Anastacia is back. And since she’s never been a woman to do things by halves, when she talks about a fresh start, you can be sure she’s going all the way. New look, new sound, new label, new management, newly wed – but the same powerhouse of a voice that has already sold more than 17 million albums in Europe and Australia alone.
“If it doesn’t have a bit of fear in it, it’s probably too safe for me,” smiles the little lady with the big voice. “If it gives me butterflies, then it’s my kind of thing.” And right now, those butterflies are fluttering overtime. “I’m excited. It’s nice to know that you still have a chance to do anything you want to do. If you want to live your life, just do it!”
The Anastacia you see today is radically different from the one who last toured in 2005. The hair is softer, short, more natural. The trademark tinted glasses are no longer necessary, since she’s had laser treatment and can see well without them. “I love the fact that people don’t really recognise me right now. Until I start to sing, they’re not going to know who I am when I come out on stage, half the time! It’s been fun putting it all together, and starting to rediscover who I am. It’s exciting to feel like I’m starting again.”
Anastacia Lyn Newkirk was born in Chicago in September1968 but moved to New York in her early teens with her mum, sister and brother after her parents’ marriage ended. Being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease didn’t stop her realising an ambition to be a dancer, and soon she was a regular on Club MTV and appearing in videos with rappers Salt-n-Pepa. After showcasing that throaty, soulful voice on the MTV talent show The Cut in 1999, she signed to Epic and released her debut album ‘Not That Kind’ a year later. The first single ‘I’m Outta Love’ established her as a major star across Europe, Asia and Australia, and her follow-up album ‘Freak Of Nature delivered the same hi-octane mix of thumping dance beats, massive pop hooks and passionate vocal performances while showing her growing maturity as a writer.
But then in 2003, everything changed. The lump on her breast showed up while preparing for a reduction operation. In January she was given a definite cancer diagnosis, and the story leaked to the media before she’d even had time to tell her friends, giving her no choice but to go public on her illness. At the time it was traumatic, she says, but it all turned out for the best.
She responded well to radiation treatment and was given the all-clear in June 2003. Continuing to be free of cancer, she has offered a very public example of the advantages of early detection, and since her illness, she has raised serious sums of money to encourage this through her Anastacia Fund. “I feel great now,” she confirms. “I’m really lucky that I was given the opportunity to walk through the eye of something so terrifying. Although at points I was crawling!”
In retrospect her illness explains why she went for a rockier sound on her third album ‘Anastacia’ in 2004. “I felt like I needed to fight. So I chose guitars and instruments with attitude because it was me laughing back in the face of it, spiritually.”
There was a time when she thought the power and range of her voice might be compromised by the treatment, but as the songs on ‘Heavy Rotation’ show, she now has her energy back in full, and that awesome voice on full power. “My voice feels fine now,” she confirms. “But the music feels different to the Anastacia album. This album is more soulful. I feel more in touch with my inner self, my inner soul. I feel like I’ve come out of the other side of it all now, and found real peace. I’ve realised that life doesn’t have to be controlled by me, in every way. And it’s been fun, letting go, realising I don’t have to be such a perfectionist.”
Ironically, she’s also more in control of her career than she’s ever been, with a new management team, a new label, and opportunities to hand- pick the people she wants to work closely with. Things are changing fast in the music industry, she points out, and she had to watch while her record company merged with another, while people she liked and trusted lost their jobs. When David Massey, the man who’d signed her to Sony, moved over to join Universal as head of Mercury Records in New York, she felt it was time to move on too, and negotiated a move to the Universal-owned label where she could remain under his wing. “I’m really lucky to have a consistent A&R person throughout my career,” she says, but luck doesn’t really come into it: when Anastacia wants something, she goes for it.
It wasn’t until April 2008, when she officially signed her new deal that she began to write the new album. “It’s been such a fast album I had no idea of what it was going to sound like, what I was going to say. I figured there would be a couple of love songs, but I didn’t realise that most of the album was going to be as happy as it is. Even the songs I didn’t write myself, that I chose, are all positive. Not ‘Left Outside Alone’ and ‘I’m Out Of Love’, but songs like ‘I Can Feel You’ and ‘Heavy Rotation’.”
As ever, Anastacia has worked with an A list team for the fields of R&B and pop. The album’s title track was was penned by Grammy award- winning songwriter Rodney Jerkins, and Robbie Williams’ old writing partner Guy Chambers worked with Anastacia on several tracks. Def Jam artist and talented writer-producer Ne-Yo contributed two tracks (‘I Can Feel You’ which he co-wrote with Chuck Harmony, and ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ which he produced himself). She also worked with producers Lester Mendez (Shakira, Nelly Furtado, Dido); JR Rotem (Rihanna, Lil Kim, Leona Lewis); and The Heavyweights (Missy Elliot, PussyCat Dolls).
“I’d say this album is a softer piece of me, a gentler side, even a more feminine side. I’ve come into embracing my sensuality as a woman, finally. I’m like wine. It’s taken a while, but my reserve is quite popular right now! I’m just really happy inside, and I think that’s reflected in the music. Sometimes that comes with age, and sometimes just with what you’ve experienced in your life. So both of them together are why this is going to be an exciting record for me to promote. It’s very thrilling, to have so many new chances, new opportunities. And I’m ready! I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”