Formed in 1986 by guitarist Johnny McElhone and singer Sharleen Spiteri, Scottish band Texas have sold somewhere around 40 million records to date. Three of their eight studio albums have reached the number one spot on the UK charts and thirteen of their singles have made it to that country’s top ten, making them one of the most successful bands to ever come out of Scotland. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips recently found Sharleen Spiteri on the other end of the phone line from London, laying on her bed accompanied by her dog “being very glamorous, like Gloria Swanson or something”, where she was upbeat and keen to talk up the band’s 9th and new album Jump On Board. It’s a fine collection of inviting, feel-good tunes flirting with disco, reggae and rock/pop flavours, signposted by by the bucket-load of sunshine that is the opening track and first single Let’s Work It Out.
Let’s Work it Out is the first single from your fab new album Jump On Board. Why did you think that the world needed a disco song in 2017 from Texas?
Everybody needs a good disco song, let’s be honest. As a band and as songwriters, that was what we wanted to hear and that was the music which has decided to come out of us at this moment. As a music fan and songwriter and musician you’re like a little jukebox. Sometimes you soak in so much that at times you don’t even notice it. At different points of your songwriting these different influences and sounds decide to come through. I would definitely say that it has a feeling of early Postcard Records (80s label) and that whole Scottish sound that was happening… Altered Images and that white boy funk guitar thing that a lot of Scottish bands were doing.
There are quite a few danceable songs on the album? Were they written with dance beats in mind or did that come later?
When you decide you’re going to make a record, you have a starting point and it is never where the record ends up. You get very excited and inspired and suddenly and you think whoa, it feels like it is going this way. Let’s take it even further. That’s the great thing about creating music and songs and albums because we as a band and Johnny and I as songwriters, we think very much in albums. It just took on this personality and this kind of freedom. You know that thing where you are just in the moment and you put your hands in the air and have a wee dance on your own and you don’t really give a shit. Just that feeling, the freedom of being in the moment and that was what we were trying to create on this record.
Has your method of writing changed much over the years?
To be honest I don’t even know what a method is. I think that maybe there is a little bit of fear in me in not wanting to know what it is because if I know what it is, it might become really contrived. We just write. Sometimes it is hard when you are trying to make a record and you feel like you are banging your head against a wall and thinking, stop this, it’s no fun. Bit this record was a very, very easy record to make and it was a lot of fun making it. I guess it sounds a certain way because of that as well.
Is there a song on album which is closer to your heart than others?
I think ‘For Everything’ is the closest to my heart because of lyrically, everything that it says. The line in the song where it says, “Now that I am older I have a peaceful mind”. I don’t think there have been truer words come out of my mouth. That’s exactly how I feel.
Why the album title, Jump On Board?
It’s a bit like c’mon, c’mon just get with us. Let’s go on this journey and celebrate a complete piece of work rather than just a song. So it was like, OK jump on board and come with us.
People download their music in all manner of ways online. Sometimes just buying a few songs from an album or they’ll buy the album but hit the random play button. So is the order in which the songs appear on the album still important to you?
Argh! I am actually flinching as you say that. I think that has literally given me hives. The importance of an album for us, the running order of it, the gaps between the songs, if it’s a fade out, if it’s a hard end, where a song should be between it … every little part of that is taken into consideration. It’s mulled over, argued over. Normally with an album … you’re working on it and you write and play the songs and hear them a million times over and over and over again. What happens is that naturally there starts to become a pattern that you play those songs in. You play them to your family and friends and you test the water to see how people will react. The album always ends up pretty close to that pattern that naturally forms. But my one thing I will say … you may play an album in any way you want, that’s your prerogative but what I would say is, if you are buying an album, I say thank you very much and take my hat off to you because I can’t take this busy bob bullshit of taking any old song. Basically when someone gets an album, and I even do it myself, I might not like track 5 or 7 or whatever, but 3 weeks in, I might love track five and seven. I never really got it at first but suddenly I Iove that song. It’s because I have a long play album and I have put it on and I have let it play. I’ve decided to play it the whole way through and it has decided to creep into my psyche. The songs have then kicked into my life and through to the people that I know … and the situations in those songs come into my situations and those songs become my songs and that is the joy of an album. I’ve spent almost 30 years in the music industry, I have made a commitment. I have sold millions and millions of albums so for me, it’s if that is the way it is, that’s the way it is but there are young songwriters and musicians and if they don’t get to build a catalogue, they won’t survive. They won’t be allowed to do what I love doing so much. Catalogue is everything. If people don’t give those bands a chance to build that, if they are just taking 3 or 4 songs off an album, then they aren’t going to be bale to tour and not going to be bale to survive. So it is very, very important. You know, it’s not even the public’s duty. It is the duty of the record companies not even the streaming companies. I know the record companies have shares within these streaming companies but the record companies need to protect the artists. They need to protect the music because music is the most important thing. Without the music there would be nothing to stream or download. The record companies need to find a way to entice people into having an album and not just, I’ll take that and I’ll take that and mix it all up. No, no, no, no no. They can all fuck off. The thing is that they are really fucking stupid because they’re doing themselves out of a fucking job the way things are going. Young artists are like, you know what, we don’t need you. You are just the middle man and we can make records really cheaply. When they start having artistic people back in record companies rather than numbers people and lawyers they might succeed a little better.
Are you still playing that beautiful black Telecaster?
Still playing the black Tele and playing my J180 Everly Brothers Gibson acoustic.
Where did you get the Tele?
My Tele is a 67, the same year as me. It was bought in Jimmy Moon’s guitar shop in Glasgow. I remember buying it at the time and thinking it was so much money and being terrified at how much money I just spent on a guitar. It was my first electric guitar but now it is something that I still look at today and just smile. The neck is so tiny and all the varnish has gone off it and it is just beautiful to touch. Anyone who has ever had a go of the guitar just go, oh my god, this is a beautiful guitar and I go, yep, put it back!
Having recorded the album you turn to arranging the songs to play live. Do you enjoy that aspect of being an artist and the thought of maybe buying some new gear to do it?
We’ve got so much gear. It used to be that when you were on tour and you go to these tiny towns in America or Europe just find some really good shit. Nowadays everything is on the internet and the days of getting bargain are gone.
Will we see Texas in Australia any time soon?
Christ I hope so. I really need an Australian trip. We wanted to come for the last two records but I really hope that the word gets out there that this record is out and I’d like to come and tour for sure.
One last thing Sharleen … I was flicking through your Instagram and saw a photo of you and David Bowie. Could you tell me about that photo?
Oh my god. I was just about to have my daughter, literally bang on 9 months pregnant. David was doing a gig playing everything from Low at the time (2002) and I went backstage afterwards. My daughter is now 14 years old, almost 15 and When I walked in David just buried his head on my tummy. I was kind of mortified because it was the first time I’d met David Bowie and suddenly he has his head on my tummy. It was funny because when he had his hand on my tummy in the photograph that you have seen, you can see how red my face is. He was so lovely just gentle and genuine. Sometimes it can feel quite intrusive when someone touches you in that way but that was really genuine and lovely.
Jump On Board is out now