- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2015

The eighties were the decade of the one-named and one-hit wonders; Katrina was both. Along with her band The Waves, Katrina Leskanich became a worldwide star behind the irrepressible hit “Walking on Sunshine.” After 25 years away from touring and recording, the British powerhouse singer returns — without The Waves — with her first CD in a decade, entitled “Blisland.”

Question: Why no Waves?

Answer: I split with The Waves back in 2000. That was 14 years ago, and that was it with them. After our song “Love Shine a Light” won the EuroVision Song Contest, we decided to go our separate ways.

Q: What did you do after that?

A: I worked for BBC Radio for a year and a half, and then I went into a West End show called “Leader of the Pack,” which was all about the music of Ellie Greenwich and the story of the girl groups of the 1950s. Did that for about a year. I don’t do any of that anymore. Maybe the odd radio show. The rest of my time I just sing. Tour and sing.

Q: Do you do a lot of these package shows?

A: They call them “ensemble shows” around the world. Everywhere they just absolutely love the ‘80s. They can’t get enough. I go out in every different arrangement of ‘80s [groups], from Cutting Crew to Allanah Myles and Midge Ure.

I was on some sort of crazy German boat cruise with Howard Jones and Bonnie Tyler. Bobby Kimball from Toto as well. The Scandinavians really like the ‘80s package tour. I do a lot of work there.

Q: On these tours is there any competition between the acts?

A: No competition whatsoever. At least that I’m aware of. It’s not like in the ‘80s when nobody spoke to anybody else. People are more sociable now — more social networks in which to interact. If you were a musician in the ‘80s you spent a lot of time by yourself, listening to records or hanging in clubs with maybe a couple of your friends. It was a very different scene. You were just cool.

Q: How has the touring changed?

A: Obviously, the older you get the more difficult it becomes. When you’re 23 years old and on a three-year tour, you are just kind of able to endure everything better. On a tour last summer we got off the bus after driving from Chicago — 36-hour drive. That was interesting but also fantastic because you put yourself to bed in the bunks and wake up every couple hours when they stop for diesel. Each stop, the terrain has changed completely.

Q: Do you have more downtime to see the cities you play in now?

A: Back in the day, when you would arrive in a city, you would immediately be whisked away to do radio, TV. Work it. There would be a line of people waiting to talk to you. Now there is a little bit more time to chill out. This tour last summer was fun because you get locked into a bus, and it’s somebody else’s problem how you get there. There is always some food laid out, and it is very, very comfortable.

Such a buzz to be touring in America. This is the place of all the movies, the landscape of every movie that we watch. And the English people just adore American culture.

Q: What do you do in your downtime on the bus?

A: I just sit in the back of the bus with the keyboard player, Ado, and my manager, Sher. It is the girls’ domain, and the guys don’t come back there unless they don’t value their lives. I say if anybody starts to walk in there, “Just quickly take off your shirt,” and they’ll get the message quick enough: “We’re changing in here! We’re doing things.” We are lucky that we have that.

Q: People think of you as a British artist, but you were born in America.

A: I’m a military brat. I left the States when I was 12, in 1972. My father was in the Air Force, and we lived in about ten different places in America when we were growing up. In 1972 we moved to Germany for three years. Then Holland, and [we] ended up in England in 1976. I just stayed when my parents moved back to America. I was already in The Waves. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be in a band. I thought, “This is my best shot.” They took off back to America, and I just stayed.

Q: Did it bother you that “Walking on Sunshine” became such a huge hit that it overshadowed the rest of the band’s output?

A: Yeah. And the record company wanted another “Walking on Sunshine,” but we didn’t have it. “Walking on Sunshine” was a one-off song in the band’s repertoire. We were into The Stones and Velvet Underground. I liked the girl groups and some old Bonnie Raitt stuff. “Walking on Sunshine” was sort of our tribute to The Supremes. The guitar riff is straight outta Motown, and the beat is classic Motown.

