We recently sat down for a cup of tea and chat with international singing star Celine Dion. Famous from the age of 14, Celine was first seen by an international audience when she represented Switzerland at the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest. She has gone on to become one of the biggest selling recording artists of all time with songs like ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the hugely successful film Titanic staying at number one for weeks.
Despite the enormous success and fame, we found Celine to be down to earth with no hint of the diva reputation that so often overshadows many of the big-name female singers of today. Celine chatted candidly about her humble beginnings, her new album and the people that give true meaning to her life. Matthew Keegan reports from our Celine Dion interview.
To the outside world you live an extravagant lifestyle as one of the most famous singers on the planet, but life wasn’t always that way for you was it?
No, it really wasn’t. I remember passing down clothes from one sibling to another – I’m the youngest child of 14! I had to walk to and from school four times a day often in snowstorms that were quite common in my hometown of Charlemagne in Quebec, Canada. Growing up I also used to feel awkward and insecure because I had a problem with my teeth. I remember not feeling my best or looking my best. I felt like a real outsider and didn’t have many friends at school; I just wanted to be at home with my brothers & sisters and my parents because that was my most comfortable zone. We didn’t have much money, but I never considered us to be poor because my parents were great survivors and they instilled that in me too.
It sounds that you enjoyed growing up in such a big family, are you still very close?
We have always been a very close family. Just before I came to London my mother had us all over for Christmas dinner because she wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing it this year, again! I’m always performing in Vegas in December and so she said ‘If we have to celebrate Christmas in October so that you can be here with us Celine, we will!’ So we had Christmas early this year.
Is Christmas a time of year that you enjoy?
For me Christmas is getting too commercial. I don’t go to Christmas parties or do any big celebrating any more. I just like to try and visit my mum and see my brothers & sisters and we have a family Christmas dinner. Christmas never lasts longer than a week in our house and I’m very relaxed about it. I feel that the true spirit of Christmas is lost in the commercialisation of it these days. The same is true with birthdays – I find them tiring, you have so many people to see and call and you’re so busy – it’s not getting old that’s tiring it’s returning all the calls and being so busy!
Your new album Loved Me Back to Life is your first in six years. What are you most proud of about this album?
I was proud of the fact that so many young artists and songwriters wanted to work with me on this album. I’m at the mercy of songs; I don’t write my own material and so I don’t take it for granted when someone sends me a great song. I was scared some of the young songwriters today wouldn’t want to work with me because I’m known for singing a particular type of song, but they did and so I’m very proud and thankful for that.
“We didn’t have much money growing up, but I never considered us to be poor because my parents were great survivors and they instilled that in me too”
Have you experimented with your sound or tried different styles on this album?
My singing on this album is at times quite different to what you might expect from me. My voice is more raw and natural on this album, it’s sometimes more raspy and you can really hear the emotion. Singing is one thing but to make people hear your soul is more complex, but I think we have achieved it pretty well on this album.
What are your core values?
My parents taught me that to have true values is to be solid and that whatever you achieve in life you can sustain with the right attitude. To be considerate, generous and to treat others how you would like to be treated, which unfortunately you don’t see a lot of nowadays in society. Just love, affection, attention, music – they’re the things that I truly value.
You’ve been married to your husband and manager René Angélil for 19 years and have never dated anyone else. What for you is the secret to a long lasting successful relationship?
There’s no secret. If there was a secret I’m such an open book that I would share it and the whole world would know! For me my relationship is a miracle. I feel very fortunate to have found a true love. René had been married twice before, but we were very lucky to have met and it’s a rare and unusual union that we have but it’s something that I’m deeply proud of.
Do you think that your children will want to follow in your footsteps and pursue a career in music?
I don’t know but they’ve definitely got the music in them! They love music a lot. Rene Charles, my oldest son, has a tremendous knowledge of music but he’s also very athletic as well and so I’m not quite sure which road he’s going to take. Whatever he chooses I will be supporting him all the way. Equally, my twin boys Eddy and Nelson love music; I don’t know which one of the two is more musical but I’m impressed and I look at them sometimes and think ‘oh my God, here we go, I think we’re going to be in showbusiness longer than we thought!’ I just tell them all the time to be the best that they can be and to only be in competition with their selves. Ultimately, I just want to be their mum
You’ve achieved so much in your life, but what for you personally or professionally would you say has been your greatest achievement?
My greatest reward is my children. Unless you are a mum you don’t know what you’re missing or what it even is really. It felt for me that with all my children another heart grew inside of me. I don’t believe in the umbilical chord being cut. For me it’s never cut, once you’re a mum you’re a mum for life – it gives you true meaning to your life and it’s the most important job. Who cares if people like me as a singer or not, they can find other singers and there will be other singers. But no other mother can be a better mother for my children than me. My children trust me so much, they need me so much – that is priceless to me.
“Who cares if people like me as a singer or not, they can find other singers and there will be other singers. But no other mother can be a better mother for my children than me”
Have you any plans to do a live tour with this new album?
I would love to tour with this album but no plans have been made yet. If I do it will be a worldwide tour but not in one stretch. I would like to spend a month somewhere like the UK doing an unplugged, stripped back show and then repeating that in other countries.
You have a residency performing in Las vegas – it’s been a huge part of your life, how would you describe that experience?
I performed my first show ‘A New Day’ for five years in Vegas and now with this second show that I’m currently doing I’m already in my third year. Performing there provides an amazing stability because it gives me the best of both worlds. My children come first and it’s been a safe place to raise them. Trust me, there’s a life in Vegas, it’s not what people think; where I live it’s far from the Las Vegas strip and there’s schools and stores and people just live normal everyday lives going to church, going to work and people have regular dreams and hopes. There’s a real sense of normality otherwise I would not live there. I’m not a wildcat, I like my stability. Performing there gives a wonderful sense of accomplishment as an artist with 31 musicians and performing for my fans. Then I go home and do my most important job which is being a mum.
There are a lot of singing talent shows on TV these days like X Factor and The Voice. Do you think if you were starting your career now that you would have entered one of these shows?
If I was starting my career now I doubt that I would of had any other option than to enter one of those shows. But I’m glad that I didn’t start my career now. I don’t watch TV and so I can’t say that I’m a fan to be honest. I’m not part of the music industry and what’s going on these days, I just perform and then go back to my family.
Celine’s new album Loved Me Back To Life is out now.