It seems unbelievable that a huge British pop group held a summit meeting in broad daylight a few months ago which went unnoticed by U.K. paparazzi and unreported by the tabloid press. But all five members of one of England’s hugest phenomenons, The Spice Girls, casually regrouped for an unannounced conclave.
No photographs, no autographs, no film crews, no problem, says Mel “Sporty Spice” C, born Melanie Chisholm, whose new eighth solo album is “Melanie C.” “We just spent an afternoon having a little country walk and a relaxing cup of tea, which was really nice,” she says.
Unlike many disbanded ex-arena outfits, The Spice Girls have stayed in close touch, and often reunited for concerts, as they did last year.
“In fact, I just saw Mel (B., aka Scary Spice) a few weeks ago, but unfortunately where she lives has just gone back into lockdown,” says C. “But we all just got together because, obviously, with everything going on right now, we felt quite compelled to check in with each other.”
So separately, the ladies — including B (for Brown), Emma Bunton and Victoria Beckham drove to Geri Halliwell’s estate in the country, far from glaring spotlights. “We could do it discreetly, and we have the coronavirus to thank,” she adds. “Because if it wasn’t for that, we’d probably all be in different countries, but we were all at home in Britain and lockdown had just eased slightly.”
The self-quarantining had just uncoiled enough that the singer was in Hamburg, Germany, preparing to judge (with producer Tony Visconti) a new talent event called the Anchor Awards for this interview.
“It’s held here in the Reeperbahn, and it’s actually the red light district of the city, but there’s loads of bars, loads of live music; it’s a really exciting scene. And there are lots of up-and-coming artists from all over the world that can be nominated for this award, so I am actually going to see some live music tonight! Can you believe it? I feel very, very lucky,” she says.
Gratefulness is a recurring theme throughout “Melanie C,” which is rooted in the warm camaraderie the DJ, fitness model and actress experienced on the “Spice World 2019” reunion tour, as well as the lockdown time she’s been spending with her 11-year-old daughter, Scarlet. It rises to the surface on disco-retro confessionals like “Fearless,” “Who I Am,” “Good Enough” and “Blame it on Me,” which gives her record an extra bouyant oomph, a la Jessie Ware’s recent “What’s Your Pleasure?”
She’s even become friends with Ware, whose “Table Manners” podcast she just appeared. “I sat in her garden and we did a socially-distant podcast, and it was wonderful,” she says. “I love her new album, it’s very ‘70s, and now we’ve decided that we want to hang out, ‘cause she’s a really cool girl.”
While the record sounds like a bitter breakup album, it’s not. C, 46, is still seeing the same significant other she’s been with for five years. It’s more about a new self-awareness, she says, just finally being comfortable in your own skin, because for many years she wasn’t.
Try to imagine what it was like, she invites, in 1996 when the five Spice Girls all answered a gal-group ad in The Stage and were chosen from over 400 applicants. Mania accompanied their ascension, as their introductory hit “Wannabe” became pop’s biggest selling debut single of all time and topped charts in 37 countries, paving the way for the “Spice” album, which preached girl power and cemented their worldwide acclaim.
Every aspect of the vocalists’ lives was scrutinized by the press, to the point where the slightest weight gain got C rechristened Sumo Spice in the tabloids. “The Spice Girls in the ‘90s? Nothing can prepare you for that,” Chisholm says. She didn’t even know she was suffering from clinical depression until she was diagnosed in 2000, which started her on what she now calls her “journey of healing.”
Sporty Spice studied her condition, learned what causes it, how exactly it affected her, and how to sidestep it in the future.
“But you get to know yourself as you get older, because life can be tricky, can’t it? I’ve had a very rich life, joining The Spice Girls, being a solo artist and enjoying all these incredible opportunities that I’ve had. But I’ve also had a lot of tough stuff to get through, as well. So I just thought that it might be time to make peace with all that and truly accept myself on a new level,” she says.
As she reflected on her old persona, she realized it never went away. It was still alive inside her and still just as vital. “So it’s nice to bring her out on occasion,” she says. “I just wanted to accept all these aspects of myself and celebrate them.”
And the pandemic has made her realize how much she loves what she does: “I love traveling. I love performing. I love making music. I love connecting with people. And I might have taken that for granted at times in my life. But I really intend to never take that for granted again,” she says.