THIRTY seconds into my call to Petula Clark, the office fire alarm interrupts our conversation at a frighteningly loud volume.

Quickly, I reassure the singing legend that it’s only a drill and I won’t be forced to hang up on her and flee the building.

“Thank goodness for that, I’d hate to be responsible for your demise,” she laughs.

Her infectious giggle is a regular feature of our chat and although she must have done thousands of these interviews in her career, at no point are there any signs that she’s just going through the motions.

But then, Petula Clark has never been one to give something she’s involved in anything other than her total commitment.

And that’s why as her career spans seven decades, she remains as popular - and as busy as ever.

Last week she released her latest album, From Now On, and is now preparing for a major UK tour which includes at date at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall next month.

“I still get that excitement before a tour starts,” she said. “If I don’t, I think it’s a sign that I’m sickening for something.

“I think it’s important to have that ‘is this going to work?’ kind of feeling which you can then turn into energy.”

From her early days as a child star entertaining radio audiences around the country during the Second World War to becoming one of the voices of the Sixties and then an international recording star, Petula has amassed an amazing back catalogue. Which causes problems when she has to put a live show together.

“Oh, I’ve certainly recorded a lot of stuff.” she says. “And then there’s the stuff which I haven’t recorded which I like to do too.

“Putting a show together is not easy and I’ll be honest with you - I haven’t really got the final set together yet for the tour.

“I’ve got to consider songs that people expect me to sing and the new songs. Then there are those from Sunset Boulevard and Finian’s Rainbow which I’ve been doing for a long time but I still love - it’s really not easy I can tell you.

“I think you have to accept that you’re bound to upset someone and I will always get people saying after a show ‘oh,why didn’t you do that?’. But I can’t do everything.”

The new album From Now On will feature in the show and like its predecessor, 2013’s Lost in You, it’s a remarkably contemporary and fresh sounding album - it certainly doesn’t sound like an album from someone who, amazingly, will be 84 in November.

The album includes a number of covers including Steve Winwood’s While You See a Chance and Fever made famous by Peggy Lee.

“I really didn’t want to do Fever at first,” admits Petula.

“Peggy Lee had been my idol since I was a kid. While everyone else listened to Judy Garland, I was listening to Peggy Lee so when the producer came up with the idea of Fever I said no.

“I met Peggy and sang with her and we became friends but I just didn’t like the whole idea of doing Fever.

“But I had to go out of the studio for a few hours and came back and they had done the track which was so different from the way that Peggy did it that I just got up to the microphone and belted it out and it’s on the album.”

Petula seems genuinely pleased when I say I found her version very different from the original but still really good.

“There’s always a danger, particularly if you admire someone, you try to sound like them and that was something I wanted to avoid at all costs,” she said.

Although she has sold over 68 million records with 159 top 40 hits worldwide, Petula clearly enjoyed the whole experience of making a new album as much as ever.

“To be honest, the whole session was joyful,” she said. “Of course it’s hard work but if you’re enjoying it, it doesn’t exactly feel like work which is the trick really.

“As well as the main vocals, I also did most of the backing vocals which was wonderful. I’ve always enjoyed doing that, it is such fun.”

Given that Petula’s career spans the whole period of modern popular music it’s interesting to hear her take on the current music scene.

“Clearly there is a lot more choice now than there was,” she said, “but you have to remember was lot of pretty awful stuff going on in the Sixties too so you’ve always had to pick and choose.

“Now the picking and choosing is so difficult as there is just so much going out week after week.

“In my case, I just have to stick to my thing. I must not be influenced by what’s going on and I don’t sit around listening to pop music, I don’t think for me that would be a good thing.

“Of course I hear it, music is everywhere even when you go to buy a pair of shoes, but I really don’t want to be too influenced by other things.”

With another tour looming, Petula’s enthusiasm is infectious.

“Of course there is a lot of hard work involved. For me the next step is rehearsing with the musicians and then there’s choosing what I’m going to wear so that’s another problem but then you just go on and do it.

“For all the things that can be tiring, you always have the carrot of knowing that there is a show at the end of it.”

n Petula Clark, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Tuesday, October 11. Details from the box office on 0161 907 9000.