Sophie Ellis Bextor, 35, is about to step back on to the dance floor for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. The singer talks to Carrie Gregory about why she will have a lot more fun on the show this time around and why 2014 has been a great year for her
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO JUGGLE MOTHERHOOD WITH YOUR MANY COMMITMENTS?
It helps that I really love all elements of what I get up to, so you get that extra bit of energy if you’re really excited by things you do. The kids have been brilliant; we’ve had such a good year. I spent most of this year touring the UK and they’ve been coming with me. I’ve taken them to loads of festivals and it’s been quite a family year – I’ve probably been based here a lot more than normal. My eldest is 10 now, so he’s really quite mature these days.
YOU’RE COMPETING IN THE STRICTLY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. HOW HAVE THE REHEARSALS GONE?
Really good, actually. I haven’t had as much time as I probably would have normally, because I’m dancing with Aljaz Skorjanec and we’ve both had things going on, so we’ve done a few days. But it was really fun – he’s a very relaxed teacher and I already knew him from last year.
YOU CAME A RESPECTABLE FOURTH LAST TIME – ARE YOU HOPING TO BETTER THAT?
The whole point for me of doing something like the Christmas show was to have fun. I had such a perfect run last year and to get to the final was an amazing achievement and something I never imagined I’d do, so when they approached me about doing the Christmas show, I thought I had such a perfect time last time, I’m not sure if I want to jinx it. But actually, the Christmas show is a different kind of entity because you haven’t got any pressure. You’re not worrying about being invited back next week; it’s a one-off, hopefully entertaining, show so I don’t think any of us are thinking about who’s going to win.
HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY OF THIS SERIES OF STRICTLY?
Yes, I think there have been lots of entertaining people this year, but it’s just been really nice not to have to watch it with that nervousness that I used to have on a Saturday night. I’ve missed the training, but I haven’t missed the live shows, because I never got used to that feeling of the nerves and the adrenaline. In some ways, it was exhilarating, but it’s been a lot more peaceful for me this year.
YOU MENTIONED ABOUT TOURING EARLIER THIS YEAR. HAD YOU MISSED PERFORMING LIVE?
I’ve missed doing it here. I actually haven’t really stopped touring for the last few years, I’ve just been around other countries. To have a year where I came back here – I actually ended up doing two UK tours and about 14 festivals as well – it just felt very special.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT PERFORMING LIVE?
It’s a mixed bag really. I suppose the special thing about this year and this album is that I made it independently and it was recorded by musicians who are friends. I was very lucky that they could all come on tour with me as well, so it just felt very relaxed. It’s been really lovely – it’s probably been my favourite 18 months of my working life.
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE GROWN AS AN ARTIST IN THE YEARS SINCE YOUR GROOVEJET DAYS?
It’s hard to differentiate between growing as an artist and as a person because I think you change so much. I’m now 35, but I was 21 when that song came out, and I think I feel a lot more secure in myself and less concerned about what’s cool and what’s not cool. I think it’s more about just getting out and enjoying yourself. Overwhelmingly, it’s just feeling more relaxed and appreciating everything a lot more. Nowadays, I can see that I’m one of the lucky ones to still be doing what I love everyday.
YOU’RE ALSO VENTURING INTO RADIO FOR RADIO 2’S MURDER ON THE DANCEFLOOR. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE TO DO A BIT MORE OF?
Possibly. Since I started singing and promoting my music, radio was always my favourite, because it’s a very relaxed medium and I think there’s a level of familiarity you don’t really get anywhere else. I’m a big believer in serendipity, so I don’t know exactly when will be the right time, but I’m quite excited about doing this first little show because I think it’ll be really fun.
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN YOURSELF FOLLOWING IN YOUR MOTHER’S FOOTSTEPS AND PRESENTING ON TELEVISION?
No, I don’t think that’d be quite me. My mum’s always been so good at it. I think, as a teenager, I was quite happy when I found music, because it was my version; it was my own thing. It’s nice to do your own thing.
SO WILL YOU ACTUALLY TAKE A BREAK OVER CHRISTMAS? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS?
Absolutely! We always look forward to Christmas Day, and we’re going to have a big family Christmas. There’s always about 15-20 of us round the table, so we’ll eat dinner eat together, cook it together. It’s always quite a big affair – we really, really like Christmas in our house.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has designed a new range of tights for Pretty Polly, launching in Spring 2015. Visit www.prettypolly.co.uk