How We Met: Shelly Poole & Sharleen Spiteri

'We were crawling around beneath the tables and ended up between Van Morrison's legs'
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The Independent Online

Sharleen Spiteri, 43

A Scottish singer-songwriter, Spiteri is lead singer of the award-winning rock band Texas. She lives in north London

Ours is not a normal friendship: two girls meeting and becoming friends; it's a friendship that formed around [Texas guitarist] Ally [McErlaine].

It started when the managing director of [Texas's record company] Mercury played me a CD of this new band Alisha's Attic [which Shelly formed with her sister Karen] in the mid-1990s, and I remember saying that I liked their harmonies and the melodies.

We didn't really get chatting until we both stayed at a little hotel in Paris, while we were both doing French TV promos for our label, and after that, we were always running into each other.

We had a few mental nights out in Paris together and, after a while, I realised that she and Ally would be perfect for one another, as they're both out there on another planet. She's kooky, but not in an annoying way. There's a naivety about her, she's a bit of a dreamer. So they got together – they're married now – and she became part of our "family" circle.

I've never seen her in a bad mood and she's nice about everyone she meets, while I tend to go off on one. You know friendship is true when friends stick with you for the tough times, and Shelly's always been there for me; there have been points when I felt the record company didn't have any belief in me, but when you have the support of friends like Shelly, you no longer feel invisible.

A whole different relationship began when Ally had a brain aneurysm [in 2009]. Another side to her came out. She'd been told her husband was going to die but still each night she kept everyone up to date and reported what the doctors were saying in detail. As much as she can be a bit hippy-dippy – and sometimes I'm like, get a grip – she was really strong.

Their new project [Red Sky July, in which Poole performs with McErlaine and American singer Charity Hair] says it all about Shelly; she's not making it to be on TV, she just wants to make a living playing music; it's not about thinking what people want to hear, she's just doing what she wants to do, and I respect that.

If Ally's like my brother, Shelly's become like my sister. And she keeps Ally happy, so, well, she deserves an award.

Shelly Poole, 39

An English songwriter, Poole was part of 1990s pop duo Alisha's Attic and has since penned lyrics for artists including Massive Attack, Mark Ronson and Janet Jackson. She lives in north London with her husband, Texas guitarist Ally McErlaine.

We were signed to the same label and doing promotion work in France when we first met, in a hotel in Paris, in 1995. She was stunning, much prettier than you see in the pictures, and very funny.

We were out once late at night, we were both drunk and the first thing I said was, "I just can't get a boyfriend in the music industry." She said, "You might quite like our guitarist." I remember thinking at the time, "Meh, maybe." She totally put us together, though, because she thought he was a male version of me, though it turns out we are nothing like that.

If you're doing promotions on the same label, you end up following each other around and we bumped into Texas on tours the label organised around the world. But I didn't know much about Texas musically until I started dating Ally, in 1996. Once we were an item, my dynamic with Sharleen changed; I'd go to their gigs, then meet them at the bar.

We're both hard workers, so we'd generally go to bed at midnight, rather than going on, but we did go a bit mental during awards nights. One Irish Music Awards got a bit messy: I lost a shoe and Sharleen was helping me find it; we were crawling around beneath the tables and we ended up between Van Morrison's legs! Nowadays, I prefer a cup of tea on Primrose Hill and making her laugh.

We're very different, though. She could talk the hind legs off a donkey – and her language can be shocking – but if she has a big problem, she prefers to sort it out on her own. I'm the opposite, as I need to have people around me. So when Ally had his aneurysm and was in critical care, I didn't know what I was doing half the time, and I called on her quite a lot.

Initially, Ally didn't know who he was but as soon as Sharleen came to visit, it all started to click for him, so she came every day and helped him reconnect; initially he thought he was back in the early days of Texas and kept wanting to get up and go and rehearse with her.

Sharleen has known Ally so much longer than I have and she knows all the bad and good points, so we go for a cup of tea and spend hours moaning about him. My sister and his mum will all stick up for him, but she's the only other women in his life who knows exactly what I mean.

Red Sky July's self-titled album is out on Proper on 31 October. Poole's book, 'The Miracle', about McErlaine's recovery from his aneurysm, will be released digitally

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