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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Selena Fragassi - For the Sun-Times

‘Kismet’ brings Belinda Carlisle back to the studio and the road

Belinda Carlisle (Nick Spanos Photo)

For the first time in more than 25 years, singer-songwriter, author and Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle has an album out, her first English-speaking solo release since 1996’s “A Woman & A Man.” Appropriately entitled “Kismet,” the new five-song collection is also notable for re-teaming Carlisle with songwriter extraordinaire Diane Warren in nice twist of fate.

As the story goes, Carlisle’s son Duke was visiting the Los Angeles café Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf where he spotted Warren sitting at a corner table and approached her to introduce himself. Warren, the Grammy/Emmy/Golden Globe/Academy Award winner behind hits for everyone from Cher to Alice Cooper, just so happened to have written new material and was looking for the perfect voice with which to pair it. An immediate phone call was placed to Mom and, just like that, the dynamic duo — songwriter and singer — behind 1987 hit “I Get Weak” were back in the fold.

“My whole career has been like a series of these amazing coincidences and happenstance like that,” Carlisle shared recently over the phone, while taking a break from rehearsals for her just-launched U.S. tour, coming to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on July 9.

Even so, Carlisle admits she was hesitant about heading back into the studio, at first. 

“I wasn’t really expecting that [phone call], and I was afraid of ‘What if I don’t like the material?’ Because I’m so picky. But the songs were so good … the quality was on par with what was doing in the late ’80s/early ’90s. So it was a no-brainer,” Carlisle said. “And with Diane, I mean, it’s just one of those people, you don’t have to see them for years and years, and when you do, you just pick up where you left off.”

No doubt they had much to talk about when they reunited. In the years since they last worked together, Carlisle has become a mother, lived in France and Thailand and now is rooted in Mexico City with her husband, Morgan Mason. She’s released a memoir, 2010’s “Lips Unsealed,” and competed on “Dancing with the Stars.” And she’s of course reunited with the Go-Go’s on several occasions, though Carlisle says the ’80s band has basically called it a day.

“I think it’s definitely done and finished. Everybody’s kind of moving on. It had to stop at some point, and I think there’s something to be said for stopping at the top. After the Rock Hall [induction in 2021], what is there really left to do?”

Released May 12, “Kismet” finds Carlisle at a unique phase in her 46-year journey as an artist.

“I was planning on really slowing down and kind of semi-retiring,” she said.

Carlisle hasn’t confirmed if the EP will turn into a full album, but if it becomes her final bow, “Kismet” is a great way to go out. It’s anchored by the first single, the electro-pop rush of “Big Big Love,” as well as love’s cautionary tale “If U Go” and the heart-tugging ballad “I Couldn’t Do That To Me.” It’s rounded out by the perfect rom-com soundtracker “Sanity,” and slow-build confessional “Deeper Into You.” All show Carlisle’s voice is still as pristine and magnetic as ever (she credits the breathing exercises of her long-time Kundalini yoga practice for enhancing her lung capabilities).

Before fronting her own new wave band, Carlisle also had a stint in the punk scene. In 1977, she was tapped, under the alias Dottie Danger, to play drums for the quintessential Los Angeles group The Germs, though Carlisle soon contracted mono and had to move back home, cutting the gig short. The Germs is also notable for introducing the music world to guitarist Pat Smear, who’d go on to join Nirvana and, of course, Foo Fighters. To this day, Smear and Carlisle keep in touch.

“Foo Fighters were being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame the same year as the Go-Go’s, and Pat and I were texting back and forth, like, ‘Isn’t it funny to go from The Germs to the Rock & Roll Hall?’ ” said Carlisle, also sharing the happenstance way they first came into contact. 

“We met trying to get Freddie Mercury’s autograph at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. And then a couple days later, coincidentally [Germs bassist] Lorna [Doom] and I spotted a flyer that said, ‘Looking for two untalented girls to start a band,’ and we thought that’s perfect, that’s us. When we called, it happened to be Pat and Darby (Crash), looking to fill out The Germs. It’s just another one of those weird occurrences. It’s all been very kismet.”

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