Rock and roll royalty Belinda Carlisle is truly heaven-sent, and she has treated us to new music just in time for summer.
Her new EP Kismet – her first English language studio recording since 1997 – will be released tomorrow and proves to be a welcome return from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. The lead single, “Big Big Love,” penned by the legendary Diane Warren, has already reminded fans of what an amazing singer Belinda is, and the other tracks on the EP will keep fans old and new very happy.
Belinda is bringing her new music and solo and Go-Go’s classics across the country this summer on a 15-city tour that kicks off on July 1 in Peachtree City, Georgia.
From her early days in LA’s emerging punk rock scene to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Go-Go’s, Belinda has been a significant part of our collective musical memories. Her hits, including “Heaven is a Place on Earth”, “Mad About You,” and “I Get Weak,” are radio staples, and her music – both her solo work and her memorable hits with the Go-Go’s – has provided not only the soundtrack of our lives but have also appeared in some of our favorite films and TV shows and even on the Broadway stage with Head Over Heels.
Belinda told her story in her 2010 autobiography Lips Unsealed and was gracious enough to talk about the years since then, her inspirations, and her latest project with us in our exclusive interview.
Let’s talk about the new EP. We’re so glad you’re back. What brought you back to the music scene?
I’ve recorded two albums in the past 15 years. I did an album in French and a mantra album because I chant every day. I wasn’t really planning on doing another English-speaking pop project, really. My son ran into Diane Warren at a Coffee Bean or Starbucks or whatever, one of those places and she said, “What is your mom doing? Let’s call her.” So, they called me and she said, “I have some hits for you. Come down to the studio.” I thought, well, do I really want to commit like that? Because it’s a big commitment to do something – and I was kind of in “slowing down mode”. I went to the studio and she played the songs and they were amazing so I thought, okay, I’m in. And that was about a year and a half ago. We recorded five songs and they turned out great and here I am doing promotion for it. So, it wasn’t really planned. I wasn’t really planning to come back. I mean, I do stuff all the time, but pretty much under the radar, you know?
Why did you decide to name the EP Kismet?
Because of the whole thing about the chance meeting between my son and Diane and Kismet means meant to be, or luck or destiny. And it has kind of a magical sort of vibe. I love the word, you know, it’s like sparkly and magical and I thought, that’s perfect, that’s kind of how this whole thing happened, it was like kismet.
I mean, we were saying that in the studio, “It’s Kismet”. And then when it came time to have to name the EP, I thought “It’s Kismet”. I mean, it has to be…and the artwork that my friend John Stapleton did has that kind of kismet feeling to it all as well.
What are the other songs like on the EP?
There are five songs. One is a song called “If You Go”, which is more up-tempo dance. There’s a ballad called “I Couldn’t Do That to Me”. And then there’s a song called “Deeper Into You”, which is very similar to “I Get Weak”, sort of mid-tempo. And then there’s a really crazy song called “Sanity”, which is probably the weirdest song and the hardest song that I’ve ever sung in my entire life – but I managed it. They were all really, really good songs. I mean, [Diane] could have easily given these songs to a much younger artist in the charts but with this chance meeting and everything, it just came to me and I feel really, really lucky and blessed actually. Like I said, I wasn’t really planning on doing anything, but this is like a gift really, you know? I’m not really meant to slow down at the moment.
What appealed to you about “Big Big Love”?
I’ve always had a really good sense of what is good for me and I know what I love. I listen to the melody and if it gets me instantaneous…and “Big Big Love”, it was instantaneous. Then I look at the lyrics to see how I like the lyrics and I loved the lyrics to this. And the demo sounded a lot like Don Henley’s song, “Boys of Summer”, and had that keyboard line and I just really loved it, you know, and that’s why I did it. I mean, I looked at the songs and I read the lyrics to everything. If I can’t connect to the lyrics, I’ll ask the songwriter if there’s a way that we can, you know, change them a bit. But in this case, there was no reason to do that.
Now you’re taking this EP out on the road this summer. What can fans expect on the tour?
There’ll be songs from all of my solo albums except for my French album and my mantra album because the French album, I’ve done live before. I performed the whole thing live a few times and it’s not easy. And the mantra album…I tried that and it’s not really appropriate for a pop concert, so people expect to hear the hits. I do a lot of material from my previous solo albums and then, of course, I do a couple of Go-Go’s songs and I’ll probably do one or two songs off the EP.
