So many great girl groups have come and gone over the years, but long before Fifth Harmony, Destiny's Child and even En Vogue took their turn as Billboard's hottest acts, there was Exposé. While Gioia Bruno, Ann Curless and Jeanette Jurado may have been first put together by a producer way back in 1985, they cemented their place in the record books pretty quickly. Their debut album Exposure first dropped in 1987, and they became the very first group in history to have four top ten singles from a debut effort, beating out legendary acts like The Supremes and even The Beatles. Exposé also became the first girl group in history to have seven back-to-back top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
If you're sitting trying to figure out exactly who Exposé is because perhaps they were a little before your time, trust us when we tell you, everyone has heard them. "Point of No Return" is one of the biggest dance anthems to roll out of the 80's and "Seasons Change" is arguably one of the best ballads of that decade. Bruno, Curless and Jurado toured consistently from 1985-1995 and then took a breather to focus on kids and family but those Exposé ties were never broken.
If anything they've grown stronger through the years, and by 2007, the ladies decided to fight their production company for the trademark name Exposé, insisting that they were the faces and voices of the brand. It took years, but by 2011, a judgment in their favor was permanently affirmed. Today, 30 years after first meeting, Bruno, Curless and Jurado are still recording and touring together. They recently released a remastered deluxe edition of Exposure and they are adding new tour dates regularly.
Music Times was lucky enough to chat with Ann Curless recently about dipping back into the '80s and the true girl power behind Exposé.
Music Times: When Exposure first hit back in 1987, would you ever have imagined that you'd still be performing together now?
Ann Curless: We did find an old interview that we did when we first came out, probably around 1986, and the interviewer asked us what we expected our longevity to be and Gioia was quoted as saying, 'I can't imagine that we're going to be doing this 25 years from now' and here we are, more than 25 years later, still doing this. Our experience feels better and richer now than when we were doing it 25 years ago. When we go out on stage, we are so grateful that people still want to see us, and I think we're all a little surprised that so many people still want to see an Exposé show! We appreciate that our audience wants to spend their hard earned money on an Exposé show, and we feed off of them, because our audiences are fantastic.
MT: The three of you have been through so much together over the last few decades, both professionally and personally, what is your relationship like now, compared to back in the '80s?
AC: I think we are closer now than we've ever been. Back in the late '80s, it was kind of a whirlwind, and there were a lot of people involved. Our record company was putting us in different places, and then we had a production company that we were signed to. In the last few years, we were actually sued in federal court by our production company. So, we banded together at that point, and after 25 years said, okay, enough is enough. After trying to negotiate our way out of it, I finally said, 'okay guys, game on, it's time to fight'. It was crazy, civil suits -- 99 percent of the time settle out of court -- but with this, because of our name, people were intrigued. We ended up before a judge, and I think she got it. She understood that the name Exposé was associated with these three women and that it shouldn't be treated like a Menudo with changing names and faces. Protecting the trademark also prevented consumer confusion and we did finally get the mark. We went through a lot with that court case, and instead of it pulling us apart, it pulled us together. From that time on, we've all just been very close. It's a tightrope because we're very good friends, but we're also business partners, and that brings its own drama (laughing). But during the months that we don't do shows, I miss them. When I am with them, all is right in the world. They are like my sisters, and we laugh until we cry.
MT: Exposé actually disbanded for several years, and you all went your separate ways for a while. What did you do in that time to fill the void?
AC: Speaking for myself, I've been fortunate because I've had other interests, and I do work full time for a publishing company. I've had a really full life in that I absolutely love being on stage, singing and performing. But when I'm not, I enjoy working and just having a job, direction and a purpose. That's just how I am. Jeanette and Gioia might say something different. Gioia is very creative, and she does a lot of writing and networking. Jeanette also does a lot of stuff and is very involved with her kids' lives. When I was younger, all I wanted to do is sing, and I was lucky enough to do that. Then as I got older, I liked expanding and using my head in some other situations, and it has worked out great.
After the group was dropped from Arista, I went and started shopping my demo to people I knew. At first they thought I was too old (laughing), and I was like in my early 30s. Then it was in more of a rock/folk direction, and everyone was like, 'Why are you doing this?' It was as if I was pigeon-holed and why was I doing something different? At that point I actually did pack it in, I just reinvented myself and just kind of switched gears. I started getting into the business world and when eventually the group was revived and that opportunity came along, I was there. There are days when I think I have too much going on. I have to pack and finish that spreadsheet and then there's my kids and the laundry (laughing), but somehow it all just ends up working out. My most peaceful time is when I'm in the air because everything is just done and then there's nothing else I can do.
MT: Is there any new music in the works for your fans?
