SHE’S performed in front of millions sticking on her tracksuit as one of the Spice Girls.
So it might come as a surprise to learn Melanie C says motherhood gave her fresh confidence in her solo career.
“I was really shocked at how becoming a mum really changed me,” she says ahead of her Sheffield return on May 29.
“It changed me in lots of ways I didn’t realise. I’ve become more confident, in my life in general, because things are put into perspective; you realise what really matters and you start to care less about what people think of you.
“She’s definitely given me a sense of freedom and also she’s made me want to be more courageous.
“When I became a mum, I don’t know whether it’s this thing where you think ‘if I can do that I can do anything, but it really inspired me to say yes more and not shy away from things.
“I did my first triathlon last year which was something I’d always wanted to do. I got a request to do it for a children’s charity so I thought ‘I’m gonna do it’.”
Last in Sheffield in December switching on the Christmas lights – “that was a bit of an honour” – Mel is back on the road doing what she enjoys most, enthused by fifth solo album The Sea.
“My love of performing, that’s the number one thing, the end goal. It’s great writing new music, recording albums. Promotion is all right, but getting to the touring stage, getting out live, that’s what it’s all about for me; you have to go through everything else to get to that point.
“The timing wasn’t great for me after I’d finished my last album, around the time the Spice Girls reunion. I toured with the girls again and then did a little solo tour in Canada and I was just exhausted.
“It was around that time I got pregnant. So I had a little time at home and then I worked in the theatre for six months. And I really missed my music and being on stage, performing with my band. I’d spent long enough away from it and, as much as I had been working, a change is as good as a rest. I came back, especially from becoming a mum as well, to my solo work with a whole new enthusiasm and raring to go.”
With Scarlet now almost three, it seems her daughter is starting to appreciate what her mum does for a living, as well as the huge movement that was The Spice Girls.
“She knows that mummy sings and goes on stage. And it was really fun with this album. I was getting things through for approval, photographs, videos, and she’d watch with me. One day I thought I should show her some Spice Girls stuff because it really appealed to kids – it was so bright and fun and so was the music.
“So I showed her a couple of videos and her eyes lit up. She absolutely loved it. Then I saw some of the girls a few weeks ago and one of our songs came on and somebody said ‘oh, it’s the Spice Girls’ and she said ‘ Mummy, you’re a Spice Girl’ which I thought was very cute as she was sitting with Geri, Emma and Victoria, not realising.”
Since her last show in Sheffield, Mel has also earned critical acclaim as a mum on stage as the first Scouser to play Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s Merseyside musical Blood Brothers.
It completed a circle which started when Mel was at college studying dance, drama and theatre. Being in a 50 million album-selling band got in the way of theatrical aspirations until her mid-30s.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do but never had the time or the bottle and it was really spooky how it came about,” recalls Mel.
“When I became pregnant I didn’t put any pressure on myself about going back to work. I thought ‘I’ll see how it goes, it’s my first child’, I’m in a very lucky position where I could take my time and see what I wanted to do next.
“But I’d been talking about doing musical theatre. It felt like a great thing to do next; I live in London, I’d be working in the evenings so I’d be at home in the daytime and I was talking to friends about shows and the role of Mrs Johnstone – I said if I did anything that would be my number one choice.
“Then somebody, completely out of the blue, called me and said ‘they’re looking for a Mrs Johnstone would you like to put your name forward’. So I went in head first and it was terrifying because I’d never acted professionally, but I was working with a fantastic and experienced cast. They were lovely; you think they’ll think ‘this pop star’s gonna come in and take the lead role’ and they weren’t like that at all.”
Even so, you do wonder why Mel didn’t sit back and enjoy her riches for a while rather than put herself through the rigours of the road.
“How many people really have the opportunity to achieve their childhood dreams? We did as the Spice Girls but once we’d done that there’s always more. You’ve always got to keep striving, especially as a performer.
“Some people could just think ‘I’ve achieved all those things now, put me feet up’ but if you love performing you have that thing about being a better performer, a better singer, becoming a better songwriter.”
And that has arguably happened since Mel emerged all short bleached hair and a tatts-revealing sleeveless T-shirt with debut album Northern Star in 1999.
She’s grown down the decade, in contrast to the rebel who took it live for the first time at The Leadmill and a show which saw the Beckhams watch from the DJ box.
“I was this angry young woman,” she laughs. “I much prefer these days, life’s a lot gentler. But that’s the thing with being a performer, it’s hard for what’s going on in your life not to affect your work. With the first album, when I was moving away from the Spice Girls, I was very keen, had so much I wanted to say. I wanted to be recognised as an individual.
“Luckily we got over that bit and life is ever changing. I did Northern Star, I thought ‘I can’t do that again, I’ve kind of got everything off my chest’. Then, of course, life throws something else at you and you get a new set of inspirations.”