Belfast Telegraph

'All the surgeries and craziness has helped me to find the old Anastacia'

The pop powerhouse is back with her latest album, Evolution. She explains what the record means to her, even if it means she has to be taken to the stage in a wheelchair

By Lucy Mapstone

Anastacia is buzzing, spilling over with her trademark exuberance when I finally get her on the phone after a short wait - she's been held up with her jam-packed promotional schedule in Germany.

But it's okay. I don't mind the delay because she is a joy to speak to and for half an hour I'm sucked in by her energy and infectious laughter, despite being hundreds of miles away.

It's the day of her hotly-anticipated seventh studio album Evolution's release and she's been in back-to-back interviews.

"I have not had a minute to look at anything," she says cheerily, when asked if she has seen the positive reaction from fans on social media.

"I just got to my hotel after tons and tons of radio - Germany's very big by the way, in case you forgot."

Her speaking voice is as velvety-rich as her singing voice and, with a purr, she says: "It's been a long time since I've done real rock star radio, hopping in a car, bopping around, falling asleep with my head bobbing, getting up at six in the morning - everything.

"I'm like, 'guys, I'm a rock star, six in the morning is when I go to bed'."

Loving the experience having dropped her first original album since 2014's Resurrection, Anastacia is back doing what she does best, via a stint on Strictly Come Dancing, the launch of a clothing range and a tour of her biggest hits in Europe.

"I actually feel like I've been reborn a little bit, because this is what it used to be like, for me," she says, reminiscing about her early days as a pop star.

Lest it be forgotten, Anastacia literally burst onto the scene with robust pop classic I'm Outta Love in 2000, setting her off on an enviable career path after years of trying to break into the industry.

"This is what I did when I started, so I didn't know any better, I thought everybody always worked like this and in the height of my career - from the first song on - there were tons of interviews and blah, blah, blah and it was fabulous," she enthuses, barely taking a breath.

"And now I feel like I have come back into that circle, because I've delivered an album and, from what I've heard from people ... from what they're telling me, it could all be lies, but they're saying that this is like me coming back to the industry as strong as I came into it.

"And I'm very grateful for that."

However, while aware of her own talent - how could she not be? - Anastacia doesn't appear to take compliments too well.

"I have no idea how I did that because I was doing a tour at the same time and making a clothing line, so I'm still going, 'are you really joking with me? Is this a prank? Am I on Punk'd'?" she says, putting on a sassy tone that highlights her obvious disbelief over positive feedback.

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Anastacia on Strictly Come Dancing

Having recently played a prank on a TV presenter for Germany's version of the practical joke show ("he thought I was crazy") and doing something similar on Idol in Sweden, Anastacia is convinced the people around her are having her on.

But she softens when I tell her that, yes, the album is strong, lyrically emotional and deep, and just what her fans wanted.

"I'm just so nervous that somebody is going to punk me right now," she confesses.

Not wanting to be one to wallow, she brings herself back from the brink of her self-confessed paranoia as quickly as she slipped into it.

"As I stand back now and I look at the album, I do kind of feel like the old Anastacia again," she says.

Referencing her myriad of health complications - two bouts of breast cancer, a double mastectomy and a life-long battle with Crohn's disease, to name a few - she explains she feels like she has come home. She's back to who she was all those years ago.

"I feel like I've been able to find the old Anastacia through all the surgeries and all the craziness and all the ups and downs," she says.

"I really have found my way back to how I write. This is the music I like to do. I know everybody has a rapper on their music - but I'm just going to do my thing, and I know that works for me.

"I can't run away from who I am."

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Anastacia on stage

Perhaps some of Anastacia's nerves come from just this: her style has not changed and doesn't mimic the samey-samey sound of the current charts. She's very much the same artist she has been across all of her albums and singles, all gut-punching, dance-infused pop and power ballads.

"I mean, my God, musically I don't feel like I've changed. I think the music industry has gone through an evolution and I'm still here," she offers by way of explanation for the album's name," she says.

"I'm still here singing the same thing, but everything is different in the music industry."

Something that has changed for Anastacia, though, is the amount of touring she does. Her health problems haven't made her take a step back from the relentlessness that comes with travelling and performing?

"Nope, and I think over the years, with the manager I have now, he's actually got me touring more," she says.

Despite having just completed her Ultimate Collection tour, Anastacia is already planning her next one and will hit the road in April 2018.

"My touring has become even better, like, I can do three shows in a row and in different cities too, not just in one place," she says, adding that she takes few days off while touring, but that she steers clear of alcohol and socialising to keep herself in tip-top condition to maintain her biggest asset - her voice.

Anastacia describes her voice as her "muscle" and adds: "How I use it is athletic. I can't really afford to abuse it, and that's why it still sounds like it does 20 years later. I'm continuing to try to keep her going."

She changes her tone again, shifting swiftly back into sassy, "diva" mode as we're told to wrap up the call, but she wants to make it known she'll be doing this for many, many years. Decades, even.

"My body... I might be in a wheelchair - they'll be wheeling me out in my blinged-out wheelchair - but my voice is still going to be, like, woop," the singer laughs.

"I'll have a really awesome wheelchair if I ever have to have one. I'll have it covered in full-on Swarovski.

"They'll be like, 'Oh my God, yes, girl, yes'."

Evolution is out now

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