Beverley Craven talks about breast cancer, her love of music and the end of her marriage ahead of Ipswich Corn Exchange date on November 21
14:05 14 November 2014
Being diagnosed with breast cancer was songwriter Beverley Craven’s wake-up call.
She tells entertainment writer Wayne Savage how the decision to live her life renewed her love for music but ended her marriage.
It’s nearly 10 years since the Promise Me singer was told she had breast cancer. Petrified, then angry, it eventually gave her the strength to turn her life upside down.
“Oh, it woke me up. It changes you when you realise you’re not here forever, life is short and ‘okay, what do I want to do’? It made me feel I needed to go out there and live now, just enjoy myself and do everything I want to do. It was about that time that music started to sound sweet to me again,” says Craven, who’d been suffering from writer’s block for a few years.
“I nearly sold all of my equipment actually, I thought, ‘well that’s it, I’m obviously done, time to find a new thing’. Literally the only reason I didn’t flog it was because it was a little outdated.”
Shortly after writing a couple of songs for the first time in a while, came the next big change – leaving the home she shared with her husband, singer-songwriter Colin Campsie, and their three daughters.
“I lost myself in my marriage. I had to become somebody who fitted that role. I had to become mum, which is very full-time, and a wife. As a woman I think you often put yourself at the bottom of the pile,” says Craven, who believes it played a part in her developing writer’s block.
She didn’t take the decision lightly. All three were old enough to make up their own minds whether to move with her the half mile down the road. Had any wanted to come with her, it would’ve been fine.
“The fact is they live in a lovely big house, with a big garden, they’ve all got an en-suite and that’s their home. It was my decision to leave the marriage so I figured I needed to bear the brunt of that decision and go but my front door’s always open.”
If I needed any proof, when I called she was just saying goodbye to one of her daughters who’d popped around to pick up the camera and charger she needed to film one of her YouTube make-up tutorials.
“She’s really good at them, in fact she does modelling herself,” says Craven in proud mum mode.
“It was tough for them initially, it’s tough for any kid, a break-up. But we (she and Campsie) were together for 19 years and that’s a good long stretch, maybe I shouldn’t use that word,” she laughs. “I think in relation to other marriages and stuff I think we lasted quite a long time.”
Craven says she has a really good relationship with her girls and long may it last.
“Leaving has probably strengthened it because they do need their independence. I’m always here for them if they ever need me to come pick them up late at night if they get a bit squiffy or if they’re not well and they need mum. They’re 22, 19 and 18; they’re not babies anymore. They need me in a different way. The kids have all got keys and they’re forever popping round for supper or just to hang and watch a DVD.”
She and Campsie divorced in 2011. Difficult as it was, it was a move she’s certain she had to take.
“It (the split) was all sort of precipitated by the cancer, that whole thing of ‘I need to change my life really’ and I’m happier now than I’ve been since I was about seven,” she laughs. “I feel like my life’s back on track somehow.”
Listening to her speak, you can see how she settled on Change of Heart as the title of her latest CD. What won’t change is her attitude towards the chance of her ever remarrying.
“I don’t think I’ll live with a guy ever again. I’ve done the big relationship thing, where you do all the compromising, sacrificing, having kids. I completely lost myself in my marriage so now I’m very selfishly being me and I love it, I love being connected with myself and my songwriting. I don’t want (to lose) that again,” says Craven, who confesses to having tried out dating websites recently.
“Your other alternative is to go out with the girls and get all dolled up. It’s unlikely you’ll find anyone. At my age it’s difficult because most people are married.”
Her dates must have got a shock when they saw her name and photograph?
“I don’t use my name... Rather I didn’t use my name, I’m not on a dating site anymore,” she laughs. “I used a pseudonym and put pictures of myself which I didn’t think were terribly recognisable – although a couple of people recognised me. I’ve kind of had a couple of relationships and it’s been good but (I had) this realisation I don’t actually want a full on relationship again.”
Conceding any relationship requires some giving up of yourself, she questions whether you can be selfish in a relationship even if the other person knows the rules going in.
“It doesn’t stop people getting hurt, it’s a minefield. On the other hand, I don’t want to be on my own, so it’s a bit of a tightrope.”
Foremost in her mind right now is the new album and tour.
Change of Heart has been been described as Craven’s comeback. I don’t think she sees it that way.
“I just had a bunch of songs that were two or three years old and thought, ‘I’ll write a few more, then I’ll have an album’. This record company showed me some interest and said, ‘look, we’ll distribute it’. Then my agent put together this 36-date tour, and it’s like well let’s all tie it up together and see if we can make a bit of a thing out of it,” says Craven, who describes herself as a plodder; writing when the mood takes her rather than forcing herself into the studio.
“That’s why I don’t really like collaborating with people. You know you’ll turn up to someone’s place and they’re like, ‘okay, let’s write a song’. It’s all a bit clinical, cerebral, conscious. I just like to sit at the keyboard when I’ve got the beginnings of an idea and see how it wants to evolve.
“It’s a bit of a personal experience for me, especially with the lyrics that I write. If someone else is in the room it’s a bit like showing them your bum,” she laughs, adding she’s enjoying the whole process more than she ever has.
“Just because it was so full on when I first started out; the music business was quite different then. Now I’m doing things at my own pace, in my own way. It’ll get to a point when I’ll probably go, ‘right, I don’t want to do any more’ and then I shall just take a step back again. Whereas before you’re signed, you’ve got a manager, all these people putting all your schedule together, you’re tied into it really.”
That’s a lot of pressure.
“Certainly is. I’m 51, I’ve been around the block a few times musically. I know what my limits are, what I’m capable of... Obviously I want to get out there and plug my new stuff but there’ll come a point where I go, ‘okay, that’s enough.’ There comes a point where you feel a bit like you’re selling your soul and I shall be careful to avoid that.
“I think I did that with the (previous) record company to an extent, maybe that’s why I dried up and got writer’s block for a long time so I’m just going to be very careful to look after my passion for writing songs. I don’t want to beat it to a pulp and find I’ve lost the vibe again. I just want to enjoy it.”
Beverley Craven comes to Ipswich Corn Exchange November 21