Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview in 69 Degrees Mag

Occasionally the ping of the office inbox announces the arrival of information destined to distract, to cause a commotion, and, sometimes, send hearts a flutter. This was one such occasion. Sophie Ellis-Bextor is polishing her disco boots and heading back on the road, do we want a chat? Since half the team admitted their communication skills with the divine dance floor diva would probably extend to screaming 'We love you Sophie' repeatedly down the line, they were given other jobs to do and I gave her a call, says Julia (Martyr) Sherwood.

A concise and friendly hello greets me, is it her? I think it maybe but it's rare for an interview not to be patched through or PR controlled, so I'm a little wary. I tentatively state I was told to call this number to speak to Sophie Ellis-Bextor? A cheery 'You've done the right thing and this is Sophie.' Hurrah. Pleasantries over we get down to the matter at hand.

'What are you up to?'
'At the moment pretty much all my attention is going on the tour. We're working very, very hard to ensure the crowds are entertained. It's my first one for a while.'

That's a slight understatement. Though not a recent stranger to live performances, of late she's been performing under other artists' banners. On support slots for recent tours of the Pet Shop Boys and Take That she's learnt a lot from her experiences. 'The best gigs are those when you do it like it's your last.' It's heartening to hear, we've all been to gigs where it's been phoned in. Is it difficult, to go out there and give it some welly when you're not foremost on the audience's minds? Particularly where a certain rejuvenated and resurrected boy band is concerned? She laughs, 'It's funny; I'd not given it much thought, as to how an arena full of girls would perceive me. You have to be their friend, not foe. I totally loved it. I had a great time on that tour. It was Christmas time and we were having lots of parties, they're such wonderful hosts.'

Now it's her name on top of the bill, for the first time since 2003 ('I'm a bit embarrassed that it's been so long') it's not entirely untoward to think she may be nervous? 'No, I'm really looking forward to it. It's not like I've not been performing, so I'm not nervous, more excited, there's so much material to go through.'

Ten years of material, in fact. Despite first coming to prominence in the late 90s with indie rock band Theaudience, it's as a solo artist she really caught out attention. Namely with that chart battle against a certain Mrs Beckham. In retrospect, poor Posh didn't stand a chance. The track won hoards of awards and was recently named the decade's most played track on radio. ('I can't believe that, you'd think it'd be Kylie or something.')

The tune's success must partly derive from its freshness. It's got a timeless quality that even ten years on, still sees it fill a dancefloor. Maybe she'll sing it on tour, she did say there'd be a real mix of old and new stuff. 'I've been doing lots (of new material) at other shows, so some folk will recognise them. I'm not going to bombard people with songs they don't know, but some of them are so immediate they will get them.'

The new material is from her forthcoming album, Straight to the Heart. 'I felt like the album needed to be really positive, and unabashed', she explains, 'if it's your fourth record you don't want to be apologetic about it. I like pomposity in pop and confidence and chutzpah.' We like your style, Sophie. Teaming up with some of the biggest names in the business ('I enjoy the process of working with other people, I've been very spoilt') the list reads like a Who's Who of dance and pop: Freemasons, Greg Kurstin, Calvin Harris, Cathy Dennis, Metronomy, Richard X and Armin Van Buuren. So, any favourites? 'Well, they are all shiny and new at the moment. Hopefully there is something for everyone on there, but the top ones for me are 'Revolution' that I did with Cathy Dennis and Greg Kurstin; it's a bit different for me - a bit tougher. There's one called 'Starlight' with Richard X, which I think is really pretty and it's got a nice wistfulness about it. I do love 'Off & On' too, which I did with Calvin Harris, Róisín Murphy and Cathy Dennis. It's a sexy dance record.'

It's enough to make us dizzy and Sophie too sounds quite giddy about the album. Although it's finished, it won't be out until March, as, she explains, some collaboration singles are to be released abroad first. For the immediate future, you wanna hear the new stuff; you get tickets for the tour. But what can we expect from the shows? 'I want it to be a real party crowd and atmosphere. The material is quite clubby, so it should make for a shiny dancey night. I'm talking the best elements out of the shows I've been doing and putting them together. Not every night will be exactly the same, you need to have ebb and flow with different dates. It's a bit like painting a picture - sometimes you need something else in the palette.' Hmm, intriguing.

Sophie's sense of style is bound to be a significant part of the mix, though surely. Practically salivating I enquire as to the outfits. There's a pause and a low, drawn out 'Oooo I can't reveal too much right now. I've been working with a British designer to put some fabulous costumes together.' Which one? 'Can't say.' What kind of costumes? 'Can't say' Yes, despite my intense questioning and using all the investigative journalist tricks in my (slightly battered, Moleskine) notebook (I ask a couple more times) She's mute on all things stage sartorial.

What about fashion generally - how would she describe her style? Here there's no hesitation. 'It's quirky and cartoony, a lot of bright colours and bold patterns, but feminine. Very vintage too. I collect lots of vintage dresses; my wardrobe is 50-50 old and new. With vintage you're always looking for that piece and you have to get it then, as you may not see it again.'

She enjoys the freedom from trends getting older gives you. ('I'll leave the aviator look, thanks') but admits to being a 'proper consumer'. 'It's the feeling of getting one more thing, then I'll become that person I always wanted to be'. It's a feeling most of us can probably relate to, but who is that persona for Sophie? She ponders. 'I don't really know who this is. You can put something together and feel really right can't you? It's individual but classic, glamorous but accessible.' She laughs, 'all these adjectives that don't really matter but seem to at the time.'

Sophie on: Fashion
I love a nice winter coat- I enjoy wrapping up warm.

Sophie on: Designer Clothes
It's lovely, it's aspirational but having more affordable lines is great- especially with the current climate. Love the Lanvin range for H&M.

Sophie on: Djing
I really enjoy it. Richard and I have been doing it for a couple of years. It definitely doesn't take priority over the music we're making, but it's a fun thing to do together.

Sophie on: X Factor
MY favourites are Cher, Mary and Rebecca. They have voice I like to listen to and feliver extraordinary performances for people who've never done it before.

Sophie on: Other artists
There are loads of good women around. I went to see Beyonce and she was incredible. I like Florence, Goldfrapp, Debbie Harry. I listen to more female vocalists than men. I'm a pop fan, a big fan of melody and lyric, I like to find my way through song with that.

Sophie on: The club scene
I don't think it's on its last legs - the opposite. It's the rise of the DJ. The scene is as vibrant as ever. We can have and Island mentality here, but look, David Guetta is having number ones in America.

Sophie on: Make Up
Just done the shoot for the new Rimmel campaign. I love that job. It's like a teenage dream. It was the first brand I ever bought, I have to pinch my self when doing it.

Sophie on. Christmas
I love Christmas. I'm cooking the traditional dinner for 14. I've had to start shopping already, because I'll be so busy with the tour. How's it going? Sloooowwly.

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