hmv talks to… Sophie Ellis-Bextor
You probably know Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her elegant, glossy disco pop, as the glacial singer behind the likes of 'Murder On The Dancefloor', 'Take Me Home' and the vocalist on the hugely successful dance single 'Groovejet'. Well, this time around, she's thrown something of a curveball with her fifth studio album Wanderlust, which is a record inspired by Russian fairytales and recorded with choirs and balalaikas.
She tells us all about her change of direction, her live plans and how her career has changed after her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing.
Your new album Wanderlust is out on Monday, are you nervous or just excited for people to hear it?
"I'm really excited actually. This record is just so different from everything that's gone before, I'm really looking forward to hearing people's reactions to that."
It's a very different sounding record, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for that?
"The idea to make a record like this has been brewing for a while. My last album (2011's Make a Scene) was very electronic and dance-heavy, so I think it was natural for me to want to do something that was away from that, in fact, pretty much the opposite of it."
"I'd been spending a lot of time in Eastern Europe and I found being out there very inspiring and I wanted to incorporate that on the album. I love dance music, but there are lots of rules and it's pretty well defined in what works and what doesn't. I wanted to do something in a different style."
How did you find recording so differently?
"I found it very exciting, it was a completely different landscape and way of working, there weren't really any rules, so it gave me license to be more out there with the songs, which I loved."
The album's very different lyrically, you've got song titles like 'Birth Of An Empire', 'The Deer & the Wolf' and 'Cry to the Beat of the Band' on there, was it difficult to change your lyrical style from your last album?
"I found it really easy actually. I grew up reading fairy tales, and being in Eastern Europe made me really think back to my childhood and reading Emily Dickinson poems, then watching Twin Peaks, and things in that vein. I found it all very fruitful and inspiring."
You've worked with Ed Harcourt on this record, what was he like to work with?
"Absolutely brilliant. He's a ridiculously talented singer songwriter, he can play pretty much anything and when you sing down at the piano with him, everything just seems to flow out of his fingertips, it's incredible."
"He was able to inspire me and we worked incredibly well together, right from the start. Initially it wasn't going to be an album, but once we started working together we just kept going, he had a great idea of what the record was and it ended up being the most economic writing session I've ever done."
"I'm used to writing hundreds of songs and picking 12, this time around of all the songs we wrote there is only one we didn't use."
On your previous albums you've worked with lots of different producers, what made you decide to just work with one this time around?
"I've wanted to do an album with just one person for a while now, but it's just not worked out that way. The writing of pop music is such that it's better to write two or three songs with one person and then move on."
"It suited me because it kept my attention fresh, but because this album is much more concept driven, it made a lot more sense to work with one person."
Want more information on this artist? Find out everything you need to know about Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
What made you decide to call the album Wanderlust?
"I think it comes from the inspiration that I took from travelling round the world, it's on so much of the record."
Are there any big influences on the record?
"A lot of 60s pop, things like Francoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg, that had a big impact on the way the songs were recorded."
You've talked about how inspiring you found being in Eastern Europe, are there any places in particular that sparked your creativity?
"Moscow, even though it's only a four-hour flight away, it's got such a unique look and such a fantasy feel. It's got such dramatic history and, when I was a little girl, I used to read Russian fairy tales, which always stayed with me."
"I also went to this city called Perm which has this strange, dilapidated fairground full of rickety rollercoasters, it's incredibly dark, and that also stayed with me during the record's writing."
You're going out on tour in April, are you live shows going to be based around this record?
"I wouldn't feel comfortable touring and suggesting that I won't be playing songs like 'Murder On The Dancefloor' and 'Groovejet', because I love them and I want to play them. I'm taking the same people who I made the album with out on tour, so we'll try to integrate them with that while bringing the album to life."
Does that mean you'll be doing new interpretations of your older tracks?
"I don't want to scare anyone and when I come to gigs I like to hear the songs that I know, as I know them, I don't want to do dramatically different versions, I don't want to upset anyone."
This is coming out again on your own label, does that make recording albums a better process, with less pressure?
"I don't think I've ever felt that I've had someone breathing down my neck, I've never felt time constraints, but I loved making the album I wanted to make. This feels like a present to myself after a decade with a major label, I loved all the support they gave me, but I wouldn't have been able to make an album like this."
Why did you decide to release the record in January? Has it been finished for a while?
"It was recorded last spring, but obviously at the end of the year I did Strictly and that took up a huge amount of my time and I really loved doing it. This seemed like the best way to put the right amount of emphasis on the record."
Has Strictly changed anything for you? Do you feel a bit more like you're more in the public eye again?
"Yeah, but I'm not sure how that translates into what I do for a living. I think a lot of it is just people's massive affection for the programme; I don't how much of it's me. I've got no expectations for it really. This is always the album I was going to be bringing out."
Sophie Ellis-Bextor's new album Wanderlust is released on Monday (January 20) and available for pre-order at our download store here. You can check out the record's lead-off single 'Young Blood' below.