The Voice of M People Heather Small performs at Motherwell Concert Hall in March as she celebrates 30 years in music.
Her powerful vocals breathed life into 19 top 40 hits throughout the 90s, such as One Night in Heaven, Moving on Up and Search for the Hero, but it wasn’t until her late teens she discovered she could actually sing.
Heather said: “I was very shy as a child so I was never involved in choirs or drama groups or anything like that, my singing didn’t get past the playground.
“However, I always felt I had a voice inside me so when I was 18 a case of now or never to find out and I summoned up the courage to audition.”
Heather joined her first band Hot House who received a lot of critical praise, but this didn’t translate into sales and were dropped by their record label.
Heather would go on to have a number one single with Ride on Time by Black Box in 1989, even if to this day she is coy about whether or not it is her on the record.
She said: “Some people think it is me on the song, some people don’t, I just leave them to make up their own mind.”
At 24 Heather joined Mike Pickering, Paul Heald and Shovel in the newly formed M People, initially the plan had been for the band to rotate different singers for each song but quickly she became irreplaceable.
Heather said: “It was a bit of a change for me as Hot House had been more blues and soul and here I was suddenly learning to perform dance music.
“It took some effort, but eventually I got to a place where I was comfortable being myself and obviously we had some great success.”
Two years ago M People reformed for a tour, but Heather is now keen to draw a line under that part of her career.
She said: “You have to move on, if you leave things hanging then people always want to know when you’ll get back together, but as far as I’m concerned there will be no more M People.
“I don’t want to tempt fate, I think what we did was good, very good in fact, but I am happy to leave it there.”
Heather is no longer the shy teenager she once was, but admits to still being terribly nervous before going on stage.
She said: “I can hardly believe it has been 30 years since I started with Hot House the time has just gone by so quickly, it really hasn’t seemed like any time at all has passed.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do was sing and even when my son was born I was in the studio within days to do Perfect Day because I was just so desperate to sing again.
“I still get nervous before I go on stage, but I think it’s just because I want everything to go well - it doesn’t matter the venue you want everything to be right.
“Once I am on stage and I have the microphone in my hand then I’m fine, but I do need to draw on my experience for those first few moments to get started.”
Heather has performed all over the world, but always enjoys the opportunity to return to Scotland.
She said: “I’ve always loved performing in the Glasgow as the atmosphere is so electric, the audience is just up for it ,and I have no doubt it will be exactly the same in Motherwell given it’s proximity to Glasgow.
“I hear the council spent some money improving the concert hall so it has better lighting and sound so knowing that you are going into a first class venue means I can concentrate on ensuring the audience get to enjoy a great show.”
The difference between an Heather Small and an M People show is quite obvious as Heather points out, but promises fans of her old band won’t be left disappointed.
She said: “Obviously the rest of the band aren’t with me, but I have got a fabulous group of experienced musicians joining me on stage.
“I’ve known them all for a long time and I know they are just as keen as I am to put on a great show.
“Being on my own really means that I have the opportunity to sing what I want, I’ll do some M People hits and some of my own solo work, but it also gives me the chance to maybe do something a little different.
“There is much more freedom, if there is a song I like and fancy performing then I can just add it to the set list and show after 30 years just who the singer is that Heather Small has become.”
Heather Small will be at Motherwell Concert Hall on Thursday, March 3, at 7.30pm.
Tickets costing £25 are available by calling 01698 403120 or online