Emerging on the late ‘90s MTV show The Cut, where she reached the finals thanks to her original song “Not That Kind” and even more original voice, Anastacia Lyn Newkirk always saw herself as “so unsignable.”
Having already put in years of hard work, producers and record label executives never quite knew how to package up her obvious talent. In her early days she sang backup on Jamie Foxx and Paula Abdul records and even made cameos in a couple of Salt-N-Pepa videos, but as the millennium hit, the pop icon Anastacia we know and love was born.
Her debut single “I’m Outta Love”, the lead from her debut album Not That Kind received critical acclaim, hit the top 10 of most European charts and has since reached multi-platinum status. Anastacia had hoped to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2020, however the global pandemic had other plans.
With dates lined up across the UK and Europe, the aptly-named I’m Outta Lockdown tour is finally set to begin in September. “2022 is going to be a very busy year for all the people who love music, so I’m super excited that I could fit in some stuff,” Anastacia teases over Zoom, looking glamorous as ever in a pair of her trademark tinted glasses. Anxious to let the fans know that there are plans for more shows soon, additional European dates and an Australian leg are to be expected in 2023.
Marking the release of this song with a live celebration was inevitable for the star, remembering some of the beautiful stories she’s had fans share with her over the years, she explains “I feel so grateful to have walked through some of these decades with people, no matter what age they are. People know that song, I know where I was, I know what it meant to me and then as you grow up that song is still there.”
Discussing what to expect from the tour Anastacia says “it will very much nod back to my style… Am I going to be like, full on showing my midriff? A little bit, yeah.” Expect an array of glasses too.
Anastacia’s first two records, Not That Kind and Freak of Nature leaned into a funkier, more soulful side of pop, whereas her third, the self-titled Anastacia had more of a rock edge, spawning mega-hit “Left Outside Alone”. “I felt like it was so much more than me that I ended up naming it me,” she explains, “I didn’t know that was not the thing to do. I had no idea what the rules were, I just went and did things.”
“My voice carries [music] into another category because of how my voice sounds,” Anastacia explains, noting how references like The Black Keys or Mumford And Sons have been brought to her in sessions, but when she lays down her vocal the whole sound of the track changes.
Always a little unsure about what it was about her voice that resonated so widely, she remembers something clicked while making her fifth album It’s A Man World, an album where she covered classic songs by male vocalists. “That’s when I really realised how much that music itself, every single artist there and more influenced me,” she remembers. “I didn’t even know it, but from Pat Benatar to Fleetwood Mac to all these other artists that I didn’t bring up in this list, listening to it and hearing it, the Anastasia who wanted to be the artist at 30, and had all this wildness and all this stuff inside of her that was slowly but surely coming out.”
As for her Nine Songs selections, she gushes about the process of rediscovery she went through as she whittled down her final choices. “I really haven’t done a deep dive like this, I want to say ever, trying to pick a certain amount of songs and really think about it. To think about what records were there and think about what they are, because I mean, there’s tonnes of songs I wanted to put on there and at the end of the day Barbra [Streisand] has like 2,000.”
“She was the female influence for me when I was young,” she explains, “she made me lose my mind and that’s where I feel like nobody else could be her, but then there’s Celine and Mariah too. They’re wonderful voices, but Barbra is just Barbra.”
Taking a tour through musical theatre loves and songs introduced to her by her parents and her beloved sister Shawn, at the end of the day Anastacia’s one true musical hero is Barbra as she goes on to reveal through her love of Streisand’s classic album Memories which holds a string of Anastacia’s favourite songs of all time.
“Sodomy” from Hair
“I grew up in a few different places, but at the time that music was introduced to me as a kid, we had moved to this apartment in Chicago. It was a high rise apartment that overlooked Lake Shore Drive. My mom and stepfather had a record player, and my sister and I only had the records that she had. There was one with this really interesting cover [the Hair soundtrack]. All of these songs were on it and we loved it, it sounded amazing. Shawn and I loved this song “Sodomy” because it had a lot of interesting rhythms, but little did we know what we were saying. We had no clue!
“My mother was like ‘Oh, you guys sing that really well” and we’d be like, [sings] “Sodomy! Fellatio!” What the fuck? I know every word to that song and now I’m singing it and I’m like, [sings] “Masturbation!”, and I was six or seven and my sister was 10. We’d put nylons on our heads so that we could have long, beautiful hair. We were dancing and sliding on our socks in the living room and loving that. Then watching the musical itself was so exciting.
“When I looked at it, I didn’t notice anything sexual, even though everything was about sexuality. But that’s not what I saw as a kid, and I think that’s normal. Kids and adults see different things. There were so many kaleidoscope colours, and the melodies were so beautiful. I didn’t understand or know what those words were. It was just melodies and harmonies that were beautiful to me, and the dancing. It was a really cool musical for me to watch.
