Belinda Carlisle is truly one in a million. Throughout her decade-spanning career, she has proven to be one of those rare, standout voices who continue to resonate with audiences on both sonic and emotional levels. Along the way, not only has she secured her place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside her bandmates in the Go-Go’s, but as a solo artist, she has scored more than twenty top-charting global singles from five solo albums that have achieved gold, platinum, and multi-platinum sales marks. While some artists are content to fade quietly into the sunset, that isn’t Belinda’s style, as she remains open to whatever challenges the universe might throw her way. Such is the story with the ‘Kismet’ EP, releasing May 12th via RAF/BMG, which ushers in the next exciting chapter in her story!
The captivating five-song EP marks the pop icon’s first new English language studio recording since 1997 and celebrates a triumphant reunion with the incomparable songwriter Diane Warren. Belinda and Diane first collaborated in 1987 for Belinda’s second solo album, ‘Heaven on Earth,’ which featured the Diane Warren penned songs “I Get Weak” and “World Without You,” and also the anthemic “Heaven Is A Place On Earth,” the track that shot to the top of the charts all over the world and established Belinda Carlisle as a global star. While none of us can be truly sure of what the future holds, one thing is certain — the undeniable energy of the ‘Kismet’ EP will soon have fans falling in love with Belinda Carlisle all over again!
Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently sat down with Belinda Carlisle to discuss her legendary career, the lessons she learned along the way, and what went into bringing her outstanding new ‘Kismet’ EP to life.
You’ve established yourself as one of the all-time greats and were even inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Looking back on your journey, were there a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to this point?
I don’t know. Gosh, how do I answer that question? I guess it has been blood, sweat, and tears. However, at the same time, I’ve always loved it. I love challenges! I’ve been around long enough that there have been a lot of highs and a lot of lows too. I love to sing, and I love making music. I especially love being in the studio as well as being on stage. I’m lucky to do this for a living, so it’s not like it is draining. It’s a lot of work, but at the same time, there is a lot of pleasure as well.
What have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
I’ve definitely learned a couple of lessons over the course of my career. The first is to always stick to your guns. I’ve always had 100% artistic control for the most part, and many artists don’t get that. The Go-Gos had that, and I had that at the beginning of my solo career. I’m very fortunate to have been able to create my own image, not that anything has ever been that contrived. I’ve always been given the go-ahead from the record companies to do what I want. The one time that I didn’t stick to my guns, it was a huge mistake because that song became a huge hit that the record company didn’t like, and I did. So, I took that lesson and thought, “From now on, I’m really going to have to be strong with my opinions on how I want a record to sound. I can’t kowtow to a big corporation. I won’t do it anymore.” The other lesson that I’ve learned is the importance of saying no. That is one lesson we didn’t learn being in The Go-Gos. As young artists, we did everything asked of us, and we burnt out really early. In retrospect, if we had said, “We want to take a good year or two years off..” after ‘Beauty and The Beat,’ it might have been a different story. I don’t have any regrets about that because everything happened the way it did, but it was a really important lesson to learn. Those are the two big lessons I’ve learned in my very long career!
What fuels your creative drive nowadays?
To be perfectly honest, I’m not that driven! [laughs] I’m not! I’ve been really lucky to be doing what I’m meant to be doing in my life. I wouldn’t have believed that 40 years ago! I guess there was a certain amount of drive during my first three or four solo albums, but after that, I’ve just kinda winged it. Especially now. I only do fun things, and I don’t do things because I have the drive to put something out there and succeed. That’s just not really who I am. For example, with this new project, a lot of weird little coincidences led to the making of the ‘Kismet’ EP and the release of the single “Big Big Love.” It wasn’t about drive at all. It was about coincidence and loving the material that was given to me.
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The ‘Kismet’ EP is exciting, marking your reconnection with legendary songwriter Diane Warren. Tell us a little bit about your path to this new project.
Over the past few years, I made two albums. One was in French, and the other was a mantra album. I speak French and love French pop, so that wasn’t a huge departure from where I came from. The chanting album came about because I chant every day and know its power. I did that because I wanted to do it. As I said, I can only work from my heart. The French album was the first time I did that in my long career. I was always beholden to the company and jumped through hoops for them, but I also wanted to jump through those hoops. Before this project, I planned on slowing down and semi-retiring. I had no intention of making another English-speaking pop album, to be totally honest.
