Jo O’Meara ‘never had the guts’ to go solo after S Club 7: ‘All my insecurities are melting away’

Jo is ‘so sorry’ for the 2007 race row that ‘cost her career’ (Picture: S Meddle/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock)

S Club 7 singer Jo O’Meara, 42, on why it took 16 years to record an album, being happy at last and looking back on her racism row.

It’s been nearly 16 years since your last solo album and your debut, Relentless. Did you have a lot you wanted to say on your new one, With Love?

I’ve always had lots of ideas but it’s always been a confidence thing for me. I never really had the guts to do it. And then I thought to myself, ‘This is my shot at doing something that I just love doing.’ So I thought, ‘You’ve got to grow a pair.’

I’ve learned to tell my story a bit more through the music and enjoy what I’m doing. I feel the most at home when I’m in the studio.

It has a bit of a country feel to it. Weren’t you influenced by Karen Carpenter?

I grew up listening to all the greats and I love Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Garth Brooks but Karen was definitely at the top for me.

I worked in a country and western restaurant when I was 17 where I’d wear a pair of chaps and a cowboy hat, and then I’d get up and sing some country. It just felt natural for me and I fell in love with the music.

I was doing talent competitions and open-mic nights where I’d sing Where The Boys Are [by Connie Francis] and I’m Sorry by Brenda Lee before, and it completely switched to country.

Karen Carpenter is one of Jo’s musical inspirations (Picture: Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

There are a few covers too, how did you choose those?

Lucie Silvas is probably one of my favourite artists and when I was doing my first album, I’d listen to her all the time.

I just love Breathe In and she was really happy with it. I do love a big power ballad.

And you’ve done an acoustic version of Don’t Stop Movin’…

I’ve always wanted to do an S Club 7 song acoustically and differently. I think the band are all happy with it — I hope they are.

And the fans have been unbelievable. They’ve been with me from day one and are still here today, and I’m just so grateful.

Who do you stay in touch with from S Club 7?

Not so much hang out but I speak to Rachel [Stevens] and Hannah [Spearritt] the most, and I support whatever the rest of the band are doing.

It’s really weird because out of all the S Club children, we’ve got three boys and four girls. So we’ve literally got another S Club 7 in kid form!

Jo rose to fame in S Club 7 alongside Jon Lee, Hannah Spearrit, Bradley McIntosh, Rachel Stevens, Tina Barrett and Paul Cattermole (Picture: Mike Marsland/WireImage)

How have you changed in those 20 years?

I’ve grown up so much. I appreciate everything more now, as we had no time to back then.

We were on a roller-coaster continuously in S Club, from the minute we woke up to the minute we went to bed. It just didn’t stop.

I realise more now how much pressure we were all under. I’ve finally learned to accept who I am. I was very insecure in the band because I did feel like the one that was there to sing.

I’ve discovered what I want to do musically and all my insecurities are melting away.

What do you miss from that S Club time?

I probably miss the joking around backstage the most and obviously performing Reach. It was always amazing.

There aren’t the shows you used to have like the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party and Top Of The Pops, CD:UK or SMTV.

Those to me were the best times and I think that the generation of today has really missed out. There’s definitely a gap to bring some of that stuff back.

What are some of your pinch-yourself moments?

Probably Buckingham Palace, when we performed at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. We were performing with Cliff Richard and then when you turn around Phil Collins was on the drums and Brian May on guitar — and then there was little old S Club singing Move It!

Did you meet the Queen?

Yes, she came on stage. But the funniest thing was Shirley Bassey was there and she came on like the Queen and stood right next to her and was taking over the whole show. She was brilliant.

Shilpa Shetty starred in the controversial 2007 series of Big Brother along with Jo, as well as Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd (Credits: REX/Shutterstock)

How did you cope when S Club just stopped?

It was a shock, not knowing what was going to come next. It was the right time for the band to split because it was a joint decision. We’d achieved everything we had set out to do.

Then there was Big Brother in 2007 and the accusations of racist bullying of your fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty. How do you feel about that now?

I probably should have never gone in there in the first place. I went in there for the wrong reasons. I am so sorry to everybody that I offended because I never meant to hurt anybody.

All I can do is apologise and let people know I’ve grown up a lot. I’m a very different person today. I lost my career, my home, everything and I’m still trying to rebuild today.

That’s why I feel so fortunate that I’m able to be back doing what I love in the studio. I had to chase my dreams and I’m glad I did because I can honestly say for the first time in I can’t even remember how many years that I’m happy.

O’Meara’s new album With Love is out now.

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