AC: The cool thing about owning our trademark is that now we can pave our own path and sometimes that can be a confusing road. We certainly have plans to put out a few singles along the way now that are unique to us. We released a song on our own because we don't have a label, so we just kind of put it out -- it's a song called Shine On. I don't want to say that we're challenged because of geography, but we are working on getting some new music together and we've decided to do some fun remakes. We're all fans of music and sometimes things come along, and we think it'd be great to do a remake of that song. One thing that we're working on currently is a remake of a song called "Freedom" by George Michael. I think that's going to be a great vocal for all three of our voices, and Gioia was already in the studio laying down the tracks for that.
MT: Are you surprised by the number of younger fans coming to shows that weren't even born when Exposure first dropped?
AC: I think parents were listening to the music, and when the kids came along they became fans just by listening to what their parents had on. We often get people that are younger at our shows. I have three kids and we're planning a road trip to Nashville and Memphis where we'll be visiting the Johnny Cash museum (or something). So we'll be making dinner and we'll turn on Johnny Cash and my daughter will be singing Walk the Line. It's hysterical, but when they to see that area of town dedicated to Johnny Cash, their gonna get it. If he were alive and performing, they'd want to see him, so I think it's the same situation for us. But Exposé is alive and performing. We get to dip back into the '80s and enjoy it.
MT: After decades of performing the same songs together, how do you guys manage to keep things fresh, especially when you are all based in different cities?
AC: Our schedule [changes] from year to year, but our busiest time is the summer months. It's only February, and already we have several shows booked for this year. So our schedule is ever-evolving. We try to mix things up as much as we can. We've been working with the show for the last year or so, and we're sensitive to the fact that a lot of people come to multiple shows or travel to see us, so we try to mix things up for not just our fans, but also for us. Imagine, we've been singing and performing these songs for over 25 years! We are in fact also working on a new show and so with that comes new choreography and staging. Gioia was in the studio in Miami for a couple of weeks with one of our producers working on a few cover tunes that we think are going to be fun. So we have to get together to work on choreography, but once we get that choreography down and in our heads and feet, we'll be good to go. Since we're all in different locations usually, we'll fly in a day ahead of the show and we may run over choreography if we get panicked and fear that we've forgotten what we're supposed to be doing. We'll go to our cluttered hotel rooms and try to run through the choreography (laughing). Then it's all good.
You bring your life experiences to music, and it helps the way that you are onstage. So if people come and they like what they're seeing onstage, well that's our life experience that they're seeing because it's what we bring.
MT: Like you said, you've been performing these songs forever it seems, but what ones still get you excited?
AC: One has always been a favorite from the early days and that's "Let Me Be the One" because I like the tempo- it's a little more down tempo and Gioia just sings her heart out. She has gotten better and better at performing it so I just love hearing it and dancing to it. I just love it. The other one is just based on the anticipation is "Point of No Return." The crowd gets so wild and crazy about it! It's beyond my own love of the song and just based solely on audience reaction. It's our last song always because it's THE dance anthem, probably one of the biggest dance songs of the '80s and even people that don't know Exposé know that song. Everyone was at a club once in their life when they heard that song.
MT: What advice would you give to the current young crop of women in music that are hoping for longevity?
AC: I think the best advice that I can give is to remain authentic to your vision. Because I think if you're authentic and believable, then you have a better likelihood of success. That's funny coming from someone who was in a group that was basically pieced together by a producer, but I just think that there are a lot of forces out there that will try to put you in a box and tell you, 'You're called to this and your music should be, that'. I really think that your vision of who you are is what will go the farthest.
It's a very different industry now from when we started, and honestly, it's almost an industry now that I don't understand. The traditional rule was that an artist would get signed and the record company would hear something in that artist and they would take it on and do the production and packaging. Now it's almost as if the record companies don't want to take that chance. They want their artist to already have an audience and the backing. It seems as though if an artist is authentic, then the people will come. I think the industry is harder than it ever has been, and unless there is a true, true calling, it might be something that you do recreationally instead of wholeheartedly, unless you really can't see yourself doing anything else.
MT: Here's your chance, what do you want to say to those Exposé fans that have supported you through the years?
AC: Thank you is the first thing that comes to mind. Without fans playing our music in the clubs and DJs playing us on different radio stations, we wouldn't have this amazing opportunity to be performing 25 years later. I hope they realize that we are doing shows. We've met so many people that didn't know that we're still out there. We love to talk to our fans and we love to hear their stories. Sometimes onstage we invite people to come backstage and meet us. We tell them to tell us their Exposé story because we love hearing how we fit into their history. What's neat about listening to old songs is that they bring up those old memories and looking back years later is usually pretty fun. It's a privilege to be a thread that is woven into someone's past.
If you haven't seen Exposé live then you should really consider checking out a show when they hit a city near you. Their tour dates are regularly updated at www.exposeonline.net. and they have some pretty cool autographed merch here, including copies of their newly remastered deluxe edition of Exposure!
Check out Expose's' full set in the clip below!