Arts

Bonnie Tyler on her new album: Things just started happening, like it was fate

Bonnie Tyler may be in her late 60s but she is still performing – she has a summer date lined up in Ireland – and still loving it. With her 17th studio alum just released, she tells Lucy Mapstone about how it came about and how blessed she feels after 50 years in the business

Bonnie Tyler is celebrating 50 years in the music business

BONNIE Tyler doesn't even feel 50 so the fact she's marking her 50th year in the music industry is somewhat baffling to her. She wasn't even aware of the massive milestone until after creating her 17th album.

"When I saw the sticker on the front of my album saying 'celebrating 50 years in the business' I was like 'what the...? That's incredible'," she cries in excitement.

It might seem unlikely for a person's own career timeline to slip their mind but it pretty much sums up everything I come to know about the humble Welsh pop icon during our chat.

Now 67, she is rather astounded by her longevity as an artist and she still can't believe she managed to succeed back in the 1970s.

She's also pinching herself over the fact the likes of Sir Cliff Richard and Sir Rod Stewart wanted to work with her on her new album.

Having started her career as a singer in 1969, Tyler – who was born Gaynor Hopkins in Skewen, Wales – was discovered by a talent scout and scored a record deal in the mid-1970s.

She went on to release a number of albums, although it was her fifth release, 1983's Faster Than the Speed of Night – a trans-Atlantic number one hit and Grammy-nominated effort – that made the raspy-voiced singer a household name with breakout hit single Total Eclipse Of The Heart.

Other hit songs followed, such as Holding Out For a Hero and A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall In Love) with Shakin' Stevens, both memorable and much-loved.

The rest, as they say, is pop history.

As much as she did not acknowledge her own landmark anniversary, Tyler also didn't ever dream she'd be releasing album number 17, Between The Earth And The Stars.

It wasn't even planned, she says. She thought that perhaps her 16th album, 2013's Rocks And Honey, was her last.

Asked if she ever thought this moment possible, she declares: "Never in a million years. This kind of just blossomed together."

Her speaking voice as distinctively husky as when she's belting out one of her hits, she adds: "I was only going to do three songs that a friend of mine wrote that I really loved."

Tyler's original plan was to record three new songs with David Mackay, who produced her first two albums in the late 1970s, and put them on a re-release of Rocks And Honey.

"But things just started happening – like it was fate, you know?" she says.

One of those "things", as she calls them, was the interest of Status Quo's Francis Rossi, who was played the three new tracks by Mackay and was so impressed that he suggested he and Tyler duet. Duet they did, on a song called Someone's Rockin' Your Heart.

"It was good fun doing that with him – he's a laugh a minute, he is," Tyler says. "There's still some laughing kept on the track, because we were having such a good time in the studio."

Tyler then tells how three musical giants – Rod Stewart, Barry Gibb and Cliff Richard – got involved.

"David knew he would be meeting up with Sir Barry Gibb at Wimbledon and he asked him if he had a song for me," Tyler says. "A couple of months later, a beautiful song came in from Sir Barry, Seven Waves Away, which made it on to the album. And then I had an opportunity to do a duet with Sir Rod Stewart. It's always been a dream of mine."

Tyler, who has previously been dubbed the "female Rod Stewart" due to her deliciously throaty vocals, says she emailed Sir Rod after being encouraged by a friend of his she met on holiday in Barbados.

"I was waiting for the right song and then a track called Battle of the Sexes came around. I emailed Rod, asking if he'd listen to the song, and he came back personally to me a few days later telling me he loved it."

Cliff she describes as a dear friend: "We both have houses in Portugal and he was at my house before we were going out for dinner with friends," Tyler says. "I played him this collection of songs and he was like, 'Wow Bonnie, this is fantastic – let's do a duet'.

"We got the right song, Taking Control, and he loved it on the very first listen."

For all her years of fame and success from her humble beginnings, she's astonished at how things have turned out.

"I can't believe they all wanted to work with me, it's incredible," she says. "I feel blessed. To work with those guys... I've died and gone to heaven."

Reflecting on her 50 years in music, discussion turns to what it's like to be a woman in the industry.

With the #MeToo movement in mind and the ongoing conversation around female representation, it's difficult not to ask someone who has been in music for as long as she has for her take.

Has she ever had to fight her way through to be heard? Was it difficult for her to break through in a man's world?

"Not really, no," comes her simple reply. "I think it's because I've got this rock voice, you know? And I've had my fair share of headlining... it's been incredible. I'm not complaining."

She has, however, noticed other changes.

"Years ago, you'd sell 50,000 copies a day," she sighs. "That doesn't happen anymore. Everything has completely changed in the record business, even with the limos picking you up. Everything is more low-key now.

"Everybody used to love getting the call that said, 'You're on Top Of The Pops' – that was something awesome to look forward to.

"I'll never forget the first time I was asked to do Top Of The Pops with my single Lost In France in 1976. I suddenly felt like I'd arrived.

"But one thing that never changes is the love of music. When you walk out on that stage, the adrenaline that comes – it's fabulous. You cannot beat it. That will never change if you love music, if you love singing as much as I do."

She says it's that deep-rooted love of music and performing live to fans that finally wooed her into creating this new record.

"I am so happy that I've done it," she says. "It's the best album I have ever made."

:: Bonnie Tyler performs at the Forever Young Festival, Palmerstown Demesne, Johnstown, Co Kildare, July 5-7. See foreveryoungfestival.ie for full line-up and tickets. Between The Earth And The Stars is out now.

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