Singer, songwriter, dancer, model and mum. You can have it all! Sophie Ellis-Bextor, alumna of Godolphin and Latymer tells us how From Murder on the Dancefloor to touring with Take That. We talked to Sophie about her career and bringing up four boys (with a fifth child on the way) whilst working on her new album The Song Diaries.
Tell us about your school days, did they influence your career?
I’m not sure they influenced my choice of career but I did meet some of my best friends there. School was a mixed bag, I loved aspects but had a few tough bits. I think my careers advisor thought I’d end up in something to do with journalism as I was always into English and edited my school magazine. However I had other plans. Everyone was a bit shocked when everyone went to uni and I went on tour.
Was music a big part of your educational curriculum?
No not really. I did piano lessons when I was small and a few guitar lessons but aside from singing in the school choir I never had any singing lessons and I didn’t do music GCSE. I’m essentially learning as I go.
With your mum being a Blue Peter presenter and your dad a film producer, did this impact on your choice of profession?
It did in the sense that they let me feel that any job could be my job. That’s actually a brilliant gift for a kid. If they’d had more traditional jobs they might have felt more uneasy about what I ended up doing, but they were always very supportive.
Did you have one lucky career break?
I’ve had a few. The first was when I joined my first band – The audience – which came along via someone I met at an indie club. It hadn’t occurred to me to be a singer so I just tried it as I thought it would be a good story to tell the grandkids. I ended up finding the thing I had been looking for. Then we got a deal and that was incredible. The next lucky break was after the band split up. My publishers sent me the instrumental of Groovejet. I thought ‘why not?’ and it became a big song for me. I still sing it now.
What advice would you give to aspiring singers and songwriters?
I always say the same. Don’t regard a deal as the holy grail. Focus on yourself first and work out what kind of artist you want to be. Then work hard and don’t complain. If you end up making a living from music, you are always one of the lucky ones.
Is there an album or song which you are most proud of, and why?
A couple stand out. Groovejet for its longevity, Murder (on the Dancefloor) because it reminds me of my school friends and Young Blood as it’s a more emotional kind of song.
You’ve toured with George Michael and Take That, collaborated with the Manic Street Preachers and worked with Calvin Harris (amongst others). Is there a memory that particularly stands out?
The support tour with Take That was lots of fun and they were lovely hosts. I also enjoyed supporting Elton John and the Pet Shop Boys. Obviously watching George Michael every night was inspiring. All collaborations give me such great experiences – you always learn something and sometimes those collaborations turn into folk you work with over and over, like my relationship with Ed Harcourt who I’ve done three albums with.
Highlight of Strictly Come Dancing?
Ah, so many. It was lots of fun. I loved learning something new and it showed me that no matter how nervous you are, you can still get out there and dance! When it all went well, it was the best feeling. It took away the last of my inhibitions.
How do you juggle being a mum with your career?
It’s all we know. I’m just a working mum to them and I’ve been very lucky to have support. I juggle it the same way as any working parent except I have it easier than most. I can bring them to work if I want and I can turn things down if I feel it’s not making sense to me. Not everyone is so lucky.
Have your boys inherited any of your musical talents?
I don’t know if I’m raising any musicians but I think I’m raising music fans and that means more to me. Plus they all love a boogie which is great!
Tell us about The Song Diaries and the inspiration behind it?
Folk have asked me for a while about doing a greatest hits album but I couldn’t see the point. Then a few years back, a talented friend of mine called Amy Langley did a string version of Groovejet for a charity gig. It sounded so cool and different that it sowed a little seed and the idea to do an orchestral greatest hits came from that. f
What other passions do you have?
My passions are sorting out the house – I love interiors stuff and decorating, cooking food, vintage clothing and dancing.
What charities are close to your heart?
I support charities which get kids into the arts like the National Youth Theatre and The Music House for Children. I am also ambassador for Save the Children and Lumos. I suppose broadly speakingchildren’s charities resonate because they have a voice that doesn’t always get heard and its so important to raise happy, confident and kind children; they will rule the world one day, after all.
Motto for life?
‘Trust your instincts’ is definitely one but ‘Have courage and be kind’ is good, too.