Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Andy Jackson Interviews Sophie Ellis-Bextor

DOWNLOAD THE INTERVIEW - http://www.megaupload.com/?d=OW7T8239
(thanks to Paul for the recording + upload)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor! [applause] Hello. In fact it should be "Welcome back to Wave 105" because you're no stranger to us, I think it's fair to say.

When was I last here - a year ago, do you think?

You seem to pop in and out throughout your long and illustrious career - that's the best way to describe it, isn't it?
Yeah, OK, I'll go along with that!

There's a bit of everything going on. You've got the new single out, you've got the new album which is due to come out on the 6th June according to my dates here...

...and I'm just trying to get a feel of what direction you're trying to go in with this, Sophie.
The first two songs I did for this album were a song called Heartbreak which I did with The Freemasons, and a song called Off and On, which is a Calvin Harris track. Those two set the tone, really. So the album's very synthy, very dancy, a lot of four-in-the-floor; it's kind of a party record.

Is that where you're at at the moment, because you're still doing bits and bobs of DJ-ing; weren't you at Cape Verde the other day?
That's right.

How exciting!
It's been lots of fun, and it's something I do with my husband Richard. I guess it has informed a little bit of the record because when you're in a club and you play something by The Freemasons for example, it just sounds so phenomenal that you think, "Ahh! I want to do something like this". It's really exciting. So yes, it definitely influenced the album being as dancy as it is.

One of the other people you've been working with - a 'blast from the past' if I may put it that way - is Cathy Dennis. Is she co-writing with you on this?
Yes, we did a couple of tracks on this record. She's a lovely woman, hugely talented, and I think she is an example of someone who has had a successful solo career in her own right, and has now written some of the biggest pop records of the last decade. The writers that I tend to really enjoy working with have been artists themselves, so they understand that side of things as well. They write a song for you, and not for anyone else - and she's one of the best.

And the fact that such people have already done it themselves means they won't be wishing it was them instead of you going on - is that fair to say?
Oh she's very generous, very 'in the moment' with you. I think she's one of those people who is a marvel to watch when she's on form, in her zone. There's a song we did called Revolution, and we started work at about 12:30 in the studio. By 4:30 the song was all done! There was myself and a guy called Greg Kurstin also working there, but Cathy was just incredible. She had loads of ideas - yeah, she's lovely.

Talk us through the process of when you're in the studio. Obviously there must be some kind of a framework - but how does it work when you're all in there and you're jelling together. How does it happen in practice?
There are lots of different ways to write a song, but my favourite way is to start off by getting a bit of music up and going. So if I'm working with, say, someone like The Freemasons they'll play me a couple of instrumental things - little ideas - and then maybe shift the chords around if I think it could work better a different way, or if they have some different ideas. Then I'll start noodling around little folk-melody ideas and recording them in. They're really embarrassing and you wouldn't want anyone to hear them [laughs]. They're kind of like this [sings] "da-da-di-da, di-da-de-da". Yes, just like doodles. And then you start picking up the best bits, and try to work out the chorus bit, and putting the lyric to it. There is a bit of a practice to it, but you do have to shut off that little voice in your head which is saying [speaking sotto voce] "You look really silly!". [Laughs]

That's the thing, isn't it. Not only looking silly. There's also the video and things - a whole different aspect.
Yes. And I guess the thing with song-writing is, you can't really pretend you're doing it. You're either coming up with ideas or you're not, and sometimes that can be really intimidating. I've done song-writing trips abroad, and then you're walking into a room with someone you've never met before, and immediately you have to start trying to share with them these little creative ideas, and it can feel very... I don't know, I suppose it's not the British way. Normally we're more reserved, instead of just singing out loud what ever comes into our head!

We were talking about the song-writing process, and it's very similar to how comedians write. I was speaking to Frankie Vaughan* the other day, and he said it was weird when he goes into a room and sits down for the first time to do some writing with other writers.
But that's really hard, because then you've got to be funny. And then you've got to say "I think this is funny". I mean I think I can be funny, but the reactions I get mean that sometimes I'm not! I'm normally the only only who's laughing, and I suspect in my writers' meetings that would happen a lot.

