Belinda Carlisle is the angelic songbird who first hit the music scene in the girl-power band The Go-Go’s. Later Carlisle embarked on a very successful solo career in 1986 with the gold-certified album Belinda, which featured such chart-toppers as “Mad About You” and “Feel the Magic.” In 1987 she released Heaven on Earth, which produced the classic songs “I Get Weak," “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Circle in the Sand.” Carlisle continued dominating the charts with songs like "Leave a Light On," "Summer Rain” and “Live Your Life Be Free.”
Now Carlisle has recently returned from the studio where she recorded “Sun,” a new single just released as ICON, an album of her greatest hits, has been shining bright, charting on both iTunes and Amazon.com. Here we chat with this '80s icon, who makes heaven on earth true for all of us listening.
How was it getting back in to the studio to do the new song “Sun?"
Great, but it took something really special to get me back in to the studio. My son really wanted me to do another pop song, which is really not my speed anymore. He found the song by Gabe Lopez and brought it to me. The song needed a little bit of lyrical tweaking, so I asked Jane Wiedlin (of The Go-Go’s) to help out. So the three of us worked on the song, and I think it’s turned out great.
It was just a single, so it wasn’t work-intense, which is what I like. It was pretty much instant gratification. I have no expectations, which is the best way to be, so I’m having a lot of fun with it.
I recently meet Gabe Lopez, and he told me he had a blast working with you, too.
Gabe is really enthusiastic, really confident and has an amazing vibe. He has really fresh energy. It was really fun to work with him on it. For me, because I like the song so much, it was a pretty easy song to sing. It’s not easy live—that’s another thing—but it was easy to do it in the studio.
Have you performed the song in concert?
Yeah I have. I toured Austria last year, and I sang it live there and last fall at a show in London. The song has been around for about a year. We were just deciding what kind of format we were going to release it in. As it happens, it became a part of the compilation that Universal was going to put out anyway, so it just worked out really nicely.
Did you choose the songs on the new complication ICON?
Yes, I had a good hand in it. With every territory there have been different hits. I was given the list from Universal to pick from, and I asked, Where is "Summer Rain"? Where’s "La Luna"? Yet those were hits in other territories, such as Europe, Australia and Japan. These are the songs that had chart positions in the U.S.
It was odd working with different set lists and ones I normally would not do in other countries. A lot of things played into the choices of songs I had to work from, with a lot of licensing issues between certain record and publishing companies, but I did have a big hand in it for sure.
Any plans for a new album?
I don’t know. Doing another full-on album takes a big time commitment. I’m not so sure I want to do that, but you can never say never. It just depends.
I had no idea you had done a whole album in a different language. That’s amazing!
Yeah, I’ve been living in France part-time for 20 years. Through the years I’ve been approached to do many English-speaking albums, and I have not been interested. About seven years ago, I was approached to do yet another English-speaking album and I said, “No, I really don’t want to do this, but I have this idea that I want to do an album of French classics.” I demo'd Jacques Brel’s song “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” and it sounded really good, and the record company went for it. I had a blast, and it did very well internationally.
That project was a complete labor of love—totally from the heart, a complete blast, no pressure, a total experiment. I never thought anybody would even hear it. I don’t really want to work any other way since I had that experience. It was amazing.
You’re coming back this summer with a concert tour with The Go-Gos!
We are touring from mid-June to mid-July with the B-52’s for a lot of the dates. We work once or twice a year. It’s still really fun. We’re one big happy dysfunctional family.
When you think back to your time with The Go-Go’s, what is your strongest memory?
I don’t know, there are just so many! Life with The Go-Go’s has been really extraordinary. The days I look back on with the fondest memories were probably the days before we actually made Beauty and the Beat—the punk days when we were running around to The Whiskey and to The Starwood, running back and forth to New York to do the Lifeclub and back and forth to San Francisco to do the Mabuhay Gardens. Those days were really magical. The L.A. punk scene had X, The Basters, The Weirdos, DEVO and the house band at The Whiskey. The energy was amazing! I guess it was like the days of the Sunset Strip in the '60s. It had that kind of magical energy. I was really lucky to be a part of that and be able to experience it with The Go-Go’s.
What is your favorite album you've done, and do you have a favorite song?
I think my favorite album is probably Voila, the French album. My favorite song is either “Summer Rain,” “Circle in the Sand” or “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” which is on my French album.
You and your son have done so much for the gay community. Are you going to be doing any gay Prides this year?
I love doing gay Prides. I’m doing one in Orlando in June, and one in Manchester, I believe in May. I do at least one gay pride somewhere a year. I love it, and it’s a blast for me.
What is a typical day in the life of Belinda?
I get up about 4 or 5 in the morning. Usually during the day I’ll go on a hike or do something active like that. I’m usually at yoga class at some point during the day. I don’t like going out to dinner, and I’m pretty much an early bird. When I’m at home in France, I start the day with a hike. It’s pretty laid-back there, and I do a lot of reading. I love reading, and I do a lot of reading during the day. My life is pretty extraordinary, and at the same time it’s pretty normal.
How do you keep so beautiful?
Stop—that’s ridiculous! Well, I don’t drink or smoke anymore. I did that for 30 years. Maybe it’s from all that formaldehyde and alcohol! [Laughs] I now do a ton of yoga, and I think yoga people always look the best.
Check tour dates for Belinda Carlisle and The Go-Go's on her official website, belindacarlisle.tv.