The Godmothers of Pop: Sonia interview
Douglas McPherson catches up with Sonia, who tells all about working with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, what it felt like to reach No.1 aged 18 and whether she thinks the UK will ever have a successful Eurovision again…
Sonia Evans found fame in the summer of 1989, when her first single, You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You, hit the top of the chart for two weeks. Four more singles from her debut album, Everybody Knows, were also Top 20 hits, including Can’t Forget You and Listen To Your Heart. Her hits continued in the 90s with Only Fools (Never Fall In Love) and You To Me Are Everything. In 1993, the Liverpudlian came second in the Eurovision Song Contest with Better The Devil You Know. She’s starred in the West End version of Grease and also played Bunty Savage, the daughter of Paul O’Grady’s Lily Savage, on stage and TV.
Are you always as cheerful as you appear to be on stage?
I’m always happy because I feel very blessed and I love my life. Between my family and work, I have lots to smile about!
Are you from a musical family?
A lot of my aunties sang. Our singing voices come from my dear grandma, who was a powerful music hall singer. I was about six when I fell in love with singing, and eight when I won a singing competition for up to 16-year-olds. I just knew that singing was for me and some of my favourite singers are Elaine Paige, Barbra Streisand, Barbara Dickson and Whitney Houston.
You acted before you sang. Did you plan on being an actor?
I took drama lessons when I was at Elliott Clarke School in Liverpool and was working hard to get my Equity card. I then auditioned for Bread and Brookside.
How did you meet Pete Waterman?
At a teenage disco in Liverpool. I was so cheeky and determined for him to sign me up that he asked me to sing on his radio station live on air! After that, the switchboard went mad asking who I was. The rest is history!
What was it like working with Stock, Aitken and Waterman?
I have so many fond memories working with SAW, especially Pete. He oversaw all the melodies and lyrics with Mike Stock and Matt Aitken. Mike is a genius. I feel so proud to have created great pop music with him, and the lovely Matt, who completed the jigsaw by bringing his musical magic. All three complemented each other perfectly.
What was your first reaction to You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You?
It was just so instantly catchy, I knew we had a hit on our hands. Getting to No.1, aged 18, was incredible. I remember being in a car, I think I was on my way to Holland, and I was about to hear if I’d made the top spot or not. The radio cut out and I was screaming: “Is it me?” It was so tense, but I felt so fantastic at the same time.
Was the follow-up, Can’t Forget You, written especially for you?
After the success of You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You, Mike Stock had to compose new titles ASAP and Can’t Forget You was written for me. Mike and I had lots of talks about real-life experiences. I think he wrote completely for each artist and brought out the best of their personalities.
What was it like re-recording Do They Know It’s Christmas? for Band Aid II with Jason Donovan, Kylie, Bananarama and so many others?
The day was so memorable, with so many talented artists coming together for such a great cause. I just remember looking around thinking: “I can’t believe I’m recording with all these guys.” I loved singing with Lisa Stansfield, she’s a legend!
How do you look back on your part in Eurovision?
I felt so proud when the BBC asked me to do Eurovision. I had a fab time, and we came so close! I was robbed! I still always watch Eurovision. Me, my daughter and my husband have our charts and write our scores out. It’s a lot of fun and it will always have a special place in my heart. I can’t see us ever winning again though.
Would you like your daughter to pursue a singing career and what advice would you give her?
My daughter, Gracie, is seven and she’s a lovely singer and dancer. She loves to play the piano. She’s a whole bundle of fun. Nothing’s certain in showbusiness, so you have to be determined and dedicated. But as long as she’s happy, that’s all I can wish for her.