Monday, June 21, 2010

Sophie Ellis Bextor - Exclusive Interview

It is with great pleasure and satisifaction that I am able to present this Exclusive Interview with the one and only Sophie Ellis Bextor.
Sophie, for anyone who is not aware of it already, is a beautiful and talented singer who has been entertaining audiences worldwide for over a decade. Initially as a teen sensation fronting her first band, theaudience - she has followed that up with a solo career producing multiple hit singles, 3 full studio albums, with her 4th soon to be released.

She is married to Richard Jones, who plays bass for the British rock band The Feeling, and they have two children together.
From a personal point of view, I consider it a privilege to have been a long standing moderator of Sophie's Official Website Forum. In fact, I became the site's first moderator in January 2001, after it initially went online at the end of year 2000. This parallels nearly the entire length of her solo career. This year there has been much talk about celebrating 10 years since "Groovejet" was the No. 1 hit all across Europe that summer. Similarly, I will be celebrating 10 years of my association with Sophie. I've also been fortunate to have met Sophie when she visited New York City on two separate occasions - in October of 2006 and again in April 2007.
Here, then - my Exclusive Interview with Sophie:

Question: How much input will you have on the visual aspects of your live show? Will you make suggestions for lighting ideas, or background projections (which are very popular again, nowadays)?
Sophie Ellis Bextor: Yes I always get involved in all that stuff. A s with the artwork and videos, how my shows look is very much part of what I do. Plus it's fun.
Q: Right now you are launching a new album that is heavily influenced by the great early 80’s disco and dance music (with, I’m told a bit of trance-dance mixed in as well). This is all very admirable and one hopes this album has a very long lifespan.

However, you have stated that after this, you might like to do something very different on your next record.

Early in your career – with ‘theaudience’ – you did a song called “Ten Minutes Which Improved My Life” Would you ever consider doing something as experimental or avante garde as this again?

SEB: Nah I don't think prog is really my thing. Being experimental sounds good to me, though. I am not sure if the next album will truly be a massive departure simply because I am a creature of habit and I like what I like, but yes ultimately I want to showcase a different side of my voice and songwriting and so it'd be great for my head to push myself and try something new.

Q: In keeping with this theme, have you ever considered making your own field recordings? That is, going around with a recording device, and capturing found sounds – the sounds of your everyday life. For example, the sound that children’s voices make when many of them are all shouting and playing together – or the hum of machines around you. And then using these sounds –mixing them in with your music?
SEB: I know Billy did that kind of thing in theaudience but i haven't followed suit just yet.
[Editors Note: Billy is Billy (Paul) Reeves - founder of Sophie's first band theaudience]

Q: What do you do to keep your senses sharp and mind as quick as it is? It was very impressive how you finished off that recent interview “precisely five minutes chatting with the BBC's Matt Stadlen.”
SEB: Ha! Well firstly thank you. I must say a good interview is very much down to the interviewer too.
[Here is that interview:

Q: What are you currently reading? In the last year, what books have you read that you would recommend to others?

SEB: Currently reading 'Santaland Diaries' by David Sedaris

Q: You have stated that the extremely well-crafted television drama about life in the early 1960’s – Mad Men – is a fave of yours. Mine too. You’ve mentioned the visual aspects – the clothes and stylings as an influence for your own personal style (though you have a way of taking these forms and bringing them into the modern era). I do agree this aspect of the show is very well done. But, how can the show go on with Don and Betty Draper split up? That would be like you and Richard being split up! They have to get them back together, don’t you agree? Or do you feel that, much like the films “ Revolutionary Road ” and “Atonement”– that the (sometimes) harsh nature of relationships needs to be dramatized this way? That art-as-a-reflection-of-life needs to focus as much on the sorrow as the joy?

SEB: I think the beauty of Mad Men, aside from the visual beauty, is the characters feel real and living and breathing. The series can definitely continue with Betty and Don apart. The type of marriage Betty and Don had became an anachronism. As the era changed it's Betty that showed women that they don't have to stick out a relationship that isn't working. Bring on season three!

Q: Congrats on hitting No. 1 in Russia with your Junior Caldera collaboration “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” What do you think it is that connects you so well the Russian fans?

SEB: I'm rubbish at breaking those things down - who knows? All I know is that in Russia right now there's a big appetite for dance music. I am always happy to play there because the fans there are great but then that goes for my fans the world over.

Q: Speaking of Russia, there has been some talk and a bit of evidence that some fun karaoke parties have been had by you and your touring band. Any interesting stories you could relate in this regard?
SEB: Well it's always fun to go out and get up to some mischief while you're away… in Russia there's the vodka element that spurs things on, too! Our best nights have probably involved having a bit of a boogie late into the night.

Q: About your touring band --is guitarist Rene Woollard as cool as we’ve been led to believe?
SEB: My band are all lovely and very cool of course. That includes you, Rene.

