Never let it be said that Belinda Carlisle is someone who neatly fits into one genre. The California native’s musical origins started out in the fertile Southern California punk scene, first as blink-and-you-miss-it drummer for The Germs before making her mark fronting future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Go-Go’s. Mid-’80s solo success found her pivoting into becoming a pop singer with a string of Top 20 hits including 1986’s “Mad About You,” the 1987 chart-topper “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” and 1988’s “I Get Weak” and “Circle In the Sand.” Following the release of 1996’s A Woman and A Man, Carlisle spent the next two-and-a-half decades plunging into French-sung standards (2007’s Voila) and a collection of Sikh chants set to music (2017’s Wilder Shores). Her latest project, the recently released Kismet EP, is a return to the sexuagenarian vocalist’s pop roots, her first since 1996’s A Man and a Woman.
Interestingly enough, this batch of new songs penned by Diane Warren came out of a random meeting between Carlisle’s son Duke and the Grammy-winning composer just as Carlisle was looking to slow things down in her life.
“I wasn’t planning to do anymore English-speaking pop songs in the same vein as Kismet,” Carlisle explained. “My son ran into Diane at a coffee shop in L.A. and he introduced himself. She said, ‘Oh my God, what is your mom doing? Get her on the phone.’ So they called me and it was out of left field. My head was spinning. She told me to get to the studio because she had hits for me. I didn’t say it out loud but I was thinking I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that because it’s a big commitment and I was in the head space of slowing down like I said. But you don’t say no to Diane Warren, so I went to the studio. And she played me ‘Big Big Love,’ which I immediately fell in love with and I said, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ So that’s how it happened. Hence, the name Kismet, which means coincidence, chance meeting, happenstance or something magical. It was all kind of a whirlwind making it and having it out. But if you had told me two years ago that I’d be doing press for new material, I would have said you were nuts.”
With these plans to hit pause on the backburner, Carlisle is currently doing runs on the East and West Coast following a swing through the UK in February and planned dip into Australia for a sold-out string of dates by year’s end. As for the Go-Go’s, that is a chapter Carlisle said is closed despite a recent flurry of activity in the past decade including a Broadway musical based on the group’s songs (2018’s Head Over Heels), a documentary (2020’s The Go-Go’s) and a postponed reunion tour all capped off by the group’s 2021 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I think it’s finished,” she said. “Everybody has their own lives. It had to stop at some point. I think for some of us, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a great way to cement the legacy of the band. Then I got on the phone with Pat Smear—we were in our first band together—The Germs. And we thought it was funny to go from The Germs to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—who would have guessed? It was probably one of the best evenings of my life. It was exciting. To feel that wave of love from the audience that night was pretty amazing. And then of course Drew [Barrymore]’s induction speech was incredible. Where do you go from there? It wasn’t like everybody was on the same page, but most of us were and we decided to call it a day.”
With this current return to English language pop, Carlisle plans to resurrect a pre-coronavirus full-length project tentatively titled Once Upon a Time in California.
“That’s the project I was working on before the pandemic that I need to finish up,” she said. “I’ll probably finish it up at some point next year. That will happen next year and I’m sure it will be out the end of next year or the year after. There’s no hurry.”
The California native was more than happy to share a trio of long-players that helped shape her music tastes early on.
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
“I grew up in Southern California. I think the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson shaped my taste in music. They are part of my DNA.”
Queen – Queen II (1974)
“Queen II was the first rock band that I was crazy, crazy about. That was before the punk movement. It was the most amazing music ever. I listened to that on repeat. That kind of shaped a lot of my ideas about melody.”
Roxy Music – Siren (1975)
“That was an album I heard at art class and introduced me to a whole new genre of music. I discovered Iggy Pop and the rest is history.”
Belinda Carlisle will be appearing on July 17 Sony Hall, 235 W. 46th St., NYC. Visit www.sonyhall.com or call 212-997-5123 for more information. She will also be appearing on July 18 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd.. For more information, visit www.livenation.com or call 877-598-8497.