s been travelling a lot with work.
“It’s a longer commute, I have to work distantly because it’s a long way from everything. I love the city. Whether we’re going to be there forever I don’t know but it’s really amazing for the moment.”
Worringly, it’s 35 years since the punk-influenced Californian teen sat on the kerb of a Hollywood sidewalk drinking beers and talking to her friends about forming a band.
Before girl power, before ladette culture had a name, there were the Go-Go’s whose success helped smash down the door for every female guitar band that followed.
I remember Belinda telling me back in 2014 how she was really happy with where she’s now at, having been on a “hamster wheel” from the age of 17-40; how it led to her battle with drugs and alcohol. She was quoted in a recent interview saying she can’t believe she isn’t dead.
Finding Buddhism was a turning point and chanting was one of the tools she used to help her in the early days of her sobriety. Having a drink is the furthest thing from her mind these days.
“To be honest, sobriety is second nature. I don’t give it a whole lot of thought. Of course it’s one day at a time, I still go to meetings occasionally but I don’t struggle with it. I don’t chant for that, but generally it relieves a lot of subconscious stress.”
Belinda’s been practicing yoga - a type called kundalini yoga - for more than 25 years. In the last 12 she’s built up a serious practice routine and begun studying the mantras that are used in her classes much more closely.
“It’s more internal than yoga, it’s physical in a different way. People think of triangle pose, downward dog, all that. Although there are some of those postures it’s mostly a lot of what they call pranayama which is breathing, a lot of chanting... it’s the best for emotions and stress.”
Her latest album, Wilder Shores, features chanting linked to her yoga practice.
“I’ve always wanted to do an album like this but never felt I was ready until early in 2015. I attempted it about five or six years ago and it just wasn’t working because it’s not just singing, it’s like carrying a sort of an energy in your voice. I know that sounds kind of pretentious but that’s what it is, it’s a science that requires an element in the voice called the naad. It wasn’t easy for me to learn.”
That being said, she’s still a pop singer and Wilder Shores is still a pop album with the same structure of verse, bridge and chorus as in her previous records, but done with repetitive chanting.
“I’ve chosen seven mantras - there were thousands to choose from - that have been really effective for me and put them into the pop song format. If you were to put it on in the next room or in the background you would think they are pop songs, but when you listen you can hear it’s not in English but in the language of the Gurus, Gurmukhi.
“There is a method behind all the madness there and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It’s not mainstream but I wanted to make it listenable, I guess I like to challenge myself creatively. It’s pretty out there for a lot of people but I think at the end of the day people understand that like Voila (her French album), it’s a reflection of where I’m at. I haven’t any desire to go back and do what I’ve done before.
“Working from the heart is how I work. I wanted to share with my fans what I feel can be a life-changing practice for anyone. If this, especially on the stressed out planet we’re living on at the moment, can give a little bit of relief then that’s a good thing.”
This year sees Belinda celebrate the 30th anniversary of Heaven On Earth her second solo album and her most successful, catapulting her to international solo stardom.
The single Heaven Is A Place on Earth topped the charts around the world; toppling Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ The Time Of My Life in the US and Pet Shop Boys’ Always On My Mind in the UK.
The video was directed by Oscar-winning actress Diane Keaton, the backing vocals supplied by Michelle Phillips of The Mamas And The Papas and Diane Warren, with 1980s electro maestro Thomas Dolby guesting on keyboards.
The album peaked at number four in The UK Album Chart and was certified triple platinum. It featured the UK Top 40 singles Heaven Is A Place on Earth, I Get Weak, Circle In The Sand and World Without You.
She says it does, and doesn’t, seem like 30 years.
“A lot has gone on between then and now... I had a baby, moved to France, back to the States. Time is weird, it feels in some ways like it was just yesterday. I’ve always been ‘look forward and wing it’ as I go along. I don’t really make any grand plans, just put one foot in front of the other sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Belinda’s not only marking the occasion with a tour, she’s also released a super deluxe four vinyl / one CD boxset.
It brings together the original studio album, single versions of several hits plus live versions taken from the 1988 Belinda Live! Concert with additional remixes. The CD features the original album plus three brand new tracks including a new acoustic version of Heaven Is A Place On Earth, new song Why and a cover of the Carpenters’ classic Superstar.
“I’m looking forward to touring. It’s like putting together a puzzle but also singing songs I haven’t sung for 30 years and forgot how good they are; trying to integrate them with everything else that’s kind of tricky but I’m excited.”
• Belinda will be at The LCR, Norwich, on October 4.