Q: The Gulino brothers (bassist Dan and keyboardist Christian) – a dynamic duo any live band would love to have?
Right now I have Chris Gulino but Dan is playing for Marina. I guess this answers your next question too but I have had many incarnations of the band over the years and I always know that they will move on at some point. That's the nature of being a session player. I don't hold them to ransom to play for me but when's there's work I have a few people I love to tour with and hopefully our diaries pair up. So far, so good.

My meeting with sometimes SEB bassist Dan Gulino
(but here playing with Marina & The Diamonds at her debut USA show)
March 14, 2010 at Brooklyn's Bell House.

Q: Your brother Jackson is an in-demand session and live drummer. Do you think there is one artist out there that he admires so much – that they might actually be able to steal him away from you?
SEB: I'm sure there's loads, but I love the fact I have been able to work with him for so long. He's a great drummer.

Sophie and her current touring band

Q: With today’s technological advances, it is now easier and easier for performers to be able to use backing tracks in their shows. I’ve recently witnessed a 3 person band simply use an iPod to provide sound enhancements. There have been arguments made that fully live is the true way to go. In your opinion, how much use of backing tracks is OK, and do you think there is a point where they are relied on too much?

SEB: It's on a case by case basis. I know it ruins the magic to talk about cost but it's simply sometimes too expensive to do a fully live show as it involves more equipment, crew and technical back up. Fully live is always first choice and i always sing live but luckily for me as i make dance music when i sing to half playback it can still sound full and exciting so i feel i have two good options. Sometimes as well the venues i play simply can't handle a full live band or we dont have time to soundcheck properly.

Q: Since the year has begun, we have been fortunate to gain access to two of your more recent live performances. The iTunes London show and the Live in Meribel. One song performed is called “Under Your Touch” and a lyric goes “I’ve been dreaming you up, again and again.” I know the feeling! What have you recently dreamt about that you can remember? I realize that dreams mostly fly out of your head as soon as you wake up, but perhaps there was one or two dreams that stuck with you.
SEB: Nothing springs to mind. I think with a baby you don't get as much dream time!

Q: You have been recently quoted in an interview that you may come to New York and certain other cities in the USA on a select tour of gay and/or dance clubs (perhaps they’re both the same thing? The lines blur). This is a wonderful idea. You must do this! I know one New Yorker for sure who would be happy to see you performing somewhere where he could actually attend! Is the possibility of this happening any closer to becoming a reality?

SEB: It is being discussed. It's tricky because i need to be in the right place as the right time for the next single and album release but yes i would love to tour the gay clubs in the states.

Q: Getting back to your live recordings over the years – there is a great one of you performing with your first band – ‘theaudience’ at an event called T in the Park, which happened in Scotland on the 11th of July, 1998. Have you heard this, and do you have any recollection of this day?
SEB: Hmm I do remember the morning of the festival and us all eating in the food tent but no memory of the show itself. Typical I recall food!

Q: Your voice and the band in general sound great. I was very impressed with your natural professionalism – especially at the relatively young age of 19. How much live performing experience did you have at this point?
SEB: Hardly anything. I have learnt on my feet and in public. Hey ho it's the only way really. Still learning now.
Q: At that show, you introduce the song “Keep In Touch” as the possible next single. At that particular moment in time, how was the mood of the band? All of us die-hard fans know how it eventually ended, but at that time, was everyone hopeful that things were going to continue on an upward swing?
SEB: Yes sure. I mean, we did begin recording another album. It just wasn't very cohesive and so we started to drift.
Q: Do you think you'd ever consider a ‘theaudience’ reunion, for a one-off? Maybe charity gig? Obviously it would have to be worth everyone’s time to drag themselves away from their families and comfortable locations they’ve moved on to, and not be a financial burden. But, I suppose the essential question is – would you, Sophie – adamantly rule it out? Since you don’t really “need” it for your career. Or, if the pieces fit, would you agree to do it?
SEB: I don't think there's enough demand for it. It feels like it's from a very different chapter in my life. It'd be like getting back with an old flame - a bit weird and pointless. I do have fond memories of that time though.

As you know, I have been your official forum moderator since its inception. I extended the opportunity to the members there to join me in this interview. Here are their questions.

I have been a huge fan of all and any unreleased music by you the wonderful Sophie, and was wondering if we'd ever be priveledged to get some nice downloadable EP's with unreleased material, I am particularly interested in Revenge & Love Heist, I just find it a shame that you've gone through so much work with all your music & only a select few make it to an album.

Your ever loyal fan Krys x

Hello krys. I do record a ton but i think the best stuff gets on the albums. Maybe at some point i may release some bonus unreleased material alongside a best of as there's definitely some worth to that but when i make an album there's a sound and a vision and whatever misses the point doesn't make the final cut. Firm but fair!

"At the era of your second album, you had difficulties in your personal life, you was breaking up with someone who happened to be your manager, you thought being a blonde didn't suit to you. That's the 'why' you do not sing the songs from that album.