“Do You Want Crying” was supposed to be the first single. It was on a little demo of four songs [along with] “Que Te Quiero,” “Red Wine and Whiskey” and “Walking on Sunshine,” which was the last of the four. The tape went around, and the DJs said, “It’s this ‘sunshine song.’ It’s so obvious.” OK, we know its catchy, because its irritating. But we weren’t sure if we wanted to go with it as the first single. We wanted to go with something that was far more serious.

“Do You Want Crying” was very ‘80s. Kind of cold. It followed up “Sunshine,” and it did well too. It took a little while to see that “Walking on Sunshine” was going to have this success.

People kept putting it in movies where they needed a shift in the plot to where things start to go well. It was the blooming flower of a scene in a movie. Or in a different and very macabre way, [such as] the way they used it in “American Psycho,” where Christian Bale has just gone berserk and is listening to it on his headphones while going to work. I think someone was having a laugh. It was a very ironic use of the song. It was a shift in the plot, but in a very dark direction.

Dolly Parton covered it. And on and on. Now a movie just came out in Europe called “Walking on Sunshine” with Leonna Lewis. I saw ads written on the sides of London buses. The song has its own life. The song is always sitting by the pool bossing people around.

Q: Any regrets with that song?

A: If that is a regret, then bring on the regrets. It has been a total blessing. And I hate the word “blessing,” because too many people use it. It was lucky. Right place at the right time, and it struck a chord. There’s another cliche.

People like it. That’s all I can say about it. They come up to me and say, “It makes us smile. It made my day.” Or “Got me through a hard time.” I’m hearing all the stories now.

Q: The new CD “Blisland” is out now. What was the recording process like?

A: It was quick. I thought it was definitely time to record an album. First studio album in 10 years. I knew I would have to write it from scratch. I wrote it in two and a half weeks and recorded it in three weeks.

Q: It sounds Neil Young and Joni Mitchell-esque. Were they influences?

A: In the old days I used to always write to a backing track that the band had put together. This time I didn’t have that or any agenda as to what the sound would be. I can see the influences of my parent’s records in it. They loved Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Mama Cass and Carole King.

I just wanted to write really good tunes. There is a song on there called “Texas Cloud,” influenced by ZZ Top. I had no idea what anything was going to be about. It was such a quick process, it just sort of poured out. It must have be cathartic in some way, because I don’t know where a lot of it came from or how it popped out.

Q: Are you someone who writes all the time?

A: No. Never. I just sort of sat down and said, “OK, let’s do it.” Or “Let’s see if I can do it.”

Q: Were time constraints the reason there are only seven songs?

A: Actually, there are eight — seven new ones I wrote, and I included a bluesie version of “Walking on Sunshine.” I don’t like albums that have 16 tracks. People cherry-pick these days anyway. You can go from start to finish on the album and not tire of any aspect of it, hopefully. That was the intention anyway.

Q: How do you keep your voice so pristine?

A: I don’t worry about it. I try to stay happy. I don’t eat junk. I enjoy almonds and fruit. Avoid red meat [which] isn’t great for the voice. But I do like my beer. I think being relaxed is a big part of it.

If you have a stiff neck, you tend to keep it really, really still, and it gets worse and worse, because there is no way to get healing energy into it. You gotta keep moving and not worry about it. No overusing.

You see it in my live show. If anyone is having fun out there, it’s me. I’m having the most fun.

Q: Where is your Blisland?

A: There is a place that I go in England that feeds my soul. It’s Cornwall in the South West of England. A very, very beautiful place with rugged countryside. The oceanside. There is a little village there called Blisland with one “s.”

Q: So Blisland is a real place?

A: Yes. There is a fantastic little inn and pub called “Blisland Inn.” When I was scratching around for a title to the record, that just spoke to me. In the song it says, “Blisland can be anywhere as long as you have a heart.” It’s kind of like that “Wizard of Oz” thing. It is within you.

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