By Jeremy Williams-Chalmers, Arts Correspondent
Stephanie Kirkham first made headway on the music scene with her single Inappropriate back in 2003. Followed swiftly by the debut album That Girl, it appeared that the Lancashire songstress was destined for global stardom. Although she followed her debut with the equally striking Sunlight On My Soul in 2006, she opted to step away from the music world to focus on her artwork. A decade later she returns with the irrepressible cheer of Tiny Spark. We caught up with the now Cornwall based songstress to learn about the record and her current ambitions.
It has been a decade since your last release. Are you excited to return to music?
For me it has been an ongoing process, I have always been working on it. There hasn’t been a big gap, even though it seems that way. I am looking forward to the album coming out and I love it so much. Sometimes things just take time to create. In that time I have written two albums worth of songs and so the next album is written, and I have lots of other ideas. I wasn’t really driven to go out looking for a record label. I thought I was older and perhaps wouldn’t get those opportunities, maybe my confidence was a bit knocked. Working with Phil Thornalley took time as no one was paying for the album or whip cracking, we just got together when we had a strong idea. It was all very natural. It got to a point where we had an albums worth of songs and we thought lets release an album.
It sounds like a very natural, organic and creative process. Would you say it was more about enjoyment than ambition?
We really did enjoy it! It was great as whenever I had an idea, I would sing it into my phone and send it to Phil. He’d listen and let me know when he had some time. Nothing was forced and nothing was hard work. It has been a really enjoyable process and I think you can tell as the songs sound so happy.
It is the happiest album we have heard in a very long time. Was that a conscious decision?
I wanted to do that. Music has been so important to me. Listening and writing, getting my ideas on paper, has always been a good way for me to communicate. The happy songs are just so uplifting. Easy As 1-2-3 came out first. We worked on that and it got used on the Peugeot advert, that gave us a boost and so we thought we’d carry on and do something else. Phil sent me a backing track that he and his friend had written, it was very pretty sounding like an old fashioned musical box. I wrote a melody and lyrics to go over that and it became Happy Ever After. The album just grew from there really.
How would you say your ambitions now differ to when you released That Girl?
When I released the first album I was quite nervous really. I was very worried by it all as I hadn’t been in a band or really performed before. It was all very new and it was like I was out in the sea and unable to swim. Now I am older and things don’t bother me as much. I am happier with myself, as you get when you are older. Maybe worrying is a bit of a waste of time, you just have to follow what you love and keep doing it. My ambition is to make people smile, if the album does that then I am happy. I don’t want to be the next big thing, because that isn’t me. I just want to be able to keep on making music. Now that Easy As 1-2-3 has been used on other things – EDF in France and Miracle Gro in America – my dream would be to have all the songs used on tv adverts to create money coming in, which helps me to live and do more creative things that I want to. I am not a material person, but I do want to make more music. I don’t know if I will be singing all my songs, I would like to write for other people. I have this other album written and I would like to release that. It may sound like I don’t have many ambitions, but I am happy. I have moved to Cornwall, I am in a relationship that is working for me and I have a lovely dog. We got her last year, she’s a German Shepherd which I’ve always wanted. So I’ve got my dog and my cat, I live in a nice place and I just want to keep living and stay happy. When people get back to me and say they’ve been smiling and singing along – that ticks my box. I want to put something out there that is appreciated and that’s happening with this album, so I’m pleased.
How will you determine the success of the album?
I want people to enjoy the songs. Music has been my life saviour. There is something about the sounds of nature. Phil has included the sounds of children laughing, dogs barking and the seagulls in there. Life is filled with sounds and sometimes when you are feeling down you don’t hear them. We need to hear them. It may not always be easy to just up sticks and go to the sea, but you can put something on that allows you to go there in your mind. It makes you remember your childhood or a cheerful moment. It gives you a way to feel better. Music can help you with that. The more people that hear it the better. I am not wanting to be a millionaire or a big name, it’s not important, what I want is to be happy and spread happiness through my music. I don’t care if people think that sounds twee. Some of the songs sound twee. So what? A bit of twee is alright by me!
With the album being warmly received, are you tempted to do some shows?
Yes, I am going to go out and do some gigs. I’ve found a great musician down here in Cornwall called Kaj Skjervik, he plays piano, guitar and ukulele. We’ve played for a few radio shows and will be doing a couple of local festivals this summer.
Which song are you most excited to perform live?
I like Future Come On. It’s about being stuck in a pattern, banging your head against the wall and if you don’t work through it, you might get stuck in that repetitive loop. It’s about resolving it properly, walking away and looking to the future. I feel it’s quite a powerful one.
We know you have another album written. How will you know what to do once that is released?
It’s about living in the moment. I will go where the road takes me. Before, a lot of the time, I constantly questioned whether I was on the right path. I wondered if I should do something else. One day I just realised it was a crazy way to live as my energy was all over the place. I am on my path and there is nowhere else I could be. I only have one path, this one, so it is a case of being where you are right now and seeing where you want to go next. Feel the way you want to feel. Pay attention to how you feel. Right now I feel it would be nice to sing in front of people, so I will do some gigs. As far as other people singing my songs, that would also be great.
Would you advise others in your position to simply give it another go?
Yes. If it was me looking back at myself, I was so upset by it all as I found it all so difficult. I had all these ideas and it was just so frustrating as my problem was confidence, but people have all sorts of problems. I would say don’t give up. You have got to listen to what is in your heart. We are all here for a reason. It may feel like you don’t have any value in the world and you question what is it all for, and everyone can feel like that. But don’t give up. That’s all I would say. It has taken me a long time, but I could never give up. I tried doing other things, but when something creative needs doing, you have to let it out. We aren’t here to be machines, we are here to express ourselves. We are all unique and have a reason to be here.
Lastly, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
It was when I was modelling. I worked as a model for five years, which is a whole other story, but one day I was on a job for a music video. Sinead O’Connor was there, I think she was friends with the director. She came in and I was completely in awe of her. She was so lovely and natural, she had no make up on and was dressed in a jumper and jeans. I spoke to her about her music and told her I had written some songs but I was scared of doing anything with them. She told me that, ‘God never gives you more than you can handle.’ That was really nice advice. I thought if I have a dream there must be a way to fulfil it. When she said that, I thought maybe I could do it. It just gave me the thought that there was a possibility.
Stephanie Kirkham’s new album is released tomorrow.