Does that apply to music as well? You think, "Oh this is great, I love this", and you're sort of getting blank looks from the people around you?
It happens sometimes, but generally people are pretty encouraging of each other, you know. I think we're all aware that it can be a bit awkward. Besides I've worked with a lot of these people for many years, so we're well over that by now. And you do get the giggles about some things, and some of it is daft and is funny; but you need to go through that to get the stuff that really works.

It all works fine in the end.
It does.

Not that I'm stalking or anything, but I'm on your twitter as we speak at the moment. Are you actually a fan of dim sum for breakfast? This is one of the things that piques my interest because I love a bit of dim sum.
It was really good. I went to Singapore during the week for a total of 26 hours. It was a pretty hard-core trip because we landed in the morning at Singapore while it was actually midnight here. And then I had to hit the ground running and work until about half-eleven that night. So I'd had no sleep. But one of the perks was we got up really early the next day to get our flight home, and there was loads of dim sum everywhere, and it was delicious!

It's a good job that you are young enough so that you can have that hard-core life style, where you can be on a 26-hour trip, have dim sum for breakfast, then come home and still be fresh and wonderful.
Yes... I do sometimes wonder whether I'm going to pay the price for it at some point. The thing I really sacrifice is sleep. I'm very bad at going, "Right, I'm going to get my head down now". And if I'm at home I want to get up in the morning with the kids, and then I want to have my evenings... so sometimes it means I don't have very much sleep.

That is the next thing I was going to ask. How does it work being a mum, how do you combine the family life and the professional life?
It can be a bit chaotic. Every week is a different shape. I guess one of the amazing thing about kids is they're completely 'in the moment'; they don't think about what happened last week, they don't think about what's happening next week. They're very much about the here and now. I suppose I adopt a very similar mind-frame when I'm travelling or when I'm with them, of trying to get the most out of wherever I am at that time. So when I'm at home I will just play with them, and read stories, and go out for walks, and do the maximum amount we can. Then I can do my trips and feel I've had my family time too. Sometimes it doesn't work so well if I've got too much work, but then I know that if I didn't work I wouldn't be a very good mum because then I'd feel that I needed to be doing my music too.

Are you having more kids - any more planned for the future? It's two you've got at the moment, isn't it?
I have two, yes. I would like more, but not right now. My youngest is only two. I know people do have kids that are only two years apart, but I still feel he's the baby and I want to feel he's the youngest for a little bit longer. At some point I'd like more.

I tried to keep all mine together because my theory is the closer they are together, the more they would be likely to play together, and the less effort there would be in bringing them up. But it doesn't ever work out like that, does it.
Well, I guess you take from what you know, and I'm eight years older than my nearest sibling - that's my little brother, Jack. And he's someone who's in my band (he's my drummer). I see him all the time and I used to look after him when I was little. I don't know if subconsciously that helped me. Sonny and Kit have quite a big age gap; they're nearly five years apart. I'm training Sonny to change nappies and he can entertain kids. He's helpful. Yes, they do play together. I have to know how many children you've got!

I've got five.
You have not!

I've got five, yes.
You've got five babies.... Wow!

They range in ages. I've got seven and eight, and I've also got 20, 22, and 25-year-olds. So Busy-Busy! But there you go!
That's amazing! Five kids! You're putting me to shame. That is encouraging. I quite like the idea of four, you see.

There's always time.
Yes, Yes, I like them.

I'll tell you what, it's fantastic. I absolutely love it. The more the merrier!
Are they a mixture of genders?

I've got three girls, two boys.
You are cool! Clever you! [laughter]

Well all I can say is, Thank you very much for popping in and having a chat with us. Best of luck with the new album, best of luck with the new single.
Thank you.

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