In your autobiography Lips Unsealed, you talked about your musical influences like the Beach Boys and Queen as well as punk rockers like Iggy Pop. Who do you feel are your influences now?
I have to go back to the original singers and bands that inspired me back in the day. I mean, I still go back to that. I get that same feeling from Gaga, you know, because I love what she does and I think she is very unique. But I circle back to the Bee Gees. I listen to the Beach Boys a lot. I listen to a lot of punk. My taste is really eclectic, but I still have to go back to Debbie Harry and Chrissy Hyde, Dinah Washington and Patsy Kline. They still inspire me.
Now you’ve recorded eight albums, and I know it’s like picking a favorite child, but do you have a favorite song that you’ve recorded?
I always say it’s “Summer Rain.” I love the arrangement of that song, and that song actually was a big hit in a lot of countries, not in the States, but you know…people go crazy when that song is done live. For me, that’s a really fun song for me to sing. And there’s something about the string arrangement that I love and the melody that I love, it has that melancholy kind of feel to it, and I have a tendency to gravitate towards those types of melodies. So, I’d have to say “Summer Rain.”
Your songs have been featured in a lot of movies and TV shows. What was the coolest experience you’ve had in that respect?
I have to say Handmaid’s Tale. It was a couple of seasons ago when her friend was in the hospital and she was in critical condition or whatever. I have to be honest, I didn’t watch the episode, but I saw the excerpt and I saw the previous seasons. But when she sang it to her friend, she sang just acapella, I thought it was really amazing. And, you know, she’s an amazing actress, Elizabeth Moss, and it was really touching and I actually got kind of choked up by it. I’d have to say that was probably my favorite off the top of my head.
And also, I have to say the Go-Go’s in the Fast Times at Ridgemont High opening credits. Yes. And they’re at the mall. I mean that’s, I saw Fast Times about a year ago again, and I was like, oh my God. It’s like that’s how I grew up…at the mall in California, I worked at Swenson’s Ice Cream. But that whole scene just captures a moment in California and that was such a classic movie of its time and have the Go-Go’s as the theme song for that was amazing.
The theater nerd in me has to ask you about Head Over Heels. What was it like to hear your songs on Broadway?
Oh, I thought it was amazing and I thought that the whole storyline of it was so unusual – probably too unusual and probably way ahead of its time when you think about what’s going on now. Even when it was being worked on three years ago, so much has changed between then and now that it was so ahead of its time. I was really proud of it and I thought it was just genius, you know, adapting classical literature to Go-Go’s music. I thought it was amazing. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t do as well. There are a lot of things that probably should have been done differently, like releasing it in summer when all the New Yorkers go out of the city and all the tourists come in and they don’t want to see that, they want to see Frozen or Little Mermaid. So, it kind of got lost in the shuffle. But, that being said, it’s still being performed in high schools and theater companies all over the world. It was just in Manchester. It was just in Australia. So, the message of the play is really good and I love that it’s being performed in schools.
You wrote Lips Unsealed in 2010 and a lot’s happened to you since then. Do you have any plans to write a sequel?
I probably could and I’ve been approached about doing one because I’m an armchair traveler. When I’m not working, I’m traveling. I go on crazy trips. I’m going to on one in two weeks, I’m going to Southeast Turkey to do all the border of Syria and up to the Euphrates. I’d love to do a travel book, maybe, but that’s a big commitment too. But I’ve had lots of amazing, crazy adventures on my travels, so that might be interesting for me to do.
Yes, I was going to ask you about the traveling. You’ve been so many places, do you have a “happy place,” like your favorite place to visit?
I still love going to India. I love when I get off the plane, it’s a combination of pollution, incense, sewage and smoke. And I just go, “Ahh, I’m here.” You know? And I love it. That’s probably my favorite place. I love where I live. I love waking up here in Mexico City. It’s an amazing city. I love waking up in Paris, you know, but I think India still is my number one place. I love to wake up there…even though it’s not everybody’s, you know, cup of tea – that’s for sure.
Is there someplace you haven’t been yet that you want to see?
Yes, I want to go to Bolivia. I’m trying to get somebody to go with me in the springtime of next year, so that’s on. When I was a little girl, I did a big project on Tiahuanacu and Lake Titicaca. I’ve always wanted to see it and, you know, my travels have taken me other places, but that’s after this next trip. That’s the next trip I’m planning is Bolivia.
