The Sugababes, comprised of Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Donaghy got off to a strong start when they first arrived on the music scene back in 2000, with their debut single Overload charting in the top ten and being nominated for a Brit Award.
But from that point their story veers from the traditional pop group tale – with reports of in-fighting, an ever-changing lineup and management ownership of the band’s name eventually resulting in the original trio being forced to perform under a different moniker.
It wasn’t until 2019 that they fully reclaimed the Sugababes name, and now following a successful return to the stage at Mighty Hoopla festival, the group have announced a UK tour – their first in more than two decades.
While their experiences are certainly not common, they do reflect a recent theme of female musicians not having full control of their careers.
Last summer singer Raye left her record label Polydor after claiming they had prevented her from releasing her debut album for years, while earlier this month Halsey claimed they were being told they couldn’t put out a song unless they went viral on Tik Tok.
But while the Sugababes may have faced their fair share of struggles while trying to reclaim control – they’ve told Sky News they’re finally at a stage where they can enjoy their career.
“I personally think right now we’re so grown, we just want to have fun, we want to enjoy every moment that we’re doing right now,” Buena said.
“We can’t control what happens around us, we just have to be able to do our best to deal with those things,” added Buchanan.
“Some of the obstacles that we’ve had to deal with wasn’t the best to deal with, and it was really difficult, and of course it’s hard to stay motivated, I know for myself personally, but as Mutya said, it’s about enjoying it.
“And, you know, who’s to say what curveballs will get thrown next, but again, how we handle it is key.”
More than two decades since they started out, the music industry has undoubtedly seen some changes.
Buchanan says they’re reaping the rewards of that progress, admitting it was much tougher when they arrived on the scene.
“The industry is completely different to when we first started and it was gruelling,” she said.
“It’s like half the amount of work we used to do in terms of promo and things like that and even just prep – rehearsals were way longer because we were trying to get the sound right and we would have on stage speakers hearing ourselves, and now we’re all collectively wearing In-Ears [monitors that allow singers to hear].”
“We know what we’re expecting, we’ve got an amazing new band and we have all the creative input we want, and I think that, you know, it’s just the dream really,” added Donaghy.
In more than 20 years in different iterations of the band or working as solo artists or even taking a break from the business altogether, the singers have gained a wealth of experience, and plenty of perspective.
They admit that if they knew at the start what they know now then of course things would have gone a different way.
“I think naturally you would do things differently, but I think the good thing about it is that we’ve learnt from lots of mistakes and a lot of things that we’ve gone through in the past,” Buena said.
“And now it’s like just going out, having fun and just bouncing off each other.”
“Yeah, it’s school of life,” agreed Buchanan.
Older and wiser
“That’s a universal thing – everyone compares how you were when you’re 16, the things that you would think and you just kind of look back.
“And I think that’s the most important thing that you look back and then try and make better decisions.”
Older and wiser is probably a good way to sum up the group now – Buchanan has ditched the “20 cans of Red Bull” she used to drink before a show and Donaghy says she too is no longer bound by pre-show rituals that perhaps weren’t really helping.
But despite their collective decades of time spent in the music industry, Buchanan says they’ll never fully get used to it.
“I don’t think that anyone who has to go out on stage or gets a camera in their face [gets used to it] – it’s not normal is it, this lifestyle,” she said.
“But yeah, I think it’s nicer that we’re a bit more seasoned with it I guess and it feels like the right timing.”
‘No obstacles’ at this stage of their career
And Donaghy says that their experience does bring resilience.
“There aren’t really any surprises – but I mean that in a good way you know,” she said.
“If there are any curveballs or anything it’s like water off a duck’s back at this point.”
Focus right now is on the upcoming tour with the group saying they can’t currently find time to head into the studio to make new music.
But 22 years after their first single the group has faced their fair share of challenges and say they can’t see anything looming on the horizon to disrupt this stage of their career.
“There’s no obstacles at the moment,” Donaghy said.
“We’re in control of what we’re doing at the moment and it’s ours and therefore we can just go out there and enjoy it.”
Tickets for the Sugababes UK tour go on sale today.