Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Denise Pearson: Flying Solo

Denise Pearson
Denise Pearson Denise Pearson Denise Pearson Denise Pearson

Following her prestigious support slot on the UK leg of The Jacksons’ “Unity” tour last year, former Five Star lead-singer Denise Pearson this month finally releases her long-awaited debut solo album “Imprint”, pioneered by the haunting chorus and majestic strings of its soulfully-shuffling offshoot single “Free Fall”.

Indeed, five years in the making and described as an “intensely intimate biographical labour-of-love”, “Imprint” showcases Denise’s flawlessly-powerful vocals on a diverse array of musical moods ranging from the Motown-inspired punchy bounce of the Sixties-flavoured “Kiss And Tell” and jazzy neo-soul groove of “I Found My Flow” to the guilt-tinged power balladry of “It’s Better To Lie” and the electro-club beats of the more aggressive “Twisted Electric” before easing into the more acoustic vibe of sensitive ballads like the delicate “Find My Way”, stripped-down and reassuring “Here I Am” and tender, lilting “Love Is Alive”.

Born Denise Lisa Maria Pearson in Romford, Essex in June 1968, Denise would first find international fame alongside her brothers and sisters (Stedman, Delroy, Doris and Lorraine) in aforementioned pop/R&B family quintet Five Star. Who - initially put together in 1983 by their father-cum-manager, former session musician Buster Pearson - would from 1985 to 1988 go on to attain consistent chart success with a string of 15 UK Top 30 singles, peaking with the Top Ten smashes “System Addict”, “Can’t Wait Another Minute”, “Find The Time”, “Rain Or Shine”, “Stay Out Of My Life” and “The Slightest Touch”. Meanwhile, their four UK Top 20 albums (1985’s Platinum-selling “Luxury Of Life”; 1986’s chart-topping, Quadruple-Platinum “Silk And Steel”; 1987’s Platinum “Between The Lines”; and 1988’s Silver-certified “Rock The World”) would impressively additionally find the Pearson siblings - famed for their flamboyant image, matching costumes and slickly-choreographed dance routines - also scoring Top Ten success on the US R&B and Dance charts, while prestigiously picking up both a BRIT Award (1987, Best British Group) and Grammy nomination along the way.

Nevertheless, the end of the decade would sadly find the quintet’s popularity decidedly on the wane. Which - amidst rapidly-declining record sales and even reports of bankruptcy - would eventually lead to them in 1991 relocating to California. Where, unable to regain past chart glories, they would remain until the trio of Stedman, Denise and Lorraine returned to the UK to perform as Five Star in 2002. Since which time (Denise having moved back permanently to the UK in 2005) numerous partial live reunions have taken place - with the original five-member line-up finally reuniting for the first time for the 2012 Rewind Festivals at Perth and Henley-On-Thames.

Meanwhile, in terms of her own solo career, the last few years have seen Denise’s profile increase via her critically-acclaimed 2009 lead-part in the Michael Jackson-themed West End musical “Thriller - Live” - a triumph she followed up two years later with another prominent West End singing role in “Respect La Diva”. All of which would in turn precede her unexpected return to prime-time TV in spring 2012. When her vocal talents were watched by an 11-million-plus audience after she - surprisingly to some - entered as a competitor in the BBC1 reality talent contest “The Voice UK”. Which - with her having been mentored on the show by singing legend Tom Jones - would in turn ultimately lead to her current new record-deal with UK independent Baronet Entertainment.

Which neatly now brings us back to today. As a warm-mannered and well-spoken Ms. Pearson reacquaints herself with “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor Pete Lewis over early-afternoon drinks at West End members club Soho House to discuss her aforementioned new album plus her memories of Five Star’s Eighties heyday. Which saw the family quintet - at the time frequently dubbed “the British Jackson Five” - impressively raking up over 10 million album sales worldwide.

The story behind Denise releasing her first solo album at this time

“Well, when I first came back to England I basically decided I just wanted to be a mum and to raise my KIDS. But then my cousin - her name is Paulette Pearson - was like ‘Look, you have to do something with your CAREER - you’re not gonna just sit back and become a MOTHER!’... So in a way from that she kind of became my AGENT. You know, she got me “Thriller - Live”, she got me hooked-up with a writing company called Phrased Differently who in turn got me on a couple of writers’ retreats in Gothenburg which were amazing... Then from that we decided to use the songs I’d written on the retreats to build a space on MySpace - and really it all kind of started from THERE! You know, I went on to do “The Voice”, which led to me meeting my partner at Baronet Entertainment… And then when he heard the songs I’d written he was like ‘You know what? These are really, really great SONGS - we’re gonna make an ALBUM!’... And so here we are TODAY!”

What Denise wanted to achieve musically with “Imprint” and the reasons for its diversity

“I basically just wanted to be ME. You know, the majority of the songs on this new album are written by myself along with a great young producer from America who sent me some amazing tracks called Wayne Gerard - which is why they’ve got that American INFLUENCE to them. And the reason why the record is so varied is because I do genuinely like all types of MUSIC. I mean, you have to remember even back in the Five Star days I was the only one who was writing the ROCK tracks... So yeah, I love rock, I love dance, I love R&B, I love soul - which I why I’m so happy that this record is very diverse and isn’t limited to just one GENRE.”

How she feels her solo work of today compares with her old work with Five Star

“I just think it’s more PERSONAL. Plus whereas in Five Star you always had to think about the pop hook - it was more candy I’d say back in the day - I do feel that as a songwriter I have now MATURED. Also while back then it was five of us and because we all wanted songs on the album I think there was a lot of competition, this time round there was none of that PRESSURE. Instead I had time to just relax, think about what I wanted to say, write down my thoughts, and put together a product that came 100% from ME.”

The background to some of the tracks

“Well, as I wrote most of the lyrics and melodies, there are personal messages everywhere on the album. Like “She’s Not Anyone” is about that part of my life where after the fame there was the settling down and all the insecurities that came WITH that - you know, ‘Have I failed because I’ve stopped to become a MUM?’... While “We’re Not Over” on the other hand I wrote for my dad who passed away in October 2012 and really it’s like a conversation where he’s talking to my mum who’s talking BACK - you know, a really personal track that does means a lot to me emotionally... Then with “Free Fall” I’m basically talking about a relationship where the girl feels the person she’s in love with still has feelings for his ex... While on a track like “Kiss And Tell” - which I wrote on one of the writers’ retreats in Gothenburg and is very Sixties, very happy-go-lucky - I really just wanted to think out-of-the-box and show my love for singers like Brenda Lee and Connie Francis by doing something in that vein while lyrically taking it back to my days in the school PLAYGROUND.”

The album “Imprint” and single “Free Fall” are both released June 9 through Baronet Entertainment.

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For more from our exclusive interview with B&S cover star Denise Pearson, including her thoughts on her somewhat-controversial decision to enter TV talent show "The Voice UK", which lead happily to a solo record deal…Click below to get your issue or visit your local magazine retailer to order B&S now.

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