Why not throw to the trash these bad memories and sing those great songs from that brilliant album that is a favorite of many fans?

That would make so happy to many fans, i know.

Finally, never forget you've got a big fan in Peru ( South America ), write it in your refrigerator (laugh). A big hug for you, Sophie".

Actually that's not why i haven't really performed that album. I still love my second record. I haven't performed it as just after release i fell pregnant and then the next time i emerged i was doing my third record so that took preference. When i next do a solo tour i can pick my favourites from four albums and the second will definitely be a part of that too.


There are fans who are rather obsessed by you and "spam" you on websites like twitter. How do you deal with such people?
I haven't, touch wood, so far had any problems with fans. Everyone seems pretty lovely and so i haven't had to find a way to deal with anyone.

Any plans to do a concert in the Netherlands?

I will play wherever people want me.

Sophie whats been your favorite city your have visited on holiday or when being on tour?

Well i do love Paris but any city in Italy always makes me happy. So beautiful and rich in culture and good food - yum!

Mr. Smork:
As you traveled a lot and seen many different countries and cultures, I assume there are no better place then home, but if you had a chance - where would you like to go again and explore more? why?
I would love to return to South America and New Zealand . Both places I was only there briefly and I felt like there was much more to discover. I liked what I saw.


This is my questions (quite personal but not too personal I hope!) :

How the fact of having kids changed your life and your vision of it?

Can you say you are a positive person or are you sometimes anxious?

Having kids has definitely had an impact. I have more fun, less time, more focus, less sleep, am more relaxed and more content. I t's chaotic and full-on but so lovely to have Sonny and Kit around.


Righty ho! Here's my question and chocs away old bean! Does Sophie consider herself a very 'English' artist, and if so, does she think this has been limiting or an advantage?

I defnitely see myself as a European artist. I can't really say if it's been limiting. It's all I know and I am happy with the way things are. All my favourite music is European - particularly English and French - and so whilst America is certainly influential too I think my sound is very British and I've always thought it an advantage in what I do to have a strong sense of identity.
Dreams of Sophie:

Do you know if Sophia Loren has heard your song about her? What does her image and career mean to you?

I think it's pretty unlikely Sophia has heard it but I love the idea of her singing along! She's a glamour icon. Beautiful and strong.

Hey Sophie - Rusty here; loyal forum member for seven years.

From each of your albums, are there particular tracks that you'd have liked to have released as singles that for whatever reason didn't get released?

Yes absolutely. I would have loved to have released tons of extra stuff but you can't do that so I'm generally pretty happy with what saw it's way to daylight.
Out of all the 'choices' you've made in your solo career, which are you most proud of? Musical or otherwise.

Most proud of still being here and doing what I love. It's a bit cringey to be serious but it's genuinely a privilege to sing for a living and make music. I'm a lucky girl.
Will you ever play Making Music live? The synths at the beginning of that track are to die for and I'd love to hear it at a gig.
It's fairly unlikely as there's other songs I prefer. The one I'm itching to do is 'You Get Yours' - it'll sound exciting!
You've mentioned being approached for collaborations by other recording artists in the past; can you let us into any of those?
I think it's only fair to talk about the ones that work otherwise it's a bit mean!

Of all of your videos, which is your favourite? I adore Get Over You.
My favourite is either Take Me Home or Murder On The Dancefloor. I do love Bittersweet too though.
Was Final Move based on a real experience? That song struck such a chord with me; I felt like I was in the exact same position as that song's 'character' at that time. It helped me. Ta!
I think it was but I didn't realise it at the time. It's often the way. I think I'm writing from an imaginary senario and then listen back a while later and think 'wow that was my life back then'!
What's Sonny's favourite Sophie Ellis-Bextor track?
Probably a new one called 'Magic'
Are the Moulin Rouge! rumours true?
I did audition with Baz if that's what you mean.


This might be the perfect opportunity for those forum members with burning questions as to a dvd release??? What about it, Sophie? Could we see another one, sometime soon?

Yes when I release greatest hits I expect or after a big tour. Sorry to be vague!

Meeting Sophie for the first time - October 2006


Sophie, we all know that interests can tell us a lot about people and their personalities. Let's say that you're supposed to choose only one favourite book, one favourite movie and one favourite album/recording. What would it be and why it's so special for you?

Favourite book would have to be The Go-Between. It's sweet, funny, well observed and touching.
Favourite film is quite possibly Mary Poppins. It's got great songs and lots of fun stuff happening but it also has a sadness to it - Mary only stays while they need her then moves on.

Favourite song is always Hey Mickey by Toni Basil. It's pop music at it's best - urgent, sexy and makes me want to dance.
Meeting Sophie again - April 2007

Sophie's Official Website and Forum

Sophie's Twitter:
Thank you, Sophie - for a wonderful interview!