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Spice Girl Melanie C On New Self-Titled Album

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, you might know our next guest as a member of the '90s supergroup the Spice Girls.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WANNABE")

SPICE GIRLS: (Singing) If you wanna (ph) be my lover, you gotta (ph) get with my friends. Make it last forever, friendship never ends.

MARTIN: But for years now, Melanie Chisholm, aka Melanie C, aka Sporty Spice has been a pop powerhouse in her own right. While she's continued to perform as Sporty Spice with her fellow Spice Girls, Chisholm has also spent the last two decades doing her own thing. Her latest effort is her eighth full-length solo album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE I AM")

MELANIE C: (Singing) I was out for a minute. Caught my breath, I'm back in it. I was lost. Now I've found my feet. Here I am. Took many punches to the ground, but I got up when I was down. Never been one to quit, I found strength within my weakness.

MARTIN: That's "Here I Am" from the self-titled album "Melanie C." In it, Chisholm explores themes of self-discovery and empowerment, forgiveness, and, of course, a little bit of girl power. And Melanie C is with us now from London to tell us more.

Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

MELANIE C: Oh, thank you. It's lovely to speak to you.

MARTIN: I've been sort of asking people, like, how've you been handling the whole pandemic, you know, lockdown situation? And I understand that you've been doing a lot of livestreams on YouTube.

MELANIE C: Yeah.

MARTIN: You're calling them Ask Melanie C.

MELANIE C: (Laughter).

MARTIN: And you're taking questions from your fans.

MELANIE C: Yeah.

MARTIN: How did you come up with that idea? What's that been like?

MELANIE C: Well, I think originally, the first single, "Who I Am," was released literally as we went into lockdown here in the U.K. And I was, like, what am I going to do? You know, I didn't even have the option to delay it. And I felt strange promoting music at such a strange time. So we were, like, OK, let's reach out to the fans. It was the first time I really saw the good in social media. I have a very strange love-hate relationship with it, but it's come into its own through the pandemic.

And I did the first one about this single and about the plans. And it just went so well, and I got such a lovely reaction from people. And I found that actually, I benefited a lot from it, too, because I think, like everyone, you know, I had some really down days when I just felt really hard, lacking in motivation. So to have this, like, little weekly get-together with the fans - I just found it, like, really helpful.

MARTIN: And it comes at an interesting time because, as I said, this is your eighth studio album, and you've said it's a reflection on your life - you know, both personally and professionally. After already having said quite a lot with the album...

MELANIE C: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I wondered if you weren't a little concerned about then kind of opening yourself up just in real time because one of the things I noticed - I was obviously looking back at some of your old interviews in preparation for our conversation - I've just been intrigued by how many personal questions people seem to feel they can ask you, you know? And is that a woman...

MELANIE C: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Thing? Is it because you're a woman? Is it because of - the Spice Girls was such a big deal to so many - do you know what I mean? And yet, I found, like, some of the interviews asked a lot of questions about your sexuality and so forth. First of all, I wanted to ask, like, what was that all about? And secondly...

MELANIE C: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Was there any nervousness at all about opening the doors again, in a way?

MELANIE C: I'm so pleased that somebody else has noticed that because I thought it was just me. Sometimes interviewers ask me questions with very little empathy. And they have very personal questions. And I'm always quite taken aback. And I feel it's hard, you know? When you are in the public eye, I think you kind of have to build this little wall to protect yourself.

You know, I think I do as well, which maybe it's foolish because I know that a lot of artists go into an interview with out-of-bounds questions. You know, they'll have a list of things they're not allowed to be asked. And I kind of always think, you know what? People can ask me whatever they want, and if I don't want to answer it, then I'll choose not to. But I suppose that makes an interviewer feel very comfortable to - you know, to ask certain things.

MARTIN: I wonder also, is it part of being part of a group where people sort of want to assign identities to each of you and sort of decide, maybe you're the one who's going to be asked this or that? I don't know. I just found it puzzling and noteworthy.

