With her new single about to launch, the Tadworth-based singer tells us about her life, from her dreams of making it big when she was a child in Africa to touring with Michael Jackson…
In the early 1990s, Rozalla was propelled into the limelight with her megahit, Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good). Michael Jackson was so impressed by the singer that he chose her to tour with him, as did Billy Ocean. And despite the fickleness of the industry, her career has spanned some four decades. She has a new album out in the spring, and is working on her Christmas single, a cover of Nat King Cole’s classic, The Christmas Song.
As a youngster in Zambia, Rozalla always wanted to become a successful singer. She started early, singing on a children’s TV show, and when she and her family relocated to Zimbabwe, she sang with R&B cover bands. “I always had this burning desire to do it,” she says. “And despite a lot of rejections along the way, I didn’t want to give up. I always think of my career as a work in progress. And I’m still hungry for it,” she laughs.
In the late 80s, she moved to London with her manager Chris Sergeant and worked alongside Band of Gypsies duo Tim Cox and Nigel Swanston. She hit the big time soon after with her first single Born to Luv Ya becoming a club favourite. But it was Everybody’s Free that really set things in motion, reaching the Top 10 across Europe. Faith and Are You Ready to Fly were her next big hits. “I always wanted to do uplifting songs with positive lyrics. Everybody’s Free had that,” she says of the hit. “And it still continues to create work for me.”
Rozalla tours up and down the country at clubs and festivals and internationally. She has a gig in Palm Springs lined up as part of a Pride event, and she still sings in front of thousands with recent appearances including a 90s fest at the Royal Albert Hall with the decade’s classics performed by a live orchestra.
While she was first known for her dance tracks, through her career she has proved her versatility, and had to, as she admits, with the rise of boy bands and the likes of the Spice Girls, which started to push dance off the charts.
It has left her free to follow a range of styles, however. “The new album will have a mix of uptempo, midtempo and some ballads, plus some songs from the 70s and 80s,” she says. “During Covid, we released three of the tracks from the album as I wanted to keep getting music out there. It felt important.”
Just before the pandemic, Rozalla moved to Tadworth, having lived in Clapham for many years. “We just wanted somewhere with more greenery. Here I can just cross over my road and I am in this amazing woodland. Clapham has some great parks and the common though and I still go back to see friends. I also love wandering along Northcote Road in Battersea.”
She is a keen walker and, like many of us, says it helped her wellbeing during the pandemic. “Walking has changed my life – it’s good for mental health, and it helps keep the weight off,” she smiles.
While the singer may have long since ditched her trademark tiny hot-pants, she still looks – and sounds – terrific.
She’s clearly loving what she does. As she reflects back on her career, she says she is glad she pursued her passion for music.
Supporting Michael Jackson on the European leg of his Dangerous tour in 1992, was ‘surreal’ and ‘incredible’, she says. But she recalls: “There was one show where Michael cancelled at the 11th hour. I was pulled off stage as there was a worry that the audience would start rioting when they found out.”
And Michael asked Rozalla for her singing advice. “I was stunned – this was Michael Jackson asking me what he should do. He told me he’d had problems with his voice and asked me how I looked after mine. I told him rest, and honey and lemon would help!”
It was Billy Ocean that then gave her some words of wisdom. “Billy made me realise the importance of warming up your vocal cords before a show. If you are a runner you wouldn’t just get up and start sprinting. You need to warm up and it’s the same with singing.”
- Rozalla’s new Christmas single will be out soon on Energise Records.