originally appeared in Billboard Magazine in May 2000.
Universal's Sheena Easton survives with sanity over two-decade
By Chuck Taylor
naturally: If there were any doubt that Sheena Easton maintains
a healthy perspective on her 20 year career in the entertainment
business, it only takes a glance at her dressing room name
plate, playfully printed in majestic script and reading "Sheila Eastman." "I even thought of doing
a remake of "The Glamorous Life," just to mix
people up more," she jokes of the ongoing confusion
between her pop career and that of fellow '80's artist Sheila
it's been nine years since her last Hot 100 hit, Scotland-born
Easton has never strayed far from the public's eye, thanks
to a long list of multimedia projects that have kept her
star shining even after radio chilled.
a string of 14 top 40 hits from 1981 to 1991, she starred
in Broadway revivals of "Grease" and "Man
of La Mancha" (with the late Raul Julia) and is currently
committed to a yearlong run of the new musical extravaganza
"At the Copa," co-headlining as Ruby Bombay to
David Cassidy's Johnny Flamingo at the Rio Hotel in Las
toured persistently, performed numerous animated feature
voice-overs, recently sold out phase one of a highly successful
collection of self-designed ceramic angels on QVC, and has
continued to record new material for MCA Japan, most recently
the 1999 album "Home"-all while refocusing her
primary role as the mother of two adopted children, 5 1/2
year old Jake, and 3 1/2 year old Skylar (who are living
with her in Las Vegas for the year.)
her fan base remains rabidly devoted. Since she launched
her official web site in June 1997, SheenaEaston.com has
averaged 146,000 worldwide hits a month (while dozens of
fan sites co-exist on the Web).
well, Albany, NY-based One Way Records is in the process
of releasing each of her first seven domestic albums with
additional tracks, while the soundtrack to the 1981 James
Bond flick "For Your Eyes Only"- whose title track
remains Easton's signature hit- was issued for the first
time on CD April 25 on Rykodisc.
foremost, she's just contracted to record a dance album-
including some disco remakes-for worldwide release, due
by the end of the year on the U.K. arm of Universal Records.
Easton's world has been about survival, but with sanity. "When I turned 30 and had been going full tilt for
10 years, I turned around and examined my life," she
said on the eve of her 41st birthday, April 27. "I
realized that another No. 1, a magazine cover with me looking
pretty on it, or a shiny album on the wall weren't going
to make me happy. I had the choice to create a life that
is more soulful, one that takes care of my heart and not
just my ego. "For me, semi-retirement from the pop
world was the best thing I ever did," Easton said.
"I found out that whether a record topped the charts
or bombed, neither one affected my happiness. It gave me
the sense that I was in control of my life and career instead
of the other way around, though I could still do things
artistically that paid me a shitload of money, quite frankly."
fact, when she was approached last November by Universal
to record the new album- her 15th with fresh material- Easton
hesitated, refusing to take on the full-time promotional
commitment she assumed came with the deal. "I wasn't
jumping up and down about it, because I figured it would
have so many strings attached."
longtime London-based producer and international A&R
consultant for Universal Tony Swain came to Los Angeles,
"and we played a bunch of songs, talked about our tastes
and what we both expected. We were in sync," she said.
"It met all my criteria for having a life and still
putting my kids first."
of her eight-shows-a-week Vegas commitment, Easton is relying
primarily on her producers- London-based duo Ian Masterson
and Terry Ronald (Kylie Minogue, Gloria Estefan, Pet Shop
Boys, Lulu)- to lay down the instrumental tracks and send
them to her. She then sings vocals at studios in Vegas and
Los Angeles, her hometown.
whole process is reminiscent of my beginning days,"
Easton noted, "When I did my first albums, I was a
complete moron when it came to recording. I had no expectations
of myself other than to deliver the best vocal I could.
But then you get to know the process, and you can't help
but to have opinions and say things like, 'Do you have the
right pre-amps for the mikes?'
time, because of the constraints of my other projects, my
mental attitude was, 'OK, it's allright to make another
album if I can have a good time again,'" she said.
"Like those first ones, my job is to stand and sing
the finest vocal I can. I'm putting trust in my producers
and everyone at my record label to do their jobs, which
is unusual for me. I'm really enjoying it; it's freed me
Swain said, "We thought Sheena was the type of personality
and pop icon that would fit this special contemporary dance
project. She's a fantastic live singer, a professional,
and she's still as stunning as ever. We think this is the
right vehicle for an artist of her stature."
course, for Easton there remains one lingering question,
and it's one that made her pause for a moment before responding:
What if her new album does revive stardom? According to
radio, never say never. "Sheena was certainly an icon
in the early- to mid- 80's, and she's already reinvented
herself a few times," said Kid Kelly, host of the syndicated
'80s radio show "Backtrax USA" and music director
of top 40 WHTZ (Z100) New York. "She went from being
the artist that your mom liked to one that you fantasized
about. I think she certainly has a large enough fan base
that she could be embraced again, like Cher has done."
sounds to me like this is a fresh start for her," said
Harry Legg, assistant PD/music director for top 40 WKIE
(Kiss FM) Chicago. "In the U.K., dance music is much
easier to get on the air, so I expect it would do well there;
it's definitely more of a fight here. It's really going
to come down to how contemporary the music is, whether the
production is good, and how she images herself."
a laugh, Easton admits that she'd like to have her cake
and eat it. "No one puts a record out there and hopes
that it's a failure," she said. "If this record
explodes, I know I will enjoy it and take time to smell
the roses and not overload my schedule. If commercially
it dies a horrible death, I'll survive that, too."
"I'd love to have a hit record, but I'm not going to
sell my soul for it," she added. "I can't give
up what I've achieved in my life, not at the risk of tipping
the scales to where life becomes so unbalanced again. When
I was 20, like Britney and Christina, there was nothing
else in my mind or day-to-day life but work. Now, I'm going
to make sure the kids go to the dentist and Chuck E. Cheese
and see the new Disney movie. I schedule that in."
In all, it adds up to cherished freedom (not
so ironically the title of her 1997 MCA-Japan album) for
Easton. She endures in a self-molded world where her children
are clearly the first priority but continues to embrace
projects that nourish her ever- fervent creative appetite. "You know, there was a time when I was so determined
to prove that I was a spirited, independent woman, not some
puppet behind a Svengali figure," she said. "I
feel so released from all of that self-consciousness. I
have survived so much, professionally and personally, and
pushed my own limits. What's fun in knowing that there's
growth in all of it. Now, I'm having a good time."
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