“I think what we also loved about it was that my mom was in the theatre, she was very open and she did not judge. So everyone that would come to our house was like a Hair movie character. It was some gentleman with pink stuff on and then a girl who would have her hair shaved. I wasn’t taught to see other people or anyone as different. As you get older, you realise people don’t like people for different reasons, but when I was a kid it was really beautiful to watch that in my house, because we weren’t super social. My mom didn’t like us to go on sleepovers, however, my mom would have everybody over at our house and they would be freakin’ wild.”
“I Feel for You” by Prince
“If I can clock the time, I probably was about 16 or 17 when that album and when his artistry really started to hit me on a level of going ‘Wow, he’s incredible.” There’s a song, “With You”, that’s also on it, that I think is just beautiful, but if I had to pick just one song from that album it’s this one, Obviously everybody kind of knows “I Feel For You”, but people may not know that it was a Prince song first and then it went to Chaka Khan.
“I never bought an album, so it definitely had to be my sister who bought the album. She’s three years older than me and she’s also where I know about Wild Cherry and U2. Shawn was way more involved in wanting to buy music and play records than I was, so I was surrounded by the music she knew. I would stare at that cover because I thought he was so pretty. I enjoyed his harmonies and his soul, but at that time, I didn’t even know that that’s what I wanted to do.
“When I was young I think it was all about the ear candy alone. I was ‘I like this sound on my ears’, so I wanted to play it. I didn’t break it down. But of course, as an adult, I can break it down and see that the simplicity of what he did was genius. At that point, not knowing he was doing everything himself, not knowing that all of these ideas were just Prince-grown and fed. I look at it a different way now and his music is forever. That song came out in 1979 and “I Feel For You” is not considered a ‘70s track. It’s just a track that’s dope.”
“Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
“This song came out in 1990, and I was in New York trying to make music happen. My family went to LA to live there and I was like ‘I’m staying here’. I’m whatever age I was at that point, which I think might have been 18 or 19 or 20, and I was jogging over the Verrazzano Bridge in Brooklyn. I had a cassette player, because it wasn’t as easy to get a CD player – I don’t even know if they’d come out then or not. I was rewinding and rewinding and rewinding, and I’m not sure if it was her’s or Céline’s album, but I definitely snapped one of my tapes by playing it so much. I was devastated.
“I would try to sing like Mariah and Céline, and that’s when I thought that if I ever tried to sing like them, I didn’t think I had the talent it took to be a singer, because I couldn’t do them justice. I would try to sing and try to do and to achieve what they were achieving, but being that my voice was different it was hard to replicate their sound without feeling like ‘I’m hoarse.’ You know how people get when they sing my song?
“I still questioned myself for many years and when I got my deal, I had already sung and recorded “Not That Kind” and that was the song that was played on [The Cut], a show I was on, and then everyone understood it for the first time. It was 1998 and it was the first time anyone had ever really said ‘We need to sign you’ and then it was all the labels all at the same time. I was doing my thing, but I didn’t hear the tones and things that I had in my voice until much later in my recording life, maybe four or five years into my actual career.
“Now, I love it to death, but it’s just how I take my words, you know? It was just the way that I attacked it, like the way that Adele attacks her words and phrases. That’s what makes someone unique, but at the same time, I didn’t know that’s what it made me.”
“The Power of Love” by Céline Dion
“Céline’s Céline and it’s like “Vision Of Love”, where there are songs that hit you and stop you in your tracks because they’re so beautiful. I love a vocalist that really can feel the song. They don’t have to write it and that’s where Céline comes in.
“She doesn’t have to write the song she sang. She’s still feeling it, but she didn’t have to 100% go through “The Power Of Love” to be able to sing it authentically and give it that meaning that made everybody feel like she could have written it.”
“Bennie And the Jets” by Elton John
“I had a good zillion of Barbra Streisand and Elton John’s records, so I had to find something that was worthy. I was really listening to Elton when I was quite young, so it was even before we were at that apartment in Chicago. I was about four years old listening to “Candle In The Wind” and “Crocodile Rock” being played religiously in the house.
“I think what I loved about it was the album covers. I needed glasses at six years old, so when I was told I needed glasses my mom said that I went ‘Yes! Glasses on my face?’ My mom just didn’t understand, but he made me feel it was OK. I got three pairs of glasses, the same exact shape, but different coloured frames – a purple pair, a red pair and a clear pair, and then I eventually got a black pair.
“He was a big influence in both his music in general and his power. The power of what his music was and what it felt like, there was so much going on. The energy that comes out of “I’m Outta Love,” he had that. He was giving that and that’s what I got out of his music – besides feeling like glasses were just everything.
“WIth Bennie And The Jets”, it’s the way that it starts with the piano, it has that immediate acknowledgement that ‘We’re gonna have a good time’, before you even knew what the song was. Or even if you don’t know what the song is, you can’t sit down and listen to that song, it’s happy immediately.
