ORIGINAL ARTICLE - http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/lifestyle/health-and-family/the_big_interview_sophie_ellis_bextor_1_3352300
SINGER, model and mother Sophie Ellis-Bextor appears to have it all. She tells Chris Bond why she’s enjoying life right now.
SOPHIE Ellis-Bextor is up to her eyes at the minute.
As well as being a mother to two young boys, she has to juggle this with a successful music career, international tours, and being “the face” of cosmetics giant Rimmel.
Next month, her latest album – her first since Trip the Light Fantastic four years ago – Make A Scene, comes out along with a new single, Starlight, before she joins 1980s pop heroes Erasure for a UK summer tour that takes in the stunning surroundings of Dalby Forest, in North Yorkshire. The likes of Paul Weller, The Beautiful South and Keane have all performed there in recent years and she is happy to be joining the growing list of stars who have taken their music to this picturesque corner of the county.
“I went there to watch my husband’s band The Feeling a couple of years ago.People took their kids along and it was a great atmosphere because everyone was in holiday mode, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m up for playing anywhere, so doing a concert in the middle of the beautiful English countryside is fantastic,” she says, taking time out from the studio where she’s been recording a cover version of an Arcade Fire song for a forthcoming charity record.
It’s now more than a decade since she burst on to the music scene with her glamorous blend of pop, disco and dance, during which time she has become a multi-platinum selling artist enjoying a career that has taken her to some far flung corners of the world.
“I’m fortunate in that I’m still doing gigs in all kinds of new places like Beirut, Istanbul and Singapore.” She also has a loyal following in Eastern Europe, of all places, particularly in Russia.
“I made about eight trips to Moscow a couple of years ago but the strangest trip was to Vladivostok. I was literally there less than 24 hours which is only a little bit longer than the time it took to actually get there.”
Back in the late 1990s, Melody Maker voted her number one in their rundown of the “most sexy people in rock”. Flattering, certainly, but it’s the music which counts for Sophie and she says, it is something has been part of her life for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve always loved music ever since I was a kid dancing around in my bedroom. I played in a band when I was a teenager but at the time I never thought about make a living from it,” she says.
The band in question was The Audience and after they split up in 1998, Sophie took a year out from music before returning in 2000 to provide the vocals for Italian DJ Spiller’s dance track Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love).
But what started out as a low-key collaboration quickly became an international smash hit, scooping a host of awards and entering the UK charts at number one – beating former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham’s first solo outing to the top spot for good measure. As breaks go, it was about as big as they come.
“It was the most played song of the last decade in Britain and I still continue to be surprised and delighted by its success because we had no idea it was going to be so popular.”
She followed this up with her debut album which yielded four top 20 singles, including a cover version of Cher’s Take Me Home and Murder on the Dancefloor, which became her biggest solo hit. The single spent 23 weeks in the charts and earned Sophie even more fans across Europe. But despite becoming an overnight sensation, she didn’t fall into the trap that many divas have done in the past and let success go to her head.
“I always took that kind of thing with a pinch of salt. I’ve never been bothered with the whole celebrity thing, I’ve always just focused on getting on with whatever I’m doing.”
The fact that her parents are both in the entertainment business possibly helped. Her father, Robin Bextor, is a TV producer and director, while those of you of a certain vintage will remember her mother, Janet Ellis, from her days as a Blue Peter presenter back in the 1980s. But parents, of course, are a constant source of embarrassment to their children as they grow up, so did it make her cringe seeing her mum on TV every week?
“I was still in single digits when she was doing Blue Peter so I was very little, but I never found it embarrassing. It was really nice to have kids my own age who recognised her from the telly. She’s good at what she does and I’m very proud of her.”
As well as enjoying a successful music career, Sophie has also forged a name for herself in the fashion world, winning a lucrative contract and replacing supermodel Kate Moss as the “face” of cosmetic giant Rimmel in 2008.
“They sponsored my tour years back, so there was already a seed there, plus I genuinely like what they do,” she says. It must have been daunting following such a famous face?
“I can’t deny that the first day on set for the Rimmel ads I was very conscious of the fact Kate Moss is a modern icon. I just focused on the thought that I was adding to it, rather than carrying on from where she left off, because I’m not daft, I know that’s not happening.”
She remains best known for her music and her singing career has coincided with a renaissance among female solo artists that has seen the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Duffy and Adele all taking the charts by storm. But Sophie believes nothing has really changed.
“It’s always been that way. From Debbie Harry to Madonna and Bjork, there’s always been room for strong women to make names for themselves. We’re just lucky to have so many talented singer-songwriters in this country at the moment.”
Her new album, her fifth since her debut Read My Lips reached number two in the charts a decade ago, features collaborations with an eclectic group of artists including The Hoosiers, Cathy Dennis and Groove Armada.
“In the past there’s been a mixture of musical styles, like pop and disco, but with this I was committed to doing a dance-orientated album and I’m really pleased the way it’s turned out,” she says.
As well as being a successful singer in her own right Sophie is also married to Richard Jones, guitarist with pop band The Feeling, and although she scoffs at the idea of starting their own musical dynasty, would she encourage her own children to follow them into what can be a notoriously fickle business?
“Music has always been a big part of my life and I suppose there’s a chance they will follow in our footsteps. I think seeing their mum and dad on stage doing something they love for a living will be appealing. Although having said that one of them is really into science and technology, so who knows?”
From the outside, Sophie appears to live a charmed life, but it hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations. Both her children were born prematurely and spent their first few weeks in an incubator at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is why she gave her support earlier this year to a campaign for a new children’s treatment centre at the hospital. Life as a working mother can certainly be tough but it’s what she’s used to.
“It’s definitely chaotic, but when I had the boys the idea of not working didn’t occur to me and I’m lucky to have a job that I can shape around my kids. I take them to school and I can always take them to work if I have to during the holidays – you can’t really do that in an office.”
But does she feel pressure as a high-profile example of the have-it-all woman? “My problem is that I’m not very good at saying ‘no’ and sometimes I feel I’m spreading myself too thin but that’s the worst it gets.
“I’m pretty jammy and I feel very lucky. I’m someone who wants to tick every box and I think every person who does something creative for a living has moments where they wish they could do this, or that, and whenever I do I take a step back and remind myself how fortunate I am, because you have to be careful what you wish for.”
To her fans, Sophie is the epitome of glamour but she says the reality doesn’t always live up to the image. Like every other mother of two young children knows, you rarely, if ever, get to put yourself first.
“I’m not very well put together. I’m messy, I go out without doing my hair and buttons missing on my jacket. I’m seen as this very precise woman and that’s definitely not the case,” she says.
“I wouldn’t say what I do is necessarily glamorous but it is a lot of fun and in years to come I’ll probably look back at this period of my life and say, ‘that was nice.’”
* Sophie Ellis-Bextor supports Erasure at Dalby Forest on June 25. For ticket information call 03000 680 400. Her new album, Make A Scene, is out on June 6.