Shelley Preston is apologetically late and orders her favourite skinny latte with chocolate. She is most familiar as the ‘new girl’ of 1980’s pop group, Bucks Fizz, who not only won the Eurovision Song Contest, but also had a string of hit songs.
How does she remember the day she officially joined the group?
“Looking back it was utterly crazy. I was kept hidden in secret locations for over a month before being introduced as the new member of Bucks Fizz live on the Terry Wogan Show in 1985. It also made the BBC Nine O’clock News on the same evening. My life changed overnight!”
How did she come to live in Hampshire six years ago?
“My lifelong friend Alison lives here, and we’d been meeting in Alresford for coffee since 1998! My ex-partner and I had talked about moving out of London for a better life in the country, and were struck by the beauty of Alresford over Christmas 2008. We’d been out with friends in Winchester, and driving back via Alresford, on a crisp December night with all the Christmas trees alight, we realised how lovely the place is. We eventually settled on Swarraton and threw ourselves into village life. It felt like we were on holiday every day!
I’m a staunch believer in supporting local shops and businesses, and living here I feel completely at home – I’m a country girl at heart. Living here really puts a smile on my face.”
Do you have a favourite place in the area?
“It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I do love the Grange. It’s great to have such a majestic building and beautiful country estate a stone’s throw from my front door. I love Northington/Swarraton and the Candover Valley where I live now. The countryside is stunning and I enjoy seeing sheep and cows in the fields. Not to mention the wildlife – deer, rabbits, red kites and hares. And there’s cricket to boot! I feel like I’m in an episode of Midsomer Murders or Miss Marple, but without the slaying of half the village every week!”
What does Shelley consider to be her career highlights so far?
“Well, Buck’s Fizz was huge. One highlight was reforming as the Original Bucks Fizz and performing in the 2004 ‘Here and Now’ tour. Being back in the album Top 40 in 2006 was great too, working with Cheryl and Mike, and doing all the PR stuff. We had such a laugh.
Then there was Cloudfish, a band collaboration with my ex-partner, which was really special. We even once sold out Ronnie Scott’s, and Gary Kemp came along and heard our version of ‘True’. Luckily he loved it! I really enjoyed writing, recording and performing together, and I’ll always be proud of what we created together as Cloudfish.”
And you also had a successful career as a session/backing singer?
“My favourite tour was with INXS. I first met them in 1986 on a TV show when they were trying to break into the UK. (Bucks Fizz were in the Top Ten with ‘New Beginning’ at that time). They were lovely guys and keen to chat. Michael Hutchence was an enigmatic performer and when he sang he held an audience in the palm of his hand. He’s been a lasting influence on my singing style. Then in 1993 I was on a world tour with The Brian May Band – Brian is amazing to work with. In 1997 I was booked for a one-off radio performance as a backing singer with Jaydee, which led to me performing on their world tour.”
I’ve performed with Michael Bolton in a concert to raise funds for the children of Bosnia, and worked with the phenomenal Belinda Carlisle for over fifteen years. The Unplugged VH1 was a memorable gig. I’ve been so very lucky to have worked with, and got to know, many iconic figures in the music industry over the past few years.”
Aside from those individuals, who else has influenced Shelley’s music?
“How long have you got? Marvin Gaye, Rickie Lee Jones, Steely Dan/Donald Fagen, Joni Mitchell and Prince. I’m also influenced by Motown, early 70’s and 80’s funk. But I like all sorts of music and many people I’ve met along the way have had an impact. For example, I met Robert Plant when my ex-partner was his drummer, and after that I went a bit rockier with my vocals.”
So what’s next for Shelley?
“The past three years have been horrific for me personally after the pain of divorce. It’s also been tough professionally to the extent that I didn’t want to sing, write or even listen to music again. My personal and professional lives were so closely intertwined that everything was a painful reminder. But I’ve learnt to accept, forgive and move on; it’s in the past and the laughter is back in my life. I’m writing again and have lots of ideas. I’ve made a demo of a new song and am starting to book gigs in small venues. I’ll be performing some new material as well as all the songs I know the fans will want to hear. I’m working at my own pace which leaves me time to devote to my son in his last year of A Levels. For me it’s not about fame and fortune, but about performing and loving what I do for a living. My mantra now is ‘always live life forward’, that’s what I living by.”
As well as her passion for music, what else couldn’t Shelley live without?
My son, Ben, of course, and our pets Otis and Jinx who bring such joy and companionship into our home. And I can’t live without laughter. Ben made me laugh the other day when I suggested that I’m a ‘cool’ mum. He simply said “Er, no”. I love a home full of laughter!”
Talking to Shelley Preston about her life and her plans for the future, not only as a performer, but as a once again happy person, she certainly does sound ‘cool’.