Thursday 25 December 2014

Samantha Mumba on keeping up the LA grind

Tanya Sweeney talks to Samantha Mumba about staying in shape, life in LA, home comforts and her comeback tour

Samantha Mumba training at Body Byrne Picture: El Keegan

According to this week's news reports, singer Samantha Mumba is keen to have babies in the next few years. Something, alas, that has come as news to her.

"It's so funny when people you know are like, 'I see you're starting a family now'," she laughs when I ask if she plans to be an active mum-to-be. "I've been doing some press (for her tour and single) and I guess it's the question that gets asked. 'You're married now, when are the babies coming along?' It's definitely something I'd hope would be in my future and I think I would feel very blessed if and when it happens, but for now I really don't know what the future holds."

Currently in the throes of a nationwide comeback tour, putting her feet up is likely to be the last thing on the singer's mind. In fact, she is back with guns blazing ... and a very different outlook on her stop-start career.

"There'll be no dance routines on stage this time round," she smiles. "You'll never find me dancing on a stage again. Right now, it's just me and a really great live band. There's a lovely vibe, and I know people will expect to hear old stuff, but we've given those songs a new twist."

As she begins the latest incarnation of her music career, Samantha is keenly aware that she's no longer the lithe, bouncing pop prodigy she was in the late '90s and early Noughties.

"God, I was a scrawny teenager," she reflects. "I'm 31 now, and I swear that the second I turned 30, all of a sudden, stuff started sticking (on my body) where it hadn't stuck before. I had to seriously work hard for the first time."

Owing in part to strenuous dance routines, Samantha always had a gym membership down the years, but like most teenagers, was able to 'eat crap' without too many repercussions on her health.

"Whenever I was home, I was going out with friends, eating crap and drinking, so it all tied into that," she recalls. "When I slowed down, I think there was a point when I was about 22 that I put on a little bit of weight. But because I was so skinny as a teenager, I got those curves and believe it or not I felt better about myself. But it was never hard to lose weight I'd put on."

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However, old habits die hard. Now based in LA with her husband (policeman Torray Scales), and her young stepson Mason, Samantha admits that coming home to Dublin poses something of a special challenge to her wellbeing efforts.

"Let me tell you, the McDonald's here is better than it is in the US," she enthuses.

"And my mum has been doing a lot of cooking and spoiling. When you come home to Dublin for a few weeks, you end up having all the stuff you can't have at home (in LA). Brown bread, sliced pan, batch loaf ... I'm dying to have a crisp sandwich."

Regular transatlantic travel also has a way of messing with best laid plans: "When you're travelling on and off planes, it's so easy to eat crap," she admits. "But by now I've been doing it for so many years that the travel doesn't stress me out anymore. I have airports I'm familiar with, and I never eat plane food, so I'll know to get a sandwich in O'Brien's at Dublin's Terminal 2, and take that on the plane with me."

By her own admission, she was barely home in Ireland a week and knee-deep in Taytos and other home comforts when she called upon trainer Paul Byrne: "I remember emailing him in a panic and going, 'I have to stay on track with the fitness or I'll go mad!'"

As a Billie Barry stage school student, Samantha was always involved in dancing and theatrical goings-on as a child. Then as a teenager, her biggest passion became boxing.

"I watch it any time I can and to this day it's my favourite sport by a mile," she says. "In fact, I boxed all the time until one afternoon about four years ago, I swung a hook and pulled a shoulder out of its socket."

Alas, that put paid to Samantha's boxing hobby ... and her fitness efforts almost came undone altogether.

Irish Independent

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