Barbara Dickson is excited. She’s busy rehearsing with her band, preparing for a 24-date tour around the UK which kicks off next month on March 17. “The magic starts when we play together,” she says from her Edinburgh home. “I’ve been playing with the same band for years and am making music with people I love being with.
“It’s even better when I’m up on stage and performing in front of a live audience. That’s when I get goosebumps. It’s a kind of alchemy. I love playing live in front of an audience as much as I did when I started out in the Sixties, performing in folk clubs and working men’s clubs in Scotland.”
In addition to singing new material from her most recent albums, Ballads and Blether, and Time is Going Faster, Barbara will be performing her hits – much- loved tracks such as Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Caravan Song and January, February – on tour. Does she ever get tired of singing these numbers?
“Never – and I can’t imagine I ever will. Actually, I probably don’t sing them enough! My audiences love those songs as much as I do and I see how much joy it brings when I perform them.
I’ve been playing with the same band for years and am making music with people I love being with
“The songs have an intimate quality that people seem to love and hearing them takes them back to a special time in their lives – maybe they met their life partner at the time when the song was released or they got engaged or married. It’s a kind of spiritual thing, I think. My audiences come and see me because they love those songs and I know they’re what they want to hear.”
Now aged 74, the Dunfermline-born singer says she intends to carry on performing for as long as possible.
“I love singing as much as I ever did and have absolutely no plans to stop. Why should I? If I was a fine artist, I wouldn’t be expected to stop painting just because I’m 74. As long as I’m fit and well, I’ll carry on. If I was really rubbish and thought that I no longer sounded good, I’d stop.
“I’m my own harshest critic and I know there will come a time when I won’t be able to do it anymore – or I’ll feel I can no longer be bothered. But even when I stop I’ll still be involved with music and performing in some shape or form. I may teach singing or pass on my knowledge of stagecraft. But that’s all in the future. It still sounds great.”
Barbara, who has been married to TV director Oliver Cookson for almost 40 years and has three grown-up sons, doesn’t look that much different to how she did when she wowed TV audiences in the Seventies and Eighties, won Olivier awards for her stage performances in musicals Spend, Spend, Spend and Blood Brothers and became something of a muse for Andrew Lloyd Webber. What’s her secret?
“There isn’t one,” she laughs. “I just look after myself. I decided to take up running during the first lockdown. I felt I should do something active what with the gyms being shut – not that I went to the gym that often, and I rarely worked up a sweat. It was hard-going at first – horrendous, in fact. I couldn’t run at all – I’d jog for about ten yards before doubling up and hanging over the back of a park bench – but I made myself do a bit more every day. Now I’m running about 3km every weekday – I take the weekends off. I don’t like pounding pavements so I run in the park on the grass, where I can see the trees. I love it and even like running in the rain. I get such a sense of achievement when I finish. It’s the endorphins and I feel great on it.”
I decided to take up running during the first lockdown– it was horrendous at first!
She also keeps a close eye on what she eats and drinks. “I eat within an eight-hour window and have, whenever possible, just one meal a day,” she says. “Usually a late lunch/ early dinner. It’s great for my metabolism. I don’t drink much alcohol, either. Just the odd glass of something at weekends. That’s not a moral thing, by the way. If you like a drink, have one! But being quite strict with myself, combined with running, is something that works for me.
“It’s not about being thin. If you get too thin at my age, you can get very, very wrinkly. It’s about feeling well and, touch wood, I feel very, very well at the moment. But listen, it could all go to doo-doo at any time and there’s no way I’m telling people what they should or shouldn’t do, but it works for me. Hopefully, I’ll live as long as my mum who passed away at 90 in the Noughties.”
For tickets and more information about Barbara’s tour, visit barbaradickson.net