IT'S EASY TO BE A WORKING MUM : JUST TAKE THE FAMILY ALONG, TOO!
Barbara Dickson is in the middle of an exausting tour taking her the length and breadth of the country. With a spine-tingling voice and charming personality it's no surprise the Dunfermline lass has a loyal following. She took time out of her hectic schedule to tell us 'The Honest Truth' about life on the road, and combining fame with a family.
Do you find touring a bit of a chore?
No, I enjoy it - it's exciting. Every time you go out on stage it's a new experience. It's been a whole year since my last tour so obviously I'm specially thrilled about this one. Playing live certainly keeps you on your toes. My audience is very discerning - they like melodies, and it's stimulating to know you've to perform well.
Do you find it a tough responsibility headlining a big tour?
I know I'm the headline name, but I couldn't be out there if it wasn't for the crew - and they wouldn't be there if it wasn't for me. My band and crew are wonderful. I've had the same crew for years - we're like a family. Your show can be absolutely ruined if the people working for you don't really care about you or your music.
Does the travelling get you down?
I normally do just one night at each venue so there's a lot of travelling, though I'm doing three nights in Glasgow this year because I have so many fans there. You get used to the travel though, and at least I stay in good hotels. Some difference from the early days touring folk clubs and going by train - on my own with a suitcase in one hand and guitar in the other. Nowadays I'm driven around.
Do you miss your young son when you're on tour?
No, two-year-old Colm is in tow as well - his nanny comes along, too. Colm's at the stage when he's very particular about what he wants and doesn't want. I'm not taking him along as a whim, it's an absolute necessity. His father's working and I don't think it's right to leave him behind. I've had to make compromises to combine the career with being a good mum so I won't be away from him for more than two days at a time. Last year when I did a tour of the Gulf States, I took him with me. As he gets older he'll enjoy the travelling even more, especially if it involves getting on a plane. At the moment planes and tractors are his favourites - not that I can see me ever touring on a tractor!
What's your tour routine?
After a sound check before each show, I normally arrive at the venue from the hotel around six and instal myself in the dressing room. The show never starts later than eight. I always eat somethng in the late afternoon, check my costumes are OK, do a vocal warm up, then get ready for the show. I always do my own make-up and hair, which I find very therapeutic.
I like it if friends can drop in and see me before the show. The older I get the less I like being up late at night. Anyway, now with a young son I have responsibilities, and I'm expecting my second child at the moment. The baby is due in December.
What are audiences like around the country?
I think I attract a more sophisticated audience these days. But they're the same sort of people from Inverness to Eastbourne. I attract a huge range of ages. I get everyone from kids of 17 and 18 to 30 year-olds bringing their parents along. Some folk even bring their toddlers - but the tinies usually fall asleep.
How do you keep fit during a gruelling tour?
The secret is sleep. I've a nap for about an hour and a half every afternoon. I'm not clever enough to have the extra energy without it. I get very tired very quickly, and now that I'm expecting another baby I can feel very drained. You really have to concentrate during a performance, so sleep is vital. Don't think we live it up on tour. That's a throwback to the rock legend days of the sixties and seventies. Most of the people I work with are very sensible. They might have a couple of drinks but that's it - after all, they've a job to do.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Traditional Scottish and Irish music and early Tamla Motown and, of course, The Beatles. As for singers, I'm a great fan of the late Marvin Gaye and Billie Holiday. I also like Sting a lot - he's so intelligent as a songwriter.
Does it bother you that you haven't had a hit single for ages?
It doesn't make any difference now. My albums always sell well and I'm rather happy at the way my career has gone. All I ever wanted to do was sing. And to be able to stand on stage and sing an evening of songs that I love is heaven.
Any unfulfilled ambitions?
I'd like to do more TV work - and act in a TV play. I'm not that bothered about the idea of doing a musical, though. I did "Blood Brothers" in the West End for nine months which was long enough, even though I enjoyed it. I was offered a part in "Chess" after the hit single "I Know Him So Well" but it wasn't much of a role.
Would you encourage your son to go into the business?
Only if he was interested. I'm not the sort of mum who'd send him to stage school or off to auditions for "Annie". I wouldn't want him to get so involved that he was disappointed if it didn't work out. I think I'd only encourage him if he had talent, but even then that isn't always enough. Half the time luck plays a part. Colm thinks everybody's mum works on TV so he doesn't think of it as anything special.
Do you get back to Scotland much?
Not enough for my liking. I have some elderly relatives and cousins I hardly ever see. Funnily enough, the Scottish cousin I see most is in Toronto because that's where my brother lives. I'll be back in Scotland in November to record a "Scotch And Wry" Hogmanay special, though I won't be in Scotland on the night itself. In fact last year, I was in bed at the bells. What a terrible admission from a Scot!
We always try to take two weeks holiday in Scotland early in the year when there's no-one about. We go to the Highlands and run around in woolly jumpers, drinking steaming soup. Next time, of course, we'll have a new baby in tow.
"The Sunday Post", October 16, 1988