Wakefield born singer Jane McDonald talks to Yorkshire Life
PUBLISHED: 00:04 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 08 September 2017
Wakefield lass, singing star, sparkly gown-lover and TV regular - talks to Tony Greenway about her Yorkshire Life
I have a theory and it's this: Jane McDonald is omnipresent. Once, I swear, I was watching her live on a BBC1 chat show, and then I switched channels and she was live on ITV, too. How does Jane do it? Perhaps she has magical powers of some kind. Or perhaps my TV is on the blink again.
Jane, who was born in Wakefield 45 years ago and now lives in a picturesque village near the town, occasionally guests stars on The Wright Stuff, Five's morning topical debate show. Turn on the television at lunchtime and there she is again on ITV's Loose Women. As I write this it is mid- August and Jane is appearing on TV most nights of the week in Return to the Cruise, a series revisiting the docusoap which made her a household name. She has a new album out so she's doing a bit of radio promotion, too; she's working on a collection of haute couture gowns bearing her name and she's touring with her big band, which means she is coming to a theatre near you very soon.
This, we tell her, just leaves cinema. 'Ha ha!' she hoots. 'What? Selling ice-creams?' This McDonald overload would be a bit too much if she wasn't so happy, chatty, friendly and downright nice. But she is. Even when replying to our most stupid questions...
Q: You seem insanely busy, Jane. You're everywhere.
A: The career has taken a few hits - I'm not going to lie - but you just have to ride it out. That's when a lot of people think: 'That's it. I better give it up and get a job.' No, just look at another avenue until what you've lost comes back. I've always been a realist. And I'm master of the back-up plan. That's working-class roots, you see.
Q: When you were growing up, who did you listen to, musically speaking?
A:Dusty Springfield. Absolutely Dusty. She had a haunting soul voice and I always went for that. And my mother was a big fan.
Q: Loose Women has been a runaway success for you. And with Joan Rivers' recent four-letter outburst on the subject of Russell Crowe, more people are tuning in than ever (Rivers, who was a guest, didn't realise the show wasn't being 'bleeped' and let rip with a foul-mouthed tirade about the Aussie star).
A: Oh my God! All the press we got out of that! We do talk about subjects that are quite near the knuckle. I've learnt such a lot and I can't believe how nave I was until I got on that show. The secret is that we're good mates so we insult each other every day. People like that because they know we're friends. It's not faked.
Q: You always seem very down-toearth and not at all 'starry'.
A: Ooh, God forbid. Give me a slap. I'm glad fame happened to me later in life, really. I've done the clubs and the cruise ships and supporting the bingo.
Q: But be honest. Can you be a bit of a diva? Can you throw a tantrum with the best of them?
A: Ooh, God yeah.Well, I'm a woman for a start off. It all looks very serene on top, but I'm like the proverbial swan going like billyo underwater. I'm lucky I've got the right team of people around me, so I don't have diva fits now, whereas I used to before.
Q: This summer you also appeared in Return to the Cruise, a look back at the cruise ship docusoap which started it all for you.
A: Yes. I'd been approached a few times to do it and I've always turned it down. Then I thought to myself: 'Hang on a minute, lady. Who do you think you are? This is the show that made you who you are today and you should embrace it.' I laughed the whole way through 'cos I thought it were hilarious. The voiceover said things like: 'Jane's really made it now because she's playing in... Macclesfield!' But I did play to 7,500 people in Macclesfield. I hope my fans weren't offended by it, because that series was very tongue-in-cheek.
Q: You haven't deserted Wakefield.
A: I love everything about Wakefield. I love my butcher - he gets a lot of plugs from me on Loose Women - everybody knows me and my mother and all my family are here. I run my office from Wakefield. It's funny. In London, when things first took off, I had all these people telling me I had to look a certain way and be a certain person... and I hated it. Now I've got people from Hemsworth around me, and things are bigger than ever.
Q: And if anyone is going to keep your feet on the ground...
A: ...folk from Hemsworth will! We have a right laugh as well. Yorkshire humour is something in itself. I'm lucky 'cos I'm on national television and people have got to know my humour - so when I go down south they still know what I'm on about.
Q: Do you have a favourite place in Yorkshire?
A: Ooh, blimey.Wakefield.
Q: Hmmm. We thought you might say that.
A:Well, it's my home. Love it to bits. I lived in the States for a while but I've never given up Yorkshire. I was in Fort Lauderdale, which was wonderful, but all I wanted was to come home. There's something about the greenery here and going down the local. I do live in a real life version of Heartbeat.
Q: When you were in America, you played Las Vegas didn't you?
A: I did. I keep getting asked to go back, but it's not my scene. I didn't like it at all. It was like an adult Disneyland. Also, my marriage was going wrong at the time, so I don't have great memories. But I were made up because Barry Manilow was playing in the next theatre and name-checked me. He said to his audience: 'You must go and see Jane McDonald.' Barry Manilow! I love him. I've recorded one of his songs on the new album.
Q: Do you have a favourite restaurant in Yorkshire?
A: I'm reluctant to tell you this, 'cos it's so tiny I don't want it to get too busy! It's called La Fortezza, in Newmillerdam. I love that. I eat there - and if I want a showbiz night out, I eat at Bibi's in Leeds.
Q: Is there anything you don't like about Yorkshire?
A: I'm getting a bit mad with all the building work going on and all the flats springing up.We've got a beautiful, beautiful county here. And the reason why Yorkshire is so beautiful is because it's lush and it's got some lovely spots. So I do think: 'Please keep the green belt.'
Q: When you play a concert in Yorkshire is it like coming home? Even though you... er... still live here? (Note to self: think these questions through before you ask them).
A: It is. I played the Leeds Grand the other night and it were very special. I've never seen anything quite like it. It was amazing. It's a bit frightening, though, when you play on your own doorstep because you want to be so good for them. But it is nice that you get to sleep in your own bed.
Q: What's best - recording, TV presenting or performing?
A: Performing. I love seeing the audience when I'm on stage and in m' frocks. That's my grown-up job. TV presenting is my second job.
Jane McDonald's new album 'Jane' is out now on JMD. Check tour dates on www.jane-mcdonald.com