A Slightly Swoony Chat With Sophie Ellis Bextor
Pop is a young person's game. You have to be at your physical peak of stamina, attractiveness and ability to even THINK about being a pop star, and even if you are not and you somehow trick your way in with, y'know, talent and stuff, it takes a very special kind of person indeed to stick around for any length of time.
Sophie Ellis Bextor is just such a person. She's been making people go a bit silly with her music/looks/haughtiness combo since 1997, first with the indie band theaudience (clever spelling, yeah?) and then on her own. And it's the same sort of music/looks/haughtiness combo which a certain Lady GaGa has more recently been using to take over the entire world.
SO, it's likely she's picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way, right?
Let's find out together....
ChartBlog: Hi Sophie, how're you doing?
Sophie: I'm alright thank you, how are you?
ChartBlog: I'm very well, thanks for asking. Can I ask, how full-time a pop star are you these days?
Sophie: As full-time as I've ever been, I spose. It's not like always on, or always off. You go through periods of intense activity, and then in calms down a bit, depending on which stage of the cycle I'm at. So when I'm doing the songwriting, that's probably the most 9-to-5 bit, cos I'm in the studio, I finish at six, I'm home for bathtime and bedtime for my kids. Then when the singles are coming out, my life is not my own and I can't really make any plans.
ChartBlog: With two pop star parents in one house, who gets the kids up in the morning? Do you take it in turns?
Sophie: Ummm, kind of, it's a bit more chaotic really, it's not very organised. I think predominantly the getting-up early...it depends. Our baby is not sleeping brilliantly, he kind of goes through phases and then he starts getting us up again, so we're taking it in turns with him at the moment. It's quite exhausting actually. He's a wonderful baby by day, and then by night he's like a little beastie.
ChartBlog: It does shatter the concentration, doesn't it?
Sophie: Oh! It's like some kind of torture experiment, to see how well you function with reduced levels of sleep.
ChartBlog: Exactly. if you're trying to torture somebody with sleep-deprivation, you'd go with the loud rock music when all they'd have to do is give them a baby, late at night and say "deal with it. Make it not cry...IF YOU CAN..."
Sophie: Exactly. And normally I'm quite good at dealing with it, but every once in a while, when you're in that kind of stupor, I'm like "what do I do again? I can't remember..."
ChartBlog: Have you ever been reduced to pleading with the baby, knowing that it will not work?
Sophie: Yes I've done a bit of that, especially if he's not eating. I think as a parent you understand why your parents are always trying to fatten you up. It's such a pleasure to see your child eat.
ChartBlog: This wasn't supposed to be a baby interview, by the way, it's just where we ended up. Sorry if I'm prying...
Sophie: Oh don't worry I can go in any direction.
ChartBlog: I shall bear that in mind. Which of your songs are you surprised wasn't a massive hit? Is it Today The Sun's On Us?
Sophie: Awww well you know what's funny about that song? I love that song too, and...this sounds like a really terrible thing to say, but...all the people who've HEARD it seem to really like it. It just didn't get heard by enough people, so yes, that would be my example. I suppose as well it felt slightly frustrating because it was a slightly different style of song for me, and I really got sort of punished for it.
ChartBlog: Which isn't fair!
Sophie: No, but it's alright. I still got to go to Iceland to make the video, and I sing it live. For my girlfriends it's their favourite, funnily enough. So it's OK. You can't win 'em all. And sometimes these things form part of a picture that you can't see yet.
ChartBlog: And sometimes people grasp these things closer if they're not getting the audience they deserve. I felt quite defensive of that song.
Sophie: Aww. It still gets me a little bit. I think that's cos it's really sincere. I was sort of singing it to myself really, because, particularly when you've got a family, you spend a lot of time worrying about the what-ifs, and all the terrible things that can happen. You have to remember to not lose the moment because you're worried about what could be. But it's easier said than done.
ChartBlog: It's also a song which would suit being overhauled by the Glee cast, as will happen to every song which has ever been written...
Sophie: [laughs] Well maybe it'll get a break one day. Sometimes these songs find their place in the world, like that Elton John song 'Are You Ready For Love'. It's song karma.
ChartBlog: Or there'll be a Facebook campaign, probably related to heavy clouds coming soon, and then boom! We're off!
Sophie: OK! And in the meantime I'll keep releasing new songs.
ChartBlog: Quite right too. While we're in the past though, how many of the lyrics to your earliest songs - let's say 'A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed' by theaudience - can you still remember?
Sophie: Probably all of them. I sometimes revisit these things and I'm always surprise by how well lyrics stay in my brain cells. A lot better than more useful information. If I'd put everything I'd ever done to music, I would've probably never forgotten anything.
ChartBlog: How lucky though, to have the job that requires this one special skill.
Sophie: When I was younger I always remembered lyrics, so I'm glad I found a day job that fits that talent. If it is a talent.
ChartBlog: How often has the name Lady GaGa been used in relation to how you promote your new songs?
Sophie: Not as often as you might think. People ask what I think of her, that kind of thing. But I think she's, for me, every inch the modern pop star. I sometimes wonder if there's a slight chicken and egg scenario, and it feels like there's a lot of pomposity and circumstance around pop music and pop stars. It's about creating strong silhouettes and strong visuals as well as music, but maybe the environment was right for someone like that to come along, and it might not be that she's come along and changed things. I'm really happy about it, cos I think a lot of what we do for a living is a bit daft and surreal, and people can be a bit intimidated by things which seem aloof and otherworldly, but for me that's what it's all about.
ChartBlog: Yeah, it's not unlike the aloof star quality of a prime Madonna or Prince, when every new look or song was delivered as if on stone tablets from on high. More recently singers have presented themselves as being just like everyone else, and then along comes someone saying "I am different, and I am SO different that I'm gonna wear Kermit The Frog all over me".
Sophie: [laughs] Exactly. I've always liked that kind of thing. Those are the kind of artists that I'm drawn to. That kind of gap between the real you and the pop star person, I've always enjoyed that.