Then, my son ran into Dianne Warren at a coffee shop. She said, “Let’s call your Mom!” So, they called me up, and Dianne said, “Come to the studio. I have some hits for you.” I have to admit, I was very hesitant about doing that because it is a big commitment. As I said, I was at a point in my career where I was thinking of slowing down. So, I went to the studio. When I heard the music, I was like, “Oh my God! It would be stupid not to do it!” I absolutely loved the songs! It was another chance to work from a place of joy instead of feeling like I had to turn these out. I knew that the material was really, really good. It’s on par with some of the better songs I’ve recorded, like “Circle In The Sand” or “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.” It was just luck, circumstance, and a little bit of magic!
What do you recall about meeting Diane Warren for the first time back in the day?
The first time I met Diane was when she came over to Rick Nowels’ house to play “I Get Weak” for me on the piano. I said to her, “Oh, my God! Why aren’t you recording this? You have such a great voice!” She was like, “Ahhhhh, no.” She was so funny! Then, the second time I met her, I remember going to where she worked. I think I headed there to listen to a few other songs she had for the “Heaven” album. Then, I went to her office, a little office on the 10th floor of a 20-story building on Sunset. In her office was a piano, and the rest was floor-to-ceiling with cassette tapes. Now, she owns that building, and another one around the corner! Obviously, she’s very successful. Besides being a great songwriter, she is a super nice person. I respond just as much to that as being a great songwriter. It truly is a joy to work with her. I really admire her as an artist and her work ethic. Reconnecting with her for this EP was almost like coming home. She is very nurturing, very caring, and passionate about her writing. It was a really wonderful atmosphere to work in!
What spoke to you about the songs that Dianne Warren presented to you?
I first respond to songs melodically. I’ve always loved complicated melodies that are on the melancholic side. I responded to that first, like, “Oh my God! These melodies are amazing!” Then I take a look at the lyrics. I always thought, and I was wrong about this, that if I was to do another English-speaking pop record, I would have to do something age-appropriate. I’m 64 years old, and I’ve been there and done — practically everything! [laughs] I realized that was the wrong mindset for this. Ya know, they’re romantic songs about love. My husband and I’s anniversary is today, and we’ve been married for 37 years, but I’ve also had other experiences with love and relationships. Putting myself back there and singing these lyrics was so much fun. Not only do I have to respond to the melodies, but I have to respond to the song lyrically as well. I say that because I have to be able to resonate with it. With these songs, I could put myself back in a different time, sing those lyrics and really mean them! It’s almost like acting in a way, so it was a lot of fun!
As an artist, you learn something about yourself and your craft with each new project. So what was your biggest takeaway from bringing the ‘Kismet’ EP to life?
I’ve learned to not be so close-minded about what is presented to me. That was a big lesson. Previously, I thought, “No, no. I’ll never sing a song about love because it’s silly being my age.” As I said, I was totally wrong about that. That attitude may open up a whole new world for me if I want to do something else. I really don’t know. I usually take things as they come. There was something so beautiful about the way this whole thing came together. It was almost as if the universe said, “You can’t retire yet. You still have some more to do.” That was being told to me in a very, very strong way. So then, I recorded these songs and went on the road. I just finished a sold-out tour in the UK. It was three or four thousand people a night. Twenty years ago, when I was playing the UK, it was literally 20 people! I struggled a lot in my personal life, so seeing people’s reactions to this uplifting pop music was incredible. There seems to be a real need for it, and maybe I’m still meant to provide that for people, especially in the world we are living in.
The cover art for ‘Kismet’ is a lot of fun and captures your spirit and the spirit of the songs. Tell us a bit about how that came about.
“Kismet” means sort of “meant to be.” It has a whimsical meaning that combines magic and coincidence, so I wanted to have whimsical artwork, and we needed to get it done fast. So, I asked my friend Don Stapleton, who has been my and the Go-Go’s makeup artist for years. He’s very talented, so he put something together, and it really fits the project!
You’ve touched on it already, but what is your outlook for the future regarding music?
I don’t know. I do have another project going that I had put on hold with Gabe Lopez. It’s another album called “Once Upon A Time In California.” That’s about 75% complete. I have to finish that, which I will probably do early next year! After that, I don’t know. I’m not a big planner and schemer! [laughs] That’s just the way I have always been. Things have always just come to me, and then I pick something out when I know if it’s right or not. At this point, I truly don’t know if I will do anything else.
You have some tour dates coming up this summer in the United States. What can we expect from those shows? Will fans get to hear the new material from ‘Kismet’ performed live?
The show we did in the UK was mostly the hits from my solo albums and a few Go-Gos. To answer your question, yes! Yes, there will definitely be one or two songs off the new EP that will also go in there!
When you hit the stage to perform, you always make it look so effortless. When do you feel you came into your own regarding your live performances?
