Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sophie in Mail Online


'I did a disco for Bill Gates. His dance style is surreal': The world according to Sophie Ellis-Bextor

The singer on the Microsoft billionaire's skills on the dancefloor and travelling the world - but sometimes just for six minutes

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s solo career is now entering its second decade, after she first emerged as a chart-topping singer in the Noughties. Since then she has gone from pop star to 32-year-old mother of two with a rock-star husband. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride.

‘I tasted huge success with my first album, and when it’s happening it feels like a roller coaster you can’t get off,’ she says. ‘You should be very careful about wishing for success on that scale.’

The daughter of Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis, she started out with indie band Theaudience in the late Nineties aged 18, before hitting the big time with the single Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love), a collaboration with Italian DJ Spiller. It was released in 2000 and became a huge summer anthem.

Her debut album Read My Lips followed a year later, and sold two million copies worldwide. In addition to singing, Ellis-Bextor is also a model and DJs regularly with husband Richard Jones, bassist with The Feeling.

The couple live in London and have two sons, Sonny, seven, and Kit, two.

The iPod wouldn’t have existed without me.
I’ve heard from reliable Apple sources that my first single with Spiller was used to demo the iPod. It’s quite cool imagining Steve Jobs listening to it and thinking, ‘This white box will work – it sounds great!’ No one’s ever recognised my contribution to it in any way over at Apple. In fact, it’s only ever cost me money, because the whole house is full of Apple gear as a result. A musician can’t live without it now.

Bill Gates’s dance style is very surreal.
I have a nice sideline with my husband, as we DJ as Mr and Mrs Jones. It was a bit of fun that blossomed into a business. We get asked to do some very flash gigs, too. Perhaps the best we’ve ever done was a private gig at a mansion in Antibes for a Russian oligarch. It was hugely lavish affair that included Bill Gates on the guest list. His dancing is unique. He does a kind of clap to the front and a clap to the back, and a shuffle. We were taking golf-buggy rides in the grounds later on when we crashed one into the manicured flower beds. About six plain-clothes security men appeared from nowhere. We thought we were going to be thrown out, but they just took the buggy away and brought us another one.

The Royal Wedding made me very proud to be British.
I hired a pub in east London with the boys from The Feeling. We made a real effort. We all had to wear wedding gear – nice dresses, big hats, buttonholes – and the music was classic wedding cover tunes. I wouldn’t say I’m a staunch royalist, but to turn my nose up at the big day would have been ridiculous. In fact, as a toddler I was at a street party for Charles and Diana’s. There’s a picture of me holding a balloon and a little Union Jack in our street. I think that a bit of pomp and circumstance is no bad thing, and who doesn’t like a good wedding?

I’m big in Russia, but no one’s quite sure why.
The theory I keep hearing is that apparently I look rather Russian. Whatever the reason, I love going there. Richard and I took an overnight train last year from Moscow to St Petersburg, which felt really exotic and romantic in a very old-fashioned way. We spent most of the journey getting drunk in the dining car on vodka and looking out of the window. Later on, I fell out of the top bunk as I was trying to get into bed and gave myself a huge bruise on my leg.

My work takes me all over the world – but sometimes just for six minutes.
I did one gig in Beirut that involved a six-hour flight. I had a shower at the hotel, changed, spent six minutes on stage, turned round and came back. It was a blur. I did another in Vladivostok that involved a 15-hour flight. I jumped on stage for a couple of numbers, turned around and came back. There was another in Azerbaijan when I had no one to go with, two tickets and a hotel room, so I took my eldest son. He went into school on the Monday and they asked, ‘What did you do at the weekend?’ He said, ‘I went to Baku for the day.’

The X Factor is great entertainment, but it doesn’t prepare people for getting chewed up and spat out by the music industry.
If you’ve come out of the other side of that machine and been dropped, it can feel like a very lonely place. The contestants have no experience of it, whereas most regular musicians start with nothing and plug away for a long time on lots of projects that don’t go anywhere, so they’re prepared for the knocks.

My addiction to eBay scares me.
I used to trawl round charity shops and vintage stores, but eBay changed all that. I’m an addict. I’ll sit there with a glass of wine and my laptop while the TV’s on in the evening and surf away. The possibilities are endless. There’s always something that catches your eye.

I have a one-armed bandit and a pinball machine in my kitchen.
I use them when I’m waiting for pans to boil – they give me genuine pleasure to look at each day. Our house is full of retro stuff. I collect a lot of vintage bric-a-brac from the Fifties and Sixties; jigsaw puzzles of the Royal Family, holiday-camp postcards, that sort of thing. The house could pass for a film set. My husband and I are big kids really, but you have to ask yourself if your obsession is going too far when your seven-year-old is given a nice toy for his birthday and says, ‘Is it OK to open it, Mum, or shall we keep it for display?’

The NHS saved my son’s life.
When Sonny was four months old he contracted meningitis. It was incredibly worrying and so dangerous for him. It was horrible, but the doctors spotted it straight away and the transformation when he was treated was incredible. The NHS is a bit iffy when you sprain an ankle, but when it’s a high-priority issue, it’s fantastic. They don’t mess about. They’re incredibly efficient when things go wrong. I feel really distressed that it might not always be there.

Everyone deserves a second chance.
I toured with Take That and ended up doing over 35 dates with them – they’d come and watch me soundcheck and we’d chat all the time. You could see how much they appreciated a second chance. They put on a fantastic show with lasers, set changes and dancers.

I’m known for being glamorous, but I don’t go to parents’ evening in a ball gown.

I love the idea of a bit of glamour, but I’m not obsessed with my image. You should make an effort on stage because it’s a performance. The stage should be glittery and camp, but I don’t go down the shops in full stage gear.

The album ‘Make A Scene’ is out now.

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