“It was really hard to pick a song of his and as much as I love “Candle In The Wind”, “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”, if I had to pick one – which is what this is all about – it’s ”Bennie And The Jets”, it has this little sexy, stanky, funky thing about it too. My ear just went to this and this would be the one which represents the mosh pit of the amazing qualities of his music. “
“Open Arms” by Journey / “All Out of Love” by Air Supply
“Spoiler alert: I had my first dance to one of these songs, but I don’t remember which. I can tell you that I was probably 11 and we were at this guy’s house, in the basement, all the kids were there and I’m gonna slow dance for the first time. Those are the songs that were played. It was always Journey or Air Supply, and they always merged in with me.
“I never really knew which was which as a kid, but the minute their music comes on, like friggin’ “Open Arms” and “All Out Of Love”, immediately I think of slow dancing. No body-touching. No swapping spit. None of that stuff, but I’m actually side-stepping with a guy and it was quite an experience. So even though their music is so much more to me than that, there’s an absolute memory that I can give you. And it’s my first slow dance as a little girl with a boy.”
“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago
“Chicago was a band that my father loved. They were played in my childhood a lot and for some reason I know all of their songs and all of their melodies. And you have to go, ‘How do I know all that?’ I remember playing it with my sister a few years ago and I told Shawn ‘I haven’t listened to Chicago for so long, how do I know all of these?’ I think it must have been because it was on a lot, and as kids you don’t notice what you absorb. It was all the horns and all their full-on harmonies in that rock way.
“This is where the layer of sprock (soul, pop, rock), if there is a thing that I am, comes from. That real rock edge of Air Supply and Journey and Chicago’s harmonies, but still with guitars, and then the real live band playing. I’ve felt sometimes that a trumpet would sound like me because I could try and [imitates trumpet]. They all emulate the same kind of thing, which is live music with this rocky character, so I liked it.”
Memories, Barbra Streisand album. “Memory” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “New York State of Mind, “No More Tears”, “Evergreen”, “The Way We Were.”
“This is like the soundtrack of what I consider her to be. Pretty much half the album, and I mean, I couldn’t even put Yentl up there because that in itself is genius. So I had to find an album that I felt could really reflect her. If people don’t know enough about Barbra and they want to check it out, then all of these songs are classically her tones, And then you hear the strings and you hear what she does. The way she puts her voice, how she hits a note and how she holds it.
“I don’t represent to even sound like any of these wonderful artists that I’m totally in love with, but I also respect and appreciate the art that I can hear through them. Barbra, very much like Céline, is a perfectionist of her art. So she does perfect notes, and I don’t think that I would represent that I do that. I think I can fall sharp and flat at certain moments. Holler, Adele, when she’s like, ‘Yeah, a couple of notes are off there, but I was feeling it.’ It’s like, don’t overthink it, do it. But Céline and Barbra? They’re very, very structured in how they display a song. And I can’t begin to give too many words about her, because I feel she was my whole childhood musically.
“I used to stare at the Superman album and ask God, why he did not give me those legs? The curly hair, the nails, her hands and there’s so much about her. I thought she was the prettiest woman I’d ever seen. She was absolutely beautiful to me. When I was 10, if I looked at her, that’s what I thought beauty was. Then I’d look at myself and be, ‘Oh my god, you have a long way to go girl!’ I’m just a kid with glasses, so I need to make people laugh.
“At the end of the day, I never ever thought my looks would ever get me anywhere. And still to this day. I don’t bargain off any of that. I wasn’t brought into a room because I looked amazing. I had talent, or I was funny. So those are the things that always stood out. Or they’re like ‘Crazy glasses. Why are you wearing those crazy glasses?’ And I was like, ‘Because I crazily can’t see. If you’d like to put them on. I’ll give you a psycho trip, and a kaleidoscope of a headache.’
“Ultimately, with Barbra, she is my entire childhood. My mother was in musical theatre, so how Barbra sang was structured and perfect, like my mother. When I listened to Barbra, because she wasn’t my mother, I probably liked it more, but my mother is an incredible singer and has done incredible work in musical theatre and that kind of music was played in my house as well.
“I found Barbra’s music more entertaining than typical musical type of stuff. I had to go to the theatre after school, bring quiet toys, let my mom go onstage and then we’d go home. But with Barbra, I could just listen to it and take a walk. There was something very serene about her too, but then she’d sing and she had this energy, where it was kind of very Lulu. There was a strength and a softness in her that I loved. Obviously I was drawn to her soft and hard side, because even on her hard side, she was still kind. She was powerful enough to be heard and not to be silenced.
“I went to a concert of Barbra’s recently – I want to say recently, because it’s in the last decade – and I was in the third row. If I did not snot all throughout the first four songs, I couldn’t even handle it. It was an amazing moment to see her in Boston. Just incredible.