Image source, Shutterstock
Image caption, Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s hits include Take Me Home, Get Over You and Murder On The Dancefloor
By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent
When Sophie Ellis-Bextor plays the Latitude festival in Suffolk this weekend, there’s every possibility she’ll ignore her new album, Hana.
That’s what happened at Glastonbury last month, even as the record sat in the Top 10 of the UK album charts.
Instead of new material, she combined hits like Murder On The Dancefloor with covers of songs by Madonna and Moloko.
“I just thought, I get it, this is Sunday afternoon, let’s give them a party set,” the singer tells the BBC.
Her comments come after wobbly Glastonbury headline slots from Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’ Roses, who sometimes lost the crowd by playing new or lesser-known songs.
Although Ellis-Bextor isn’t commenting on those artists specifically, she says festival audiences have to be treated differently from die-hard fans.
“I’m a music fan. I’ve been that person, stood in that field thinking, OK, how does this one go?
“So I like to feel as if I’m in it together with them.”
She adds: “I’ve been doing what I do for a long time now… and you have to keep earning your right to be part of something.
“If people have given me their time, I don’t want to waste it.”
Ellis-Bextor has been playing gigs since she was a teenager – more than 500 in total, starting with her indie band Theaudience in the 1990s before striking out as a dancefloor diva in the 2000s and becoming a national treasure with her lockdown Kitchen Disco shows.
With countless festival appearances and a stadium tour with Westlife under her belt, she says her approach to playing big venues has changed over the years.
“When I was younger, I would look at a big crowd and it was almost too hard to make it into individuals. It was sort of an amorphous block.
“But now, it’s just one person, one person, one person… and I try to connect with people as much as I can. I want everybody to feel that I looked at their way at least once.”
And unlike some artists who dread playing their biggest hits for the umpteenth time, she maintains she still looks forward to performing her signature song, Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love), 23 years after it was a number one hit.
“I still love singing it,” she says. “There’s something exciting about seeing the years rolling by. I like having a long-term relationship [with fans] like that.”
The singer is joined on the bill at Latitude by headliners Pulp, George Ezra and Paolo Nutini, while Siouxsie Sioux and Young Fathers top the bill in the BBC Sounds tent.
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The singer has shot down rumours that she’ll represent the UK at next year’s Eurovision Song Contest
Fans who do want to hear Ellis-Bextor’s new album in concert will get the chance when she launches her headline tour in November.
Hana is a wistful, romantic record inspired by a family trip to Japan just a few weeks before the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.
“The world tilted upside down, so this trip to Tokyo already felt nostalgic a few weeks after we came back,” she says. “That’s where I went in my head as I was writing songs.”
The title is the Japanese word for blossom, and there’s a dreamy, psychedelic feel to the music that works perfectly with Ellis-Bextor’s potent voice – especially on the atmospheric opener A Thousand Orchids and the soaring single Breaking The Circle.
Released in June, it charted at number eight, with reviews singling out the romantic ballad Until the Wheels Fall Off as a highlight.
The song was written after her step-father John died of lung cancer, and its lyrics were based around a letter he left for Ellis-Bextor’s mother, former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis.
“He said to my mum that he had all his best adventures with her and how they had travelled, laughed and loved until the wheels fell off,” she told The Forty Five. “The song is a tribute to their marriage, because they were very happy together.”
Once the tour ends, rumours have swirled that Ellis-Bextor will start preparing to represent the UK at next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.
But the 44-year-old has shot down the speculation.
“I adore Eurovision,” she told BBC Breakfast. “But I feel like, at this point, for where I’m at [in my career], it would be like walking into a casino and putting all my chips on red. I just don’t feel like I’m up for the gamble.
“But do you know what I would like to do? I’d like to write the song.”