Sister Sledge are no strangers to Australia having only performed on our shores last year. Now they are back for the Summer Sessions touring with The Jacksons, Kool and the Gang, The Pointer Sisters, Village People and the Sounds of the Supremes. Australia’s biggest ever Motown party goes national starting off in Sydney and reaching Adelaide Friday 18th January at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
While Sister Sledge are known for their iconic 70s hit, We Are Family they have so many more hits most that came from the album of the same name. Kim Sledge chatted to HI-Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles and told us some great stories of how that iconic hit song came about and what we can expect when they perform live.
Sister Sledge are no strangers to Australia. You have toured here before. Are you excited about the Summer Series Tour now expanded to include more Australian cities?
I am so excited. We are looking forward to it! We love Australia. It’s such a beautiful place.
This time your touring with The Jacksons, Kool and the Gang, The Pointer Sisters just to name a few, have you performed with these artists before and are you excited by the opportunity to play alongside these great artists?
We’ve played with them all at different times. Yes, and very much so close and we have a wonderful concert history as well as performances together. It’s exciting. I think its going to make a fantastic overall show. It will be full of energy and excitement and we all have a mutual respect for one and other. It’ good and it will be an amazing concert!
Can we look forward to you joining the others for some singing collaborations on stage?
I don’t know. You know a lot of the time these things happen impromptu. I know that each one for instance earlier in our career we did a tour with The Jacksons actually with Michael he was a part of it and it was the brothers against the sisters. It was like this competition between us and it was crazy fun. The Pointers Sisters we toured more recently with but very very early on in our career we also did something with them and they were so kind to us. They were encouraging us when we first started so it will be good to work with them again. And Kool and the Gang of course we see all the time. So, I’m sure that somewhere between all of us sometimes these things are developed backstage you know. We just talk things up and they happen!
Do your daughters sing as well? Have they performed in Sister Sledge?
Both my daughters sing. Actually, my daughter Julie just toured with us in London. So yes, both of them are artists. And they have performed with Sister Sledge. It’s a family affair!
Do you still enjoy doing the live shows? Is it still as exciting as when you first started?
Absolutely. And I believe the reason is because it’s a joy! Having done this for so long and when we first started out the one thing that my Grandma shared with us that when you’re performing you are actually interacting with an audience that you can be heart to heart and its so important to do the live show. To see people’s eyes, you know what they’re are feeling, they are feeling you and that’s when the energy starts. There is synergy going and I love it!
What Sister Sledge song is your favourite to sing live?
I love singing We Are Family and Thinking of You.
I love Thinking of You! That’s my favourite song!
Really? That’s my absolute favourite too! Oh, I love that song. Every time we do it, we do it different.
I remember hearing you sing it live last year. It’s one thing to hear it on the radio and another to hear it live.
Yeah and to sing it together with the audience and it becomes everybody’s song.
Getting back to We Are Family that album was obviously one of your most successful which was written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. What was it like working with them and can you give us a bit of history how that all came about?
Oh yes! You going to hear the true version of the story now! We started when we were young in elementary school in junior high. We’d been performing for quite some time in Europe until actually deciding it’s been enough and we decided it was time to go on to University to pursue our individual careers. And a friend of mine who worked for Atlantic Records and they just signed Nile and Bernard were looking for an act to work with them. So, we got together in the studio and it was a very interesting session. We had been trained by our Grandmother who was an opera singer. So, we were taught to save money when you go in the studio. Go in totally prepared. Discipline was everything! So, when we got to go into the studio all of us knew to get it done quickly.
We had a reputation of recording an album in two weeks. It was sort of something that we tried to do but these guys they didn’t want to show us anything. Their whole concept was spontaneity. So, we were not shown the songs nor the words, nothing until we got into the studio. So everyday was a new song and some of the songs they were writing as we went along. We Are Family was the last song they showed us and that day they had wrote the words. They said “we watched you, we’re writing about you” and that’s how it came about. And we went into the studio and it was a one session chance and we went straight in and did that song. It was a party in the studio. So, all those things you hear in the sound it was true. We were just laughing and singing and dancing in the studio and we just recorded it in one take and that was it. It was done!
And the rest is history and now its such an iconic song!
And the rest is history and yes thank you. It is such an iconic song now. I’m so grateful to both Nile and Bernard that I think they excellent. You know I love Bernard. I think he’s the best bass player, one of the best that ever was. And Nile. We all know Nile is the best as well. Yeah, I’m just very very grateful. You got the true story there!
Its interesting because talking to other artists that have worked with Nile and Bernard, they tell a similar story of how they work in the studio.
I do appreciate them. You learn to appreciate them because of the different style of teaching. Of course, with my Grandmother it was about discipline and studying music but with the different types of music the energy and spontaneity particularly when we do it on stage you never know what’s going to happen. Something new may happen and you touch it at that moment and you just seize it. And I think that’s what was such a wonderful thing and that’s not normally done in a studio. That’s just usually live so it was definitely unique.
What are the most fun and cherished memories of your career?
Oh there’s so many amazing moments. A couple of things I will tell you, BB King toured around the world and I will say he was an amazing artist who was so open to share the secrets of performance. He was one of the most humble, gifted artists I’ve ever met. And he would just share anything about performance with us. I treasure those times of being with these artists and it didn’t matter that their style or their general difference but performance for an audience and recognise that’s its absolutely something that God has given you to share with artists I think there’s a passion and a devotion and a sincerity in artists who are open to give and to share. James Brown. Oh, James Brown was an amazing artist. What an amazing man!
I can’t say he had the same manner as BB King but I had the utmost respect for his professionalism. He believed in his work and music was in his soul. Its was just an honour to perform with him as well.
I’m trying to remember some little special moments. I would say that Michael Jackson was equivalent to James Brown. I’ve never seen energy in a soul like Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson in his style being different was illuminating. There was a supernatural energy an illumination on his ability. I can’t even describe it. We’ve worked with so many artists (laughs).
Has working with these amazing artists helped you with your stage show and performance? Has that helped you with your stage presence?
Absolutely because I think what it does is encourage each other. There’re things we learn from each artist particularly when you are first starting out. I believe the spirit and the heart of a person is a very very integral part of performance and for those who have this passion who were created to perform. Created to take the music, the presence. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ. That happens to be my faith and I believe the spirit and the heart of what is in the soul of a person it transcends to the audience. I believe its about bringing the presence of God, from the Lord, from Him and sending it out so it can heal, to encourage, to enlighten and to lift an audience. I think that’s what performance is really about. When its really a part of what you’ve been given.
Someone once told me that you can eat ice cream with a spoon or a fork. Right? Now this is crazy! If you eat it with a fork and it melts you can’t eat it but if you eat it with a spoon you can eat it fully even if it melts. Because the spoon is doing what its been created to do. Its in its full glory. So, I believe when a person has been given a gift of performance whether its singing or dancing or some kind of creative art and it’s what they were created to do that person is in their full glory. They were doing what they were created to do in writing, singing, speaking, cycling or what ever it is.
Interview by Anastasia Lambis
Catch Sister Sledge with The Jacksons on the following dates tickets from http://mjrpresents.com/summer-series/: