Shakin Stevens: 'I'd work to give money to mum, but all I wanted was to perform'

Shakin Stevens: 'I'd work to give money to mum, but all I wanted was to perform'


Welcome to‘s The Big Questions, where we ask, well, the big questions (and the smaller ones too), and this week, we’re diving deep with Shakin’ Stevens.

The Marie Marie singer is celebrating over 50 years in the business and has no plans to slow down as he prepares for the release of brand new album Re-Set.

Real name Michael Barratt but known affectionately as Shaky, the Welsh native grew up the youngest of 13 children and always had his sights set on music, going on to become a record-breaking performer.

Having performed at Glastonbury, created one of the absolute juggernauts of Christmas music and returning full of renewed energy on his latest album, sat down with the star to ask him about the past and present.

So, just what makes Shakin’ Stevens tick?

Your new album Re-Set is newly out and feels very nostalgic – what does it mean to you?

It means a lot. It’s a view about life. George, the first track, is about my uncle who died in 1919 – 30 years before I was born. It’s a sad story about a young man who spent most of his life in mental institutions. Hundreds of miles away from his mother and family. Two backing singers who were in the studio asked to hear the track and tears started coming down their eyes. It’s one of those songs.

The style of it is gospel, blues, American, rock. And there are ten tracks, there’s a good mix there, and we’re very pleased with it, it took a long time to do it. It wasn’t one of those things where you take a couple of days to put it all together. It takes time to find a tune and the lyrics. It was a long time putting it together.

Did you always know music is what you wanted to do?

Yes! It was a long time ago, it was different times then. When I was growing up, in that particular time, they just got on with it. Those were the times you’d have big families. I was the youngest of 13 children.

I always knew what I wanted to do. It started basically when I was in junior school. There was always a record player in our house, it was actually a wind-up record player with a horn on it. There was always music there. And when I went to school the teacher was looking for someone to sing Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O, and word went round the school that I could sing. So I did that.

And when I left school I had jobs – you’d work and give money to your mum and stuff like that. But my eye was deadly on singing and starting a group and getting up there. That’s all I wanted to do really, was perform and make good music. It took a long time, we went through the days where we used to sleep in vans. But here I am still doing it.

Do you have a standout moment, looking back on it all?

Marie Marie, [originally by The Blasters, covered and released by Shaky in 1980 and his first top 20 hit.] I was doing interviews, and this guy said, “Come to the house and I’ll play you a trick.” He played Marie Marie and I thought, “Ooh, that sounds interesting!”

I asked for a copy of it, and he said, “Be my guest.” So as soon as I got back to England the first thing I did was go to the studio with a band and we performed Marie Marie – and then I was told, “You’ve had success here now, you should spread your wings and see if you can do it in another country”. They released it in Germany and it reached number 19 and stayed there for nine months.

Did you have an ‘I made it’ moment?

Well, you have to keep going at it really. But I was invited to do Glastonbury which was a big honour. Those big names from America, from around the world – for me to be invited to Glastonbury was a great thrill basically. And on the main stage! I enjoyed it

But you have to keep going and keep at it and try and be with the right people. It’s hard out there but you’ve got to take the falls with the highs and get on with it.

Many of your fans have been with you since the beginning – what has your favourite interaction with a fan been?

It was in Glastonbury actually. When I came out on stage somebody had made a huge green door. They put their hands in the air and you could see this green door through the crowds. That was memorable indeed.

What is your favourite thing about performing live?

It’s just in the blood. My family loved music, we liked tunes, dancing and things like that. I certainly liked that! I like what I do and we try and do our best to be creative and move along with the music. This [album] different to what I’ve done before.

Do you have anything left on the bucket list to achieve?

More albums! And I like touring. When somebody buys the album then there’s nothing like it, but seeing people coming to a show… it’s a great thrill when you look out and see the audience out there.

It’s like, you can see in their faces they’re really having a great time. It’s like one big party.

Shakin Stevens’ new album Re-Set is out on April 28.

What does Shakin’ Stevens’ weekend look like?

How do you spend a typical Saturday?

If the weather is really good with the sunshine looking down …I am looking forward to getting out to the garden. I say this because we haven’t been in the garden for quite a while because of being very busy with the album and interviews. I hope we have some sort of a sunny day soon, and get out there. We also go to the gym every week for a hour or so but we love it in the garden. It refreshes you and picks you up.

How has your weekend changed?

Well, we did a Status Quo tour right before Christmas and that was a lot of work – but very enjoyable. I’m not one to sit around and neither is my wife. We’re full all the time.

What TV shows or films have you watched recently?

We watched a film recently that goes way, way back: Singing In The Rain. A fabulous, fabulous film.

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