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The Last Word: Sharleen Spiteri

The Texas singer on doing exactly what she wants after 35 years in music, and the importance of following your instincts.

By Nick Reilly

Sharleen Spiteri from Texas performs on The Pyramid Stage at Day 3 of Glastonbury Festival 2023 on June 23, 2023 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Harry Durrant/Getty Images)

This is The Last Word. It’s our final section of the magazine where we take a bonafide music legend and ask them about life, navigating the tricky waters of the music biz and how far they’d go to prove their legendary credentials. Up next, it’s Sharleen Spiteri, the lead singer of Scottish icons Texas.

What keeps you going and excited to make music after all these years?

I’m not scared of long pauses. They don’t scare you. You’re sometimes geared to think: ‘I need to fill that space, and I need to be there, or I need to do this.’ But I’ve got very good at going, “I’ll go and do that, but I won’t do that.” And not being in that place when you’re thinking, ‘I want to make everybody like me.’ Instead, being like ‘I don’t give a flying fuck!’

It’s a liberating and free place to be in life, to get great enjoyment from what you’ve actually achieved and also what other people around you have achieved. Because even if something’s not your bag, you know it’s not all plain sailing, and there’s an understanding of how hard it can be. 

Your new album with Spooner Oldham, The Muscle Shoals Sessions, arrives on 29 March. What would you choose: a number one album or Arsenal winning the league? 

A number one! Are you joking?! It’s funny because my first football strip was actually West Ham, and coming to north London for the first time as a Celtic fan, it was [Celtic and Arsenal footballer] Charlie Nicholas who drew me to Arsenal. I’m just happy that we’re doing so bloody good at the moment. 

What’s the weirdest place you’ve heard a Texas song played?

In a porn shop. I wasn’t actually in the porn shop, but I was with a friend of mine in Soho, and he said, “Listen, you’ve got to see something.” He pulled the curtain back from the door of this shop, and there was this photograph that Sean Ellis had taken of me for the Texas/Wu Tang sleeve when it’s just my face. That was on the wall, and they were playing Texas in there. I thought that’s the best thing, and I just loved it. 

What about the most unlikely Texas fan you’ve encountered?

Everyone that comes up to me and tells me they’re a fan of my music. That takes a lot of guts as a fan of other people, that little bit of you that says, ‘I hope they’re not going to be horrible.’ I always feel very thankful for what anybody says to me, when they tell me they’re a fan. Oh, and Glastonbury last year! I was totally overwhelmed by that, because we were playing before Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys, and there was a young crowd there for that. I thought they wouldn’t know Texas records, but they did, and it was quite the moment for us. 

I wanted to ask you about your enduring friendship with Wu-Tang’s Method Man and RZA, which stems from when you performed with Method Man at the Brits back in 1998. 

It’s the kind of friendship that pops up every now and again. They played Glasgow last year, and I went on stage with them to perform our ‘Say What You Want’ duet, which was fantastic. We did a documentary a few years ago too, which was interesting because RZA was telling me about Method Man’s lyrics and how he rapped about bottles of rum because he thought everyone Scottish was a pirate! I fell about laughing. 

Every few years, something will come up, and we’ll always run into each other. It’s a nice friendship to have because it seems very unlikely, but I guess there’s something similar in them coming from Staten Island and us coming from Glasgow. We met when we played with Public Enemy at Glasgow Barrowlands, and RZA said he just got the city. He said he understood the idea of being on the outside, because of where Staten Island is. He said you have to push yourself forward to get into the centre, and that was a great understanding of the places we come from. Glasgow is a place of shipbuilding too, and we shared this kind of working-class understanding. We’re poles apart in backgrounds, but there’s parallels within it, and that’s what makes a lot of friendships. 

What’s the one bit of advice you’d give to someone who was just starting out in the music business?

I’d never presume to give anybody any advice, but the one thing I would say is, “If you’ve got a bad feeling about something, get the fuck out!” Because normally you’re right. I’ve done things that somebody’s talked me into and wondered why I did that. Make sure that you stand by it too, and you don’t blame someone else for making that decision.

Taken from the April/May issue of Rolling Stone UK – you can buy it here now.