Sophie Ellis-Bextor going fourth
By Mark Kebble on November 19th 2010
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has a cough, but nonetheless she is happily chatting to me on her mobile about shopping for vintage clothes from her home in London. “The best place for vintage is still eBay,” she tells me, “but failing that I like car boot sales.”
At 31 Sophie has pretty much got it all. A rock-star husband (The Feeling’s guitarist Richard Jones) with whom she has two young boys, Kit and Sonny, an ex-Blue Peter presenter mother (Janet Ellis), a huge international hit (Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) with Italian DJ Spiller) and a fourth album due for release next spring which she describes as “y danciest album, very positive, shiny and sparkly”.
Two years in the making, the album features songs co-written with some of the very best songwriters around – Cathy Dennis, Greg Kurstin – and relative newcomers like Calvin Harris and Richard X. Who impressed her the most? “Basically every song that made it onto the album I really enjoyed making, and I enjoyed working with those people so I couldn’t say one specifically,” she neatly sidesteps before adding, “the criteria was that if I hadn’t enjoyed making it then I wasn’t using it.”
Unlike most artists, it was her third album that Sophie found the most difficult to make, not her second. “Because you’re aware what’s at stake,” she says. “The first one you’re so excited. The second you think, ‘Oh yeah, I know how this works’ and the third one you’re like, ‘Right, if I get this right then I’ve got a career’. That was the turning point but once you get past that… Well everybody treats you quite differently as well and, I think, don’t doubt your motives. Especially the British press. At the beginning they’re always there to trip you up, but once you’ve been around for a while they come to accept that maybe you’re an honest person getting on with what you do.”
And Sophie certainly does get on with it. This year already she’s been busy with live shows promoting singles from the forthcoming album, including a date at the O2 Academy Islington on December 13. “I was in Russia every weekend of last month. It is quite tiring and at the same time it is quite fun.” And December alone will see her back in Russia as well as Turkey and the UK: “It’s a bit chaotic, but there’s two more singles from the album that haven’t been released here but have been in other countries,” she explains.
Despite the glamorous jet-setting and many adoring fans – her MySpace and Twitter pages are testimony to this – Sophie is very rarely featured on the pages of the weekly gossip rags. Is this a part of celebrity culture that she consciously avoids? “Yeah, definitely,” she says, politely stifling a cough. “I’m kind of fascinated with what some people reveal to the public. I’ve just never felt the need to share everything all the time. I don’t think it’s particularly interesting a lot of the time, but also once you’ve done that you can’t get it back again.”
She also thinks there’s nothing worse than people getting jaded, especially pop stars: “I find cynicism a general turn-off anyway, I’m quite a positive person really. It is really easy to become bitter although some of the people I know who are like that are not necessarily the ones who have been hugely successful.”
And what does she think about celebrity culture being the motivation behind most young artists today? “When I was a teenager, teenage culture was all Melody Maker, Select, Smash Hits and Top of the Pops and everybody would talk about what bands you liked. Now if you look on the shelves it’s all celebrity culture, it’s not so much about music.” And although embracing celebrity is a route she’s chosen not to go down, being too judgemental about those who have is something she skirts around: “I don’t think one’s good or one’s bad, the whole way you go about your world has changed anyway and now it’s a lot more about branding, how you do your videos and how you do your artwork.” Her tolerant attitude is also backed-up by her thoughts on other artists. “Complaining about what other artists are doing makes no difference. There’s absolutely room for everybody, if you’re good at what you do there’s room for everyone. Of course there’s going to be people I look at and go ‘I don’t understand why they’re successful at all’, but it’s got nothing to do with me.”
A huge Mad Men fan – “I find watching it a bit like having a nice White Russian or a nice hot chocolate, kind of decadent and creamy and lovely” – she also, along with the rest of us, spends Saturdays nights watching The X Factor, although says sagely: “I think you can see some genuinely talented people come up through the ranks, but it’s important to remember that that’s not the only option.” And she’s also pretty busy on Twitter, though she questions this with a laugh. “I’ll go through a phase of answering loads of questions and I’ll just go quiet again. I don’t know how you can keep it up all the time, I suppose you have to write about everything you’re doing but I kind of feel like ‘Are they really interested in all that?’… Maybe they are. I’m a bit like that with all those things, I kind of go in and out of phases with them. I don’t really update my status on Facebook.”
This all sounds frighteningly normal as does the admission that she’s not a complete workaholic. “I’m not like Dolly Parton up at four and writing songs, I definitely let life get in the way,” but then when she starts talking of “jotting down lists of people she’d like to work with on the next record” and going for a more “stripped down live sound”, I’m reminded that maybe her world is a little more shiny and sparkly than most after all.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor will be appearing at the O2 Academy Islington on December 13 – for tickets, call the box office on 0844 477 2000
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