Richard Purden

WITH a recent fall of snow in May, it's no surprise that Sharleen Spiteri is pulling a jumper over her head before our interview begins. The image is a reminder of the 1997 Texas album cover White On Blonde. Spiteri’s big eyes and thick lashes peering out from under a black pullover summoned a timeless allure and chic during the dominant lads mag era. It was an aesthetic that assisted a string of Top Ten hits turning the album into a six-times platinum seller.

“If Chris Evans had not done that big hee-haw about there not being enough records in the shops and the lawyer at Universal hadn’t heard it on his drive to work that morning we might have a very different story”. Evans playing Say What You Want on his Radio 1 Breakfast Show and bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t find a copy of the record on national radio was a lightning rod moment for the album that went on to sell over 1.8 million copies.

Unreleased tracks from the sessions which began more than 25 years ago have inspired the band’s 11th long-player Hi. “We went into the archive and found some songs that were really good but never finished. After that we ended up writing a lot of songs and decided to make a completely new record.”

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Spiteri, along with co-founder/co-writer/bass player Johnny McElhone, were charmed by the last-shot-at-the-title energy of the sessions. Spiteri suggests: “We were fighting for our careers at the time, trying to prove that Texas were still relevant.”

You Can Call Me on the new album recalls Say What You Want, while recent single Hi reunited the partnership with Wu-Tang Clang who featured on an alternative version of the same track. Mr Haze contains a sample of Donna Summer’s Love’s Unkind which was partly written for White On Blonde. Beyond this fleeting nod to the past, it’s an album that stands on its own feet. “It’s only two or three songs that are White On Blonde, I don’t think we wrote in that style, there are so many nooks and crannies within this album.”

Dark Fire written with Richard Hawley captures something of the Sheffield songwriter’s melodic patterns and balladry. “The phone went at 5am, it was one of those moments where you wake up thinking something bad must have happened. It was Hawley with that song, he said: ‘I’ve got the beginning of something.' He calls you up at five in the morning and you don’t know if he’s going to sing you a song or tell you a joke.”

Sound Of My Voice and Heaven Knows are further evidence of the songwriting partnership with McElhone that has cemented the band’s identity. Spiteri admits she’s never felt more “free” as a writer. “As you get older you give everything away, it’s like, take that, that was awful or this was amazing, you can have it. When you’re younger you’re just not ready. There’s a part of you that you’re discovering and coming to terms with.”

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The album also provided an opportunity for Spiteri to duet with McElhone’s former Altered Images bandmate Clare Grogan. “We were doing Look What You’ve Done and thought why not record with Clare, also I’ve never done a duet with a woman before, I thought this could be interesting. We also did a version with [producer] Mike Chapman. I had never worked with him until now but he has always come in and out of our lives in Texas through Johnny. With all that history and his records with Blondie etc we thought, why don’t we get him to do a mix, we’ll put that out at some point.”

Spiteri’s Glaswegian accent is as strong and broad as ever, despite living in London. “Someone I know told me I sound more Scottish than when I left Glasgow. I still have all my Glasgow mates, a lot are down here now.” The band has essentially kept the city as their base with Tony McGovern joining as a second guitarist in 1999, the addition of former Honeyblood drummer Cat Myers was recently put to the test. “She’s amazing, we’ve been filming a lot of TV, it’s great to have a female drummer.”

Co-founder/guitarist Ally McErlaine was key to the band’s early sound and aesthetic. His distinctive slide guitar on their first top-ten hit I Don’t Want A Lover summoned the faded glamour of American diners and red convertibles. McErlaine appeared on the single’s cover sporting a long quiff while playing a Gibson 335 adding a further layer of 50s Americana.

“We based everything on Life magazine,” says Spiteri, “like the big red block and white lettering [on the band logo] and everything else being black and white. We were also massive Clash fans and liked what Pennie Smith did based on Elvis.” The London Calling cover that paid homage to Presley’s debut and the advent of rock ’n’ roll captured in the summer of 1955 was described as the best rock and roll photograph of all time by Q magazine.

Joining the band when they were still teenagers, McErlaine and Spiteri were pop-culture obsessives. “Music was always my escape. I used to love going to the record shop on a Saturday and I’d buy a single and a plastic sleeve. I’d go back to my bedroom where Siouxsie Sioux was painted on my bedroom wall.

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“I guess what people never realise is that real bands and musicians spend our youth as geeks and we turn into these rock stars.”

McErlaine made a full recovery after suffering a massive brain aneurysm in 2009 but is less involved. “Ally will always be Texas, that’s not in doubt but it’s for Ally to talk about.”

A rescheduled 30th-anniversary tour of the band’s debut Southside has been rescheduled for next year.

Hi was also put on hold as the world came to terms with Covid and Spiteri coped with a personal loss. “I felt a Texas record was not going to cheer the world up and having just lost my mother at the start of the first lockdown I wasn’t in the headspace for it. It’s like losing part of yourself. Mates would say: ‘You’re in the club; you get it now’… wow did I get it.

"My father has Parkinson’s and dementia so I’ve been having to deal with my dad being looked after with my sister and niece. My niece also had a son, the first boy to our family. I have to say what a positive moment when this new child was born. It’s been a really emotionally happy/sad time.”

As a band front-woman since the late 80s, with a string of hit records, Spiteri expresses her disgust at the still male-dominated, London-centric industry. “Without a doubt, if we were an English male-fronted band with an over 30-year career selling 40 million albums we’d be a big deal. It’s as simple as that and if someone doesn’t agree then they don’t know what the f*** they are talking about because that is the absolute truth. It’s a ‘jobs for the boys’ thing.”

With sexual misconduct allegations in the music industry emerging in recent years are things changing? “Very slowly, the arseholes go underground when things come to light. The thing is 90% of men are saying: ‘We’re disgusted and please don’t let us get tarred with this brush'. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen as women. We don’t want men to fight the battle for us, we want you to fight alongside us.”

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Spiteri hasn’t held back when squaring up to problems, a case in point was recording their Top Ten single Inner Smile 20 years ago. She didn’t have to be asked twice to appear as Elvis in the promo, donning leather and prosthetics to resemble Presley during his ’68 Comeback Special television performance, but when co-writer and New Radicals front-man Greg Alexander disturbed the recording process all hell broke loose.

“The lyrics of that song are amazing and you really feel the heartbeat of it during the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah chant, it expresses all this emotion and feeling. Greg was in the studio and said: ‘Let’s go, so I sang about three words and he pressed the talkback. I thought I’ll let this one go but then he went to do it again. I came flying through from the control room and said: ‘I’m going to tell you this once; don’t ever touch a f****** button when I’m doing a vocal ever again or your arm will not be in the place that it is just now'. You can imagine Greg Alexander’s face.

"I only do one or two takes because I get into a headspace where you are physically pulling from your toes and up your back; you use your whole body to express this feeling. I got myself all ready and this mother****** is pressing buttons everywhere, I said that’s going to stop right now!”

The new Texas album Hi is out now. Tickets for their 2022 tour are on sale now at www.texas.uk.com