It’s impossible not to like Jane McDonald.
She’s pretty damn famous (one of UK’s biggest selling female singers) yet you get the feeling she’d act exactly the same if she worked as a dinner lady or served cheese toasties in a sandwich shop.
The backstory of a woman who plays a sell-out gig at the Opera House tomorrow is well known.
A club singer for years (including a season at Blackpool Central Club – “I thought I’d made it – it was a dream come true to get that”, she says with genuine enthusiasm), she got a gig on cruise ships and was catapulted to fame in the late 90s in the BBC’s fly-on-the-wall show The Cruise.
Her debut album went to number one and since then she’s released nine more records and five DVDs, an autobiography, become a TV star (appearing on Loose Women since 2004), and starred in the West End.
How, then, has she managed to stay the same level-headed lady from Wakefield that she was before fame struck?
“I’m not – I’m an absolute diva!” she jokes (McDonald jokes a lot).
“I’m a realist. I spent years singing in clubs where I regularly died and I didn’t become famous until late – I was 33 when it happened.
“So I think I’m just very grateful for everything.
“I am grateful to the people who turn up to see me sing, grateful to anyone who watches me on TV, grateful to people who buy my records.
“I’ve never been one for pretending I’m something I’m not. I’ve always stuck to my guns and stayed the same, because that is what made me who I am.
“Yes I was a cruise ship singer and I am flipping proud of it. When it happened for me as big as I did, I thought well I can always go back to what I did, because I had a good job in the clubs and on the ships.
“So I was never afraid of failure because I knew I would be OK.
“That’s where a lot of people lose their way a little bit I think – because they get a taste of the big-time, they think they have to stay there. And actually as long as you’re doing a job you love and getting paid for it then you are a success.”
Jane is in the midst of a major UK tour which is proving so popular she’s added an extra date in Blackpool – she’ll be back to the Opera House on March 28, 2014 (tickets on sale from next Friday at www.blackpoollive.com or 0844 856 1111).
First is tomorrow’s Opera House gig, though, where she’ll be performing songs from her vast back catalogue and forthcoming album The Singer Of Your Song.
“I don’t know what to say about this tour because it has been quite overwhelming,” she said, “I have never had a reaction like it from the audience.
“It is a completely different show to past ones – I’ve handpicked all the musicians and there is a new arranger and new producer – and it is without doubt superior to anything I’ve done before.
“I can’t wait to play Blackpool because I have such a long history with the place and for me it’s still the pinnacle. London’s OK but for us in the north Blackpool is the capital of showbusiness and tomorrow’s show is going to be phenomenal.”
Go to www.blackpoollive.com to check ticket availability.