Emma Bunton was once known as Baby Spice; that is, when she was one-fifth of multi-million selling girl group the Spice Girls. These days, she is known as Emma. Period.
Her U.S. solo debut, “Free Me,” is due Jan. 25 via 19 Recordings/Universal. Wildly buoyant, the album is equal parts Petula Clark, Motown and Burt Bacharach-with sun-bleached splashes of bossa nova.
In November, remixes of the title track went top 5 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music Club Play chart and top 10 on the Hot Dance Radio Airplay tally, and Emma couldn’t be happier with that success.
“When I first heard that the dance remixes were on their way up the charts in the U.S., I was ecstatic,” Emma tells Billboard.com by phone from her home in London. “I couldn’t wait to get there.”
Which she did in September when she participated in the 11th annual Billboard Dance Music Summit in New York. She shared her experiences — along with Martha Wash, DJ Rap, Ultra Naté and Esthero — on the panel, On Your Knees: Hero Worship.
“It was amazing,” she says of her trip to Gotham. “It gave me the feeling that things are really rolling [for me] in the U.S. I feel like it’s happening quickly there.”
Last month, Emma spent 10 days in India, where she was filming a “celebrity swap” documentary for the U.K.’s BBC2. Emma says she was filmed experiencing life as a Bollywood celebrity. “I was being filmed every day,” she says. The documentary compares the Bollywood and British celebrity scenes.
On a purely celebrity front, a striking difference between the two countries is the paparazzi, she notes. “In India, you get out of a car and the press immediately approaches you. There is no red carpet. Nothing separates you from the camera.” And since the Spice Girls were popular in India, Emma says she was constantly hearing shouts of, “Hey, Spice Girl!”
While filming the documentary, Emma was offered and accepted a small part in a Bollywood film. “I will never forget that experience,” she says. “They work without schedules, which is very different from England where everything is perfectly scheduled. They thought nothing of ringing you up and saying, ‘Let’s do an interview.’ They also don’t believe in storyboards.”
While such a working environment would be chaotic for some, Emma says it was all very relaxed, chilled and spiritual. “I felt very calm there.”
These days, with the holiday season in full swing, she is likely feeling less calm. “I have lots of shopping to do,” she acknowledges. “I’m like a big kid at this time of year. It’s about being at home with my family — in your pajamas, eating, catching up on TV and watching old films.” (Emma admits to having a soft spot in her heart for “Dirty Dancing” and “Mary Poppins” with Julie Andrews.)
After the holidays, Emma says she’ll return to the United States for a promotional tour surrounding the album’s release. “I may even celebrate my birthday [Jan. 21] there,” she says.
Looking back at her days with the Spice Girls, Emma says they always received much support from U.S. fans. “They were always there for us — which is why I always feel so at home there.”
According to 19 Recordings/Universal, “Maybe” will be the next U.S. single from Emma’s album. Remixes are forthcoming in the New Year.