It was after I got sober, which was about 18 years ago. It was strange because I always felt a little bit insecure. The Go-Gos was easy for me because I had the security blanket of four other people. I remember going out on stage for the first time as a solo artist; it was petrifying! I wasn’t that comfortable, but I could still do it. After I got sober, I was worried. I thought it would be difficult because I had always had a few drinks before I went on stage. It was actually a lot easier for me to get onstage and lose myself in the music. It’s almost as if I am not even there, and it’s a lot more enjoyable, and I feel really, really comfortable. I’m finally confident with my singing voice, which is not the best voice in the world, but it definitely has personality! I’m confident in that, making being onstage as a solo artist a lot easier. I love it! I’m lucky that my band makes me feel secure. They’re great musicians, and they make me look really good!
In my eyes, and many others, you are one of the greats. Do you give much thought to your legacy?
Not really, no. The first time I gave it any thought was when I saw The Go-Gos documentary for the first time on the big screen. I thought, “Oh, my God! We did all that?!” I knew we did it, but seeing it told as a story was pretty impressive! So, I don’t really think about it. Then, of course, there is a song that just came out called “Belinda Says.” If that isn’t evidence that you’re a part of pop culture, I don’t know what is! [laughs] While I don’t think about it, I’m blown away by all of it.
Another example is the year when “Black Mirror” was nominated for an Emmy. Each time the show won an award, the orchestra would go into “Heaven Is A Place On Earth.” I thought, “Wow! That’s pretty cool!” I’ve been really lucky! I’ve been doing this since 1977 with either a punk band or as a solo artist. I’ve had a lot of incredible moments. I’m a dinosaur! [laughs] I’m one of those dinosaurs I used to complain about as a teenager! “Go away!!!” [laughs] I’ve had many of those moments, and it’s cool when they come up, but I don’t dwell on them.
You’ve also used your platform to make a big splash outside the world of music. Tell us about the Animal People Alliance and the impact it has made.
I do think a lot about that, actually! I co-founded the organization in 2013. Animal People Alliance is based in Calcutta, India, and Chiang Rai, Thailand, on the border with Myanmar. It is a two-fold mission. It started out serving the street animals of Calcutta while creating employment for vulnerable, lower cast people with disabilities or those affected by other circumstances. It’s tough in India! So, we train them, and they have well-paid jobs in India, where they serve the street animals or Calcutta. Then, in Chiang Rai, we work a lot with the hill tribes and stateless people to create employment for them. That is most adoption, spaying/neutering, and rabies prevention in India and Thailand. It’s been very, very successful. We’ve treated almost 35,000 animals in 9 years!
Before I let you go, I have another question since you inspire so many. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
I would say, of course, “Don’t Do Drugs.” Aside from that, “Carpe Diem.’ Seize the day! Make every day count. That is one thing that I’ve done. I’ve done many things in my career and life, lots of really wild things. I don’t have that fear in me, which is a good thing. I’m not sure why that chip is missing, but that is part of the reason. Anything that you want to do, just do it! Anything is possible! The Go-Gos are a perfect example of that, against all odds! We loved what we were doing and wanted to be successful, so we manifested that! You can manifest anything you want!
That is a great way to put it! Thanks so much for your time today, Belinda. I speak for many people out there when I wish you all the best and hope you keep the good stuff coming our way for years to come!
Thank you, Jason! Thank you so much!
‘Kismet,’ the highly-anticipated five-track digital EP from Belinda Carlisle, features five new songs, all with words and music by Diane Warren. The EP is scheduled to be released on May 12 via RAF/BMG. Click here to score it on your preferred platform!
Belinda Carlisle 2023 U.S. Tour Dates
July 1 – Fred Amphitheatre / Peachtree City, GA
July 4 – TBA
July 6 – Stephanie H Weill PAC / Sheboygan, WI
July 9 – North Shore Center for the Performing Arts / Skokie, IL
July 11 – The Rose Music Center at The Heights -/ Huber Heights, OH
July 14 – Melody Tent / Cape Cod, MA
July 15 – South Shore Music Circus / Cohasset, MA
July 17 – Sony Hall / New York, NY
July 18 – NYCB Theatre at Westbury / Westbury, NY
August 18 – Blue Note Summer Sessions / Napa, CA
August 20 – August Hall / San Francisco, CA
August 22 – House of Blues Las Vegas / Las Vegas, NV
August 24 – Libbey Bowl / Ojai, CA
August 26 – Honda Center / Anaheim, CA
August 27 – Greek Theatre / Los Angeles, CA
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.