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you really want to do?
I can’t think of anything. I’ve kind of done most everything. I just did whitewater rafting a few years ago and that was horrible – but I did it. I did that in India on the Indus near Pakistan and that was really crazy. But I can’t think of anything else. I guess it would be going to Bolivia and and trekking in Bolivia. That’s probably it.
Now I’ve heard some rumors…are you planning on expanding Kismet out to a full album?
That’s a rumor. I mean, when we were in the studio, Diane said, “We should have done an album.” And it was at the end of recording everything and everything was mixed and it was set for release at a certain date, so it was kind of too late….I don’t know. I mean, I had such a great time working with Maddie Gabrielle, who produced everything and with Diane…it’s a pretty magical combination, so I don’t know. I’m not going to say no to anything – and I actually do have an album that I have to finish that I started before the pandemic with my friend Gabe Lopez, which is more like a cover album of songs from my growing up in California, but as far as another original English-speaking pop album, I’ll just say maybe. I don’t know. My plate is full at the moment.
I love the song “Gonna Be You” that you did for 80 for Brady with Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton and Gloria Estefan. I’m assuming that was another Diane Warren composition.
Yes, it was. I was in the studio singing my vocals and [Diane] said, “Do you want to sing with Dolly, Cyndi and Gloria?” I said yes and so everybody did their parts in different places and shot the video in different places. I thought it was great. I’m hoping that there’s an opportunity where we all get to sing the song in the same room. So, we’ll see. I’m sure something will come up.
This question is from my boyfriend. How did a girl like you get mixed up with Darby Crash?
Well actually, it’s funny because it happened when I was 17 and I was with my friend Lorna, who is Lorna Doom, who’s a bass player in the Germs…it was before the Germs and we went to the Beverly Hilton to get Freddie Mercury’s autograph and we see these two kids that are dressed crazy and we were dressed crazy. So, we were kind of staking each other out. We started talking to them and then they knew where Freddie’s room was. So we went up to Freddie’s room to knock on the door and he didn’t answer. I mean, it was these crazy kids looking through the peephole. But then, coincidentally, and this was like the very, very beginning of punk rock…and I loved the punk coming from England. I used to go to the record store every two weeks to buy NME and Melody Maker, all the music rags. And so, I knew what was going on and my best friend Terry (Lorna) knew what was going on too.
So, we saw a flyer somewhere, I forgot where it was. It said, looking for two untalented girls to join our band and we thought, perfect, that’s us. We called the number and coincidentally it happened to be Darby, the singer for the Germs and Pat Smear, who’s now in the Foo Fighters. So, we formed the Germs and, I mean, that was my tribe. I was always a contrarian anyway. And, I mean there are 50 kids in the whole scene. Everybody was in a band. And so, I was the drummer that never played because I got mononucleosis and had to go back to my parents’ house to recover. And when I came back to Hollywood from my parents’ house, my friend Becky from high school became the drummer and took my place and that was fine.
And then I was kind of the prop person. I’d hand Darby salad dressing and peanut butter and broken glass, you know, for the stage. And then I went on to be in Black Randy and the Metrosquad. I was a backup singer and then formed the Go-Go’s. But this was all from the early punk scene and I was right there from the very beginning, you know, I mean, it was my tribe.
It was an amazing time and we knew at the time that we were living through something that was really extraordinary. To go right from the end of the whole Laurel Canyon scene, into the punk scene – and there might have been like three or four years between the two. It was a really amazing time in Los Angeles.
Of everything that you’ve accomplished and it’s a lot, what are you proudest of?
Well, probably on a professional level, it would be, oh gosh, I think [being inducted into] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was amazing. And I didn’t really think it would be so amazing, to be honest. I didn’t really care until we were actually told that we were being inducted. And then the evening itself was probably one of the most amazing evenings of my whole life, I’d say. It was surreal feeling so much love…and if it hadn’t been for that documentary that came out three years ago, we could still be waiting to get inducted, but it was kind of long overdue. When people saw the documentary, they were going, oh my God, why aren’t they in there? I mean, it’s like a joke. So, you know, being a DIY, self-taught band, learning as we went along and then achieving what we achieved against all odds. So, I would say that – and getting the star on Hollywood Boulevard was pretty amazing too.
Kismet is available tomorrow on Amazon or wherever you buy or stream your music. Get tickets for Belinda’s tour here and keep up with her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.