Interview for Basler Zeitung
“Music won’t run away from me”
The American singer Anastacia (42) about her artistic break and charity work
Anastacia Newkirk is one of the greatest female popstars of the last ten years. The night before her AVO Session concert, she explained why her charity engagements are more important to her today than chart positions.
Only 45 minutes did Anastacia stand on the stage of the Messe-Festsaal on Wednesday. To her fans – disappointment. The singer interrupted her artistic break and was apparently unable to rehearse a “whole-evening” repertoire. However, even with the short performance, the American made it clear what a powerful-voiced singer she is. A cannon on stage – and a fighter in life. She has suffered from Crohn’s disease since she was 13. In 2003, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she fought it successfully.
Anastacia, Greek for “the resurrected one”, has been true to her name. She doesn’t let herself be defeated by fate. And she doesn’t give up. Only in the age of 32 did her breakout come – late for the pop-business emphasis on youthfulness. That’s why she made a compromise she regretted, as she asserted several times: she changed her alleged age to five years younger at the wish of her record company. Today, Anastacia is officially 42 – and the mistress of her own destiny to make her own decisions, as she makes clear in the BaZ interview.
Anastacia, your last performance in Basel was six years ago, in front of an audience of 9000 people. You’re not on tour at the moment. Was the club-atmosphere of AVO Session exciting enough for you to interrupt your break?
Such special performances interest me, yes. I have reached a point in my career where I can view all my opportunities objectively. That’s very exciting.
It’s been quiet around you for well over a year now. Why?
Because my career, how shall I put it, has to find itself. The music industry is under change, that’s partly why I allowed myself to some time out. I wanted to find out where I want to go, which potential next steps make sense. The record companies nowadays want to downright possess you and so make up for their losses that the shift towards the internet has brought – and will keep on bringing. So I must make a choice as an artist: do I sell myself as a brand to a company. Or do I limit myself on a contract with a record distributor, have more freedom, but also take a bigger risk and have more expenses. I have checked all the possibilities and can see through now.
And which way have you decided for?
I won’t make that public yet. I can confirm though that I’m recording a new album next year. I’m in no hurry with it, because music is not running away from me. I love music, but I am very patient about these things.
You have already proven your patience before. You declined a lot of offers in the 90s because they wanted you to be a country or hip-hop singer. Instead, you got by as a background singer, dancer and waitress, until the industry’s offers suited you after an appearance in a MTV talent-show.
That’s right. I wasn’t sure if the long wait would pay off. But I just couldn’t imagine changing myself into a country singer and feel good about it. Pop, rock, soul, those are the styles I feel comfortable in. I have to definitely believe in my lyrics and my music. I realised this again after I had forgotten about it for a long time.
What do you mean?
I tried to discover a new Anastacia a few years ago, and lost myself in the process.
How did that happen?
I suddenly found myself boring, I told myself: You still look exactly like the same Anastacia that made the breakthrough in 2000. I found that a weakness, stagnation, I changed my hair-style, my looks, tried to explore different ways musically, flirted with the “urban sound”. Yet I was untrue to myself, and later realised that I cannot run away from myself: I’m a city-child with a love for soul-rock. Never mind if it’s popular or not.
Although extremely popular in Europe, you’re less successful in the USA. Perhaps also because you don’t want to join the “Bling-Bling” fraction?
Possibly. Of course, I could work with the hottest video-maker and the best-known rapper, and so seek success in my country. But that’s not how I work.
The heart plays a great role with you. This shows in the fact that you established a foundation after defeating breast cancer and have been notably active in charity. These activities seem to have as much importance in your life as music.
That’s true. I know that my career is a blessing. But I don’t need the assurance of being number one in the charts. Based on my experiences – my brother is an autistic, I have Crohn’s and had to fight breast cancer – it is more important for me to speak about these things, to raise awareness in people and raise money. In the hope of being able to contribute a little bit to making our world a little more bearable. That’s more important than being at the top of the hit parades.
Even though that could happen to you again with your next album.
(Laughs) If that’s the case, it will mean even more charity, more money I would invest into charity. You have to know: In 1998 I still wanted to study psychology and then do social work with children.
You’ve always had to fight again and again. Your voice is notably powerful. Is there a correlation?
Good question. I guess so. I have never sung into the shower head, dreamt of life popstar-life in front of the mirror, or rehearsed the words I’d use to thank for an award. I have simply brought my feelings out in my singing. I know today that that’s my purpose.
Even before your performance, you received bunches of flowers here in Basel. Especially female fans thank you for giving them strength with your voice and biographical lyrics.
It’s fascinating to see that I have obviously become a role model for some people. This gives me even more strength, assures me to stay myself. That I have to take some roundabouts in the process simply belongs to it, as the past has taught me.