Sophie Ellis-Bextor on her pop music, kids, and her kitchen disco

Sophie Ellis-Bextor has decided to name her new greatest hits compilation Songs from the Kitchen Disco. 

When the world went into lockdown Sophie kept fans entertained with her Friday night broadcasts from her home. The weekly concerts saw her singing some of her favourite songs and biggest hits from kitchen with her husband Richard Jones and children looking on, sometimes enthused with the party atmosphere, and other times just walking through the shot looking for food in the kitchen.

As people struggled to balance home schooling and work responsibilities, and wonder what we should be cooking with all the chick peas we’d hoarded, Sophie showed us she that we really all in it together as she and her five children invited us into their home each week.

Now she’s ready to release her new records and it’s got a few surprises for fans. Chatting to OUTinPerth from her home Sophie shared her excitement about the upcoming release.

“It’s been a big year for me for nostalgia, it’s ended up being the right thing at the right time. There are a lot of songs I’ve ended up singing this year, just from the comfort of my own home, it’s been a mixture of cover versions of things I’ve always loved and my own songs, things I haven’t sung for ages.”

“To do these gigs I was trawling through my back catalogue and even singing album tracks that I hadn’t sung for ages. It was really fun and it brought back lots of memories.”

Asked if she ever thought there would be a point in her career where a live show from the kitchen would be the new normal, Sophie admitted not only was it an unexpected career turn, she’s also returned to doing it during the UK’s second lock down.

“Last week we did a Halloween special and there was a one point where I was singing Wuthering Heights and my son was standing there with a bear mask on, and these black robes on, which made him look like a vicar bear, and as I’m standing there singing a Wuthering Heights I thought, ‘What on earth is happening, how did we get here?'”

‘It’s the right thing at the right time, but I’m sure in years to come we’ll all look back and say, ‘Bloody hell, we all lost our minds.’ – but at the moment I’m quite happy riding with the insanity.”

Back in 2005 Sophie married her husband Richard Jones who is the bass player in the band The Feeling. The couple now have five children and Sophie says she’s happy to give the world a glimpse into her family life, and for anyone wondering how she manages five children in the house she says they are just like everyone else.

“Every family has got that thing they do. Part of it is also becoming a bit more relaxed, or confident about the kind of parent I am. I’ve realised that there are things I’m good at, and things I’m not good at. For some families it’s all going on a big ride, or going camping, but for us it’s music and being silly, that’s what we turn to to puck ourselves up.

“It’s been pretty intense though, I’m not going to lie. The first few weeks of lockdown I was thinking ‘how on earth am I going to make this work?’ I thought I’d been so clever having five kids with a tremendous age range.”

While her children grow up in a household with both parents from the world of rock n’ roll, Sophie herself is the child of famous parents. Her mother Janet Ellis is adored by a generation of Britons who grew up with her presenting programs including Blue Peter and Jigsaw. 

“The time when my mum was really high profile was before I was ten years old, and I think by the time I worked out that what happened in my home wasn’t exactly the same as everyone else’s home, she’d stopped doing the big kids program and we’d moved on to a new chapter.”

“With my own kids, we don’t talk about. We try to put the emphasis on them and what they’re doing. I don’t want them thinking about my career, but I don’t think they care to be honest. They seem quite dis-interested, so it’s easy to not talk about it.” Sophie said, bursting into laughter.

It’s hard to believe that it’s two decades since Sophie Ellis Bextor first caught the world’s attention with the massive club hit Groovejet (If This Aint Love). She quickly followed it up with more hits including a reworking of Cher’s 70’s disco tune Take Me Home and the massive Murder on the Dance Floor.

Her career didn’t start in the realms of disco though, she first gained attention as the lead singer of indie band Theaudience, who made their mark on the UK charts in the era of Britpop. The track listing for her new record also has some nods to this period with the inclusion of songs originally by New Order and Pulp, which poses the question what are Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s true musical tastes?

“I was a massive indie fan, I was so into Britpop when I was 15, so when I started singing in the band when I was 16 that’s the kind of music we did.” Sophie shared. Describing the band as a great experience she says they broke up before they really got going.

“Finding myself in the world of dance music was a real curve ball, it wasn’t what I was expecting to come next. it changed my life really, because it made me realise that you kind of do whatever music you want to do, just as long as you love it.”

Across six albums Sophie has traversed a wide range of music and collaborated with many different artists, and Sophie says most of those collaborations have come from just having the confidence to ask.

“I’ve always thought it’s worth asking people who you are a really big fan of if they’d write music with you, because what’s the worst that they can do? They might say no, but you might end up having a really unique experience. I’ve worked with Andy Partridge from XTC and Glen Tilbrook from Squeeze, Alex from Blur and Cathy Dennis and some amazing DJs.

“My favourite collaborator has been Ed Harcourt who I did my last couple of albums with, we just found it so easy to write songs together, and we get excited about the same things and have lots of fun. It’s a joy to work with him, and we have a laugh, and great conversations. It shouldn’t feel like work.”

While she’s created a lot of original material, Sophie is upfront about her love of a good cover version.

“I adore doing cover versions and it’s really great to pay tribute to things you love.” Sophie said as we discussed the eclectic collection of tunes on her Greatest Hits collection.

“I find it really liberating to have some fun with a tune.” she said.

Her newest recording, which is being used to promote the record, is a fresh take on Alcazar’s Crying at the Discotheque. 

“It seemed to tie everything together really well. It’s a song I’ve been singing live for quite a while so I have a really good relationship with it anyway, and I love the sentiment of the song.

“It’s always been a really feel good tune, and it has that good nod to disco with the sample, and really like the melancholy of it, especially at a time when the arts scene, and music and gigs has all been put on hold. I felt there was a poetry about it.”

The other new recording on the album is Sophie’s take on My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. 

“I just love Julie Andrews, I know I’m not a patch on her, but you can’t beat a bit of Rogers and Hammerstein.”

Asked if she’s ever take on a role in a musical, Sophie ponders.

“I don’t know, they’re quite a big commitment. to be honest with you. I’m impressed by anyone who can do a long stint in something, I think if it was the right thing, but nothings ever been offered to me that I thought was worth putting your life on hold for. Maybe Guys and Dolls, I do love that!”

One musical that Sophie has seen multiple times recently is Everyone’s Taking About Jamie which was written by her husband’s band mate Dan Gillespie Sells. Sophie sang one of the musical’s numbers on the concept album that was released back in 2017 and she reveals she’s just recorded something for the film version of the musical that comes out in February 2021.

“I’ve seen the musical heaps of times, but I haven’t seen the film yet, I’m sure it’s going to be lovely.”

Next on the agenda for Sophie is another album and she’s well along the road to creating her seventh album. Once again collaborating with Ed Harcourt they’ve been spending time writing and are two thirds of the way through the writing process.

Fans can rest, assured that another album is on the way, but in the meantime Songs from the Kitchen Disco: Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Greatest Hits will tide everyone over and provide the soundtrack to many kitchen parties.

Songs from the Kitchen Disco: Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Greatest Hits is out on Friday 13th November.

Graeme Watson


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