MELANIE C: Yeah.

MARTIN: But I also wondered, given that you had that experience, and you were so young when you were first going through that, I just wondered, did you hesitate at all to, I guess, open the door?

MELANIE C: Yeah. You know, I have an interesting relationship with fame. And it's kind of changed a lot since my career began. I grew up, as so many kids do, you know, with big aspirations, big dreams to work in music and to be a superstar. And then, you know, bizarrely, it happened to me. And I think when you're a kid, you only think about the good stuff. And with everything in life, there's good, and there's bad.

So I think quite quickly, I realized there was a lot about fame that I didn't enjoy. I didn't like the intrusion of your privacy. And, you know, I didn't like how crude some of parts of the media can be. So I think I retreated a little bit.

And then with this album, the reason it self-titles is because I've kind of had a very reflective moment being back on stage with the Spice Girls last year. And it gave me an opportunity to be Sporty Spice again, when I thought, you know, do I become Sporty Spice? And I realized, I don't. She's within me. And I just realized it was time for me to really embrace all of these people that I've been through my life - you know, all of these moments.

And I wanted to celebrate that - and also all of the difficulties that I've got over, too. Instead of being ashamed or being regretful, I thought, no, I'm going to be proud because I did overcome those things, and I'm here to tell the tale. And I just found that this album - a theme was growing in the writing sessions, and it was about self-empowerment. It was about self-acceptance and being comfortable in my own skin. And I just thought it was a really important message to get out there.

MARTIN: Let's talk about that. Like, here's a song. It's called "Who I Am," and I think it kind of speaks to that. Here. Let's play a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHO I AM")

MELANIE C: (Singing) That's who I am. No, I've got nothing left to hide, hide. I'm comfortable with what's inside, side. That's who I am. You think you've known me all this time, time. But the real me is mine, mine. That's who I am.

MARTIN: And after this chorus ends, you say, quote, "when I look in the mirror, I finally like what I see." Do you mind if I ask, like, what were you thinking when you wrote this? Was there something in particular or some people or situation in particular you were thinking about when you wrote these words?

MELANIE C: You know, I think it's been the entire journey. I think so many people are very hard on themselves. You know, I think especially as women, we can have a very negative internal dialogue. And I've just come to a point in my life when I just thought, you know, that really isn't serving me. And I just started trying to be very disciplined in being positive - you know, being positive inside myself.

And I've realized that by doing that, everything changes. And it's such a wonderful thing to do. So I really, you know, want people to just give it a try because it really works.

MARTIN: Well, before we let you go, we have to ask about your other gig as a member of the Spice Girls. Next year is the band's 25th anniversary. When you were starting out, did you ever think you'd be celebrating 25 years as a member of that band? Did that thought ever occur to you?

MELANIE C: You know, I think we were so living in the present, I didn't think about the Spice Girls not being together as a pop band ever (laughter). You know, I didn't think of life beyond it. And luckily, I've not really had to because we're all really good friends. We stay in touch. We get together when we can. We're a nightmare trying to coordinate. But when we can, we will get together.

And we are hoping to do more shows. We had such a great run last year. It was incredible seeing people from all over the world come into the U.K., really enjoying and loving the music and the girl power message still going strong. So we'd love to do more when time and COVID allows.

MARTIN: That is Melanie Chisholm, aka Melanie C, aka Sporty Spice. Her self-titled new album - her eighth studio album - "Melanie C" is out now.

Melanie C, Melanie Chisholm, thank you so much for talking with us.

MELANIE C: Thank you. I really enjoyed that. Lovely to speak to you. And hopefully I'll get over to the U.S. once this awful pandemic's over.

MARTIN: We certainly hope so.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN AND OUT OF LOVE")

MELANIE C: (Singing) I go in and out of love, never get enough, I keep going in and out of love, trying to get higher, higher. In and out of love, never giving up, so I keep going in and out of love, chasing desire higher. Play it cool. Who am I trying to fool? I'm not going home without you, out you, out you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.