Ahead of her hosting gig at the VH1 Big Music in 2015: You Oughta Know concert tonight (9 p.m. ET on VH1), Mel B sat down with Billboard for a chat.
Touching on everything from her family to how she’s feeling about fellow judge Howard Stern exiting America’s Got Talent to next year’s potential Spice Girls tour (fingers crossed!) to recording solo, here’s what Mel B had to say.
So you’re hosting this year’s VH1 Big Music in 2015: You Oughta Know. How did you get linked up with that?
Honestly, if I wasn’t hosting it I’d be here watching it with my 16-year-old anyway, so it’s nice to be in the cut of it and celebrate the music and talent that’s out right now.
There’s a lot of great people (Miguel, Tori Kelly, Hozier, Ella Henderson, George Ezra, Tori Kelly, James Bay, Nate Ruess, Rachel Platten, Elle King and X Ambassadors) playing this year. Anyone you’re especially excited about?
I like a bit of everything and everyone. But I’m British so I’d have to say Ella Henderson, I think she’s great, and she came from X Factor [UK] and I was at her very first audition in Manchester; she’s near my hometown and I was a guest over there. It just so happened she came onstage — I think I was the one…well, we all said she was amazing, but I remember thinking and saying, “You will be a force to be reckoned with for sure.” And now she’s here and she’s got her album out. It’s nice to be able to reconnect.
Did you and her keep in touch?
Oh no, when you’re a judge you’re not allowed to take numbers and stuff otherwise it’s seen as…not as honest as it should be. None of that is allowed.
Speaking of rising talent, you’re also on America’s Got Talent. Howard Stern is leaving after several years, what’s that going to be like?
Of course he’ll be missed. When anybody leaves after a successful run, they’ll be missed. He’s had many years with a successful run on that show and he thoroughly enjoys that show and his wife enjoys coming to the set. They’re like family. The last few times it was like, “Oh I’m not coming back anymore,” and we were like, “Come on, renew your contract.” And he was like, “No, I’ve made my decision.” But he’s great guy. And great at playing the bad, nasty villain — but he could also show compassion and heart. He had a bit of everything.
Well, Simon Cowell is stepping in for Stern, he should be able to cover the nasty villain role.
He’s just honest. I watched the show for myself with my kids for many years, judging just like everybody else did. So to get to be the panel and doing it for real… it’s a great show to be part of. It’s very family. My kids love it. It’s the No. 1 show [in its time slot] and has been for years.
What about your kids — are any of them interested in singing or playing guitar or whatever?
My 16-year-old, she actually just did a skit with GloZell, the YouTube star, the hot cayenne pepper. She came around and did a skit with my eldest daughter. So she’s kind of into that prank vibe. And my 8-year-old is like any other 8-year-old. She’s into princesses and singing and Frozen. And my 4-year-old does whatever the 8-year-old does. Until they get older and want to get into that world or not they’re just being kids, and I think that’s fine.
If they decided they wanted to, would you be excited or wary for them?
If kids have a dream they have a dream, and they have to follow that. But they have to be talented, and if my kids are talented at that, I will 100 percent support them.
Do your kids ever sing your Spice Girls songs?
Yeah, they do actually. My youngest does but I think she just does it because she thinks it’s funny.
Is the 4-year-old aware that it’s you?
She’s seen the videos because my 8-year-old plays it and goes, “Oh my God, that’s mummy!” And my 4-year-old is like, “no it’s not.” So they’re kind of aware. But to them I’m just mom who has an exciting job so they get to come on set, see everything. They know we’re possibly going on tour next year so they get to meet all the other girls. So it’s lovely.
So the tour is potentially happening?
Potentially, yeah. Once we sort everything out we make an announcement, but right now we’re just figuring it all out. Next year is your 20 anniversary so we’re really just trying to make sure something happens.
Twenty years is a long time — does it feel that long ago?
Hmm. I remember things like it was yesterday and we’re still really good friends, but it definitely still feels like we’ve done stuff a long time ago because music has changed so much. But we had so much fun and we did the Olympics a few years ago. We’re going to have fun if everything works out — which hopefully it will — for next year.
Is it just conflicting schedules that’s holding it up?
We’re figuring stuff out. As soon as we figure it out we’ll tell every detail, but until then there’s not much to say. It’s like when you’re dating somebody and everyone is forcing you to get married. It’s like, “We’re getting married! Just give us a second to figure it out!” [laughs]
What’s a typical day like for you?
It depends. I’m either in the studio or working out or with my kids. But they go to school so I have a chunk of time off in the day. It all depends. I’m either being creative or I’m being somewhat regular or a mixture of both.
What do you work on in the studio?
It will be whatever mood I’m feeling that day, whatever kind of songs I write. Sometimes I just sit and write about what my week’s been like. It all depends on where I am in the world and what I’m feeling like. It flips between being creative and being practical. And I like to do a bit of everything. If I was just doing one or the other, I would probably get a bit burnt out. Luckily I have the choice.
It’s been a while since you’ve released a solo album. Is the stuff you’re working on potential material?
I don’t know. When I get a song where I say “YES!” then maybe, but right now it’s just nice to go into the studio and do stuff.
Do you play any of it for your family?
A big part of the Spice Girls message was girl power, which seemed to disappear from pop music in America for a while. But now with Beyonce and Taylor Swift, it’s being talked about a lot. Do you feel you guys helped pioneer that?
Before us there were many girl groups around. There was Bananarama, The Supremes, going way back. There’s always been really good girl groups who paved the way before the Spice Girls. We just got hold of the ’90s and gave it a good shake around. But I think there’s always room for good, positive female role models. And I think we can’t get enough of those.