Tuesday 21 November 2017

Susan Ann Sulley

Susan Ann Sulley, 47, is a singer with The Human League. Born in Sheffield, she still lives there with her partner, Martin, and her cat, Holly

Susan Ann Sulley

ost days, I get up about 7.30. My partner, Martin, works from home, so we get up together. The cat normally wakes me pre-alarm. My day is obviously very different when we're touring, but when I'm not working, I don't like to waste the day. There were probably periods of my life when I did do that. I make sure the cat is fed, clean her litter tray and I do the normal things that normal people do, like empty the dishwasher. Then I put on a bit of make-up and I go to the gym. I don't go out without make-up on. I'm vainer now than I was years ago. I always put make-up on for the gym.

There's a lot of pressure on people in the music business to look well, especially women. When we first started with The Human League, I went through a bad time with food. I would just stop eating to stay thin. I lived on coffee and Ryvita. It was a silly way to live and I regret an awful lot of my life through not enjoying food. There's nothing wrong with food, as long as you don't overindulge and you exercise.

I've lived in Sheffield all my life. At this stage, I'm part of the furniture. When I go to the gym, everybody knows what I do. They have some old-music channels on the televisions and every so often Don't You Want Me will come on, and everyone will turn around and go -- "You're on, Susan, you're on."

I go to the gym about three times a week, and after that I'll go to see my parents, who are both ill. My father has got Parkinson's and my mother has got Alzheimer's. They're doing really well and they still live in their house. Afterwards, I go to the supermarket. A couple of months ago, I was in Asda and a woman came up to me and said: "I would have thought you did your shopping in Marks & Spencer." I said: "There's nothing wrong with Asda." And she said: "Right on, see ya."

Some days, I go to the studio. We're recording an album at the moment. It'll always sound like The Human League, because Philip Oakey has such a distinctive voice. The thing about the 'revival' which I don't like is that we, as a group, have never stopped working. We never split up. We've had some bad times when we didn't do very much because we got dropped by the record company and we lost direction, but all through that we've always worked.

In the past 12 years, we've done a lot of live work and that's what has kept us going financially. When we first started to play live, we were rubbish, but now we put on a really good show. We try to do a British tour at Christmas every year, and we've done big tours of America and Australia. Last year, we made more money than we've ever made in our lives from a live point of view. We'll be coming to the Galway Arts Festival in July.

I'm 47 years old, and I'm not sad about being that age. I've lived a full and happy life. I've made mistakes, like everyone has, but I quite enjoy getting older. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. When Joanne and I first started in the group, we were schoolgirls. We had no money. We didn't even know what a designer was, and we had no money for magazines. We were doing our A-levels; we both had Saturday jobs. Our parents gave us spending money. All our clothes came from Oxfam jumble sales, then we'd alter them to make them look trendy.

We started in The Human League after Philip saw Joanne and me in a nightclub. We stood out to him because we looked a bit classy. We were probably wearing tartan trousers and black shirts and black hats. We were dancing and he thought, 'They'll fit in, and they obviously like The Human League music.' We were dancing to it. Some members had left the band and he needed new people to do a tour.

Originally, we were to dance, and if we could sing, it would be a bonus. When he asked us to go on tour to Europe for four weeks, he was very businesslike. On the night bus on the way home, Joanne said it was great to be asked, but our parents would never let us go.

Then we went to his studio, sang for him and he offered us the job. We had to get permission from our parents. I invited Philip to our house. He arrived in four-inch heels with his hair down and red lipstick, and he brought a scrapbook of all the stuff the group had done. Most of my men friends used to dress as women, so my parents weren't fazed by Philip. As soon as my father shook hands with him, I knew that we'd be able to go. The following day, my father went to the school and asked if I could get the time off. The school said they thought it'd be educational, and off we trotted a week later.

Soon, we'll be going on tour. It's the best thing in the world. You stay in lovely hotels, someone puts your suitcase on the bus and then you have lovely food. You go out on stage and have a fantastic time. We've known each other for a really long time, so we don't get on each other's nerves. Philip isn't intense at all. People get the wrong impression of him. He's thoughtful and a good laugh.

When people whinge about going on tour, I just think they don't know they're born. My dad used to work in a wholesale fruit market, where he had to get up at 4am every day of his adult life. That's worth moaning about.

When we started in The Human League in 1980, Sheffield was not a nice place. The coal mines and steel industries were closing, and so many people I knew were unemployed. Their only outlet was to make music or write books. But out of bad times, sometimes good things come. We've had our ups and downs, but we've had the best life. I've been to places that I could only dream off. I'm not a millionaire, but I've got a beautiful house. I'm a very lucky girl.


The Human League play on July 24 at the Galway Arts Festival which runs from July 12-25, see www.galwayartsfestival.com

Sunday Independent

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