Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has the last laugh


The 31-year-old singer on being hard-skinned when it comes to insults, pretending to be French and why music has been the best therapy for her

Sophie Ellis-Bextor started her career as lead singer of Theaudience in 1997, but the indie band split after a handful of singles and it wasn't until 2000 that she found fame after recording the vocals for DJ Spiller's Groovejet (If This Ain't Love ).

The track went straight to No 1 in the UK, and the following year she released a million-selling debut solo album, Read My Lips. This spawned four Top 20 singles, including Murder On The Dancefloor, Europe's most-played song in 2002. Her fourth album, Straight To The Heart, is out later this year. Now 31, she is married to Richard Jones, bassist of The Feeling. They live in west London with sons Sonny, six, and one-year-old Kit.

Sticks and stones may break my bones... but I'm pretty hard-skinned when insults come my way.
Everybody remembers Robbie Williams said I had a face like a satellite dish. It didn't bother me too much. I just reasoned he was miff ed because I declined to support him on tour. Frank Skinner greeted me with, 'Why the wide face?' On that occasion I fought back and gave as good as I got. I learned to stand up for myself at school where I was never too popular. At infants' school some kids even had an Anti-Sophie club. One time they pelted me with coins. It was pure jealousy, because my mum was on TV. But the teasing was never as bad as reported. It's totally untrue that I was nicknamed Rhombus-Face at school, a complete myth. Ultimately I don't care if people think I look a bit odd. All my favourite female pop stars - Debbie Harry, PJ Harvey, Bjork - are unconventional-looking and slightly bonkers.

From the age of six I was obsessed with moneymaking schemes.
The best one I came up with involved Blue Peter merchandise (her mother is former presenter Janet Ellis). I hit on the idea of selling Blue Peter badges in the playground for 50p, or £1 for a badge and autograph. I was doing a roaring trade until my mother started to wonder why I kept asking her for stuff. Over the years I've lost that entrepreneurial knack. I stopped being motivated by money as it was distracting me from my true purpose, which was to make music.

I wrote the worst novel ever.
When my band broke up I needed some kind of catharsis. It had been an eye-opening experience. We'd got a £500,000 deal and we were insanely hyped. Then we split without having had a proper career. I decided to write a novel about it. Three chapters were completed. They were utterly terrible, shockingly written. I'm tempted to dig it out, but only for my own amusement. If anyone takes me seriously now, a quick read would change their minds. They say everyone has a book inside them burning to be written. Mine was a novel begging not to be written.

If my career goes stale tomorrow at least I've got my stamps to fall back on.
Philately is normally a boys' hobby but for some reason it was in vogue at my junior school. Between the ages of eight and ten I collected avidly. I'd pore over my Stanley Gibbons book, obsessively checking my collection's value. I always hoped I'd stumble across a really valuable one, a Penny Black or an Inverted Jenny, but it wasn't to be. Ten years ago I got them valued; they were only worth about £600. But I sometimes delude myself into thinking they're worth millions. I always say to my husband, 'If the pop career goes belly-up we've can always fall back on my stamps.'

Petty bureaucracy makes my blood boil.
In Britain we're becoming too policed by rules for the sake of rules. Every day seems to bring a whole new stupid set. It makes me feel like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. It's things like weight allowance rules at airports that conform to no logic other than fleecing the public for more cash. It's random things like a supermarket chain banning people from wearing pyjamas in their stores. (Personally I wouldn't wear pyjamas to do my weekly shop but each to their own.) I'm a good citizen. I pay my taxes. Why should I conform in all these other ridiculous ways? I find it quite sinister.

Music has always been the best therapy for me.
It helped me through two nightmarish pregnancies. Sonny was born nine weeks early by emergency caesarean and then went down with meningitis. Kit was also premature and weighed just 2lb 10oz. He looked like a little alien. The stress of both pregnancies was overwhelming, like being hit by a train. Being able to make music was a godsend, a way of letting all the emotion out. When I started recording this new album, Kit was just starting to grow and get well. Every three hours he'd come in for his feed. I'd have a mic in one hand and my baby in the other. I found that very empowering.

The great advantage of fame is getting to jump queues.
I'm not the type to play the 'don't you know who I am?' card. But I'll happily trade on my name to avoid standing in a line. The last time was at Legoland. It was high season, the whole place was going to be rammed. My press o ffice rang in advance to say I was going with my family. They gave me a gold pass, meaning we didn't have to queue for anything. Apart from queue-jumping I can't think of too many advantages to being famous.

I'm busy assembling a fairground in my house.
I scour eBay for old fairground stock and pick up some amazing bargains. I bought a choo-choo train, the kind you see children riding outside shops. And I've got a giant ice-cream cone. My favourite item is one of those huge cartoon boards you put your face and hands in. I've also got a vintage 'roll up, roll up' sign. I'd love my own ghost train but my house isn't quite big enough.

I'm the world's messiest woman.
I'm not unclean but I leave a trail of chaos wherever I go. For years I was incapable of getting any sense of order in my house. When it came to sorting things out I'd make a start, then find something else to distract me. But I'm trying to be tidier. I can't bear the thought of guests arriving and making a face when they see the chaos I live in.

If I'm not in the mood to be recognised I'll pretend to be French.
People have come up to me and asked, 'Are you Sophie Ellis-Bextor?' Usually I'm fine with it but there are days I can't be bothered. So I've shrugged and said, 'Non.' Sometimes it works. If they're French it can get a bit complicated. What tends to happen more and more is that people say, 'Has anyone told you that you look like Sophie Ellis-Bextor?' Because I do my own shopping and travel by public transport, people probably assume it's not me. They expect me to be travelling by private jet and that's not my life at all.

1 comment:

M. said...

I just LIKE her. Her interviews are quite amusing and she seems to be very cool and down-to-earth. Thank you so much, Kau! And GOOD LUCK with your exams, I hope you kick some butt. We're all rooting for you!!!!!


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