HEART TO HEART
Scottish singer Sheena Easton reflects on the tough choices she’s made.
From “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and “For Your Eyes Only” to “Strut” and “The Lover in Me,” Scottish singer Sheena Easton’s gorgeous voice on big hits helped define the 1980s. Exciting detours (like playing Don Johnson’s wife on Miami Vice) made her a pop-culture sensation. But the two-time Grammy winner’s career took a back seat to motherhood in the ’90s after she adopted the loves of her life, son Jake, 24, and daughter Skylar, 22. “When I chose to become a mom, I knew I would have to make changes in my life, so I dialed my career back,” Sheena,
59, shares with Closer. “I was 36 years old when I adopted my son, so I knew what I was getting into. This was something I really wanted to do.” Luckily for her fans, Sheena is back, recently performing at the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den in Connecticut, and she’s planning more concert dates for next year. Though she’s had a rocky road in love with four divorces over the years, “I made a choice to put my family first,” she says, “and that helped me stay sane.”
You’ve sold more than 20 million records, had more than 20 songs in the Hot 100 and you’re the first artist to have top-five records on five major Billboard charts.
Really? I was lucky that in my day when I was putting out records, I had a diverse, eclectic catalog. I did pop, R&B, a country duet with Kenny Rogers [“We’ve Got Tonight”]. I love country and like to use it in my show. It makes me feel good to know I made a mark in music along the way.
With so many hits, how do you choose what to sing in concert?
I like to make a night of nostalgia. Fans that have been coming to my show for years know that I like to give them the hits they are expecting, but I change it up a bit. I retire some for a while and then bring them back out again. I also like songs that influenced me as I was coming up, that mean something to me personally, and I want my shows to have meaning. I want each song in there for a reason.
What are the top songs fans ask for?
I don’t do requests, but long-term fans have different favorites from different albums, so that’s hard to say.
Is there one that speaks to you the most?
Gosh, we are talking 40 years of doing this! It is cyclical. It’s kind of like your kids: there’s no particular favorite, but one can make you smile at times more than another.
People also remember your wedding to
Don Johnson’s character in Miami Vice....
Playing that role was life changing. It was a big deal for Don’s character. It was a very highprofile thing and one of my early acting roles, so there was a lot of attention. It got crazy!
When we filmed the wedding scene, it was hard to get the shots because helicopters were hovering over us to take pictures as if this was a real celebrity wedding! They wanted pictures of Don Johnson getting married. It is not real, folks! This is fake, for a TV show. That was before all of today’s nutty paparazzi. But it was a blast, and Don was a pleasure to work with.
Was he a good kisser?
Absolutely! I think he had a lot of practice.
How do you prep for a concert?
I have certain routines. I come in wearing jeans and a T-shirt and no makeup and probably whatever I am cranky about that day. Then you have to transform your attitude, opening yourself up to give to the audience.
How do you do that?
Sometimes I start my day not feeling particularly creative, but then I get my head into that mind-set: you put on the hair, the makeup, the clothes and get ready to be Sheena Easton the performer as opposed to Sheena Easton the mom, the friend, the daughter or the one who’s cranky that day.
Any main differences between the two?
I am low-key. I like to hang out with a friend or be with my family. Family is a big thing for me right now.
What made you want to adopt kids?
I’d had a full-blown, nonstop “me-fest” up to that point. It was all about me, my career and what I wanted to do, and I knew that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew I did not want that to be the focus. I decided to put the kids first and I have never regretted it. I’ve been so blessed, and blessed that fans still come to see me even though I have stopped making records.
You mentioned being in the business for 40 years. How are things different now?
There were more nerves back then. I felt I had to live up to other people’s expectations of what I should be. Record companies need you to be out there promoting a new album or single, and there is an awful lot of pressure that goes into it. The performance side of it felt like work. Now I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I want to.
Has that changed your performances?
I enjoy it much more now, and as a result, there is more excitement, because I really look forward to the gigs I do. I don’t do a ton of them anymore.
And your kids changed things?
I adjusted my life where it was going to be
“I don’t care as much as I used to about what other people think. I feel more confident, and do things for the love of it.” — Sheena
home time, family time and work time. It was not going to be about being on the road all of the time and dragging your kids everywhere
— that is the life they once had to live. I established a routine and put more time into my kids.
Now that they’re in their 20s, what’s it like for you?
I really have it down to a routine that I like. I have a very normal home life. Last year I decided to do something different: I had not done theater or Broadway in years, and I was asked if I wanted to go to London and do 42nd Street. I spent 14 months over there, did eight shows a week, came back in March and essentially took the rest of the year off. I told my agent, let’s book some gigs. I am ready to go back out there. Now we are gearing up to do one or two a month.
That’s great! When can we see you again?
It’s pretty much fundraiser benefits, corporate dates and a few public shows lined up in 2019. I am looking forward to getting back out and seeing the fans again.
And your kids must love getting to hear you sing private concerts to them!
Are you kidding? If I tried that, I got the eye roll. I would hear, “Mom, for God’s sake, enough!” Any child of an entertainer gets over it real fast.
Sheena nabbed a 1982 Best New Artist Grammy for her self-titled 1981 debut LP with “Morning Train” and “ModernGirl.”