Singer Belinda Carlisle, 63, on overcoming drink and drug addiction, living in Thailand, forgetting the lyrics to one of her songs, and her upcoming tour of the UK.
Your home is Thailand these days. Why move there?
We lived in France for 25 years. My son left to go back to Los Angeles so my husband [Morgan Mason] and I thought it was time to go home to America too. We went for five years but we just could not adjust. A friend of ours lived in Thailand and said, ‘Just come and check it out.’ We went to Bangkok and fell in love with it.
Why were you living in France?
We went to a big gala dinner at a country club in LA. I looked around at all the tables and I thought, ‘Oh my God, is this where it all ends? At a country club in LA? No thanks.’ We’d always had fantasies of living in the south of France. We’d read tons of Peter Mayle books, including A Year In Provence. My son was born on the first day of the LA riots in 1992 so we just knew that we wanted to get out.
How was lockdown?
I’ve stayed in quite a bit, which I don’t mind. I’m at my happiest in bed with a great book. I can count the number of times I’ve been out at night recently on one hand. I’m more of a daytime lunch person. I get up at 4.30am so I’m exhausted by the time evening rolls around.
This year you’re celebrating three musical decades…
When I look back over my career I think it’s pretty unbelievable. From starting in The Go-Go’s when I was 18 and having no idea at all what we were doing, through to my solo career. It was like being struck by lightning twice. People don’t get that kind of opportunity and I had it twice. To mark it, I’ve released a 35th anniversary edition of my first album, Belinda, a 25th anniversary box set of A Woman & A Man and next month there’ll be a 30th anniversary box set of Live Your Life Be Free. I’ve had an extraordinary life. If it all ended tomorrow, I’ve had a really great time. I’ve had ten lifetimes in one life.
Tell us about your upcoming Decades tour…
I want to sing again! After the pandemic I’m sure walking out on stage again will be a very emotional thing. The tour covers all the albums throughout my career, from 1986 to my last album four years ago. I have about eight albums to draw material from. It’s a 16-date tour of the UK and Ireland starting in October.
Do you ever forget lyrics?
Yes, even sometimes on songs I’ve sung for years. Runaway Horses seems to be a song that I have to really think hard about when it starts. I think, ‘What is that first verse?’ I don’t know why it always happens with that song.
What are your favourite and least favourite songs to do?
Everyone expects to hear Heaven and of course I love doing it. I love singing Circle too. If there are songs I don’t like, I won’t usually sing them live. But on the Runaway Horses album there’s a song called Deep Deep Ocean. I really hated the track but when I did a tour based on the album I had to sing it and I ended up really loving it.
You had a well-documented battle with drink and drugs. What helped beat your demons?
When I had my last bender I knew I couldn’t continue. Everything was completely f***ed up and falling apart. I was dropped by my record company when I was 40. I’d always been defined by my career. I never really believed in God but I always knew there was something bigger than myself. I found Buddhism, which was the beginning of me finding my way. I chanted every day — even through the last days of my addiction. I was chanting through that period for two or three hours a day. My life was such a mess and I should have been suicidal but I was weirdly optimistic. I knew the power of meditation then.
Do you feel lucky to be alive?
In my early days of sobriety, my sponsor made me make a list of the 20 ways I had been protected during my crazy years and I really should have been in prison at the very least! Or in an asylum, or I’d have killed somebody. I’m lucky to be here.
Will you and The Go-Go’s perform together again?
We all have different lives going on but opportunities come up where it makes sense to work together and we really enjoy it. We have fallen out over the years. We formed in 1978 so that’s like a marriage. They’re not colleagues, they’re sisters. It’s very familiar.
Are you recognised much in Thailand?
I was swimming recently and a guy waved me over to the side of the pool and said, ‘I just love your album Wilder Shores!’ That was so abstract. I was in a swimming pool at 5.30am in Bangkok and that is an obscure album.
Is Thailand your forever home?
My husband and I are lucky that we can live and adapt to pretty much anywhere in the world — this is our fifth country. I’m sure that eventually we’ll go to Mexico or South America.
■ Anniversary vinyl editions of Belinda, A Woman & A Man and Live Your Life Be Free available to order now. Tickets for Belinda Carlisle Decades are on sale at alttickets.com/artist/belinda-carlisle
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