April 14, 2011
Exclusive interview with Lip Service’s Heather Peace
When Heather Peace first auditioned for Lip Service, she knew it was something special. “I had a feeling in my gut that this was going to be a life-changing job,” she admits, but the success of the show surprised even her. “I’m feeling the pressure now!”
No wonder – as well as stealing the heart of every lesbian in the country (including a certain Scottish architect) as DS Sam Murray, she’s about to embark on a UK tour showcasing material from her upcoming album, This is Me. Oh, and she scored a place on the Independent’s coveted Pink List last year, before Lip Service even aired.
A classically-trained pianist – as a student in Manchester, she had a jazz residency at popular gay bar Velvet – moving between music and acting comes naturally to Peace. Long before DS Sam Murray came into our lives, she had already made a career of playing women in uniform. A role on ITV’s London’s Burning earned her a cult following – and a record deal with a pre-reality-TV Simon Cowell. It was a crash course in fame, “all the highs of getting signed and all the lows of it all going to s-t.” She groans when she recalls miming on Richard and Judy, and her experiences with BMG, her former record label, are not ones she wants to revisit in her revamped music career.
Describing herself as “a rockier Eva Cassidy”, she cites Judy Garland and Nina Simone as influences, and says that her recent burst of good fortune has “opened the floodgates” when it comes to songwriting. Previous gigs featured just Peace, her guitar and a lot of banter with the audience, but her current tour sees her supported by Jill Jackson, whose music has been featured on Lip Service. Jackson was doing a soundcheck when Peace spotted her, “and we just clicked.” The pair will be accompanied on tour by Peace’s dad who, in the manner of indulgent fathers everywhere, has been roped in to drive the bus.
Rock and roll, it ain’t, but it’s this down-to-earth attitude that has made both her and Sam a hit with Lip Service viewers. Playing the level-headed alternative to Frankie’s troubled bad girl, Sam’s tough and tender persona seems to be just what Cat needs – but is it what she wants? Peace definitely thinks so. “Sam’s stable, but she’s not boring. I think she’s a bit of a scream, really. And,” she adds wickedly, “she’s definitely competition for Frankie.” Although she claims not to be as cool as Sam, she promises that the swagger, at least, is all hers.
Having had her fill of bad scripts and bit parts, Lip Service makes a refreshing change, and not just in terms of quality. “I didn’t work with women until The Chase,” she says, referring to the 2006 Key Mellor drama. “If you get the right crowd, then it’s brilliant.” She’s also proud to be following in the footsteps of a certain US import that drew inevitable comparisons. “There were moments [in The L Word] that absolutely blew me away,” she says, describing Lip Service’s transatlantic big sister as “groundbreaking”.
As the only out lesbian in the cast, the gay community has clutched Peace to its collective bosom. “The support has been amazing,” she enthuses, describing a gig she played in snowed-in Hebden Bridge, where fans braved arctic conditions and impassable roads to come and see her play. The days where she could party in Glasgow’s gay scene in relative anonymity may be long gone, but it sounds like the sacrifice is worth it.
In the past, she’s favoured acting over music “because it’s easier to make an OK living if you’re not famous”, but would she ever give up acting to focus on her music? “Yeah,” she says without hesitation. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever actually said that. If I could make a living from music, and then wait for a really stonking role to come along, it would be perfect.”
She doesn’t know what the future has in store for Sam, but reveals that we will be seeing some of her past. “They’re going to explore her backstory,” she says, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, before wondering aloud if the creative team will bring out Sam’s bitchy side in series two. Beyond that, she can’t say anything else – mostly because she doesn’t know, either. “Harriet [Braun, the show’s writer] keeps telling me to stop asking her. I think she’s avoiding my calls now!”
Somehow, I don’t think she needs to worry – whatever lies in wait for Sam Murray, Heather Peace has a very bright future ahead of her.
Interview by Kaite Welsh.
Photography by Andrew Whitton.
Heather is touring the UK in Spring 2011, and she is also performing at GOGO Festival and L Beach in Summer 2011. Tickets for Heather’s tour, GOGO Festival and L Beach are available from www.heatherpeace.com.
Win tickets to GOGO Festival
Heather Peace will be performing at GOGO Festival in 2011, alongside Uh Huh Her, Betty and many other artists.
Tickets for the full weekend are £95, but we have a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky reader. To enter go to the competitions page.
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