Sharleen Spiteri of Texas
Photo: Julian Broad / Courtesy of the Oriel Co.

Sharleen Spiteri Takes the ‘Hi’ Road in Guiding Texas Back to Future

While taking more chances with a new album and relishing a career of bright, shining moments, fiery frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri still wonders why her Scottish band named Texas didn’t get more love from America.

28 May 2021

Career Assessments

Though longevity for the original Texas trio remains an impressive part of the band’s legacy, there have been a few close calls besides the Moulin Rouge sidestep.

The band went on hiatus after the release of 2005’s Red Book, Texas’ seventh studio album, and Spiteri, who gave birth to daughter Misty Kyd in September 2002, decided to make a solo record, releasing Melody in 2008.

“It is something that I really in my heart had to do because I was in a lot of pain over the split from the father of my daughter, and I had to make a very particular record,” shares Spiteri, whose long relationship with magazine editor Ashley Heath had ended. “I had to say those things and they had to sound a very specific way. That way was not the way of Texas. … And I am very lucky that I had the blessing of my band and they helped so much on the making of that record.”

Her love of cinema also led to 2010’s The Movie Songbook, an LP of covers recorded with producer Phil Ramone and Grammy-winning engineer Al Schmitt, whose death on April 26 was another sorrowful moment.

“These guys made Frank Sinatra records and Barbra Streisand records, and I’m like, ‘I need to work with these people,’ and I’m so glad I did,” Spiteri asserts.

The previous year, a near-death experience floored the band. McErlaine, whose stunning licks and slide guitar runs are a Texas trademark, fell into a coma after suffering a Grade 5 brain aneurysm in 2009, and he was hospitalized for more than six months.

Though McErlaine recovered and returned to the road with Texas by 2011, “he can’t do all the touring back to back [now],” Spiteri reports as there’s a calendar full of 2022 dates planned. “All the traveling is too much for him.”

Two acoustic shows in Scotland set for September that were announced last week sold out in a couple of days. That lineup could include Texas’ other guitarist, Tony McGovern, who also plays on the new album with the three original members, longtime keyboardist Eddie Campbell and their former drummer Ross McFarlane.

Family Time

The pandemic that shut down Texas’ 2020 touring plans and the record release were secondary jolts for Spiteri compared to the death of her mother a week before the first lockdown.

“It was quite a shock,” reveals Spiteri, whose father suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia has been a major concern. “I think if I had gone on tour, I would probably have crashed and burned. It was brutal. And we had the record that was finished, and we were ready to go. And I didn’t want it to come out,” while mourning the loss of her mother.

“You have people from record companies saying, ‘Hey, we should put the record out. It will cheer people up!’ And I’m like, ‘Why are you talking bullshit? A Texas record is not gonna cheer someone up. It’s not gonna change their life when they can’t feed their children, they’ve lost a job and somebody in their goddamn family died. I’m all for the power of music but right now’s really not the time to be jumping on any bandwagon.’

“So we held the record. … I just had to get my head together and my emotions and my feelings and my loss, to get control of it.”

Quarantining with her husband and daughter helped, along with a second vaccination shot last week. “I felt very lucky to have that [amount of] time with them because the truth is I’ve never actually had that [much] time with them,” Spiteri contends with a laugh, realizing work stole precious moments from her and Williams, whom she married in 2018.

She’s also pleased with her 18-year-old daughter Misty, a fashion model who’s already walked the runway for Miu Miu and Fendi, although, “When she first said to me that that’s what she wanted to do, I kind of looked at her with horror. … I literally was appalled. And I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, why did I spend so much money on her education?’” (laughs)

Misty’s efforts have changed that school of thought, though. Having appeared in British Vogue twice, Vogue Italia, W Magazine and on the cover of Pop magazine, she’s also “an amazing artist” who’s finishing her A-level education in sixth form, according to her mom.

“The thing I’m most proud of is that she’s really professional and she’s taking it very seriously,” adds Spiteri, who gave her daughter a few pieces of advice. The last one ends with her own punch line: “If you do not want to do something, don’t do it, no matter what anybody says. … And then if there’s a really big problem, if someone’s trying to force you, phone your agent.”

Trash talking

A musical passage with Spiteri through Scotland, the UK and time wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of her swashbuckling Scottish contemporaries — Garbage’s Shirley Manson.

Though their bands have differing styles and sounds, and Garbage is based in the States, Spiteri and Edinburgh native Manson were born a year apart, took charge of their bands breaking big in the ‘90s and have experiences — if not shop talk — to share.

“I didn’t know her when she was in Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (on keyboards, backing vocals after being hired as a teenager) but I knew Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s music before Shirley was in Garbage,” Spiteri says. “I remember hearing Garbage for the first time and thinking, ‘This is brilliant.’ It really did have that great mix of modern punk, Americana sound in it. The combination between her and the whole band and obviously Butch Vig and Duke Erikson … really was and has been a really important point in music.”

Spiteri joined Manson as co-presenter at the 2003 MTV Europe Music Awards and they won Scottish Style Awards in 2008, but those brief encounters didn’t get past “hanging out” and discussing “normal” life.

Half-jokingly, I ask, “Did you ever talk about trading places?”

“The movie [starring Eddie Murphy]?” Spiteri responds in kind.

Told it meant fronting each other’s bands, a baffled Spiteri, once a guest vocalist on a 2005 Rammstein song, answers, “Uh, God dog, never have thought of that. I’ve never actually thought of fronting anyone [other than Texas].”

After a pause, she confesses, “Oh no, I cannot lie. I did think of fronting one band one time — the Faces. Needing help to remember the name of the lead singer at the time, the one from Simply Red, she confirms it was Mick Hucknall who followed in the legendary footsteps of Rod Stewart.

“He did a really good job, so don’t take it as a diss. But … he was looking at an Autocue [UK teleprompter] with all the words on it, and I was like, ‘Fuck! I want to sing these songs because I could sing the shit out of these songs because I know these songs back to front. I know every word, every nuance, and I could sing them with such gusto and balls.’”

There’s no time like the present for the good ol’ USA to take heed. But with an album of new tunes proving she’s singing as fervently as forever, Spiteri’s favorite Faces song should serve as her message to anyone who’s heard of Texas: “Stay With Me”.